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Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday. Marte will begin serving the suspension immediately.
The 28-year-old has been a mainstay in the Pirates’ lineup since 2013. He posted his best offensive season last year, hitting .311/.362/.456, with nine home runs. That performance earned him his first trip to the All-Star game.
Following the announcement, the outfielder released a statement apologizing for “unintentionally disrespecting” others. Marte says “neglect and lack of knowledge” led to his positive test.
Nandrolone typically has to be injected, leading some to question how Marte could be unaware he was using a performance-enhancing drug. Our own Jeff Passan points out that it is possible to get a positive test for Nandrolone through Deca Durabolin, a steroid that can be taken orally.
Pirates team president Frank Coonelly also released a statement saying the team supports the league’s drug program, and is disappointed Marte put the organization in this position.
Marte can return after serving his 80-game suspension, but will not be eligible for the postseason under MLB rules. Should the Pirates makes the playoffs, Marte will be unable to play in those games.
In the short term, Pittsburgh will have to figure out how to handle life without Marte on the fly. It’s unclear whether Andrew McCutchen, who the team moved from center field this winter, will continue to be used in a corner spot. The club also has top prospect Austin Meadows sitting at Triple-A, but he’s hitting just .162 over 10 games.
In the long term, the suspension could prove to be devastating. Many thought the Pirates were entering the end of their current contention window. Without Marte to help, the team could stumble and have to sell off parts by the trade deadline. And even if the team treads water without Marte, they won’t have him when it matters most.
Marte is hitting .241/.288/.370 over 13 games this season.
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