Starling Marte hits a double against the Cubs in the sixth inning at PNC Park Monday, March 31, 2014.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHICAGO — Starling Marte walked 25 times in 2013 for the Pirates.
Already this season, Marte has drawn five walks and scored three times after displaying such patience.
If Marte can keep up even a fraction of that pace, his on-base percentage should rise exponentially — even when he’s not clobbering a fastball for a double on the first pitch.
“I’m working on being more ready,” Marte said. “I talked with a friend, who was explaining to not put more pressure on myself to swing at every ball. He told me, you don’t have to swing at everything. When you force the pitcher to throw strikes, you get better. I’m waiting for the ball to cross the plate, so I can see everything.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said it was a point of emphasis this spring with Marte. That, coupled with another 510 major league at-bats in 2013, led him to believe there would be progress.
“I expect success out of our players. I’m surprised by failure. I let them know that,” Hurdle said. “There’s reasons for it — the maturity, another year of play, understanding how he gets pitched.
“We’re not looking for 100 walks. But I’ve got to believe the day of a dozen walks in a season … we should pass that.”
One is enough
One run has been the difference for the Pirates in four of their five wins this season after Tuesday night, with scores of 1-0, 4-3, 2-1 and 7-6.
It has been a common theme since the arrival of Hurdle, who called the phenomenon “kind of where we live.”
“We’ve been a one-run club since I’ve been here pretty much. A lot of close ballgames,” he said. “We pitch and play defense. When you pitch and play defense, more often than not that’s where you’re going to end up.
“We’re in the upper tier of pitching so the run-scoring from the opposition is really in check for us. We play good defense, and that works well for us as well. Offensively, we try to muster up what we can muster up.”
Stewart makes progress
Catcher Chris Stewart began a rehabilitation assignment Sunday with Class A Bradenton, caught five more innings Tuesday and caught Jeff Locke, who was making a rehabilitation start Wednesday night.
“He’s making progress. He’s basically had to re-start spring training all over and go through the rehab. He’s moving forward,” Hurdle said.
The Cubs’ Rick Renteria was the first manager ejected from a major league game this season. He was tossed in the ninth inning of the Pirates’ 7-6 victory Tuesday night by umpire Jeff Nelson for arguing balls and strikes.
It might be a rarity this season with expanded instant replay offering a more civilized way to argue calls, although balls and strikes are not reviewable.
“I think it has changed the landscape. I think you’re still going to see scenarios when the manager doesn’t have a challenge,” Hurdle said. “Those close calls that don’t go your team’s way could present a different type of presentation.”
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