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Marte could be pinch-runner upon return until healthy

ST. LOUIS -- While Starling Marte works his way back to all-around playing condition, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle might channel Billy Hamilton and call on Marte's legs before his hands come into play.

"We might get to the point of just activating him and just using him to run, once we're comfortable with that," Hurdle said.

Hamilton is the Cincinnati prospect who set a Minor League record with his 155 steals last season. Called up by the Reds days ago, he has appeared in two games -- only as a pinch-runner, both times stealing a base and scoring a key run in the recent series with the Cardinals.

Marte last played on Aug. 18, six days before he formally went on the disabled list with a right hand contusion. During an off-day workout on Thursday, for the first time he was able to grip a bat with both hands, taking some swings off a tee.

"He's close with his throwing," Hurdle reported of the left fielder, "and he's ramped up all his running."

Complicating Marte's return is that he won't be able to have the benefit of any rehab games, with Minor League playoffs winding down. Hurdle said the club will do the best it can with alternatives.

"We'll recreate a game as much as we can," Hurdle said. "Maybe take one of the surplus arms in the bullpen and have him throw to him, make that a pitcher's assignment for the day."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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