Left side healed, Marte avoids trip to DL

Left side healed, Marte avoids trip to DL

PITTSBURGH -- Earlier this week, breathing was a painful experience for Starling Marte. It seemed as though he was a long way away from swinging a bat or running down a ball in left field.

But Marte's sore left side healed in a hurry, and he has seemingly avoided a trip to the disabled list. In fact, he returned to the lineup on Saturday night for the first time since leaving Sunday's game early, playing left field and batting cleanup.

"I feel better. Nobody plays 100 percent," Marte said. "But I'm ready. I'm still feeling this, but it's enough for me to start the game. I want to be there to help the team."

Marte's condition has improved daily, to the point where he said on Friday afternoon that he was "ready to play." On Saturday it was clear he had convinced manager Clint Hurdle.

"We gave him rest. He worked hard in the recovery," Hurdle said. "And if you're going to play him, put him back in a spot that says he's ready to go."

The timing of Marte's return should work in his favor. He just spent five days recovering from the injury -- which he described as tightness and pain between his oblique and ribs -- and he'll get four days off next week during the All-Star break.

"[Five] days of rest, two days to play and four more rest is very good," Marte said.

Marte feels the soreness most when he swings the bat, but a week's worth of treatment has helped ease that pain. He went through a full complement of pregame tests on Friday: throwing, running, hitting in the cage and hitting indoors off high velocity.

After all that, he said he is ready to play without any physical or mental limitations.

"When you play, you forget everything and just play," he said. "You don't have to worry about [if I'm] hurt. If I feel something, I'll tell the manager. But I feel nothing. That's good, too."

When making a decision such as this, Hurdle places more value on a player's actions, not his words. Many injured players will try to fight their way into the lineup, saying they're ready no matter how they actually feel.

"That's admirable. At the same time, we've got good players here that can back up and play and cover some ground until [injured players] get into a competitive place," Hurdle said. "I encourage them to get to a competitive place and then show us, and I think that's what's happened [with Marte]."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.