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Pirates notebook: Hurdle: Marte will not lose job, role

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Pirates' Starling Marte wears a protective mitt as he is caught stealing while pinch-running against the Cubs on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates' Starling Marte wears a protective mitt as he is caught stealing while pinch-running against the Cubs on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Pirates' Starling Marte has not had an in-game at bat since Aug. 18.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates' Starling Marte has not had an in-game at bat since Aug. 18.

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Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
 

When Starling Marte is healthy enough to return to the lineup, manager Clint Hurdle said it will be as an everyday player and as the team's leadoff hitter.

Marte has not stepped into the batter's box since straining tendons in his right hand Aug. 18 during a slide. Despite potential rust and the team's depth in the outfield, Marte is not in line to lose playing time, Hurdle said.

“I anticipate if he shows us the ability to swing the bat, we are going to plug him back in the top of the lineup and left field and go,” Hurdle said Friday.

Marte still is not ready to rejoin the starting lineup. Jose Tabata started in left field Friday. Marte can be used as a pinch-runner and has been employed as a defensive replacement. He has begun to take full, aggressive swings the past few days, which Hurdle has said is the last step in his return. Marte took batting practice Friday and played in a simulated game Thursday. Marte said he does not want to return until he is near full health. He hopes to return during the homestand.

“If I go now and my hand goes bad, then I'm (done for the season),” Marte said. “I'll take a couple more days. … It feels better, but it still hurts.”

Playoff tickets still available

The Pirates have a limited number of playoff tickets available. The sale begins 10 a.m. Wednesday. Fans can purchase no more than four tickets per customer for a potential wild-card game and no more than three for Division Series games.

Tickets can be purchased online at pirates.com, by calling 1-877-893-BUCS or at the ticket office. Ticket sales online and via telephone will be on a first-come, first-served basis. For in-person sales, the Pirates will distribute wrist bands on Federal Street near the main ticket office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and 7 to 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Hurdle on MVP

Hurdle weighed in on his criteria for what constitutes an MVP.

“It's the baddest dude in the league,” he said. “For my money, (Andrew McCutchen) is the baddest dude in the league. I don't think it has to be the guy on a team that wins.”

Barmes 2.0?

On Thursday night, shortstop Jordy Mercer ranged well to his right to field a grounder and throw across the diamond to rob the Cubs' Donnie Murphy of a hit. Mercer looked a lot like Clint Barmes on the play.

“I think he's learned an incredible amount from Barmes,” Hurdle said. “They are angle guys. They are not pure range, first-step quickness guys. You saw him make a play (Thursday) that he's learned from Barmes. How you take the angle, you cut that ball off, and you throw across your body.”

Pepper games

Before the Pirates take the next step with Wandy Rodriguez, who threw a 67-pitch simulated game Thursday, they are waiting to hear back from orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. ... Hurdle indicated the Pirates are considering pushing back one more of Gerrit Cole's starts. The rookie will make two or three more starts in the regular season. … The Pirates struck out just three times Thursday. A sign of progress for the team with the fifth-highest strikeout-rate in the majors? “Normally (I would) say, ‘I'm pleased, but I'm not satisfied,' ” Hurdle said. “I'm not pleased yet, but I think we're improving.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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