Notebook: Casey McGehee to bat cleanup in return to majors

MIAMI — After a year out of the big leagues, Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee was tasked with batting cleanup behind slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Opening Night.

McGehee previously had 112 plate appearances in the fourth spot, hitting .218 with three doubles, one triple, three homers and 10 RBI. He walked eight times and struck out 20.

"I liken it to hitting behind Prince (Fielder) those years in Milwaukee," McGehee said. "I no longer get my feelings hurt when they want to pitch around him. I get it. It’s the same thing with him.

"I understand why they would want to pitch around him at times. When I was in Milwaukee I took a lot of pride in — not always getting the job done — but having a good at-bat and making the guy work if he was going to pitch around Prince."

Garrett Jones will be tasked with the cleanup spot for most of the season, but with lefty Jorge De La Rosa on the mound, manager Mike Redmond went with the right-handed bat. Jones hit just .095 against southpaws in 2013.

"If I’m just there for tonight or whenever in those situations have an at-bat and make sure the guy has to at least work," McGehee said.

FAMILIAR FOE

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Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich found a familiar ballclub around for his latest milestone.

Yelich, who led off for Miami in his first Opening Day, made his major-league debut at Coors Field July 23, 2013, against the Colorado Rockies. He went 2 for 4 with an RBI.

"I guess playing against the Rockies is just meant to be or something," Yelich said.

The 22-year-old expected to take in the entire experience — from batting practice to the game — with the same wonderment. His family couldn’t make the trip from California but would be watching on TV.

Growing up playing in PONY and little league, Yelich always grew excited about the first baseball game of the year. This time around, however, there wasn’t a parade to walk and banners to hold.

"More excitement than anything," Yelich said. "It’s a special day for any baseball player. It’s something you look forward to as a little kid. It’s the start of my first major-league season. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to and getting underway."

FERNANDEZ TAKES ON CANCER

Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez struck out 187 batters during his National League Rookie of the Year season in 2013.

Before taking the mound on Opening Night at Marlins Park, the 21-year-old did his part to strike out cancer by wearing a 108stitches shirt in support of the Jason Motte Foundation.

Over the offseason, the Cardinals righty reached out to his agent who hoped to make it an MLB-wide campaign. Twenty-six of the 30 clubs have a representative with team-specific-colored shirts on sale.

While Fernandez has not had a family member or friend impacted by cancer, he was eager to do his part.

"I didn’t think about it twice," Fernandez said. "Anything I could do to help. This is huge. I’m really excited about it."

Fernandez wore the shirt with a backwards K — the scorecard notation for a strikeout looking — during batting practice on Monday. It can be purchased for $32 at 108stitches.com and at sporting good retailers. $5 will go to the charity of the opposing player’s choice.

In the future, Fernandez would like to create his own foundation. He has been active in the community since making his debut last April.


"I would like to start something my own," Fernandez said. "I’ll leave that later on when I have more time in the league. Throw a little more strikes and outs I’ll think about something like that. For sure that’s something I talked about with my agent."

UPDATE ON FURCAL

Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said there is no definitive timeline on the return of second baseman Rafael Furcal.

Furcal, who went on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive March 21) with a strained left hamstring, had only 18 spring at-bats. He was at the ballpark for Opening Day festivities.

The 36-year-old would be eligible to come off the DL as early as Sunday, but it doesn’t appear like that will happen.

"Once there’s no feeling at all in the hamstring we’ll start ramping him back up and getting (him) games," Hill said. "We’re not looking at this shortsighted. This is a player that missed all of last year, so we want to make sure beyond health he gets the rhythm and timing and at-bats through extended spring training and rehab."

WORTH NOTING

Adeiny Hechavarria, who last played in a Grapefruit League March 24, was starting at shortstop and batting eighth. He had been nursing a tight groin.

"Hech is good. He’s fine to play," Redmond said. "He’s moving around good, his swings are good. He’s ready to go. I don’t have any concerns with him."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.