PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) -- After Starling Marte increased his power and production from 13 to 19 home runs and 56 to 81 RBI last season, Pirates fans are hoping for even more from Marte in 2016 as he enters his fourth full MLB season.
One reason for the increased RBI is that Marte spent most of last season hitting either fifth or sixth rather than first or second. And with Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco figuring to fill the top of the order, Marte could find himself hitting clean-up behind Andrew McCutchen, and could stay there even when Jung Ho Kang is healthy enough to play.
In any case, Marte says he has no preference. "I feel comfortable at any spot," he said. Plus, he points out that every hitter in the order at some point could lead off or be a #2 hitter and so forth in any particular inning.
Getting back to Polanco, Marte predicts a big season for his protégé. "He's getting better every day, learning the game, learning the hitting; I think he'll be better than me in a couple of years (maybe) this year." (Polanco, incidentally, was embarrassed when I told him what Marte had said but was also quite pleased.)
Not that Marte is close to knowing everything. He still relies on Andrew McCutchen. "Cutch has had 7 years here and sometimes I still talk to him about how to get better, knowing pitchers and hitters. Anything he tells me I will take."
And not that it means much at this point, but so far Marte is about the only Pirate regular doing much of anything at the plate. He's hit safely in 5 of his 6 games and is 6-for-13 going into Sunday.
Speaking of Sunday, Gerrit Cole will make his first Grapefruit league start against the ever-present Tigers. Saturday, Jeff Locke because the first Pirate pitcher to go 4 innings and allowed 2 runs on 2 hits (including a JD Martinez home run), struck out 5 and walked 1 in a 3-0 loss to the Tigers in Lakeland. Chris Stewart had 2 hits, Matt Morse a double, as Pittsburgh major league hitters continue to struggle.
Listen to the full interview with Starling Marte and Jim Colony here:
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