Ketel Marte could be wearing a Seattle Mariners jersey today if it just came down to his ability at the plate, Tacoma Rainiers manager Pat Listach said.
His defense is still a work in progress. But that’s coming around, too.
The 21-year-old switch-hitting shortstop hit his first home run of the season in Tacoma’s 4-0 victory over the Las Vegas 51s on Sunday at Cheney Stadium. He pulled the ball from the left side of the plate over the wall in right-center field in the third inning.
“I was looking for that pitch in my first at-bat, too,” Marte said. “Fastball in. I tried to make a good swing.”
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It was another highlight, one among many for Listach.
“I hadn’t seen him pull the ball left-handed all year — then all of the sudden, boom, home run to right,” Listach said. “Every day he does something to open my eyes where I go, ‘Jeez.’ ”
Rainiers starting pitcher Justin Germano rolled through six innings on the mound — increasing his scoreless-innings streak to nine, dating back to his last start. He allowed six hits, struck out five, walked none and lowered his ERA to 1.46.
Left-hander Lucas Luetge then retired all six batters he faced over two innings of relief and Mayckol Guaipe sat Las Vegas down 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Marte drove in his second run of the game on a bases-loaded groundout to first base that also scored Austin Jackson on a throwing error, pushing the Rainiers’ lead to 4-0 in the seventh. Marte leads the Pacific Coast League in hitting with a .349 (53 for 152) batting average.
He can be the PCL’s best hitter for only so long before Seattle calls, right?
“I mean, I’m ready to go. I’m ready to play in the big leagues,” Marte said. “I have to take my time, but I’m ready to go. I’m going to try to prepare to get there and hopefully get there quick.”
Listach said Marte’s defense is what’s holding him back, specifically his throwing slot and learning where to position himself based on how his team is pitching to the batter.
“He’s a work in progress there and he’s working on it,” said Listach, who played shortstop in the majors. “But when I was 21, I was in college. Not in Triple-A knocking on the door to the big leagues.
“He’s got really good instincts, which is great. He needs to learn swings, learn pitches, how we want to pitch them and where he needs to be. As we go along he’s eventually going to figure it out himself. But for right now, he’s a work in progress at shortstop.”
Marte said he’s sensed his progression defensively.
“I’m trying to get more consistent with my throws and working with my feet a little bit,” Marte said. “But I mean, I think I got it worked out. I just got to work hard every day.”
Jackson made his first defensive appearance in his rehabilitation assignment from a sprained right ankle suffered with the Mariners on May 4. He played seven innings in center field.
“He looked good and he felt good, too,” Listach said. “That’s promising. I don’t think he’s that far away.”
Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-3, 5.09 ERA) starts for the Rainiers against Las Vegas lefty Darin Gorski (3-2, 5.63 ERA) at 6:05 p.m. Monday at Cheney Stadium in the third of the four-game series.