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Pirates notebook: Marte used to being plunked

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Starling Marte is hit on the hand by a pitch from Braves pitcher Kris Medlen on Sunday, April 21, 2013, at PNC Park.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 12:39 p.m.
 

ATLANTA — After being hit by pitches 12 times in the first 58 games, Starling Marte opted to wear an elbow guard Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves. The experiment lasted only one at-bat.

“I didn't like it,” Marte said Wednesday. “It didn't feel good.”

Leading off the first inning, Marte struck out swinging while wearing the body armor. He didn't get a hit in his next four at-bats without the shield, but he at least made contact (two flyouts, two groundouts).

Marte ranks second in the majors in HBPs behind Cincinnati's Shin-Soo Choo (17). No one else has been plunked more than eight times.

Manager Clint Hurdle encouraged Marte to try wearing the guard but can't force him to.

“For some guys, it can be cumbersome,” Hurdle said. “It's not comfortable. It can feel weird. I've had guys say, ‘I can't do this. It doesn't feel right.' We'll only do it if he's comfortable wearing it. He's got to be uncomfortable with getting hit. He's led the league everywhere he's played, so this is not uncommon territory for him.”

Last season, Marte was plunked three times in 182 plate appearances with the Pirates. Over six seasons in the minors, he was hit 70 times.

“It's normal to me,” Marte said before Wednesday's game.

A couple of hours later, in the sixth inning, he was hit by a pitch on the left wrist.

Injury update

Right-hander James McDonald (shoulder discomfort) is scheduled to throw his third rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Indianapolis. He's set to go five innings/80 pitches. ... Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez (forearm strain) is penciled in to throw on flat ground Friday. Gomez left his last start Sunday after just one inning. “It was a little tight before that game,” Gomez said. “I thought it would get loose, but it got worse, so I stopped.” An MRI revealed no structural damage.

Going the distance

The Pirates played extra innings four times in their past nine games. They beat the Tigers in 11 innings May 28 and 30, beat the Reds in 11 on Sunday and lost to the Braves in 10 on Tuesday.

“I believe it can sharpen you,” Hurdle said. “We've played very exciting games for the last month. Whether it be two runs or (fewer), one-run ballgames, every pitch means something. It's something we've targeted — having everybody be engaged on every pitch. The beauty of what's going on is, you've got to meet the demands of the game if you want to win.”

The Pirates, who are 6-20 when trailing after seven innings, have posted 16 come-from-behind wins. Last year, they were 3-69 when trailing after seven innings.

‘The Slide' lives on

It seems the Pirates cannot play a series at Turner Field without at least one Atlanta writer mentioning the 1992 playoffs. When the topic inevitably came up this week, Hurdle was asked if the 2013 Pirates will end the team's long losing skid that began when Sid Bream slid across home plate in Game 7 in ‘92.

“We all believe this is the team that's going to break it,” Hurdle said. “We've got to go out and do it. We brought (former Pirates catcher) Mike LaValliere into spring training this year. Nobody feels the angst more than Mike. There was quite the give-and-take between Mike and Sid Bream, who still lives in Pittsburgh.”

Last year, the Braves gave out bobbleheads to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Bream's slide. Because LaValliere was part of the bobblehead, the team first had to get LaValliere's permission to use his image.

“Mike had some choice comments,” Hurdle said. “He went along with it after letting a few people know how he felt about it.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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