Fallout, reaction to Marte suspension

Answers about lineup, potential moves with center fielder out

April 18th, 2017

ST. LOUIS -- Meet the new center fielder, same as the old center fielder.

The Pirates will face many questions in the wake of 's 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. They answered one quickly: Yes, is moving back to center field while Marte is out. McCutchen's reaction?

"All right," he said. "Next man up, ready to go."

The Pirates were focused Tuesday on moving forward, but the effects of Marte's suspension will linger. Here's some of the fallout and questions facing Pittsburgh until he returns.

What will Marte do now? When can he come back?

Barring rainouts and rescheduled games, Marte will be eligible to return in the Pirates' 94th game on July 18, which is the Tuesday after the All-Star break. Fifteen days before his suspension ends, general manager Neal Huntington said, Marte can begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.

Huntington said the Pirates will allow Marte to work out at their Dominican academy or the Pirate City complex in Bradenton, Fla. Also, Marte is not eligible to play in the postseason if the Pirates make it.

What happens to the outfield?

McCutchen will play center. will remain in left field unless his recently injured legs don't hold up, at which point the Bucs would consider moving him to right.

"A healthy Polanco in left is our best option," manager Clint Hurdle said.

will play more often, presumably in right field. Other options include , and Josh Harrison, who could bounce from second base to right and open an infield spot for Frazier, Phil Gosselin or . Don't expect to see Josh Bell in the outfield, especially while the Pirates are trying to get his bat on track.

What about the lineup?

Marte had been batting second, a good fit for his combination of average, speed and power potential. Now the Pirates are left without an ideal option. Harrison, who started there Tuesday, is not a high-OBP hitter, but he can hit for a high average while providing speed on the bases in front of McCutchen and Polanco.

"We'll see how it goes," Hurdle said. "We're going to try to present some stability, but the first day's the first day and that's the lineup we've got out there."

Will they call up prospect Austin Meadows?

Huntington pumped the brakes a bit on the Meadows talk, at least for now. The Pirates promoted Osuna, coming off a great Spring Training, to take Marte's roster spot. He's a better fit at first base but can play a corner-outfield spot, if necessary. Meadows had a good spring, and he's perhaps the highest-ceiling hitter in the Pirates' system.

"We're encouraged by where Meadows will be at some point over the course of the summer," Huntington said. "He's not ready right now, but we're thrilled by where he can go. This is where our organizational depth becomes important for us."

Could they sign or trade for another outfielder?

Trades this early in the season are "not real," as Huntington put it -- certainly not for an impact player. The free-agent pool is limited, with 35-year-old the only option who has had any recent success.

In other words, it's more likely the Pirates will stick with what they've got until Marte is ready to return.

"We'll always look for ways to improve the club," Huntington said. "It would have to be someone who is a significant upgrade over our internal options."

What has Marte said?

Marte addressed the team but not the media, and the Pirates understandably wanted to keep his comments in-house. All we have to go off right now is Marte's statement, in which he apologized and cited "neglect" and a "lack of knowledge" for his mistake.