ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates dodged a bullet with Starling Marte, who was back in Tuesday night's lineup after missing only one start with his left-hand bruise.
But what Marte can't dodge are pitches -- the one that briefly sidelined him was the 19th to hit him this season, and he was plunked for the 20th time in the fifth inning of the Pirates' 4-3, 14-inning loss to the Cardinals. This isn't a new problem for the outfielder; during his Minor League ascendancy, he was plunked 70 times.
"He's led every league in getting hit by pitches he's ever played in. It's unfortunate -- he's a piñata," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got to help him find a way to avoid pitches. He's not getting out of the way -- we all see that."
The manner in which Marte took the latest shot was typical -- he was striding into a pitch from left-hander Josh Outman in the seventh inning of Saturday's game in Denver, and when the pitch broke in on him, he couldn't yank his hands out of the way.
"It's a completely reactionary movement in the box," Hurdle said. "You either pull back or turn around or just stay there. That's not been one of Marte's strengths, avoiding pitches."
The latest plunking was the first one to actually knock Marte out of a game. The immediate pain gave way to postgame concern; Marte feared he had fractured the hand. Two exams, including the follow-up on Sunday, showed otherwise.
"He was the most relieved when he got the second test, and they told him there's nothing there," Hurdle said.
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.