Notebook: Sweet swing helping Christian Yelich bounce back from slump
PHILADELPHIA — Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich earned a reputation over the years for his consistent and easy swing.
From high school to the minors to last season’s stint in the majors, Yelich hit .275 or better.
So when he opened the 2014 season 2 for 14 with just one RBI, Yelich didn’t panic. The left-handed hitter faced three southpaw starters and would even sit a few other games with that tough matchup.
"I think I’ve been having good at-bats for awhile, I just didn’t have a lot to show for it," Yelich said. "At the same time it was early, no need to panic. Stuck with it a little bit, a few are finding holes and put together some better at-bats and start to hit the ball a little harder."
Since April 2, when his average dipped to .143, the 22-year-old has recorded at least one hit over his past five games. That includes two multi-hit games. On Wednesday, he reached base five times.
With Rafael Furcal on the disabled list, Yelich has batted leadoff in six games and second twice. He said he feels comfortable wherever in the lineup. Over the years, he has primarily been slotted between first and third.
Yelich ranks 10th in the majors with 4.55 pitches per at-bat, so his patience suits the top of the order. As does his ability to steal. On Thursday, he recorded his 13th straight stolen base to start his career, tying Edgar Renteria’s franchise mark.
"Obviously you’re looking to be aggressive but not force anything," Yelich said. "You want to put pressure on those guys as much as you can, but be smart with it and not reckless. It’s a fine line, but it’s there."
A day after the offense managed just three hits and struck out a franchise-tying 17 times against right-hander Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals, manager Mike Redmond tweaked the order.
Center fielder Marcell Ozuna, who connected on a solo home run in the seventh inning of that game, moved from seventh to second.
"Flip-flopped it thinking Ozone’s been swinging the bat well, and he’s got really good numbers here in Philly," Redmond said. "Maybe hitting second will get him a few more fastballs."
Ozuna has hit .393 with six doubles, one home run and five RBI in seven games at Citizens Bank Park. This season, he has been the most consistent Miami batter with a hit in all but one of the 10 games.
Though Ozuna’s build — 6-foot-1, 230 pounds — doesn’t resemble the prototypical two-hole hitter, he can run and "do a lot of things."
Redmond referenced Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth and Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer as other examples.
"Like I said, I’m not afraid to mix and match and tweak and adjust and try different things," Redmond said. "I like it. I feel good about it. I hope he goes out there and swings the bat well in front of the big boys."
Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett spent seven seasons with the Marlins and shares a special connection with Redmond.
Miami’s skipper caught Burnett’s big-league debut on Aug. 17, 1999. Burnett earned the win, allowing just one run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and two walks.
"It’s been awhile since I’ve really seen him in person. It brings back a lot of memories," Redmond said. "It’s fun to see him and watch his career. He’s had a tremendous career. It’s always a little different seeing guys you played with out there on the field.
"He’s still pitching and pitching well. Hopefully we can get some guys on base, put some pressure on him and see if we can get some runs."
Though Burnett tossed a no-hitter on May 12, 2001 with the Marlins — an unconventional one that included nine walks and a hit batter — Redmond’s favorite memory occurred four months later.
All season long, the hard-throwing righty tried aiming a warm-up pitch at a truck that would circle the field during a half inning. One day he finally hit it, shattering the glass. The ball landed next to the driver and Billy the Marlin.
"His stuff was so electric," Redmond said. "I remember times in the seventh, eighth inning and he’s still throwing that sinker 98 mph. I always felt like he had a chance to throw a no-hitter when he was out there."
CISHEK GETS IN WORK
Closer Steve Cishek pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the Marlins’ 6-3 loss Friday night to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Cishek, who last pitched April 3 against the Rockies, induced a pair of flyouts and struck out Tony Gwynn Jr. He also walked Jimmy Rollins, who stole second but was stranded there. He needed 17 pitches (eight strikes) to retire the side.
Over three outings so far this season, Cishek has not given up a run on two hits with three strikeouts over three innings. He is 2 for 2 in save opportunities.