MIAMI — When the Marlins signed first baseman Garrett Jones over the offseason, they knew about his consistency.
He has averaged not only 149 games over his past four seasons but also 20 home runs over the past five years.
Jones didn’t knock his first dinger until Sunday on the first pitch from Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick. His swing sent a 91 mph sinker to right field for a solo homer in the fifth.
It didn’t mark his longest stretch to open a season before belting a homer. That came in 2012, when he didn’t hit his first until April 15.
"It’s good to get the first one out of the way, of course," Jones said. "I’ve been scuffling at the plate and not hitting the way I’m capable of doing."
Hitless six of 13 games, Jones has had to face his fare share of southpaws. The left-handed hitter posted just a .095 average against them in 2013. His average against lefties (.211) is only marginally worse than that against righties (.233) so far in 2014.
His .224 average is lowest among Miami’s starters. He has also struck out 22 times in 57 plate appearances. Jones showed signs of breaking out of the slump with two multi-hit games last week against the Nationals.
"I don’t feel terrible at the plate," Jones said. "It’s just a mindset of being a little more aggressive earlier in the count and changing my mindset mentally. My swing feels fine, just being a little more aggressive."
How does one find a silver lining following a winless six-game roadtrip?
Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee called this week’s homestand a chance to move on, especially when a couple of hits or plays on the road could’ve been the difference in the outcomes.
"That’s big-league baseball," McGehee said. "It doesn’t matter who it is or where you’re at. It doesn’t let up. You’re always going to have a good pitcher and lineup to face. We weren’t blown out or anything. We had a chance to win nearly every single game."
Miami faces Washington for a three-game set less than a week after being swept by the Nationals. In consecutive close games, the bullpen surrendered grand slams in the eighth inning to put the score out of reach.
Two of the three starting pitching matchups will be the same. The mentality of both teams, however, is different. Division rivals swept Miami and Washington over the weekend.
"You can’t just dwell on the fact that we dropped them," McGehee said. "The more times we get ourselves in a situation to win the better off we’re going to be. The trick is tonight to come out and get ourselves in a position to win and get (Steve) Cishek the ball."
Utility player Ed Lucas visited the doctor on Monday and received good news.
Lucas, who sustained a non-displaced fracture of his left hand during the last week of spring, can start swinging the bat and taking grounders. He has already been running and throwing.
Currently on the 15-day disabled list, his timetable (initially 4 to 6 weeks) remains on schedule after minor surgery that was performed before Miami’s roadtrip.
"I’m encouraged by the fact that I got a thumbs-up and can start actually doing some stuff and working myself back up," Lucas said. "I don’t feel completely helpless anymore."
Outfielder Marcell Ozuna felt better on Monday after fouling a ball off his foot during Sunday’s game against the Phillies. He was on crutches after the game.
Manager Mike Redmond said he would be available to pinch hit. Reed Johnson started in left field, moving Christian Yelich to center in Ozuna’s place.
FURCAL’S REHAB SCHEDULE
Second baseman Rafael Furcal will play five innings every day this week in Jupiter, Fla., as part of his extended spring training.
Furcal, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, will likely use all 20 days to recover.
— Second baseman Derek Dietrich returned to the lineup two days after his late scratch from Saturday’s game with back spasms.
Dietrich is second on the team with a .313 average, two homers and five RBI in six games. He has been in a platoon with Jeff Baker with Furcal on the DL.
— Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner will play catch on Tuesday.
Turner went on the 15-day disabled list last Wednesday with a right shoulder strain.