BRADENTON, Fla. -- Before taking the field Sunday for his first game since his suspension was handed down on April 18, Starling Marte owned up to the mistake that landed him in Bradenton, 1,000 miles and three Minor League levels away from his teammates at PNC Park.Marte was suspended for
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Before taking the field Sunday for his first game since his suspension was handed down on April 18, Starling Marte owned up to the mistake that landed him in Bradenton, 1,000 miles and three Minor League levels away from his teammates at PNC Park.
Marte was suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for the performance-enhancing substance Nandrolone. Prior to his first Minor League rehabilitation game at LECOM Park, Marte spoke to a small group of reporters and explained himself.
Marte said he purchased the substance that led to the positive test without checking whether it included anything on MLB's list of banned substances. He said he was surprised when he was informed two weeks before the regular season that he was in violation of the league's rules.
"It was an error. It was something that was a mistake that I made, just thinking there's always something that can help," Marte said through interpreter Hector Morales, the Pirates' director of cultural initiatives. "To move forward, I'm always trying to be better. But it's a mistake. I know that I made that mistake. I just want to move forward and continue to help my team."
Playing for Class A Advanced Bradenton on Sunday, Marte went 0-for-3. He struck out, flied out to center, reached on an error and spent five innings in left field, where he will play when he returns to the Pirates. He is expected to join Triple-A Indianapolis this week and face higher-level competition until his suspension ends on July 18.
"I'm not going to make this mistake again," Marte said. "I'm not going to trust anybody that brings or tells me anything. If anybody ever offers me anything, or I have to take anything, I'm going to always clear it with my trainer or the organization to ensure that what I'm taking for my health and nutrition is in accordance with the regulations. I'm not going to do that again, because I've learned a significant lesson."
The Pirates did not learn of Marte's positive test until April 17, the night before his suspension was announced, general manager Neal Huntington said.
"We've got a young man who recognizes he's got work to do, who recognizes he's put himself in a situation where he needs to earn people's trust and respect back again," Huntington said. "But we've also got a young man who's driven to fold himself back into this club, earn his way back and help this club win games."
Marte had little incentive to take a performance-enhancing substance. The two-time Gold Glove Award winner was arguably the Pirates' most valuable player last season, and he is in the middle of a guaranteed six-year, $31 million contract that contains club options for 2020 and '21. Marte struggled to start the season, hitting just .241 in 13 games, and he admitted the pending suspension may have played a part.
"When you have issues and when you're thinking about something, it does impact the way that your mind stays focused," Marte said. "I'm not going to say 100 percent that my performance was impacted by that, but at the same time, I was worried. I had all of these things in the back of my mind."
One thing Marte won't have to worry about, for the time being, is playing center field. Manager Clint Hurdle said on Sunday the Pirates will not ask Andrew McCutchen to move out of center again.
"Marte will come back as a left fielder," Hurdle said. "That's where he needs to fit in."
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.
Greg Zeck is a contributor to MLB.com.