CLEARWATER, Fla. -- While manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington do their tactful best to empty the bandwagon, Starling Marte's bat keeps barking, "Climb aboard!" Its latest bark came in the eighth inning Thursday, when Marte, a late entry into the game against the Phillies, hit a solo homer to tie the exhibition at 4. That was the Dominican outfielder's eighth consecutive hit, further provoking fans beginning to wonder whether the 23-year-old should be considered for a roster spot, even though he has only one season of experience above Class A ball.
The Phillies had to go to extra lengths to finally stop him. Well, extra innings: in the 10th inning, Marte flied out to right off right-hander Michael Schwimer, ending his streak. That out dropped Marte's average from .750 to .692.
"You got to use a filter," said Hurdle, a variation of his earlier observation that the hardest performances to "read a lot into are in Spring Training and in September callups.""We're very happy with what he's done. It's exciting to watch him play," Hurdle added. "I'm very happy see him come in with the comfort zone he has at the plate and on the bases." "He's definitely shown his talent. Spring Training is a bad time for evaluations," Huntington said. "He's hit the breaking ball and destroyed the fastball. But we're not fans of jumping guys from Double-A to the big leagues." For his part, Marte said through interpreter first-base coach Luis Silverio, "I worked hard in the [batting] cage, and at the plate I've been looking for good pitches to hit, then putting a good swing on them."