He hasn't created the kind of buzz Jason Heyward has in Atlanta. But when you stack Gaby Sanchez's numbers against the rest of the rookies in baseball after three weeks, the Marlins young first baseman is definitely worthy of recognition.
Sanchez, among a dozen everyday playing rookies in the game early on this season, ranks fourth in batting average (.281) and runs (8), second to Heyward in RBI (9) and leads all first-year players in doubles (7). Not bad for a guy who hit third or fourth nearly his entire life and has had to bat in the eighth hole for the Marlins in 40 of his 57 at-bats this season.
"It has been an adjustment, but only because you have the pitcher hitting behind you," Sanchez said. "When you're up there with one out, two outs, you're the guy they want to swing the bat, to try and create a run or something."
Sanchez, who had 29 major league career at-bats between 2008 and 2009, said he's been extra patient at the plate trying to study pitchers he's never faced before. It's resulted in him taking nine walks (2nd most on the team) and accumulating a .388 on base percentage (third highest on the team).
"Every single outing, I'm seeing a new pitcher for the first time," Sanchez said. "I'm having to take pitches, sliders, change ups to see their movement, depth. I feel like once I get back to facing them again and again it will be a little bit different."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's been impressed with how Sanchez has not only hit, but the way he's played defense. Sanchez has only been credited with one error this season and has done a good job handling throws that often pull him off the bag.
"I feel like defense has been going very well for me," Sanchez said. "I've been learning the guys throws, what their ball typically does when they throw it and what side they like to throw to. Once it becomes second nature, it will be easier for me on backhand plays."
SANCHES RETURNS, MEYER HEADS TO DL: Brian Sanches provided a huge lift to the Marlins bullpen last season when he was called up from Triple A New Orleans. Now that he's finally over a strained right hamstring injury, the 31-year old right-hander is hoping he can do the same soon.
Sanches was activated from the disabled list Monday and inserted into a pen which ranks 22nd in ERA (4.91) and has struggled at times to defend leads late in games. The Marlins have given up 36 of their 92 runs from the seventh inning on and blown four save opportunities in 10 tries.
Sanches, who spent 11 seasons in the minors before finally breaking through last season, began 2009 with 25 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings at home, the third longest streak in club history. He was 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA and threw two more innings 10 times in 47 appearances.
"I definitely missed being with the guys, competing with them, the camaraderie," said Sanches, who strained his hamstring in the next-to-last exhibition game of the spring. "I'm not looking at myself as a savior. I just want to be a piece of the puzzle. That's what I'm going to go in there and do, fill my spot. Hopefully, everything kind of molds around me."
The Marlins placed left-handed reliever Dan Meyer (0-1, 16.20 ERA, 6 games) on the disabled list with a strained left calf, retroactive to Sunday. Meyer said he strained his calf against the Reds on April 13th, before the Marlins went on a nine-game road trip. He said the injury had nothing to do with his struggles, though. He's given up six earned runs and 10 hits with three walks over two innings in his last three appearances.
"I'm not heloing the team out there trying to fight through it," Meyer said. "I wouldn't say anything is too serious. I just have to do what's good for the team, try and stay healthy and not try to work it too much."
COGHLAN FEELING BETTER AT THE PLATE: Chris Coghlan's struggles this season have been well documented. But the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year said he feels like he's close to breaking out of his 10-for-65 slump (.154) to start the season.
In his last two games, Coghlan has gone 3 for 8 and hit several balls hard enough to convince manager Fredi Gonzalez that the end is near. "When you only have 60 plate apperances, all you need is a 5 for 12 week and you're back up to .290 or .300," Gonzalez said. "I'm seeing signs."
"I feel great," Coghlan said. "I couldn't have said that when we played L.A. here," Coghlan said. "I was just missing pitches, striking out more, swinging at pitches out of the zone. I don't feel like that now at all. I feel normal."
Coghlan lost his job as the Marlins leadoff hitter in part because of his struggles, but also the consistent play and speed of Cameron Maybin. Coghlan said it doesn't matter in his eyes if he is batting first or second.
"When you're at the top of the lineup, you're a table setter," Coghlan said. "That's our job. Whether Cameron Is hitting first or I'm hitting first, our job is to be table setters, get on base for Hanley [Ramirez], Jorge [Cantu] or [Dan Uggla], score runs. It doesn't matter if it's leadoff or two hole. Whatever helps the team, that's what I want to do."
> Marlins top prospect Mike Stanton had yet another breakout performance for Double A Jacksonville on Monday. The 20-year old outfielder slugged three home runs and drove in seven runs in a win over the Carolina Mudcats.
Over his last two games, Stanton has hit five home runs and driven in 11 runs, raising his batting average from .263 to .338. He now has a minor-league leading nine homers and 20 RBI, tied for third-most. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez was well aware of those stats. He informed reporters of Stanton's two-day totals as they walked into the clubhouse.
"Five homers, 11 RBI in two games," Ramirez said. "Amazing."