Starling Marte returned to the lineup Tuesday night for the first time in nearly a month, providing the Pirates with power and speed at the top of the order for the final dozen games.
A contusion and sprained ligament in Marte's right hand sent him to the disabled list and prevented him from making a plate appearance since Aug. 18. Marte appeared in seven games as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement in September.
"There comes a point in time where the conversation's just got to end and the young man needs to go out and play and figure things out as he goes along," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Marte said his hand felt good and was excited to return to the lineup.
In recent days, Hurdle said he has tried to help Marte understand that the pain likely will not disappear during the season.
"It's the next test for him to go out and play and see how he can perform and see what gets brought his way, whether there's pain management or not, how much is it, when it happens how is he able to get through it and to fight back," Hurdle said. "I'm looking forward to just watching him get back involved. We're a much more dynamic team with him in left field and leading off."
To simulate game-level velocity and breaking pitches, the Pirates had Marte bat against Wandy Rodriguez in a simulated game before Rodriguez was shut down. Marte also took batting practice at full speed against Kris Johnson. The Pirates have tried to recreate fastballs and breaking balls off pitching machines, too.
"I have no idea where this is going to go, but I know he's going to be engaged, I know he's going to be competitive, I know he's going to do everything he can to help the club," Hurdle said. "We'll see how he's able to respond and how long it takes to get timing or how soon he can get the timing he needs to have at the plate."
The move sends Jose Tabata, Marte's replacement in left, back to the bench. Tabata hit .283 with five doubles, two triples and a homer in 24 games in left after Marte was hurt, but had only a .305 on-base percentage.
Padres rule at PNC Park
After Andrew Cashner's complete-game, one-hit shutout Monday night, the Padres improved their record to 29-10 at PNC Park.
"I know since I've been here that they have played better than us," Hurdle said. "They pitched better than us, they hit better than us, they outplayed us. That being said, I don't know how much more you need to dig than that. We need to play a better game, an overall game."
In 2011, a Padres sweep at PNC Park put the finishing touches on a 10-game losing streak that dropped the Pirates from 54-49 and in second place to 54-59 and in fourth. They also took two out of three in Pittsburgh last August.
The Pirates wore 1970s replica uniforms last night as part of Roberto Clemente Day. They also met with children and delivered school supplies at Spring Hill Elementary School.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.