SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP)Starling Marte has fond memories of his eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, especially the stretch from 2013 to 2015 when the franchise made it to the playoffs three straight seasons.
A few minutes of research revealed his new team has a great chance to get him back to the postseason.
Marte was the final big addition of the offseason for the Arizona Diamondbacks after a late January trade that sent two prospects back to the Pirates. The D-backs hope his presence – likely close to the top of a promising young lineup – can help the franchise make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
”When I looked at their roster I was like, `Wow, this team has a chance to make the playoffs and win it,”’ Marte said Friday after reporting to camp a few days early. ”So I’m coming here to do my best and help the guys as much as I can and play hard.”
Marte, 31, was a mainstay in Pittsburgh’s lineup the past eight years, playing mostly left field in his early years before eventually shifting to center. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner in left field, made the All-Star team in 2016 and is coming off one of his best seasons, when he hit .295 with a career-high 23 homers and 82 RBIs and also stole 25 bases.
”He’s got a presence, he’s got a very good baseball personality,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. ”He knows what it takes to win. He’s been in an organization where the Pirates were very good for a long time. We just want him to come over here and be himself.”
Marte’s most valuable asset might be his ability to play center field on an everyday basis. His presence likely bumps last year’s breakout star Ketel Marte – no relation – back to second base for the majority of his playing time. Ketel Marte moved to center for a big chunk of last season and played well, but has said he prefers the infield.
Another one of the team’s biggest offseason acquisitions – left-handed pitcher Madison Bumgarner – threw his second bullpen of the spring on Friday. The 30-or-so pitches drew quite a crowd, including Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, who pitched for the D-backs from 1999 to 2004 and again in 2007 and 2008.
Bumgarner threw to catcher Stephen Vogt, another of the D-backs’ offseason signings. The two played together with the Giants last year. Vogt projects to be this year’s backup behind starter Carson Kelly.
”It’s fun to watch (Bumgarner) go about his business,” Vogt said. ”He’s such a pro and has his routine down and how meticulous he is, it’s always fun to watch.”
LEAKE THROWS TOO
Right-handed pitcher Mike Leake threw his first bullpen Friday, two days after an MRI revealed an old fracture in his non-throwing wrist that he aggravated after a fall while chasing his dog last week.
Leake said the session went well and that he’s still planning to be ready for opening day. Lovullo said he had a good conversation with Leake and remains cautiously optimistic.
”We feel like he’s going to do everything he can to be ready by opening day,” Lovullo said. ”So I’m not going to totally eliminate that thought. But as I explained to him, I’m not going to put him in a situation where he’s going to go out there, hurt himself and take a step backwards.”
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