Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Red-Hot Marte Gets Hands in Good Spots; Hits Follow

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Red-Hot Marte Gets Hands in Good Spots; Hits Follow

Article excerpt

Starling Marte can tell when he's swinging too hard. The pain in his left side and lower back lets him know. So he strives to reach his correct load position at the appropriate time with the help of a simple key.

"Calm body, strong hands," as hitting coach Jeff Branson refers to it.

This season, Marte's hands frequently have found the appointed place at the appointed time. Entering a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Marte is hitting .336 with a .387 on-base percentage and a .504 slugging percentage.

"I use my confidence," Marte said. "Confidence at home plate. See the ball, hit the ball. Not try to do too much. Try to hit it in the gap."

Marte put together four multi-hit games in a row, a streak that ended Wednesday when he was ejected.

"I think we're going to see these type of streaks when the plate discipline just shows up in a really good place," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You may see the occasional swing and chase, but it's not repetitive. It hasn't leaked into a big volume of at-bats.

"When balls are elevated in the zone now, he's not missing them."

As Marte prepares for a pitch, his hands wiggle his bat forward, them move back toward his right shoulder. Not too high, not too low.

"You get your hands in that strong position, your body's going to stay calm and you can trust your hands and barrel the ball from there," Branson said. "But, if your hands don't get to that spot, your body's telling you, hey, you're not there, so the first thing you're going to do with your body is try to add because your hands don't feel strong."

When Marte tries to add because his hands don't feel strong, he can tell, because his left oblique hurts. He doesn't need to add. He is built like a UFC fighter, possibly the strongest player on the team. After every game, he hits the weight room, upper body some days, lower body others - but especially lower body. …

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