ST. LOUIS -- Pirates center fielder Starling Marte received an 80-game suspension without pay, effective immediately, on Tuesday for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, a devastating blow to a Pittsburgh club with an already-thin margin for error in the National League Central.Marte tested positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance, according to a statement by the Commissioner's Office. The 28-year-old will be ineligible for the postseason if the Pirates qualify, but their odds will be much longer without their No. 2-hitting center fielder.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon through the MLB Players Association, Marte said "neglect and lack of knowledge" led to the "mistake" and apologized for his actions."In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general," Marte said. "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."In the meantime, the Pirates will likely move forward with Andrew McCutchen -- moved from center to right field after last season -- back in center field. It is unclear who will round out the outfield, as the Bucs do not have a dedicated fourth outfielder on their roster. Candidates to fill the job include utility men Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison and corner infielder/outfielder John Jaso. "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. "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."The Pirates will also face questions about calling up Triple-A outfielder Austin Meadows, their No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, who spent most of Spring Training with the big league club.Pittsburgh was already without one of its most potent hitters: third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who is on the restricted list and awaiting a work visa in South Korea following an offseason arrest for driving under the influence, his third such charge since 2009. The loss of Marte further weakens the Pirates' lineup and their outfield defense, both expected to be strengths that would support their young pitching rotation.Marte has emerged over the past few years as one of the game's rising stars, a dynamic defender and a weapon on the basepaths. He made his first NL All-Star team last season and won his second straight Gold Glove Award in left field, prompting the Pirates to realign their outfield to more prominently feature him.Marte was batting .241/.288/.370 with two home runs, two steals and seven RBIs in 13 games this year. He hit .311/.362/.456 with nine homers, 46 RBIs and 47 steals last season.The Pirates recalled first baseman/outfielder Jose Osuna from Triple-A Indianapolis following the suspension, and he was expected to be available for Tuesday night's game against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Osuna was the last player cut from the Bucs' Spring Training roster after batting .407 with five home runs in 22 Grapefruit League games.Osuna is a capable first baseman but struggled in the outfield this spring. He was batting .250/.341/.389 in Triple-A, where he started three games in the outfield -- one in left and two in right.Adam Berry/ MLB.com