Marte's rise continues in Futures Game

Marte's rise continues in Futures Game

CINCINNATI -- The left thumb of Mariners shortstop prospect Ketel Marte was still heavily wrapped as he made his way around the visitors' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park on Sunday, moments before starting at second base and batting leadoff for the World Team at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, won by the U.S., 10-1.

One month and 12 days ago, while sliding into second base on a grounder from Triple-A teammate Jesus Montero, Marte's right foot slipped, his left hand came around to brace his fall and his thumb got in the way, causing the fracture that forced him to spend five weeks on the Minor League disabled list.

If not for that, Marte would probably be in the big leagues right now.

"I was coming up that week," Marte said in Spanish. "I'm pretty sure I was going up the next day, actually."

Cory Snyder, the Tacoma Rainiers' hitting coach, told Marte to be ready for a callup right before that fateful game on May 31. Shortstop Chris Taylor was struggling in the Majors and Marte, 21, was scorching through the Pacific Coast League with a .343/.394/.434 slash line.

Then he slid awkwardly.

"It's frustrating," Marte said. "If you don't know how to handle something like that, it's the kind of thing that can force you to quit this game. But I told myself, 'No, I'm not going to let this get to me. I'm young, I'm doing my thing, it's going well, and at any moment I can come back up there.'"

Marte isn't there yet, but he returned to action with Double-A Jackson on Thursday, just in time to join Mariners pitching prospect Edwin Diaz at the prestigious Futures Game.

Marte played second base and went 2-for-2 from the leadoff spot, driving in the game's first run with an opposite-field single in the third inning before getting thrown out trying to score from second on a base hit to left field.

Diaz gave up a two-run homer to Pirates prospect Josh Bell in his two-thirds of an inning.

"He told me we'd be here," Diaz said of Marte pregame. "He told me in Spring Training, 'Let's work hard so we can get invited to the Futures Game.'"

In a year top prospects Alex Jackson and D.J. Peterson have struggled mightily, Marte (ranked third in the Mariners' system by MLB.com) and Diaz (sixth) have signaled hope.

Marte still needs to shore up his defense, particularly his throwing. But the 6-foot-1, 165-pound switch-hitter makes consistent contact from both sides of the plate, boasts plus speed and has drawn comparisons to Jose Reyes as a potential leadoff-hitting shortstop.

Diaz has become the best starting-pitching prospect in the Mariners' farm system -- even though many expected him to eventually become a reliever.

The 21-year-old right-hander showed flashes last year, while posting a 3.34 ERA in 116 innings at Class A Clinton. This spring, he learned an effective, four-seam grip for a changeup, went to it frequently as a legitimate third pitch, posted a 1.70 ERA in his first seven starts at Class A Advanced and earned a promotion to Double-A.

"I feel like I've demonstrated that I can be a starter in the big leagues," said Diaz, with a 4.69 ERA in 10 Double-A starts. "If the team needs me in the bullpen, I'm open to it. But I want to be a starter."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.