Pirates’ Marte set to return from PED suspension (Jul 18, 2017)

PITTSBURGH — Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is expected to return from an 80-game suspension when Pittsburgh faces the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday at PNC Park.

Marte last played April 17 against the St. Louis Cardinals before testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. In 13 games with the Pirates this season, he is hitting .241 with two home runs, 13 hits and seven RBIs.

“These 80 days I’ve spent away from the game taught me a lot,” Marte said through a translator Monday. “I’ve learned a lot and matured a lot. … I do not want to be a distraction to my team. If anything, starting today or tomorrow when I put on that uniform, I want to represent this team. I don’t want to be a distraction anymore.”

With Marte back, the Pirates (45-48) will attempt to earn their ninth win in 11 games and hand the Brewers a third straight loss. Pittsburgh took the series opener 4-2 on Monday.

Last season, Marte led Pittsburgh with a .311 batting average. He had nine home runs, 46 RBIs and 47 stolen bases in 129 games.

Marte’s teammates feel fortunate to have him back.

“We’re getting a heck of a player back, I know that, somebody that’s a five-tool player,” shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “I don’t know how the crowd’s going to react, I don’t know any of that stuff, but I just know that it’s going to give us a boost. He’s a heck of a player and a dynamic athlete.”

Marte will play left field upon his return. He began the season in center field, where Andrew McCutchen has since taken over.

The Brewers (52-43) will try to make Marte’s return a rough one by sending right-hander Junior Guerra to the mound. Guerra (1-3, 4.78 ERA) is expected to be taken off the disabled list and return to the rotation after missing the minimum 10 days due to a right shin contusion.

In his most recent outing, Guerra allowed three runs (one earned) in 3 1/3 innings during a 9-4 win over the New York Yankees. He was struck in the shin by a comebacker, then was lifted after a rain delay.

In five career games against Pittsburgh, including four starts, Guerra is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in 25 innings. He has recorded 20 strikeouts and 11 walks.

Pittsburgh right fielder Gregory Polanco could give Guerra fits if he hits the same way he did Monday, when he went 4-for-4 with a pair of RBI doubles. He has hit safely in 11 of his past 12 games with the lone exception coming July 9, when he entered in the seventh inning and went 0-for-1.

Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova (9-6, 3.21 ERA) will look for a second consecutive win Tuesday. Nova has split his last four starts after winning four of his previous five decisions.

Nova has made three career starts against Milwaukee, going 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in 19 innings. He has 15 strikeouts and only three walks against the Brewers.

Milwaukee could be without catcher Stephen Vogt, who sustained a left knee strain and a neck strain when Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl collided with him at the plate Monday. Vogt remained down for a few minutes before leaving the field through Pittsburgh’s dugout.

Following the game, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Vogt is day-to-day.

“I think it was a pretty good collision, and he said right away that his knee and his neck were bugging him,” Counsell said. “So, it got a little better as the night went on a little bit, but we’ll have to see how he’s doing tomorrow.”

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