ST. LOUIS -- Andrew Lambo had to travel only 240 miles from Indianapolis to hook up here with the Pirates. But the road he traveled to the Major Leagues was far longer, with many twists and turns.
Since entering pro ball as a fourth-round 2007 pick of the Dodgers, Lambo had endured a drug suspension, injuries and 669 Minor League games before stepping into a big league clubhouse for the first time on Tuesday.
Lambo's last lap was more sudden than even he expected: He got to make his big league debut in Tuesday night's game against the Cardinals after Jose Tabata, in the original lineup in right field, had to be scratched with flu-like symptoms.
So Lambo got an immediate shot at fulfilling his goal of "being a part of what's going on here, and contributing any way I can." He went 0-for-3 in the Pirates' 4-3, 14-inning loss to the Cardinals.
Not too long ago, he couldn't be sure that shot would ever come.
"[Never getting here] definitely crosses your mind," the 25-year-old outfielder admitted. "You just got to go out and continue working hard. I wasn't doing things the right way, there were some things I needed to correct, in the way I went about this game."
The Pirates gave Lambo the one vacant spot on their 40-man roster, and made room for him on the 25-man active roster by optioning -- for the fifth time this season -- Alex Presley to Indianapolis.
Three months before his trade to the Pirates at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2010, Lambo drew a 50-game suspension from MLB for a second positive test for a banned drug. Because of the wording of that suspension, it wasn't a PED but a recreational drug. An arrest for marijuana possession as a California high school sophomore was part of his record.
Now, after cracking 31 homers between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, he is ready to start compiling a different kind of record.
"It was a time for reflection," he said of those days. "It fueled me harder to get up here. If you don't take advantage of it, time passes you by. I had to look in the mirror and ask myself if I was giving 110 percent. I needed some self-reflection ... and here we are."
"He deserves a lot of credit for re-igniting his pro career the way he has," said manager Clint Hurdle.
Marte back, looking to avoid future plunkings
ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates dodged a bullet with Starling Marte, who was back in Tuesday night's lineup after missing only one start with his left-hand bruise.
But what Marte can't dodge are pitches -- the one that briefly sidelined him was the 19th to hit him this season, and he was plunked for the 20th time in the fifth inning of the Pirates' 4-3, 14-inning loss to the Cardinals. This isn't a new problem for the outfielder; during his Minor League ascendancy, he was plunked 70 times.
"He's led every league in getting hit by pitches he's ever played in. It's unfortunate -- he's a piñata," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got to help him find a way to avoid pitches. He's not getting out of the way -- we all see that."
The manner in which Marte took the latest shot was typical -- he was striding into a pitch from left-hander Josh Outman in the seventh inning of Saturday's game in Denver, and when the pitch broke in on him, he couldn't yank his hands out of the way.
"It's a completely reactionary movement in the box," Hurdle said. "You either pull back or turn around or just stay there. That's not been one of Marte's strengths, avoiding pitches."
The latest plunking was the first one to actually knock Marte out of a game. The immediate pain gave way to postgame concern; Marte feared he had fractured the hand. Two exams, including the follow-up on Sunday, showed otherwise.
"He was the most relieved when he got the second test, and they told him there's nothing there," Hurdle said.
• Hurdle confirmed that the Pirates' plans for Kelly Shoppach, the veteran catcher signed and assigned to Indianapolis on Monday, is for him to get game ready and be added to the Sept. 1 expanded roster.
• Injury updates: Wandy Rodriguez (left forearm) is scheduled to throw his second bullpen session on Wednesday. ... Jason Grilli (strained right forearm tendon) had his second catch on Tuesday and again felt good doing so. ... Travis Snider (left big toe) took batting practice for the first time since going on the DL on July 28, and also had a frisky workout in the outfield.
• Losing Tabata, listed as the right fielder in the original lineup, to flu-like symptoms was a tough pregame pill for the Bucs to swallow. Lifetime, he has handled both St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright (6-for-13, with a home run) and Busch Stadium (.305, with 29 hits in 95 at-bats) well.
First number, last word
13-4: The Pirates' record on Tuesdays, entering the series opener in St. Louis -- the Majors' best on that day of the week. The Bucs' 14-4 record on Wednesdays is also an MLB-best.
"I hate to break the news to you -- but there's a chance we're going to lose three games in a row again before the season is over. There's no mental fatigue; they're ready to go." -- Hurdle, on the Pirates' state of mind following a weekend sweep by the Rockies in Colorado.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.