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Meadows sticks with Bucs as Marte returns

Hurdle says hot-hitting prospect will start when regular gets day off
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates brought back star center fielder Starling Marte on Saturday without sending down hot-hitting outfield prospect Austin Meadows.

Marte returned from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday, started in center field and batted third for the Pirates against the Cardinals at PNC Park. The Bucs made room for Marte by optioning corner infielder/outfielder Jose Osuna to Triple-A Indianapolis.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates brought back star center fielder Starling Marte on Saturday without sending down hot-hitting outfield prospect Austin Meadows.

Marte returned from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday, started in center field and batted third for the Pirates against the Cardinals at PNC Park. The Bucs made room for Marte by optioning corner infielder/outfielder Jose Osuna to Triple-A Indianapolis.

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A week ago, Meadows seemed likely to return to Triple-A upon Marte's return. But his scorching start in the Majors left Pittsburgh no choice but to keep him on the roster and playing on a regular basis.

"I think that's the understanding we all wanted to have coming in, and then his performance was eye-catching," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Very similar to the performance of a young man who was here a few years ago: Gregory Polanco, who started his Major League career with an 11-game hitting streak. We'll see where this all goes.

"However, for us to continue to try to put our roster together the best way we have the opportunity to do so, with the stretch of games that are coming up, it seemed like the tactical baseball move to make."

Bringing back Marte will provide a boost for the Bucs' lineup and outfield defense. Marte was slashing .308/.366/.503 with six home runs and ranked among the Major League leaders in Statcast™'s Outs Above Average in 41 games before he was sidelined by a strained right oblique.

Hurdle said the Pirates will use all four outfielders: Corey Dickerson in left, Marte in center, Polanco in right and Meadows -- who started in center during Marte's absence -- in all three spots.

"I didn't really know what was going to happen, to be honest with you. I'm just fortunate enough to be here," Meadows said. "For me, being able to go out there and help the team win and going out there and playing hard, showing them what I can do out there, I'm going to stick to that and we'll see what happens down the road."

The Pirates have previously mentioned a need to monitor Dickerson's workload; he has never started more than 98 games in the outfield in a season, and he's made 44 starts in left field this year. They will also play it safe with Marte, who returned from an oblique strain in only 11 days. After a sensational start to the season and a bounce-back in early May, Polanco has struggled at the plate.

Video: PIT@CIN: Meadows rips a 2-run homer to right in 9th

Meadows will start when Dickerson, Marte or Polanco gets a day off. He has played all three outfield spots in the Minors. Pittsburgh's front office prefers that top prospects play on a regular basis, so it's not as if the Bucs intend to have Meadows waste away on the bench.

"When Polanco's playing well, everybody likes it. When Marte's playing well, everybody likes it. When Dickerson's playing well, everybody likes it," Hurdle said. "Nobody wants anybody out of the lineup. These guys do need time out of the lineup just to stay in a good spot. So it's not easy by any means, but there are decisions that need to be made."

They made another decision on Saturday, bumping Polanco down the lineup from the No. 2 hole to seventh. Polanco entered Saturday in a 3-for-28 slump and hasn't driven in a run since May 15, the same day Marte went down. Polanco still leads the Pirates in home runs (eight) and walks (26), but his average has tumbled to .213 and his OPS to .757.

"He's doing the appropriate work. It's [about] transferring work, pregame work, into game performance," Hurdle said. "It's nothing more than the game punching back, pitchers finding different ways to attack. … He's got some great video to watch from April. He's got some video to watch from May where he's been challenged in different areas. He's trying to put those two things together to reframe it and be a more consistent hitter, for sure."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, Austin Meadows, Jose Osuna, Gregory Polanco