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Pirates notebook: Marte still absent from lineup

| Thursday, May 15, 2014, 12:42 p.m.

MILWAUKEE — Starling Marte's return to the starting lineup remains on hold.

A night after Marte ended speculation about a trip to the disabled list by coming off the bench to smash a pivotal two-run double in the ninth inning at Miller Park, Marte on Thursday was held out of the Pirates' starting lineup for a fourth consecutive game.

Jose Tabata started again in left field, and Travis Snider batted first and played right field.

For a second straight day, Marte entered the game as pinch-hitter, subbing for Snider in the seventh. Marte remained in the game and played in left field.

“The determining factor was the conversation I had with the player,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle of keeping Marte out of the starting lineup. “We feel this is the best way to go about his return to play.”

Marte told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday that his condition is improving and that he strained his back on a head-first slide Saturday.

No rehab necessary?

Pirates closer Jason Grilli said he might throw another simulated game before being activated from the disabled list.

Will Grilli go on a rehab assignment?

“Not likely,” said Grilli after Thursday's loss to the Brewers.

Grilli feels he's ready to come off the disabled list.

Hurdle did not have an update on catcher Russell Martin, who has run and hit this week as he progresses from a hamstring injury. It's unknown if Martin will require a rehab stint.

Short stay

To make room for Thursday's starting pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez, in activating the veteran left-hander from the disabled list, the Pirates optioned outfielder Jaff Decker to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Decker was brought up Sunday as an outfield reinforcement after Marte left Saturday's game with back discomfort and Andrew McCutchen was held out of the lineup with a sore foot.

Hurdle earns honor

The MLB Players Alumni Association announced that Hurdle will be presented with the 2014 Brooks Robinson Community Service Award at the Legends for Youth Dinner on Nov. 18 in New York. The award is presented each year to a former major league player who “exemplifies the unselfish and humble attitude of Brooks Robinson, bettering the lives of youth in his community.”

Hurdle is the national spokesperson for the Prader-Willi Association, an organization that raises awareness for the genetic disorder that bears the same name and afflicts Hurdle's daughter, Madison.

Pirates will miss import

The Pirates will miss Yankees big-money, free-agent starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in the weekend series, which is good news for the Pirates. The Yankees were 7-1 in games started by Tanaka entering Thursday, and 13-18 in games started by any other pitcher. Tanaka is 6-0 with a 2.08 ERA and a 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Myth busting

Hurdle noted that reliever Tony Watson is not simply a lefty specialist. He's simply a platoon-neutral, effective arm.

Watson entered Thursday with a 20-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against right-handed batters this season, holding righties to a .208 batting average. Watson actually has reverse platoon splits this season, as lefties are hitting .375 against him. For his career, Watson has held right-handed hitters to a .196 average and lefties to a .221 average.

Fellow lefty reliever Justin Wilson also has been better against righties (.213 average) than lefties for his career (.235) and in 2014, when he is limiting righties to a .250 average while lefties have a .333 mark.

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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