Marlins not without optimism entering All-Star break
The Marlins struggled in April and May, but with youth and recent success, the future could be bright.
By CHARLIE McCARTHYFS Florida
MIAMI -- The All-Star break has arrived, marking the traditional midpoint of the baseball season.
Miami Marlins, it seems they've already played two halves in 2013.
Miami went 14-41 during an injury-riddled first two months in which very little seemed to go right.
Since then, the Marlins have gone 21-17 and have created hope that the team's rebuilding process might come to fruition sooner than later. (Yes, 93 of 162 games is slighty more than half -- but who's really counting?)
"We turned it around very nicely," said closer Steve Cishek, whose 16 1/3-inning scoreless streak was snapped in Sunday's 5-2, 10-inning loss to Washington. "It's been incredible how well we've played the past two months. It was looking kind of dismal at first, and all of a sudden there was just like a resurgence.
"The team's been great; we've been battling. Putting together all those wins was a huge learning curve for a lot of the young guys."
Even during April and May, the Marlins played hard -- nobody questioned their collective heart.
"Their effort has been off the charts," rookie manager Mike Redmond said. "These guys have played and battled and given me everything they have.
"They understand what I want and what I want guys to do: to play hard everyday. Everybody says that, but I've really focused on, 'Let's control the things we can control.' "
But at the professional level, effort goes only so far. It's about producing.
Nobody has done that better than Jose Fernandez, who'll be the Marlins' representative at Tuesday night's All-Star Game in New York.
Although preseason plans called for Fernandez to start the year at Double-A, the 20-year-old right-hander has become the staff's ace with a 5-5 record and 2.75 ERA.
Then there's fellow righty Jacob Turner, who began the year at Triple-A after squandering a rotation spot due to his pitching poorly in spring training. Turner returned May 31 and is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA since then.
The rotation also was bolstered when right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez returned from shoulder injuries in recent weeks and have looked good. Their presence helps cope with the recent trade of veteran Ricky Nolasco to Los Angeles.
Outfielder Marcell Ozuna and second baseman Derek Dietrich weren't in the plans when the season started, but each has made his presence known.
Promoted initially to replace an injured Giancarlo Stanton in right, Ozuna has batted .273 with three homers and 32 RBI. He also has played well in center after Stanton returned.
Dietrich, who homered Sunday, is hitting just .218 but has nine homers and 23 RBI. He also has sported a good glove at second.
The most encouraging sign lately for Miami has been the hitting of Adeiny Hechavarria. The young shortstop arrived from Toronto known for having a great glove, but he spent most of the first half hitting below the Mendoza Line.
Hechavarria has hit safely in 12 of the past 13 games to raise his average to .240.
The return of Stanton and first baseman Logan Morrison (offseason knee surgery) from the disabled list helped spark the Marlins in early June.
Last season, Stanton had been expected to take part in the 2012 Home Run Derby and All-Star Game until suffering a knee injury that required surgery. The Marlins headed into that All-Star break at 44-49.
"Well, I feel much better than last year going into the break," Stanton said before comparing the two years from a team standpoint. "I don't know the record difference (from last year) but we're playing well.
"We're never really getting blown out, that's the thing, It's not like we're playing six or seven innings and then we're getting at-bats for ourselves."
The Marlins also see encouraging signs away from the clubhouse.
The organization's top prospect, center fielder Christian Yelich, went 2 for 2 in Sunday's Futures Game at New York's Citi Field. He's expected to be in Miami perhaps as early as later this month.
This year's top draft pick, third baseman Colin Moran, signed with the Marlins on Friday and will begin his minor-league career Monday at Class A Greensboro.
Midway through a season that seemed to begin under a dark cloud, the Marlins' future appears quite bright.