Ball looks like Grapefruit to Marte

Pirates' top prospect continues strong spring with homer

By Andrew Pentis / Special to MLB.com | March 16, 2012 11:51 AM ET

For a farmhand coming off his first Minor League season at Double-A, the Pirates' Starling Marte looked awfully comfortable atop a Major League lineup on Friday.

Pittsburgh's No. 3 prospect smacked a leadoff home run and singled in four at-bats as his club topped the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-2, as part of Grapefruit League action.

Through 11 Spring Training games, Marte, who will likely begin his sixth pro season at Triple-A Indianapolis, is batting .500 (12-for-24) with three longballs; his latest came against All-Star starter Cliff Lee.

The 23-year-old center fielder -- the Pirates signed him out of his native Dominican Republic in January 2007 -- also singled up the middle against Lee and later scored in the third inning. He struck out in his final two plate appearances but was the only batter in the game to record more than one base knock.

At Double-A Altoona in 2011, Marte set career highs in batting (.332), home runs (12) and RBIs (50). He then posted a .328/.368/.467 line in 30 Dominican Winter League games.

Lee (1-1) yielded three total runs on five hits over 4 2/3 frames; his first batter of the fifth, veteran Jake Fox, also went yard.

Pirates counterpart Kevin Correia (1-0) completed four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and fanning two batters. Five Pittsburgh relievers, including Top 20 prospects Justin Wilson (No. 10), Kyle McPherson (11) and Bryan Morris (15), tag-teamed the game's final five innings. Morris allowed two unearned runs in the ninth but earned his first save.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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