PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates haven’t given up hope that they’ll see first baseman Josh Bell and center fielder Starling Marte on the field before the regular season ends. More than anything, that’s because Bell and Marte -- two of the Bucs’ best players this year -- won’t give up on the idea of playing again in 2019.
Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said on Wednesday that both players are hoping to return next week. Neither will play Wednesday or Thursday against the Mariners, and neither is likely to play this weekend in Milwaukee.
But there is still a chance that Bell (left groin strain) and/or Marte (sprained left wrist) could return during the Pirates’ final homestand beginning Tuesday against the Cubs and Reds. Bell, who is three homers shy of 40, has been sidelined since playing in Friday's game at Wrigley Field.
“Josh is a competitor. He wants to finish strong. He wants to add to this career year for himself,” Tomczyk said. “At the same time, we as an organization, we as a medical staff, need to do what’s best for Josh both short- and long-term.”
Marte has been able to serve as a pinch-runner, and it may be possible for him to play defense. But he's not started a game since Sept. 8. Marte has tried to test his wrist, within reason, by progressing from range-of-motion work to strength exercises to gripping a bat.
“Starling wants to be out there. He wants to compete,” Tomczyk said. “But what makes sense for them, both short- and long-term?”
Catcher Jacob Stallings (back spasms) hasn’t started since last Thursday, but he could return soon, Tomczyk said. Stallings went through a pregame workout on Wednesday to assess his availability off the bench.
Tomczyk provided updates on several rehabbing players who were previously ruled out for the season.
Right-handers Chad Kuhl and Edgar Santana, nearing the end of their year-long Tommy John rehabs, have each thrown a live batting practice session in Bradenton, Fla. Within the next 10 days, they hope to pitch a simulated game or two before beginning a relatively normal offseason routine. Both are expected to be ready for Spring Training.
Right fielder Gregory Polanco (left shoulder inflammation) has had two of his three scheduled platelet-rich plasma injections. He will receive another injection next week then remain with the Pirates for the final week of the season.
Reliever Nick Burdi (neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome) had surgery last week to clear fascial tissue irritating a nerve in his right forearm. He won’t throw for six to eight weeks, Tomczyk said, but Burdi should have a “normal offseason” as long as he’s ready to throw in late December or early January.
Outfielder Jason Martin (dislocated left shoulder) has begun strengthening exercises at his home.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon, who is out until 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, will be able to remove his post-surgical brace in the coming days before beginning formal physical therapy.
• The Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced its annual awards on Wednesday afternoon. Bell received the Roberto Clemente Award as the Pirates’ MVP. Left-hander Steven Brault received the Chuck Tanner Award, given to the player who is most cooperative with the media.
• The Pirates on Wednesday named Class A Greensboro first baseman Mason Martin their Minor League Player of the Year and right-hander James Marvel, who is currently in Pittsburgh’s six-man rotation, their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.