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Mets’ Starling Marte giving it a go vs. Padres: ‘Suck up the pain’

Friday was the first game of the wild-card round and Marte Gras all rolled into one for the Mets.

Starling Marte pronounced himself healthy enough to play after 4 ½ weeks sidelined by a fractured middle finger, and the Mets felt it was worth the gamble to activate the veteran outfielder for the best-of-three series against the Padres.

“In a situation like this you kind of have to suck up the pain, because it’s a significant situation,” Marte said after pregame drills at Citi Field. “You kind of have to fight through it.

“[Team officials] asked me how I felt and they trusted me to give them an honest answer. At this point in the season every player is playing with pain so when you go out there on the field you forget about that pain and right now it’s really about going out there and going to play.”

The decision was reached Thursday to activate Marte, whose absence from the lineup might have been most noticed last weekend as the Mets were swept in three games in Atlanta that ultimately cost them the NL East title. Before he was cleared for a return, Marte faced Tommy Hunter and lefty Phillip Diehl in a simulated game.

Starling Marte
Starling Marte
Noah K. Murray

As recently as Tuesday, manager Buck Showalter said Marte was struggling with baseball activities. But Marte said he achieved big strides over the final two days before the wild-card opener. He owns previous postseason experience with the Pirates and Marlins.

Marte, who had last played on Sept. 6 — when he was drilled in the right hand by a pitch from Mitch Keller in Pittsburgh — finished the regular season with a .292/.347/.468 slash line, with 16 homers and 63 RBIs in 118 games.

He is wearing a compression band on the finger, which he said was last X-rayed about a week ago.

“It still showed a lot of inflammation, which kind of delayed me getting back to baseball activities,” Marte said. “So I went to the training room and started working a lot and we reached our goal to be able to get back on the field.

“It’s a situation where your finger is inflamed so it bothers you, but I feel I can hit and throw fine.”

After spending most of the season batting second, Marte was moved to sixth for his return. Showalter said the switch was to protect against Marte leaving the game and potentially leaving the team vulnerable in the No. 2 hole. Also, Marte still has to show he can produce offensively after the long layoff.

But Showalter said Marte has earned his trust enough to warrant the roster spot.

“He’s got a feel for what he can do and what he can’t do — he has also got a lot of pride,” Showalter said. “But something could happen and it changes, that is why I wanted to hit him in a place … you try to put your best four hitters at the top and I don’t know if he is yet. I am hoping we get through the night and he is hitting second [Saturday].”

In Marte’s absence, the Mets used Jeff McNeil, Tyler Naquin and Darin Ruf in right field. If Marte is back to stay, McNeil can remain as the full-time second baseman with Luis Guillorme coming off the bench.

Marte said it meant “a lot” to return for the playoffs.

“This team went out there and battled when I wasn’t around,” he said. “And now to be here with them, to go into this competition, it means a lot for me to go out there and help.”

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