After transmitting throughout the week that Starling Marte’s slow and arduous recovery from a fractured finger would likely sideline him for the National League Wild Card Series against the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets’ veteran right fielder is starting and batting sixth for Game 1 on Friday night.
“We talked about it. Yesterday we had batting practice… he’s been taking some form of that for a while behind the scenes,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said prior to Game 1. “We knew it was a possibility but there’s still some unknown. I’ve learned from a trust standpoint… When he tells you something, he’s a guy that we trusted with certain things over the year.”
Marte suffered the injury on Sept. 6 when he was hit in the hand by a pitch from Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller. As recently as Monday, Showalter said that there was “not enough progress to think that [a return] is imminent.”
As he rehabbed his way back, the Mets maintained that the 33-year-old was having difficulties gripping the bat and throwing the baseball. He was even seen earlier this week taking outfield, but he was underhanding the ball to a nearby teammate upon catching it.
“Who’s 100% this time of year? We’ll see,” Showalter said. “I think it’s evidenced by where he’s hitting in the order. I’m hoping things go well and we can move him back up tomorrow.”
“It’s kind of a tough question,” Marte added when asked how close he was to being 100%. “It’s starting to feel better… there’s a little bit of discomfort.”
That discomfort will at times force him to re-adjust his swing especially if he takes several at a time. However, he’ll have to “suck up the pain.”
“This is a significant situation,” Marte said. “You just have to fight through it.”
Marte has been a fixture atop the Mets’ lineup this season, batting .292 with an .814 OPS to go with 16 home runs, 63 RBI, and 18 stolen bases.
“I’m very, very comfortable with Starling out in the outfield and I’m very, very comfortable with Starling hitting behind me,” Mets lead-off man Brandon Nimmo said on Friday. “I’ll just be glad to have him back in the lineup.”