ST. LOUIS -- Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, the league announced Tuesday.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Andrew McCutchen will move back to center field with Marte suspended. McCutchen had been moved to right field during the offseason, a move with which he had voiced his displeasure. He also was the subject of copious offseason trade rumors.
Asked his reaction to a return to center field, where advanced analytics rated him poorly last season, McCutchen shrugged and said, "It was addressed and I'll be in center, so all right, and next man up and I'm ready to go."
Marte addressed his teammates in a closed-door meeting Tuesday afternoon, but he did not meet with the news media. Though he is eligible to return shortly after the All-Star break, Marte would not be available to the Pirates should they qualify for the postseason.
"It's an unfortunate circumstance, but we have a lot of season left and we have a lot of games we have to win; so unfortunately, the next 80 are going to be without Starling, but we're going to have to figure out how to get through it, and we will," Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole said. "That's what this team is built on and what this organization is built on, so I expect nothing less. It's always going to be difficult, I think, when you lose that kind of production in the field. He's an unbelievable player."
Marte tested positive for nandrolone, which violated MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension is effective immediately. Marte is eligible to return in mid-July.
"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."
The blow to the Pirates' defense could be as significant as the blow to their offense. McCutchen, 30, was the worst-fielding center fielder in MLB last season, per some measures, with a -28 DRS (defensive runs saved) and a -18.3 UZR (ultimate zone rating).
"We're going to put people out there. We're going to man every position. Time will tell," Hurdle said. "There have been situations where, on paper, things look a certain way. The beautiful thing about this is the people that analyze the game and the people who write about the game and the people who work the game, things happen. You don't have answers for them until you put men out there and give them the opportunity to play, and that's what I'm looking forward to."
One veteran scout who attended the Pirates' Tuesday night loss to the Cardinals said Marte's suspension "kills them."
"It hurts them defensively, it hurts their power," the scout said. "It hurts their speed. He's the best athlete on the team."
With Marte out and McCutchen moved to center, Adam Frazier played right field against the Cardinals and booted a ball that turned a Dexter Fowler double into a triple. Fowler eventually scored in a game that the Pirates would go on to lose 2-1.
Marte apologized to his teammates, Hurdle and Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington on Tuesday afternoon.
The Pirates already are playing without third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who is in South Korea after being denied a work visa due to a third DUI conviction.
Huntington said the team will open up its Dominican academy so that Marte can continue to work out. He can go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment for the final 15 games of his suspension.
Huntington said he expects any solutions to be in-house replacements, as there are no trade or free-agent fixes out there. Marte and Kang were the Pirates' first- and third-most valuable players last season, according to Baseball Reference WAR (wins above replacement).
"We'll miss him for 80 games. There are challenges that face every team, every season, big and small markets. Injuries are a part of them," Huntington said. "We've got two next-man-up opportunities, with off-field activities impacting what we're trying to do on the field, but we're going to come back to that organizational depth."
First baseman Anthony Rizzo, whose Chicago Cubs were just swept by the Pirates in a weekend series, said that while 80 games is a lot of time to miss, it might not be that big of a deterrent for any player interested in using PEDs.
"Is it a big risk if you're suspended 80 games, you have a guaranteed contract," Rizzo asked. "You take that risk to get the reward. It's the question you ask. For some guys, it is a big risk; for others, you get away with it and get a big deal."
"It's part of the game, and in my opinion, we need to drug test a lot more," Rizzo added.
Marte, a first-time All-Star selection last season, was hitting .241 this season with two home runs and seven RBIs through 13 games this year. He moved from left field to center field in the offseason after winning his second Gold Glove. The 28-year-old has a .288 career batting average, 60 homers and 242 RBIs in his five-plus seasons with the Pirates. He has stolen at least 30 bases in each of his first four full seasons.
"We are disappointed that Starling put himself, his teammates and the organization in this position," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. "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."
Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco said all the team can do is try to move forward.
"It's hard to lose a player like that for 80 games," Polanco said after Tuesday's loss. "You know the impact Marte made on us. You have to play, you know? This is our job. We have to go through this and you have to not think about it during the game."
Under a provision added in 2013, a suspended player is not allowed to participate in that year's postseason, even if his suspension ends before then -- unless a suspension is reduced on appeal. Huntington said the appeal process already ran its course with no reductions.
"If we're able to do what we believe we can do and we're able to get through these 80 games and then we can finish in a postseason run, we'll be in a good spot with or without him come postseason time," Huntington said. "This group is going to show up. They're going to compete their tails off each and every day, and if we're postseason eligible, we're going to be OK."
All suspensions are without pay. In addition, a suspended player can be replaced on the active roster by another player. The Pirates recalled outfielder Jose Osuna from Triple-A Indianapolis.
Several of the Pirates players expressed appreciation that Marte spoke with his teammates before leaving the team. Many players who are suspended simply go away until their suspension is over.
"Like I said, it's tougher on him than it is on us, and it's tough on us," Pittsburgh infielder Josh Harrison said.
Information from ESPN's Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.