Pittsburgh Pirates: Starling Marte Suspended 80 Games for Positive PED Test

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte has received an 80-game suspension from MLB after he tested positive for a banned substance.

In a Tuesday afternoon bombshell, Major League Baseball announced that it has suspended Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte for 80 games after he tested positive for a banned substance.

This is a shocking development and massive blow for the Pirates just over two weeks into the 2017 season. Though Marte was off to a rather tepid start (.241/.288/.370 through 13 games), he has been a huge contributor for them over the past few years and is considered one of the game’s most talented young outfielders.

Per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Marte offered the following words of contrition in a statement:

“In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general. 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.”

That neglect will indeed cost Marte dearly – just about half the season, to be precise. Under MLB’s current performance-enhancing drug policy, an 80-game suspension is the standard discipline for a first positive test. He would also be ineligible for the postseason if the Pirates reach that stage.

Pirates President Frank Coonnelly had this to say in his own statement released by the club:

 “The Pittsburgh Pirates fully support MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement, including the very tough penalties for violations of its prohibitions. 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.”

An All-Star for the first time last year, Marte slashed a hearty .311/.362/.456 with nine home runs and 46 RBI in 2016, although injuries limited him to 129 games. He also used his speed to wreak havoc on the base paths, stealing a career-high 47 bags.

Overall, Marte owns a .288/.344/.446 batting line (117 OPS+) in his six-year MLB career. The 28-year-old has garnered respect for his defense as well, earning back-to-back Glove Gloves for his work as a left fielder the last two seasons.

As one of their core young talents, the Pirates will miss Marte at the plate and in the field. It’s certainly poor timing, as the Bucs are looking to compete for a playoff spot after missing October baseball last year for the first time since 2012.

Top Pirates outfield prospect Austin Meadows looks like the obvious choice to take Marte’s place, but as Rosenthal points out, he’s struggling right now at Triple-A with a .162/.220/.270 line. Pittsburgh might have no choice but to throw him into the deep end and see how he fares.

As it stands, the Pirates will get Marte back in the season’s second half. They’ll try to stay afloat in the meantime, and upon his return the least he can he do for the team he let down is go on a tear down the stretch. However, even if the Pirates manage to claim a playoff berth, Marte would be barred from participating. It’s just a bad situation all around for a club that was aiming to bounce back after a disappointing finish a year ago.

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