Starling Marte’s health a Mets spring training win with outfielder open to DH at-bats

TAMPA — If there was extra scrutiny on Starling Marte among the Mets players who had a slow spring training, it was because of the ailments that derailed him last season.

But Marte arrived in camp feeling as if the questions about his health had been answered.

He departed Monday saying nothing had changed in that regard.

The Mets consider that a win.

“I continue to think with Starling the most important thing is health,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said a day earlier. “And what we’ve seen is that he’s a healthy player.”

On this day Marte was plunked in the helmet by a Clay Holmes breaking ball in the fifth inning and walked off in good spirits.

He’s “fine,” according to manager Carlos Mendoza.

Marte, who missed the final two months of last season dealing with groin discomfort, wasn’t coddled this spring.

Starling Marte struggled during spring training and hit just .159. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Playing as the regular right fielder, Marte displayed his athleticism and strong arm even as his bat remained quiet.

For the spring he produced at a .159/.245/.182 clip with one stolen base.

“During spring training you are working on different things so you just have to make sure you are going out there and getting the reps that you need,” Marte said through an interpreter. “Obviously you are able to look at those numbers and that is why you ask, but those numbers don’t really matter.”

Marte, 35, rehabbed in the offseason and satisfied himself and team officials that he was healthy based on his appearances in the Dominican Winter League in January.

Now the Mets would like to think they have a version of the player who owned a .292/.347/.468 slash line with 18 homers in 118 games two years ago in helping the team reach the playoffs.

“I worked really hard this offseason to correct a lot of the things that went wrong last season physically, so once I was able to play those games in the winter league where I was able to run the bases and feel good there, that is when I kind of when it clicked for me,” Marte said.

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“Once I got to spring training, physically I felt fine. I just knew I needed to continue doing the same things to be out there on the field, so there wasn’t any kind of worry when I got to spring training.”

Even so, Mendoza had conversations with Marte this spring about potentially taking turns at DH.

That was before the team last week signed J.D. Martinez to become the regular DH.

Starling Marte is open to the possibility of serving as the Mets’ designated hitter at times in 2024. USA TODAY Sports

But Marte, who initially was hesitant about the idea of playing as the DH, has held further conversations with Mendoza since Martinez’s arrival and said he’s open to the possibility.

Mendoza on Monday said it’s possible “a couple” of those starts at DH will occur in the 10-day window Martinez spends in the minor leagues to begin the season as he builds up at-bats.

“It was one of those things where [Mendoza] said it can favor me in the long run — how my body could benefit from it,” Marte said. “After the signing we had to have another conversation, and I told them if that’s what they want, on some days to play DH, I will still do it and [Mendoza] was able to speak to me in a way I could understand because it’s not something that I have done.”

Marte said the Mets added a piece to the lineup that appeared to be missing in Martinez.

“When you have a hitter of that caliber it’s going to make an impact and I felt like we needed to have that type of impact bat in the lineup,” Marte said. “He’s able to strengthen what we do as a team and make the pitcher think more when he’s there at the plate. We’re going to get on base and hopefully he can drive a lot of us in during the season.”

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