ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates quietly placed All-Star outfielder Starling Marte on the 15-day disabled list Saturday due to back tightness.
Marte has made only three plate appearances since Sept. 5, as he's been plagued by lower back spasms and tightness. The 15-day DL is seldom used during September due to expanded rosters. The Pirates didn't make a corresponding move or add anyone to their active roster in Marte's place.
"Simply a paperwork move," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We felt it was useful for a variety of reasons to note that he went on the DL."
Huntington did not elaborate on the decision beyond that but said the move had nothing to do with Marte's contract status. Marte is playing under a guaranteed deal that runs through 2019, with club options for '20 and '21.
The move was not necessary in the sense that Marte's condition and availability have not changed; he was already unofficially shut down for the season. The assignment is retroactive to Sept. 28.
Marte said his back was feeling "better," but he plans to take another month to rest before beginning his normal offseason workouts. He wants to play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic, but his availability to do so depends entirely on his health. As for why the Pirates put him on the disabled list?
"You know, that happened because my back's [feeling] like this," Marte said. "I think I understand that."
Marte ends the year with a .311 average and .818 OPS. He hit nine home runs and stole 47 bases while playing his usual brand of excellent left-field defense. Marte was worth 18 Defensive Runs Saved in left, second-most at any position in the National League behind Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell and Nolan Arenado, all tied with 19 DRS.
Marte led the Pirates with 4.8 Wins Above Replacement and was recently named the club's most valuable player by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He made his first NL All-Star team in July.
Bell sits in season finale
Rookie first baseman/outfielder Josh Bell was not in the starting lineup for Sunday's series finale at Busch Stadium, a decision that should preserve his rookie status heading into next year.
"That's not the reason he's not in the lineup," Huntington said, smiling. "Although it would be nice to allow him to win the Rookie of the Year."
Bell -- ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Pirates' No. 3 prospect -- entered the day with 128 at-bats. Players are considered rookies as long as they don't exceed 130 at-bats (or 50 innings pitched) in the Majors or accumulate more than 45 days of service time on the active roster before September.
Bell has batted .273/.368/.406 with three home runs, 19 RBIs and more walks (21) than strikeouts (19).
Coaches due to return
The Pirates extended the contracts of their entire coaching staff earlier this season. They are all expected to return despite a disappointing season.
"It's easy to point fingers, and it's easy to say this area isn't good enough," Huntington said. "The first finger that should be pointed is in my direction.
"Our coaches did a nice job this year. Certainly Ray Searage didn't forget how to be a tremendous pitching coach because a couple guys didn't perform for him this year. Our hitting coaches do a nice job. We've continued to turn balls in play in the infield into outs. Our positioning in the outfield was more aggressive this year, and it's time to analyze that and evaluate that. … Are there areas we need to improve? In each and every area, we need to improve."
Infielder David Freese was unavailable all weekend due to left leg discomfort, manager Clint Hurdle said. Freese last played Thursday in the Pirates' 1-1 tie with the Cubs at PNC Park.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.