PITTSBURGH -- The stance of Pirates officials all along has been that when Starling Marte is deemed ready, the young outfielder would get his Major League baptismal.Still, prior to Saturday afternoon's game against San Francisco at PNC Park, manager Clint Hurdle gave the clearest indication yet that Marte Time might arrive during the 2012 season. Hurdle was in a generic discussion of the club's approach to the season's second half and to the approaching end-of-July Trade Deadline -- "we're again in buy mode" -- when, unsolicited, he dropped this into the conversation: "There's one really exciting player in Indianapolis who could find his way here and provide a lot of excitement." Clearly, the reference was to Marte, Indianapolis' reigning Player of the Month after batting .325 in June with 15 extra-base hits (four homers, five triples and six doubles). The International League All-Star ended the first half of the Triple-A season batting .289, with nine homers and 51 RBIs in 82 games. The Bucs are paying particular attention to Marte's plate discipline in his first experience at the Triple-A level. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio remains three-to-one (73 versus 23). However, the 23 walks already exceed the total he drew in 572 plate appearances with Altoona last season, when he was the Double-A Eastern League's batting champ. An outfielder with punch is considered a high-priority for the Pirates on the trade market. How Marte's progress is evaluated the next three weeks will influence the club's approach.
Pirates bring up Hague, send Fryer down
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates on Saturday recalled Matt Hague from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Eric Fryer to the Triple-A club.The move gives the Bucs some added right-handed punch on the bench after Fryer had been kept in reserve as a third catcher while Rod Barajas nursed a bone bruise on his left knee. This is the third big league stint of the season for Hague, who was on the Opening Day roster until being optioned for the first time in mid-April. The corner infielder rejoined the Pirates on May 25 and returned to Indianapolis a month later when the club needed his spot on the 25-man roster for Fryer. In a total of 28 games with the Pirates, Hague is batting .235 with seven RBIs in 68 at-bats. Between the two Minor League detours, the 26-year-old corner infielder hit .285 in 44 games at Indianapolis and drove in 27 runs. Fryer made one defensive appearance during his stay and went 1-for-3 as a pinch-hitter. He made his Major League debut with the Pirates last season.
The Bucs rolled out their McLineup against the Giants on Saturday, with the battery of James McDonald and Michael McKenry, with Andrew McCutchen in center and Casey McGehee on first. This was the fifth time the Pirates used a lineup with all four, going 3-1 in the first four. Neil Walker's first-inning double Saturday extended his hitting streak to 11 games, with 17 hits in 39 at-bats (.436) in that stretch. The Pirates were trying to remain undefeated on Saturdays at home, having won their seven games on the day.
The Last Word
"We were in a similar situation a year ago. But it's the new girl at the dance, another year older, prettier, a nicer dress. More tangible evidence."
-- Manager Clint Hurdle, on why the Pirates figure to garner a lot of attention with the national media gathered in Kansas City for the All-Star Game.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.