MIAMI — Nearly four hours before Tuesday night’s first pitch and a full 90 minutes before batting practice, several Miami Marlins were on their home turf performing drills under a bright sun thanks to the open roof.
Clearly, a rough start to Miami’s season and a just-completed 3-7 road trip hadn’t diminished the players’ desire to improve.
Perhaps the Marlins were buoyed knowing 14 of their next 19 scheduled games would be at Marlins Park.
“I think the comfort level being home again is great,” said manager Mike Redmond, whose team then began a nine-game homestand with a 6-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
“We can get so much work done here, out on the field and in the cages. We can really get specific with these guys and what they need to work on.”
One player taking afternoon grounders was rookie second baseman Derek Dietrich, who made his major league debut at San Diego on May 8. Acquired from Tampa Bay during the offseason, the 23-year-old Dietrich was called up after Donovan Solano went on the disabled list with a rib injury.
On Tuesday night, Dietrich batted third with fellow rookie Marcell Ozuna hitting cleanup. Ozuna, 22, made his big-league debut on April 30 after being promoted to replace Giancarlo Stanton, who is on the DL with a Grade II strained right hamstring.
“It’s been a challenge, piecing together this lineup,” Redmond said. “We talked this winter about some lineup variations. I remember being asked what I saw the lineup being, and I said, “We could through 20 different lineups right now, but you never know until the day comes.’ And so here we are.
“What did we talk about all spring? Who was going to hit behind Stanton. Think of all those days we wasted discussing that and who was going to bat fourth or fifth.”
But Dietrich hitting third and Ozuna fourth? Perhaps in 2015 or 2016, but nobody saw that coming little more than six weeks into this season.
Even Dietrich admitted to being a bit surprised when saw his name in the No. 3 spot upon arriving at the ballpark.
“I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t surprised, but I did hit third in the minors,” Dietrich said. “Wherever they want me to hit, I’m going to treat the at-bats the same way and compete pitch to pitch and hopefully get the job done when I can.”
After going 2 for 4 with an RBI, Dietrich likely will bat third again Wednesday night.
“We’re looking for guys to produce,” Redmond said. “It seems like all these combinations we’ve used seem to produce the same thing. So, we’ll go with a couple of young guys who’ll go in the middle of the order and swing the bat and we’ll see what happens.”
Another thing Redmond hadn’t planned on was having three catchers, which was the case Tuesday. Jeff Mathis, acquired in the much-publicized winter trade with Toronto, was activated earlier in the day from the DL. He had been sidelined with a broken collarbone suffered on the first spring training game.
Mathis joined fellow catchers Rob Brantly and Miguel Olivo, who also could see time playing first base.
“Mathis is a proven catcher in the big leagues. He would have been back there catching a lot up to this point had he not gotten hurt,” Redmond said. “He’s a steady defensive player, and I saw him a lot (in the American League) when I was still playing.”
Mathis understandably was excited at being activated, especially after going through what he did during his recuperation.
“It stunk,” he said after batting practice. “There was a week and a half where I couldn’t get out of the recliner because of the pain. I made my way to field for 30-40 minutes a day, but then it was straight back to the recliner.”