PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — An apparent right ankle injury kept Pirates outfielder Starling Marte out of the Dominican Republic lineup for that team’s World Baseball Classic opener Thursday.
Marte and Dominican manager Tony Pena told reporters from USA Today and MLB.com in Miami that Marte sustained an ankle injury during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Pirates at LECOM Park.
Marte grimaced and favored his right ankle after reaching second base following a single and rightfielder Connor Joe’s throw to third base during the sixth inning of the D.R.’s victory Wednesday. Marte appeared to begin a slide into second but aborted it and awkwardly hit the bag.
Marte remained in the game, moving to third on a Gregory Polanco single and scoring on a wild pitch. He was replaced at the end of the inning, but Pena might have planned on removing him to preserve him for the WBC and to give Mel Rojas Jr. some innings in center. The injury was described as “minor” by reporters who spoke with Marte and Pena, and Marte was expected to be back in the Dominican’s lineup Saturday against Team USA.
Polanco took Marte’s place in the Dominican’s lineup for Thursday’s game.
‘The first Dominican Jew’
Within a span of a week, Texas-born-and-raised Pirates pitching prospect Jared Lakind will appear in World Baseball Classic uniforms of two nations.
Neither will be the United States.
Lakind is a former 23rd-round pick of the Pirates. His father, grandfather and uncle are citizens of Israel. As such, he carried eligibility to play for the Israeli team in the World Baseball Classic.
When Israel surprisingly swept its three games in first-round pool play this week, Lakind was added to its roster for the second round next week in Tokyo.
Early Thursday in Bradenton before the Pirates’ travel roster boarded a bus to Port Charlotte for a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Lakind got into a car with his father, who was taking him the airport for a connecting flight to Chicago as part of 17-hour travel to Japan.
On Wednesday, the lefthander appeared at LECOM Park in a game against the Pirates for the Dominican Republic. With the Dominican’s tournament opening coming Thursday, four Pirates pitchers took the mound for the D.R. so it could save its pitchers.
“I’m the first Dominican Jew,” Lakind said with a chuckle.
Lakind played for Israel in a WBC qualifier last fall. He asked to stay off its first-round roster “because my priority was here with the Pirates,” but let it be known he was willing to join the team if it advanced. WBC teams have a “designated pitcher pool” in reserve for each round.
Israel upset Korea, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands in first-round games in Seoul.
“Just playing with them in the qualifier, just knowing the guys, I knew we had a good team that nobody knew about,” said Lakind, who turned 25 on Thursday. “And we’re hitting on all cylinders right now … and just to go back with the guys and kind of build off that with them, it’s pretty exciting.”
Lakind said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington are “fully supportive” of him joining the Israeli team.
Little big league
It’s official: the Pirates are moving an August home game about 200 miles northeast.
Major League Baseball announced the “MLB Little League Classic” Thursday morning, scheduled for Aug. 20 for BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport during the annual Little League World Series. The Pirates will play the St. Louis Cardinals in an ESPN-televised “Sunday Night Baseball” game.
Word of the game leaked earlier this week.
“It will be a huge draw, a great night for baseball within that venue, to reignite to the younger kids that are playing in town,” said Hurdle, who managed the Class AA Williamsport Bills in 1991. “The city’s electric that time of year anyway. It should be fun.”
Fans with tickets to the Aug. 20 game will not be able to use them in Williamsport. They have two options: request a refund via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 31, or an “exchange option” in which tickets can be acquired to other “Black or White”-designated Pirates home games in addition to the value of the tickets purchased in PNC Park food/beverage credit.
Little League International is based in Williamsport. BB&T Ballpark is the home field for the Class A Williamsport Crosscutters, a former affiliate of the Pirates. Relievers Tony Watson and Jared Hughes began their professional careers in Williamsport.
Early that day, Pirates and Cardinals players will attend Little League games.
No current Pirates played in the Little League World Series. Two Cardinals (Lance Lynn and Randal Grichuk) have.
As part of the announcement, the Pirates noted the Aug. 19 game at PNC Park with Cardinals was moved to a 4:05 p.m. start to accomodate travel.