Pittsbugh Pirates' Starling Marte's fine spring training traced to offseason work

CONSISTENCY QUEST Marte's hot spring traced to offseason work on little things

jdill@bradenton.comMarch 5, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Starling Marte's first major-league hit came in his first at-bat, and it packed quite a punch.

Marte smacked a home run, giving Pittsburgh fans a glimpse into his power.

This spring, the former Bradenton Marauder is already showing his versatility at the plate.

And it goes back to the offseason work he put in his native Dominican Republic and with a hitting coach he worked with prior to signing with the Pirates.

"They were working together on the little things, and he thinks that's why he's improving the way he's doing so far," said Pirates bullpen catcher coach Heberto Andrade, translating for Marte, about Daniel Gonzalez' assistance during the winter.

Before Monday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Marte's focus on the little things has turned into a solid 12 at-bats this spring.

He's churned out five hits, including a triple and has added a stolen base.

That's the versatility popping through: consistent hitting mixed in with speed for the 23-year-old outfielder.

"He's just trying to be consistent," translated Andrade for Marte. "He doesn't make too many changes. Just a little bit in the stance try to recognize better the pitches he's going to face."

That recognition started with his call-up to the Pirates last July.

Marte finished the remainder of the season in Pittsburgh. Playing in 47 games, Marte hit .257 while slugging .437.

He smacked five home runs to pair with six tri

ples, three doubles and 12 stolen bases.

The major-league call-up was a learning experience for Marte, who aided the Marauders 2010 Florida State League playoff appearance.

"To face veteran pitchers, they have better command of the zone," Marte said through Andrade. "And when they know you have a weakness as a hitter, they stick it in there until you show them that you make the adjustments. In the minor leagues, there is no video or stuff like that."

Marte's minor-league career spanned six years, dating back to when he debuted as an 18-year-old.

And the success there, where he hit a collective .303 to go with 39 career home runs and 131 stolen bases, triggered a steady promotion beginning in 2009 that culminated with the call-up to Pittsburgh in late July last season.

And just like his buzz worthy debut performance, Marte did the same this spring.

In the first game held at the newly renovated McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Marte walloped a home run that cleared the new left field stands in the intrasquad Black and Gold game.

But in true Marte fashion, he wasn't trying to launch a homer, even if that was the result.

"He didn't expect to hit a home run," Andrade said in his translation of Marte. "Just to bring the runner in, and he hit the ball well. ... Everything he does is to help the team. He doesn't think about hitting homers, just putting the ball in play. If it's going, then it's going. But the main thing for him is to do something for the team."

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