Starling to help D-backs optimize defense

February 14th, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- arrived at D-backs camp wearing a big smile on Friday, a few days before position players are scheduled for their first workout.

Marte spent his morning saying "Hi" to the players he already knew and introducing himself to the rest.

“I feel great,” he said. “I had a chance to talk to a few of them, and they’ve been awesome to me.”

Marte was acquired from the Pirates on Jan. 27 in exchange for a pair of Minor Leaguers. He is the center fielder the D-backs have been looking for since they lost A.J. Pollock to free agency after the 2018 season.

When Arizona came up empty in its search for a replacement prior to 2019, it shifted from second base to center, the first time he had played the outfield since two games there for the Mariners in 2015.

Marte did a nice job out there while also playing some at second base. But the D-backs wanted to have him focus primarily on one position, and their first choice was to have him play second.

“We feel like he’s a Gold Glove second baseman,” Arizona general manager Mike Hazen said of Ketel Marte. “He was exceptional for us in center field last year.”

Ketel Marte was in the Dominican Republic when he heard about the trade.

“I’m happy to be back in my natural position,” he said. “It’s good for my body.”

Ketel Marte missed the last two weeks of the season after suffering a stress reaction in his back, something that may have been caused by a heavy workload and the amount of running he did in the outfield.

With Starling Marte, who has won two Gold Glove Awards, in center; , who has won two straight Gold Glove Awards, at short; and Ketel Marte at second, the D-backs figure to have one of the best defenses up the middle in the game.

“I was pumped,” Ahmed said of when he heard about the Starling Marte deal. “He’s a great player, he’s got all kinds of tools and competes and has a ton of ways to impact the game, so I was really excited when I heard we traded for him. I was texting with Ketel right after that happened. I was like, 'Man, you’re back to second base.' He was all excited, too, so it will be fun to have hopefully 150 games of him at second.”

Ketel Marte said he is completely recovered from last year’s injury and was able to get into his usual offseason workouts.

“Being at second with Nick at short, it’s going to be fun,” he said. “Like you guys have seen before, we’re going to do a good job there.”

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said he has yet to think too much about lineup construction, but it stands to reason that the first two spots could be filled by Starling and then Ketel.

“[I've] probably written out one or two [lineups], and they’re probably pretty similar to what you have in your head right now,” Lovullo said. “I haven’t really dug into it, but [Starling] is an impact bat. He can do so many special things, and ... obviously, the name of the game is to score runs and let the best hitters hit as many times as possible.”