Injuries have pushed the Marlins to get an earlier than expected look at their young talent.
By CHARLIE McCARTHYFS Florida
Injury and opportunity have appeared often during the early part of the
Miami Marlins season.
Starting pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, first basemen Logan Morrison and Casey Kotchman, and catcher Jeff Mathis all were put on the disabled list before the season began.
First baseman Joe Mahoney, sidelined for part of spring training, went on the DL in late April with a right hamstring strain. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was out with a bruised elbow but returned for the current road trip.
Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring), second baseman Donovan Solano (ribs), third baseman Chris Valaika (fractured wrist) and pitcher Alex Sanabia (groin) presently are sidelined.
All that, and the season isn’t six weeks old!
Spots to fill mean opportunity for other players. Veteran journeymen catcher Miguel Olivo, infielder Nick Green and outfielder Matt Diaz are among the players added to help cope with the absences.
Miami also chose to promote pitcher Jose Fernandez, outfielder Marcell Ozuna and infielder Derek Dietrich much earlier than had been expected.
Here’s a brief look at where the Marlins stand 35 games into the 2013 season.
10-25, 5th in the National League East
The bright spots
Fernandez, considered the future ace of the staff, is 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA. He has shown impressive stuff, and opponents are batting .189 against him. He appears here to stay.
Ozuna was brought up to replace Stanton on April 30. He’s hitting .371 with a homer, 5 RBI and has hit safely in 7 of his first 9 career games.
Kevin Slowey, who spent all of 2012 in the minors, has pitched superbly after earning a spot in the Marlins rotation during spring training. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 1.81 ERA. He has 36 strikeouts and just 8 walks in 44 2/3 innings.
Slowey is one reason the starting pitching has produced a 3.90 ERA (7th in the NL) and held opponents to a .258 batting average.
The Marlins bullpen has a slightly higher ERA (4.00) than the rotation but has limited opposing hitters to a .236 average.
Closer Steve Cishek has had 5 save opportunities (converting 4) but has a 1-3 record and 4.85 ERA.
Miami’s starters 2.37:1 have a slightly better strikeout:walk ratio than the relievers (2.14:1).
Stanton was hitting .227 with 9 RBI in 20 games before going on the DL with a Grade II hamstring strain on April 29. Adding to the frustration about the injury was that Stanton had slammed his first three homers of the season in the previous two games before getting hurt.
Juan Pierre was re-acquired during the offseason to be a spark at the top of the batting order and to add professionalism in the clubhouse -– so he’s one for two. He’s batting .239.
But J.P. does have 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts and became just the 14th major leaguer to steal at least 600 bases in a career.
Justin Ruggiano, one of the Marlins’ bright spots during a tough 2012 season, hasn’t quite picked up where he left off. He’s hitting .233 but does lead the team in home runs (6) and RBI (15).
Help on the way?
Morrison, who’s returning from offseason knee surgery, has been cleared to play in extended spring training games. With no additional setbacks, LoMo might return by late-May or early June.
Morrison’s bat would be a welcomed addition to a team that has produced league lows in batting average (.225), on-base percentage (.287) and home runs (19).
Eovaldi, sidelined with shoulder inflammation since before the season opener, could return in mid-June. Alvarez, however, was moved to the 60-day DL this week and appears to be further away.
Mathis, who suffered a fractured clavicle in spring training, has begun a rehab assignment at Double-A.
The Marlins’ offseason was highlighted by a 12-player trade in which Miami acquired mostly young players while sending established veterans to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Both teams are struggling, as the Blue Jays are 13-22 and in 5th place in the American League East.
Unlike Toronto, Miami knows 2013 is about building toward the future. Not only have Fernandez and Ozuna arrived in Miami, outfielder Christian Yelich, considered the Marlins’ top position player prospect, could join them during the season’s second half.