JUPITER, Fla. — Losing 4-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals in the Grapefruit League opener is by no means a desired result, but the Miami Marlins progressed on several fronts Thursday afternoon.
All-Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton faced live pitching in a game for the first time since getting hit in the face on Sept. 11 by Mike Fiers’ fastball.
Stanton, who went 0 for 2, flied out to left in the first and flied out to right in the fourth. He did not play in the two college exhibitions earlier in the week at Roger Dean Stadium. In his first at-bat against righty Carlos Martinez, he saw 95 mph pitches.
"It felt great," Stanton said. "I felt good in the box. We’re right on track. But it was good to be in a game setting again."
Manager Mike Redmond said it usually takes 10-25 at-bats before batters are comfortable at the plate with their timing. He thought Stanton’s takes and looks were good. On defense, he recorded three putouts — two on liners — over the first two innings.
"It’s great to see him from the offseason he’s had and what he went through the way his season ended," Redmond said. "I know it’s got to feel good for him to be back and playing and feeling good and strong. It’s great for us obviously to see him roaming right field."
In his Marlins debut, right-hander Dan Haren allowed two runs on three hits with a strikeout. He threw 33 pitches (20 strikes) over two innings as the starter.
Haren, whom the Marlins acquired during winter meetings from the Los Angeles Dodgers, fell victim to a few unfortunate bounces. Jason Heyward’s liner hit off Michael Morse’s glove for a one-out single in the first. Christian Yelich lost Matt Holliday’s catchable fly in the sun for a ground-rule double before Matt Adams’ two-run blooper.
In the second, Haren worked around a leadoff error by Adeiny Hechavarria. He struck Peter Bourjos out looking and forced flyouts from Pete Kozma and Matt Carpenter. With mostly his fastball and cutter, Haren called his command "OK." He just missed off the plate a few times, particularly during the Heyward at-bat.
"For the first time out, I just want to come out of it good, feel OK tomorrow and go from there," Haren said. "Results wise, I don’t really care too much. I don’t want to go out there and give up six runs or anything, but as long as I feel good it’s OK."
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Dan Haren (15) throws against St. Louis Cardinals.
The 34-year-old right-hander underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason that he said pushed his routine back by two weeks. He usually begins throwing in mid-December. Rather than entering spring with 6-7 bullpen sessions, Haren had done 4-5. He wondered whether "that could be a reason why I’m not quite as crisp as I usually am."
But with the beginning of Grapefruit League play, Haren was happy to return to a five-day schedule. A 12-year veteran, Haren said his arm was dragging a little bit and joked that he has "dead body right now."
"I was a little bit behind coming into camp because of my surgery, so I’ve slowed it a little bit," Haren said. "I wanted to get out there today. The only way to get feeling good is to go out there and throw and get sore and your body rebuilds and stuff like that. I’m not going to get in shape just sitting on the sidelines playing catch."
Other than a two-run spot off lefty Mike Dunn in the seventh, the relievers held the Cardinals scoreless over the final seven frames. Second baseman Dee Gordon bunted for a hit in the fourth but got picked off trying to steal second.
"I thought overall — our bullpen — those guys did a good job," Redmond said. "[Dunn] gave up a couple, but the ball was coming out of his hand nicely. I liked what I saw there. First game of spring, it gives guys an idea, especially offensively, where we’re at. A few jitters early it looked like. We’ll be fine."