Notebook: Yelich breaks HR drought

Christian Yelich smacked his first homer of the season on Wednesday.

MIAMI — A makeshift Giancarlo Stanton mask made its way onto the field during Marlins batting practice before Wednesday’s game.

Christian Yelich was one of Stanton’s teammates to try it on. Hours later during the fourth inning, Yelich blasted a 1-0 fastball from righty Aaron Harang over the right-center wall for a two-run homer — his first of the season.

Coincidence?

”I don’t know. Maybe,” Yelich said. ”I was just messing around during BP, and I ended up getting my first one. That was nice.”

The drought wasn’t something the 22-year-old thought about until reporters asked him about it throughout the month, especially with the way he had been producing at the plate.

Over the weekend, Yelich’s career-long 17-game hit streak was snapped. He had seven extra-base hits before the long ball. Batting leadoff for 23 games hasn’t altered his approach as his average continues to hover around .300.

”If you start trying to do it it’s not really going to help,” Yelich said. ”It’s going to come. I think I realized that a couple of days (ago) when I started thinking about it and it didn’t go so well. I just got back to relaxing. I’m just trying to hit the ball hard whether that’s a line drive or home run or whatever it is for me.”

OH SO CLOSE

Casey McGehee, meanwhile, missed his first home run of the season by mere inches on Wednesday.

McGehee doubled off the right-field wall against Harang with one out in the fifth on a two-strike swing.

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”I actually didn’t know I hit it that good,” McGehee said. ”I knew I hit it OK, but thought it would be a flyout to medium-deep right field.”

Last season in Japan, McGehee finished with 28 homers. But getting that first long ball hasn’t been a focus for him.

He and Marcell Ozuna are tied for second on the club with 16 RBI. McGehee has found other ways to drive runs in by collecting six doubles and a triple as either the fourth or fifth batter in the lineup. He ranks second among Miami’s starters in on-base percentage (.368).

”I would like to think I’m not going to end the year at zero, but at the same time just taking them as they come and not go up and actively try to hit it out of the ballpark,” McGehee said. ”They all count the same. As long as I can drive in guys or get on base, it’s really all I’m trying to do.”

FURCAL UPDATE

Rafael Furcal will leave Friday for a rehab assignment with Double-A Jacksonville, according to manager Mike Redmond.

Furcal, whose previous stint was cut short over the weekend with a strained right groin, took grounders and ran again on Thursday. He started the season on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain.

Redmond isn’t concerned about the number of at-bats Furcal gets because the veteran has been around for 13 seasons.

The plan would call for him to play five or six innings before ramping up his activity. Eventually, the goal is for him to play in back-to-back games. Furcal did that just once without a day off in his other rehab assignment.

”At this point it’s more just keeping him healthy and having him get his legs under him and feel he can run and do all the things — move side-to-side — and do all the things he needs to do to be able to play every day in the big leagues,” Redmond said. ”I think that’s the most important thing.”

MOVING ON DOWN

With the return of Ed Lucas, Redmond decided to slightly tweak his lineup for one player in particular: Ozuna.

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After reaching his season-high average of .343 on April 19, it dropped to .304 entering the series against the Braves. Ozuna, who is not the prototypical second batter in the order, moved down to seventh.

”I think with young guys you kind of go with how they’re feeling and how their at-bats are,” Redmond said. ”Sometimes moving them down in the order makes them relax more. Sometimes when they’re going really good it doesn’t matter where you put them in the order. You can put them up there and they get more fastballs because they’re squaring everything up.

”Got to a point there with ‘O’ just to get him down a little bit. Maybe he put too much pressure on himself to overthink the spot in the order with Stanton behind him. Just moving guys down and get them more relaxed. He’s had some good at-bats the last couple games.”

Over the past two games, Ozuna is 3 for 8 with a homer, two runs and five RBI. Entering Thursday’s game, he is batting .346 with two doubles, two home runs and those five RBI in seven games as the seventh hitter.

Ozuna tied McGehee for second on the team with 16 RBI thanks to his two-run homer in the second inning of Wednesday’s game.

”It doesn’t matter,” Ozuna said. ”I said early in the season I need to be in the lineup — (even if it’s) hitting nine after the pitcher. It doesn’t matter. Just get in there, into the box, see the ball hit the ball.”

WORTH NOTING

A first came into play during Wednesday’s 9-3 Marlins victory over the Braves: instant replay etiquette.

With Miami up by nine, Adeiny Hechavarria tried stretching a single into a double with aggressive baserunning in the fifth. Umpire Jim Reynolds called Hechavarria out on a tag. Redmond came out to argue, and upon further review it was overturned.

”It’s the fifth inning and we’re still playing,” Redmond said. ”Guys are still running balls out and playing hard, and we’re playing the game the right way. Hech is busting his butt out of the box, and that for me is the key. That’s why we have replay to get the call right. In the fifth inning we’re going up against one of the best teams in baseball and best offenses in baseball.”