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Marte hits leadoff, plays LF in return to lineup

Bucs option Gosselin to make room on active roster before Tuesday's game
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Starling Marte's suspension is over. The Pirates reinstated Marte from the restricted list and slotted him back into their lineup Tuesday night against the Brewers at PNC Park.

The outfielder hit leadoff and played left field in Pittsburgh's 4-3 win over the Brewers. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, although he was picked off second base by Brewers starter Junior Guerra.

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PITTSBURGH -- Starling Marte's suspension is over. The Pirates reinstated Marte from the restricted list and slotted him back into their lineup Tuesday night against the Brewers at PNC Park.

The outfielder hit leadoff and played left field in Pittsburgh's 4-3 win over the Brewers. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, although he was picked off second base by Brewers starter Junior Guerra.

View Full Game Coverage

He made an immediate impact in left field, snagging a fly ball off the bat of Ryan Braun in the first inning.

Video: MIL@PIT: Marte makes a sliding catch to rob Braun

Marte missed the Pirates' last 80 games, an unpaid suspension, following a positive test for the performance-enhancing substance Nandrolone. The Bucs optioned infielder Phil Gosselin to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Marte.

Marte traveled to Pittsburgh on Monday and again stated his desire to regain the trust of his teammates, fans and organization. He will take his first step in the leadoff spot, playing left field, in his first Major League game since April 17.

"The best Starling Marte is a really good player," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Our desire is to get him to play at that level again. When that'll happen, time will tell."

Video: Marte apologizes for suspension

There will be other questions, too.

Why left field?
Two weeks ago, Hurdle said, simply, "That's where he needs to fit in." In other words: The Pirates weren't going to ask Andrew McCutchen to move out of center -- again -- to accommodate Marte, particularly since Marte's own decision-making led to his suspension.

Hurdle elaborated Tuesday on MLB Network Radio, saying Marte "needs to fold back into this team. He doesn't need to be a focal point of this team."

Video: MIL@PIT: Marte makes a sliding catch to rob Braun

Why leadoff?
Marte's combination of speed and power fits atop the order. He batted first in two games earlier this season, once in 2015 and in 181 times from 2012-14, so he's done it before. It will be interesting to see where Marte hits when Adam Frazier also starts, but on Tuesday, he hit first.

Said Hurdle: "It gives him the freedom to run when he gets on. From his mental standpoint, it's the least demanding, the least asked. I have no desire to try to put him in the middle [of the order] and have him add more than he needs to add right now."

How does this affect the bench?
It's finally back in place, stronger than it's been in months. Frazier, John Jaso and Jose Osuna are freed up for key pinch-hitting situations and spot starts, no longer rotating through left field. Switch-hitting Max Moroff remains as a backup infielder.

On David Freese's days off, for instance, the Pirates can slide Josh Harrison to third base and start Frazier at second. Frazier can start at second base or shortstop when the starter is off. Osuna and Jaso can start at first base or in a corner-outfield spot when needed.

How did they do without him?
All things considered, not bad. The Pirates went 39-41 without Marte, but consider the obstacles they encountered during that time.

Jung Ho Kang never made it stateside. Frazier, Freese, Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli all dealt with injuries that tested the club's depth. McCutchen slumped until late May.

Jameson Taillon missed a month following surgery for testicular cancer. Tyler Glasnow struggled his way out of the rotation and back to the Minors. Gerrit Cole endured a brutal month of starts. Daniel Hudson and Tony Watson struggled, leaving the bullpen in flux until Felipe Rivero stepped in.

Yet, somehow, the Pirates entered Tuesday with a 31-26 record since May 13.

"We've taken on water in different areas," Hurdle said. "We all had the mindset we kept showing up together and getting better, working hard to get better."

How will he play?
We'll see. Marte said the "mistake" that led to his positive test this offseason was a one-time offense, that his past performance shouldn't be questioned. The Pirates believe he is still the same explosive, gifted athlete who led the team in Wins Above Replacement last season.

"We all know what Marte can bring," McCutchen said. "He's not a new guy."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Starling Marte