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Pittsburgh Pirates’ Starling Marte singles off Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Junior Guerra during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Starling Marte is looking ahead to 2018 on the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates after missing half of last season because of a failed drug test.

A first-time All-Star outfielder in 2016, Marte sat out from April 18-July 17 last year while serving a suspension for a positive test for the steroid Stanozonol. He hit .275 with seven homers, 31 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 77 games, down from .311 with nine homers, 46 RBIs in 2016, when he had a career-best 47 steals and earned his second straight Gold Glove.

“I’m coming into this season with a brand-new mentality,” Marte said through a translator. “It’s a mentality to help my team like never before, to be the best teammate I can be and to be healthy to continue to be the best Marte that I am.”

After reaching the playoffs three straight times, the Pirates finished below .500 for a second straight season. They traded five-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole, and Marte is being shifted from left to fill the void in center left by McCutchen’s absence.

Marte began last season in center and McCutchen in right, and McCutchen moved back to the center when Marte was banned. Manager Clint Hurdle kept him there when Marte returned.

“I believe he wants to go out and play the game the way he’s capable of, and that’s going to be pretty special in center field,” Hurdle said. “That’s going to be special on the bases. He can do things at the plate that are significant to help our club.”

Advanced metrics say Marte is a better defensive outfielder than McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP.

“He has always been so respectful of Andrew that he hasn’t really let it out how much he wants to play center and how excited he is for this opportunity,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “But center field is his, and we’re excited for him to go own that.”

Marte’s batting average and .712 OPS last year were the lowest marks of his big league career.

“These pitchers, they were already all warmed up,” Marte said. “They were ready to face me. They had been playing through the whole season. I came in kind of cold, and it took me a little bit to be able to adjust. “However, when I started getting warmed up and I came into my rhythm, that’s when Marte came out _ the true Marte _ and I feel warm and I’m looking forward going into this 2018 season.”

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

 

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