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.