PORT ST. LUCIE — Starling Marte’s anticipated debut in the Mets lineup on Sunday will mark a new experience for the veteran outfielder, at least at the major league level.
In his first 10 MLB seasons, Marte played 593 games in left field and another 553 in midfield. His right field experience consists of 26 games in the minor leagues a decade ago and beyond.
But as he joins the Mets lineup, Marte — who arrived at camp with a left oblique pain and has just reached the point where he’s ready for Grapefruit League action — will be asked to step up in this revamped Mets outfield to play right field.
“It will be different because I’ve never played in the big leagues there, so I’ll see how comfortable I feel,” said Marte on Saturday.
Marte, who signed a four-year, $78 million deal with the Mets in November, joins newcomers Mark Canha and Brandon Nimmo in the outfield. Nimmo improved enough in midfield last season to hold the position and Canha is mainly used on the left flank.
Marte, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner at left field, played all 119 games at the center for Miami and Oakland last season. The Mets are expecting a slight change for the 33-year-old.
“Marte’s right, he can save a lot of runs out there the way his arm is,” said Mets field coach Wayne Kirby. “Nimmo is a wild stallion, he can roam from coast to coast and Mark is able to shorten the lines and do as he pleases. It’s a good unit.”
Marte stated that his major concern is reading the angle of a left-handed player’s racquet. Kirby understands that fear, but only to a degree.
“The ball curves a bit [from a left-handed batter]’ Kirby said. “But there aren’t many guys in the league who can do that. In the last two years I’ve seen guys hit their ball straight. One of the only guys I know who is curves in our department is Didi Gregorius. You will worry [Ozzie] Albies, he will curve the ball down the line but there are few of them. Nowadays when guys stay on the ball and even pull the ball, the ball stays straight.”
Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil can take corner positions in the outfield when needed, and Travis Jankowski is pushing for the opening day squad this spring due to his versatility and strong glove work.
Kirby has been working on his defensive stance with Marte in particular to ensure he is best equipped to break into the gap on the right. That meant appearing with an open mind.
“Once we finished seeing the moves and showing him the moves on video, he got it pretty good,” Kirby said. “He’s a field player. For me, left field is the most difficult position in the game. If he can play that, he can play anything.
“I don’t want to take all their stuff from them, but I’m happy to give them some information that in right field it’s easy to take a wrong step and not get the ball in the gap. I’d rather have him a bit open to the gap so he can just walk over and go. It takes a step and a half.”
Less worrying for Marte is the small window to prepare ahead of the opener on April 7 in Washington. Marte has started hitting practice over the past few days and suspects he will gain enough momentum to be ready over the next 1 1/2 weeks.
“It just depends, everyone is different,” said Marte. “I started late so hopefully it doesn’t take too much to be ready for opening day.”
https://nypost.com/2022/03/26/new-met-starling-marte-right-field-experiment-begins-now/ Met Starling Marte’s new right-field experiment begins now