« March 17, 2013 | Main | March 19, 2013 »

2 posts from March 18, 2013

March 18, 2013

Yelich belts fifth home run, a 400-foot plus shot into a pond

FORT MYERS -- Christian Yelich never really has considered himself a power hitter. But so far this spring he's displayed the ability to take pitchers deep quite often.

Monday afternoon, before rain came and stopped play after five innings at Hammond Stadium, Yelich belted his team-leading fifth home run of the spring. And belted might be an understatement.

Twins right fielder Darin Mastroianni hardly moved as the ball came off Yelich's bat. The ball itself -- hit off Twins reliever Tim Wood -- traveled well over 400 feet and splashed down in a pond behind the stadium in right field.

"I didn't know there was a lake back there," said Yelich, who finished 2-for-3 Monday to raise his average to .381 with a team-leading 13 RBI. "I got it pretty good. It was a hanging slider and I caught it good."

Yelich, who has never hit above Single A ball, has hit 27 home runs in 909 minor league at-bats since the Marlins took him with the 23rd overall pick in 2010. In 42 at-bats this spring he's looked like Superman, a left-handed bat that would fit in beautifully alongside Giancarlo Stanton.

But it's clear the Marlins won't be keeping Yelich on the Opening Day roster. How soon he gets called up probably depends on he performs in Double A Jacksonville. But it's pretty clear he's impressed the heck out of a lot of people so far.

"There's always that temptation," Redmond said. "But at the same time too we've talked about this as an organization. We want to make sure when he comes to the big leagues he's fully ready. But like you said it's fun to see a kid highly touted and have come in and back it up. That's a good sign."

Asked if he's ever been on a tear like this before Yelich smiled.

"Actually I don't even feel super locked in," the 21-year old said. "I felt pretty good today, but it's spring training. It comes and goes."

As much as he would like to be with the Marlins on Opening Day Yelich said Monday he understands why the team probably will send him back to the minors.

"I don't really know what's going to happen. I know they do things for a reason and they got a process and they stick to it. It's worked in the past," he said. "I can't really be disappointed with anything that happens whatever that may be here in the next week or two. My goal from the beginning of spring training was to have fun and enjoy the experience."

Redmond: Platoon in center might be Marlins' best option

FORT MYERS -- The fifth spot in the Marlins' starting rotation isn't the only job weighing on the mind of skipper Mike Redmond these days.

With two weeks to go before Opening Day in Washington, Redmond is also trying to figure out what the best solution in center field might be and he said Monday a platoon situation "could end up being our best option."

"We could definitely go that route, that way we make sure we don't wear one guy out," Redmond said. "We don't have a ton of depth out there and we have to make sure we keep everybody healthy out there as well."

If Redmond had his way 21-year old former first round pick Christian Yelich (.359, 4 HRs, 12 RBI in 19 spring games) would probably be his top choice. But it's inevitable Yelich, who hit .330 with 12 homers and 20 steals last season in High-A Jupiter, will be sent to Double A Jacksonville so the team can avoid starting his salary arbitration clock and he can gain more plate experience.

"You get a feel for what I think about him," Redmond said. "I play him all the time. I love him. Like I said, he's had a great spring. He's done everything we've asked of him. But at the end of the day he's never had an at-bat above A-ball and we have to make sure we're doing the right thing for him and the organization."

With Yelich out of the mix that leaves left-handed hitting Chris Coghlan (.318 with five extra base hits and four RBI in 44 ABs), right-handed hitting Gorkys Hernandez (.290, 3 RBI, 3 SBs in 31 ABs) and Justin Ruggiano, who is just 1 for 11 in the five games since returning from his back injury this spring, to compete for the center field job. The Marlins will keep two of the three. Ruggiano was supposed to be the clear-cut starter before getting hurt.

With Hernandez out of options and Coghlan with one left the Marlins could elect to send Coghlan down and keep Ruggiano and Hernandez in a platoon situation, too. But it looks like Coghlan has performed well enough thus far to deserve a shot at the job.

"He's done a nice job," Redmond said when asked if Coghlan is solid enough defensively to play center at spacious Marlins Park. "But I think that's the challenge. It's a big outfield in Miami. We're hoping whoever is out there just can cover the most ground. That's just kind of the situation we're in."

One option that appears nixed now is moving 35-year old Juan Pierre over to center from left.

"I know we mentioned early on throwing him over in center, but I think he just works well in left for us," Redmond said. "We'll figure out center field... it might be one that comes down to the last day."

> Right-hander Jacob Turner (0-1 with a 16.20 ERA in two starts) may be down to his last chance to make the starting rotation when he takes the mound Tuesday in Jupiter against St. Louis.

"It's safe to say tomorrow is a very important start for him," Redmond said. "We're trying to decide on this No. 5 starter and then adjusting the bullpen accordingly. It's been good to have guys like Kevin Slowey step up and pitch well. Honestly, we're still not sure. I'd love on the 18th of March to say it's all set. We're still not there yet."

> Reliever Chad Qualls, who has made just three Grapefruit League appearances, is expected to get a good look today along with two innings of work according to Redmond. Qualls, who hasn't pitched in a spring game since last Tuesday, has tossed three scoreless innings thus far.

"He had a little tight oblique early in spring. Everything is good now," said Redmond, who said Qualls got work in minor league games as he was recovering.

> Redmond got to enjoy a bit of a homecoming Monday. He spent five seasons with the Twins and got to see some familiar faces who didn't make the trek out to Jupiter when the Twins visited the Marlins earlier this spring.

"I spoke to [Justin] Morneau, [Joe] Mauer, the coaches," Redmond said. "Lot of great memories here. I spent spring trainings here with a great group of players and we had some good teams in there too. It's fun to come back and see everybody and say 'Hi."


> Marlins (9-10-2): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Chone Figgins 2B, 3. Kevin Kouzmanoff 1B, 4. Austin Kearns RF, 5. Chris Valaika 3B, 6. Nick Green SS, 7. Matt Downs DH, 8. Kyle Skipworth C, 9. Gorkys Hernandez. RHP Nathan Eovaldi.

> Twins (10-9-1): 1. Aaron Hicks CF, 2. Brian Dozier 2B, 3. Joe Mauer C, 4. Josh Willingham LF, 5. Justin Morneau 1B, 6. Jeff Clement DH, 7. Darin Mastroianni RF, 8. Eduardo Escobar 3B, 9. Pedro Floriman, SS. RHP Kevin Correa.