Pirates notebook: Marte set to hit 7th before Tuesday's game rained out

The Pirates' Starling Marte walks to the dugout after striking out in the top of the first inning against the Brewers on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Milwaukee.
The Pirates' Starling Marte walks to the dugout after striking out in the top of the first inning against the Brewers on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Milwaukee.
Photo by Getty Images
Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 6:24 p.m.

BALTIMORE — Starling Marte was not getting the job done in the leadoff spot, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle did not want to give him a day off to think about it.

Before Tuesday's game against the Baltimore Orioles was rained out, Marte was set to be in the No. 7 spot for only the second time in his career. Marte has batted leadoff in 186 games.

“I'm just trying to take a load off the young man's shoulders,” Hurdle said. “Sometimes, when you take them out of the lineup, they think, ‘I'm out of the lineup, so I'm getting a rest.'

“There are other times when you've got to let them know, this isn't a rest and they've got to look for a different way to go about things.”

Marte is batting .229 with a .308 on-base percentage. Going into Tuesday's games, he was leading the majors with 37 strikeouts and had whiffed in 32 percent of his plate appearances.

“It's not the chase that's getting him,” Hurdle said. “It's the swing-and-miss on strikes.”

According to Fangraphs, Marte has swung at 59 percent of pitches inside the strike zone this season. He makes contact 84 percent of the time, which is on track with his career average (86 percent).

Hurdle said he does not believe Marte's problem is poor pitch selection.

“He's been hitting breaking balls, that we know he's going to get,” Hurdle said. “I'd like to see him be ready for the fastball. We all have taken more fastballs than I'd like to see us take.”

Try again

Tuesday's game was declared a rainout about two hours before the scheduled starting time. The game will be made up at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Right-hander Brandon Cumpton will start the makeup game for the Pirates. Originally, the Pirates and Orioles were scheduled to be off Thursday.

Hello, strangers

The Pirates' first 26 games this season were against NL Central teams. No team's schedule has been so front-loaded with division foes since the 1981 Toronto Blue Jays opened with 35 straight games against AL East teams.

“Maybe a change of scenery can help spark a turnaround for us,” reliever Bryan Morris said. “It's a different battle. Things can get tough when things aren't going well, and you keep seeing the same faces.”

Interleague turnaround

At 15-5, the Pirates had the best interleague record in the majors in 2013. Although it was their third straight year with a winning record in mixed-league play, they had only two winning marks in the previous 14 seasons.

“We've been on the upside of things,” Hurdle said.

Hurdle doesn't mind interleague play, but he said he is not happy with the two-game series that come with it.

“That's a challenge,” Hurdle said. “You prep and put a lot of effort into it. At least this year, it's two night games in Baltimore, so there's some separation. But I can remember last year, when Seattle came in. We played them a night (game) and a day (game), and they were gone in the blink of an eye.”

Polanco watch

Gregory Polanco was not in the lineup Tuesday for Triple-A Indianapolis' 11 a.m. game against Syracuse. That prompted a round of Twitter speculation that he had been called up to be the designated hitter against the Orioles.

In fact, Polanco was given the day off. Indy has an off day Wednesday, so it translates into a two-day breather.

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

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