Good riddance to Tal’s Hill

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For the past few years, the Astros have discussed getting rid of Tal’s Hill, that little rise of grass on the warning track in center field. It was supposed to happen last offseason but the Astros’ playoff run went later than the people planning the renovation anticipated (i.e. a postseason run happened at all) but, as we noted recently, it is going forward this offseason.

In fact, this very day the equipment is on the field in Minute Maid Park, getting rid of one of baseball’s weirdest park features:

I’m fine with this. Tal’s Hill was kind of dumb. It was a forced quirk that came at a time when ballpark designers went with faux-retro designs. It seemed fun and unique when first revealed, but it was totally inorganic, like so many other distinctive features of ballparks built in the 1990s and early 2000s were. Pointless overhangs and jutting outfield walls. Friezes. Things that, in old parks, were necessitated by real estate constraints (e.g. Fenway Park has odd dimensions and the Green Monster because they literally did not have the land to build the park in a different way). The new ballpark designers were trying to force history and charm on people from day one. Thus, Tal’s Hill.

We’ve mostly gotten out of that retro-era and form is starting to at least attempt to do a better job of following function. Thank goodness. In that spirit, good riddance, Tal’s Hill. A design feature people liked because the Astros told them it was fun and meaningful, even if there was no purpose for it whatsoever.

Pirates activate Starling Marte

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is back in the lineup after the team reinstated him from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday. Marte served the bare minimum on the DL after making a rapid recovery from the right oblique strain that sidelined him several weeks ago.

Prior to landing on the disabled list, the 29-year-old outfielder was off to a strong start. He slashed a robust .308/.366/.503 with six home runs, 10 stolen bases and an .869 OPS in 175 plate appearances with the team. This is the first time he’s dealt with an oblique issue, and the first DL stint he’s served since he suffered a bout of back tightness in 2016. While he has yet to prove he can bounce back to his pre-injury production levels, his quick recovery bodes well for a successful return to major-league play.

In a corresponding move, outfielder Jose Osuna was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The move came as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Pirates elected to retain top prospect outfielder Austin Meadows rather than the more established Osuna. Meadows was recalled from Triple-A in the wake of Marte’s injury and has only played seven games at the major league level so far, but he’s already made a strong impression: he went 13-for-29 with three home runs, two stolen bases and five RBI since his call-up on May 18.