PITTSBURGH -- Starling Marte's dramatic awakening since being lowered from the top of the Pirates' batting order into the middle of the lineup has many people wondering: Had he been miscast as a leadoff hitter?
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle wouldn't go there yet.
"Time will tell; this is another short window, four days," said Hurdle, who typically frowns on people jumping to quick judgments.
In those four days, Marte has gone 8-for-17, with more RBIs (three) than strikeouts (two). To close out April, Marte had nine hits over 12 games atop the lineup, and he struck out 17 times in that stretch.
Hurdle did imply that he had always concurred with scouts who considered Marte, with his aggressive and free-swinging approach, more a middle-of-the-order producer of runs but had to ask him to adjust to the team's needs. The Pirates did not have speed atop their lineup until Marte checked in late July 2012.
"I know where I've liked him all along, which I'm not going to share with you," Hurdle said. "But in my mindset, where I thought he'd be best … it all goes back to what's best for the team at the time, how the pieces best fit."
The lineup of the future could have Gregory Polanco at leadoff. Polanco, rated the club's top prospect by MLB.com, also has tremendous power, but in the Minor Leagues has displayed the required plate patience to become a table-setter, typically drawing a walk for every two times he fans. During his brief Major League career, Marte has 44 walks versus 227 strikeouts.