Suspension behind him, Marte nears return to Reds

June 12th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CINCINNATI -- Third baseman (the Reds' No. 2 prospect) began a rehab assignment on Tuesday with Triple-A Louisville, the final step before he can return from an 80-game suspension.

Marte, who is ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 28 overall prospect, went 2-for-5 with a first-inning double and a run scored during a 3-2 loss to St. Paul. He is eligible to return on June 27, when the Reds are at St. Louis.

"There’s no progression or plan to play parts of games. He’s ready to play nine innings," Reds manager David Bell said.

Marte, 22, was suspended by MLB on March 8 after he tested positive for Boldenone, a banned anabolic-androgenic steroid. His punishment also included his ineligibility for the postseason.

Speaking to reporters on Monday for the first time since being disciplined, Marte could not explain how or why he tested positive.

“In reality, it just appeared in my system," Marte said via translator Jorge Merlos. "I really don’t know how it came about unfortunately. That’s as far as I know.”

One of the lessons learned is to be more aware of what goes into his body going forward.

“I think when I go back to the Dominican, I will make sure I’m really well [aware of] how all of my diet is going on and make sure I have the right people behind me and I trust those people as well, as much as possible," Marte said.

“I live in a country that doesn’t have the same health system that you see normally here in the States. I have to make sure and look over everything that is going on and that my process is [good] enough that these results won’t come back again.”

Losing Marte, coupled with Spring Training injuries to Matt McLain and TJ Friedl, left Cincinnati's lineup shorthanded. Although the club carried a winning record to the end of April (16-14), a 9-18 record in May sunk the Reds to the bottom of the National League Central standings. Only in the past two weeks has there been an upswing.

All Marte could do was see his team struggle from afar as he worked out at the Reds’ Spring Training complex in Arizona and in the Dominican Republic.

“It was difficult to watch the games knowing I wouldn’t be able to be out there to help that team," he said. "I kind of felt anxious and ready to get back, a little bit distraught that I wouldn’t be able to be out there. The good news is now they’re on a better streak. Fortunately, I’ll be able to be there soon to support them.”

Upbeat during his 15-plus-minute media session via Zoom, Marte praised the support he has received from the Reds.

“The whole team has had my back since they learned about the suspension," Marte said. "We’ve been in communication. They’ve talked to me ever since. I don’t think that it’s going to change anything that goes on with the team.”

Marte maintained that he did all he could to stay in shape to be ready for when his suspension ended.

“I feel like I’ve worked so much harder than I ever have coming into any season," he said. "I’m really happy with the work I’ve been able to do to prepare myself to come back.”

Marte slashed .316/.366/.456 in 35 games and 123 plate appearances in the big leagues last season. He was expected to play third base for the club heading into this year.

The plan at Louisville is for Marte to mostly play third. But he will also see some time at his natural position, shortstop, and at second base.

While Marte might feel supported by his own team, fans might be less forgiving of a player who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. That could especially be the case at a division rival's city, like St. Louis.

Marte was not worried about the reaction to his situation.

"Who knows what type of reaction fans will give back to me?" Marte said. "I can only control what I can control and we’ll leave it in the hands of God to decide what happens.”