Welcome to the Majors, Starling Marte! The Pittsburgh Pirates organization and its fans have been anxiously awaiting the Major League arrival of their prospect who hails from the Dominican Republic. Starling Marte wasted little time in showing his talents. While making his debut against the Houston Astros, Marte led off the game with a home run blast on the first pitch. The mid-eighties cutter thrown by Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel was no match for Marte, who planted the pitch in the left-center field seats of Minute Maid Park. This was no fluke. As reported by ESPN, Marte admitted that he had a plan for his first MLB pitch:
I told some players in the dugout before the game that if he threw a fastball down the middle I was going to take a hack at it and that’s exactly what I did.
On the flip side of things, Keuchel didn’t expect anything of the kind. As Marte was leading the game off, Keuchel expected him to simply take a pitch and work the count. That may explain the cookie he tossed up to Marte. Here’s what Dallas Keuchel had to say after the game:
I figured he’d take a strike to see what I got; I never thought he would hit a homer on the first pitch of the game.
Starling Marte was brought up to give the Pirates more production from the left field position. This is no run-of-the-mill call up, as the Pirates sit in second place in the National League Central (56-42), just two games back of the first place Cincinnati Reds. As the standings are now, the Pirates hold the number one wild card spot. The 23-year-old Dominican star has played a lot of ball and impressed many on his way to the “Bigs.” The Pirates are making a serious push as contenders in the National League. If Marte can have a significant impact, the Pirates will be a threat to make a deep run. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle felt something special when Marte led the game off with the home run and expressed this in the clubhouse:
That was a swing that touched a lot of people. Starling has been a special player all the way up. He’s been a lot of places and a lot of people have had the opportunity to watch him. We’ve got an entire minor league system and an academy in the Dominican Republic pulling for him. So (it was) really cool, really cool.
With Andrew McCutchen tearing up the National League and the addition of Starling Marte, this Pittsburgh Pirates squad looks to be an exciting one to watch in the upcoming months. Here’s the MLB.com video of Marte’s first-pitch blast.
Note: Starling Marte is the first Pittsburgh Pirates player to hit a home run on his first MLB pitch since Walter Mueller did it in 1922.