Posted on April 28, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended by Major League Baseball for 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. According to the MLB Commissioner’s Office, Marte tested positive for Nandrolone, a banned substance. Marte will begin serving his suspension immediately. He won’t be able to play until July and will be ineligible for the postseason if the Pirates qualify for the playoffs.
After the announcement from the Commissioner’s Office, Marte released a statement via the MLB Players Association in which he claims he unintentionally took the banned substance, which has been a common excuse for players suspended for PED use.
“In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general,” Marte said in the statement. “Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much. With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me.”
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Pirates president Frank Coonelly has also released a statement expressing his disappointment in Marte’s suspension.
“The Pittsburgh Pirates fully support MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement, including the very tough penalties for violations of its prohibitions,” Coonelly said. “We are disappointed that Starling put himself, his teammates and the organization in this position. We will continue to fight for the division title with the men who are here and will look forward to getting Starling back after the All-Star break.”
The loss of Marte for nearly half a season is a huge blow for the Pirates, who are 6-7 over the first two weeks of the season even after a three-game sweep of the Cubs last week. Marte was an all-star last season and has won a Gold Glove in each of the past two years. Over the winter, the Pirates rearranged their outfield in order to move the defensively gifted Marte to center field, usurping the role from Andrew McCutchen, who has long been the face of the franchise.
With Marte now out for the next 80 games, the Pirates figure to move McCutchen back to center field, with Gregory Polanco potentially moving back to right field. However, the Pirates don’t have a great deal of depth in their outfield behind the starting trio of Marte, McCutchen, and Polanco. Jose Osuna has been called up to take Marte’s spot on the roster, although he has more experience at first base than in the outfield. Adam Frazier may be in line for most of the playing time in Pittsburgh’s vacant outfield spot, although he’s not a natural outfielder either.
At some point, the Pirates may look to call up outfield prospect Austin Meadows, who is one of the top prospects in baseball. Many view him as Pittsburgh’s left fielder of the future, and the suspension of Marte could open up left field for Meadows to at least get his feet wet in the majors. However, he’s off to a slow start in triple-A, hitting just .162 in 10 games, and so the Pirates may hold off on promoting him until he starts to show improvement.
With this suspension, Marte becomes perhaps the highest profile player to receive an 80-game PED suspension. It’s also a black mark in the career of one of the game’s rising stars. Most importantly, Marte’s absence over the next 80 games will make it that much harder for the Pirates to reach the postseason in 2017.