PHOENIX — In about a week, or whenever Cody Ross returns from the disabled list, the Diamondbacks likely will be forced to return either A.J. Pollock or Alfredo Marte to the minor leagues. It is the curse of the young and optionable on a deep, veteran team.
On Wednesday, they belonged in an All-Star setting, as both rookies had career games.
Pollock had his first three-hit game, his first two-home run game and his first four-RBI game in the Diamondbacks’ 10-2 rout of the Pirates. His three-run homer in the second inning gave Wade Miley a 6-0 lead, and he added a bases-empty home run in the fourth that led to a four-run inning for a 10-1 lead. Then there was his diving catch in center field with a runner on second base and one out to take a run away from the Pirates in the first inning.
Marte doubled in the final run in a three-run first inning and reached base in his first four plate appearances, in four different ways. He also singled, walked and was hit by a pitch.
The two give the D-backs the kind of outfield depth most major league teams would envy, and with it they have been able to get off to a 6-3 start while playing through spring injuries to projected starters Ross and Adam Eaton.
The D-backs have led or been tied for the NL West lead ever since their Opening Day victory over the Cardinals.
And while it has been only 10 days, both Pollock and Marte have given every indication that they belong in the big leagues, which will make the upcoming decision even more difficult. Ross is tentatively scheduled to return from his left calf injury on the road trip that begins in New York with an interleague series against the Yankees next Tuesday, the first time the D-backs will need a DH this season.
Pollock, who had two homers in 31 games in his first major league time last year, has a professional’s understanding of the possibilities after yo-yo-ing between the D-backs and the minors five times last year. After Chris Young got hurt, and Jason Kubel went on paternity leave, and Lyle Overbay went on maternity leave, and as the designated 26th player for a doubleheader, and …
“The easiest way to deal with it is you’re in the lineup, you’re a member of the team and you’re expected to help the team win. If you do that enough, you don’t need to worry about the rest. It’s when you’re not grinding it out for the team and competing for the team when it starts to happen,” he said.
“Someone will bring it up. That’s what they do. They think ahead. But when you are a baseball player and you are in the thick of things during a season, there is a game today, and when that is done, there is another. If you are in there you are going to compete. When you are not, you are going to be the best bench player you can. That’s all you can do.”
Marte has a similarly mature stance.
“I don’t think about it. that is something I can’t control. The only thing I can control is my game, and that’s all I am worrying about,” he said through teammate Martin Prado’s interpretation.
Marte had a career-high 20 home runs at Class AA Mobile last year, more than double the amount he had in any previous four minor league seasons. He credited a top-hand approach suggested by then-Mobile hitting coach Jay Bell, who was in the other dugout Wednesday after becoming the Pirates’ hitting coach this season.
Pollock has been more of a doubles hitter in his career, with 41 to go with 36 stolen bases at Mobile in 2011. Not that his home runs Wednesday were necessarily a surprise.
“For me, hitting home runs is not about power. It’s about hitting the ball correctly and you’re approach at the plate. It’s 340 feet down the line. It’s not like you need to hit it 600 feet to hit it out. It’s more about getting the right pitch and taking the right swing in the right count,” he said.