Apologetic Starling Marte returns, vows to 'regain trust'
On the final day of his 80-game suspension for failing a steroids test, Pirates outfielder Starling Marte sat in front of cameras and microphones at PNC Park and admitted he made a mistake.
Marte admitted he tore down some of the trust he had built with the fans, his teammates and the Pirates organization. He admitted he caused some hard feelings in the clubhouse.
However, Marte did not admit to using steroids.
"Truthfully speaking, I have no memory of anything being injected, any steroid or anything like that," Marte said Monday. "I do know and I'm very well aware that I was careless. That's something I regret, not being careful enough."
On Monday afternoon, Marte took outdoor batting practice with Josh Harrison and David Freese, and worked in the outfield with coach Omar Moreno. A couple of hours later, he began his news conference with an apology.
"I know this has brought a lot of pain to many people," Marte said. "I know this has caused some harm, and I am very apologetic about that. Now, my heart's mission is to regain the trust of my teammates, the fans and this organization."
When his suspension is up on Tuesday, Marte will start in left field against the Milwaukee Brewers. Marte wondered whether he will hear more cheers or boos.
"I can't lie. There is a bit of concern," Marte said. "I love the fans. I love the interaction with the fans and how much love and support they've given me. I wish things will go smoothly, but I can't say that they will. All I know is, whether it goes positive or negatively, I am motivated. Anything that's thrown my way, I'm going to use it as a motivation. My goal is to keep moving forward and regain that trust."
A two-time Gold Glove winner Marte, 28, last season batted .311 and was a first-time All-Star. Yet, he hit just nine home runs in 2016 after swatting 19 the year before.
During spring training, a blood test on Marte turned up traces of Nandralone, a synthetic anabolic steroid which is on MLB's list of banned performance-enhancing drugs. According to commissioner Rob Manfred, Marte did not appeal his suspension.
Nandralone is typically taken via injection, but it can be uncovered in tests for other substances that are taken orally.
"I would never inject myself," Marte said. "I don't even know how to inject myself. What I do know is that some substance got inside my body. I was not careful enough. I regret not being careful enough."
During the season, Marte takes supplements provided by the Pirates' athletic training staff.
"When I'm preparing to go into the offseason, I try to take as much as I can (with me), so it will last throughout the offseason," Marte said. "Unfortunately, somewhere this (past) offseason, I must have made a mistake and became careless. That's where some negative results came out. Now, I will make sure every supplement I take comes fully approved from this organization and the trainers here."
Marte spent this past winter at home in the Dominican Republic.
" Every supplement I took was from (the Pirates)," he said. "Somewhere, I became careless in the Dominican Republic and must have taken something that got in my body and showed bad results in the tests."
When his penalty was announced April 18, Marte met privately with his teammates in the visitors' clubhouse at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
"Some of them were upset, some of them were disappointed," Marte said. "I completely respect that and understand that. Many of them, (maybe) the majority, showed me a lot of support and told me, 'Take the suspension, get better, train hard and come back and help us win.' Even the ones who were upset were very genuine in demonstrating support. A lot of them contacted me during my suspension, spoke life into me and motivated me. Now, I want to continue to regain that trust and respect."
Catcher Francisco Cervelli remembers the awkward feeling he had when he rejoined the New York Yankees after serving a 50-game suspension in 2013 for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.
"It's tough. It's embarrassing," Cervelli said. "I don't care what other people think, but I care about what my family and friends (think). After a couple of days, I could tell that my teammates supported me, and that made it easier."
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.