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Starling Marte will not return to center field upon return from suspension

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was suspended 80 games on April 18 after testing positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance. He’s eligible to return on July 18, just after the All-Star break, but will not play center field, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The Pirates’ front office determined, going into the 2017 season, that the best defensive alignment had Marte in center field, Andrew McCutchen in right field, and Gregory Polanco in left. When Marte was suspended, however, McCutchen moved back to center field. Polanco moved back to right field near the end of May.

Manager Clint Hurdle said that left field is “where [Marte] needs to fit in.”

GM Neal Huntington said, “We felt that was the best alignment for this club in this situation. We’ve got a young man who recognizes he’s got work to do, who recognizes he’s put himself in a situation where he needs to earn people’s trust and respect back again. But we’ve also got a young man who’s driven to fold himself back into this club, earn his way back and help this club win games.”

Prior to the suspension, Marte was hitting .241/.288/.370 with two home runs and seven RBI in 59 plate appearances. He has won a Gold Glove Award in each of the last two seasons and made his first All-Star Game last year.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.