SEE ALSO: Minor League Drug Suspensions
Major League Baseball on Tuesday suspended Pirates center fielder Starling Marte 80 games without pay after he tested positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance.
Marte replaced Andrew McCutchen in center field this season with McCutchen sliding over to right field in deference to the superior defender. An all-star last season, Marte hit .311/.362/.456 with nine homers, 46 RBIs and 47 steals. This season, he's hitting .241/.288/.370 with two homers through 13 games.
Marte, 28, signed with the Pirates out of the Dominican Republic in 2007 and three times ranked in the Pirates' Top 10 Prospects and was rated the No. 73 player overall after 2011.
"I have been informed that I have tested positive in one of the tests that are regularly done in my job," Marte said in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association. "In this very difficult moment, I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general.
"Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much. With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me. God bless you."
Marte signed a six-year, $31 million contract in 2014 that runs through the 2021 season.
"The Pittsburgh Pirates fully support MLB's Joint Drug Agreement, including the very tough penalties for violations of its prohibitions," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. "We are disappointed that Starling put himself, his teammates and the organization in this position. We will continue to fight for the division title with the men who are here and will look forward to getting Starling back after the All-Star break."
Marte will return in time for the postseason, but under the joint drug agreement, he would not be eligible to participate. The suspension opens a possibility that top prospect Austin Meadows could be called up, although he is struggling at Triple-A, hitting just .162/.220/.270.