Marte embracing second base

March 19th, 2018

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It's been a week since started a game at second base, and nine of his 12 Cactus League starts have come at shortstop, but the smart money remains on Marte making up the second base side of the D-backs' middle-infield combination.

Marte, 24, has made 222 of his 229 Major League starts at shortstop. He's started games in center, and last year he started a pair of games at third, but he hasn't played second since his 2015 rookie season with the Mariners.

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That should change on Opening Day.

"I'm ready for second base," Marte said Sunday morning -- before another start at short. "I practice every day, so when they give me the opportunity to play second, I'll be perfect out there."

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Seeing more of Marte at second is one of manager Torey Lovullo's goals for the final 10 days before the season starts, though he's still talking about Marte competing at shortstop, where Nick Ahmed has started all his Cactus League games.

"If we want to see him get more reps at second base, we can start to pile it up quickly," Lovullo said last week. "We're still watching these guys compete at shortstop. But we feel like we have three, four, really good middle infielders that are going to help us make plays, and we just haven't mixed the bag up and pulled them out the way we want to lay them out yet."

Lovullo was "still evaluating" the shortstop candidates over the weekend, and seems content to wait until fairly late in the process to solidify the double-play combination, but based on the work on the back fields, it's looking increasingly likely that Marte and Ahmed will be manning second and short, respectively.

Marte says the biggest challenge for him is getting used to turning two from the other side of second, but with all the drills he's done, he's had the same partner at shortstop.

"Nicky Ahmed," Marte says, identifying his penciled-in partner up the middle. "Every time when I practice at second, he's at short. We're trying to have a good relationship out there and feel good with each other.

"We've been working hard trying to get better on the double play. It's kind of different. I played shortstop my whole career, and now I'm trying to play second, so I have to keep slowing the game down and try to do the little things."

Marte has been getting extra tutelage from infield coach Tony Perezchica, and credits the consistent work to making him feel comfortable at a new position.

"Turning two and his feeds might not be perfect right now, but we're working on that," Lovullo said. "We want to see those reps happen in the game, and they will eventually. We feel strongly that he can go [to second] if we need to and make plays right now. But, we know that this is a work in progress."

There's no lack of confidence from Marte, and although he started more games at shortstop than any other D-back in 2017, he's willing to play on any side of the infield or outfield if it help the D-backs bring home a championship.

"I'll be ready to play anywhere," Marte said. "I just have to be ready in my mind. Everything is mental."

The challenge of taking on a new position hasn't slowed Marte down at the plate. His spring numbers have always been good, but after going 2-for-3 with an RBI against the Reds on Sunday, he's slashing .414/.500/.552.

"He's a very exciting player, and it doesn't just end with him being able to get on base," Lovullo said. "It's him getting an understanding of our concepts and applying them. It's about hustling out of the box and stretching a routine single into a double. It's about playing great defense. He's a very dynamic player that's fitting into the scheme of what we have going on here. It's a lot of fun for us to watch. He's a special guy."