Pirates notebook: Marte could return vs. Padres

The Pirates' Starling Marte has not had an in-game at bat since Aug. 18.
The Pirates' Starling Marte has not had an in-game at bat since Aug. 18.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, 5:21 p.m.

Manager Clint Hurdle on Sunday said he hoped to be able to put outfielder Starling Marte in the starting lineup “somewhere along the line” during this week's series against the San Diego Padres.

“It's going to be a matter of how much pain can he tolerate,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

Due to multiple hand injuries, Marte has not swung a bat in a game since Aug. 18. Last week, Marte began taking swings during batting practice, but feels pain when making contact.

Marte is able to catch and throw. He's also been used as a pinch-runner, wearing a bulky protective glove.

“It looks like the big, ol' oven mitt that my mother made me put on when I tried to help her take the cookies out of the oven,” Hurdle cracked. “I don't think he can hurt it now. You could run over it with a car and I don't think it would hurt him with that mitt on.”

A few days ago, Marte swiped second base using a head-first slide. Hurdle admits he cringes when he sees Marte expose his hands to more potential injury, but doesn't want to force Marte to change his style.

“You do want to (yell at him) when he gets hurt,” Hurdle said. “But when he's stealing bases and going in head-first, you just go, ‘I'm glad he didn't get hurt.' I do know that he's going to try to make an adjustment to see if he can't utilize the head-first slide as much.”

Throughout the Pirates' farm system, minor leaguers can be fined for poor technique, including head-first slides. At the big league level, managers are more hesitant to tinker with success.

Hurdle cited Andrew McCutchen, who tried to eliminate his head-first slides but wound up throwing his technique out of whack.

“Andrew ended up with a couple crash-landings,” Hurdle said. “You need to break out the ol' Slip-n-Slide in the backyard and figure out some things. Maybe that's what we'll do with Starling.”

Sanchez starts, finally

Sunday, Gaby Sanchez made just his second start at first base since Aug. 30, the day before the Pirates traded for Justin Morneau. Hurdle has not hesitated to keep Morneau in the lineup against left-handed pitchers, which has eaten into Sanchez's playing time.

“I'm probably going to give (Morneau) a little bit more (leeway) against left-handers,” Hurdle said. “I want to look at him a few times. I saw his numbers from this year. I've talked to him, to his (former) manager and hitting coach.”

Against lefty starters, Sanchez has a .293 batting average and .862 OPS in his career. Morneau hits .275 with an .800 OPS against southpaw starters.

See you in the spring

Although arthritis has added to Wandy Rodriguez's arm woes, Huntington said the main reason Rodriguez was shut down for the rest of the year is a strained flexor tendon. Huntington said he “absolutely” expects Rodriguez to be ready for the start of spring training.

“Our best approach is to give it significant rest,” Huntington said. “Wandy did everything he could (to get back this season).”

Rodriguez has until a few days after the completion of the World Series to decide whether to trigger his $13 million contract option for 2014.

“We're hoping he will,” Huntington said. “We're operating as if Wandy will be a Pirate next year and we're looking forward to 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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