As a utility infielder Chris Valaika said he's always had a first baseman's glove in his travel bag just in case it has been needed in an emergency situation.
It isn't exactly an emergency situation now, but Valaika will finally be putting his first baseman's glove to work tonight. The Marlins are starting the 27-year old at first base against the Braves. It's not just the first time Valaika will be playing first base in the big leagues. It's the first time ever in a game -- Little League included.
"With Cincinnati I had always taken ground balls over there just in case," said Valaika, who in a span of 35 games over three-plus big league seasons has played third base, second base and shortstop, but never first.
"There was a time when Joey [Votto] was out where I almost got in. But it never happened. This is Day 1."
Valaika, who has known for the past few days he would likely get a start at first, is getting the nod to play first because Marlins skipper Mike Redmond said he wanted to give Greg Dobbs the day off against Braves left-hander Mike Minor. Valaika, a right-handed hitter, is a career .284 hitter. He's been taking grounders at first with the Marlins since the spring and began getting more work there once Casey Kotchman went on the disabled list last Thursday with a strained left hamstring.
"We've talked about the position we're in over there," Redmond said. "[Valaika] had some good at-bats the other day in New York against lefty. This is the situation we're in. We need somebody to play first. He's the guy. I feel 100 percent confident he can go over there and do a good job."
Redmond said first base help could be on the way in the next week or two. Left-handed hitting Joe Mahoney, who showed some power this spring before straining his oblique and going on the disabled list on March 22nd, played in his first rehab game Wednesday and went 1-for-4 with a home run and two strikeouts in extended spring training according to Redmond. Mahoney is expected to get some more at-bats in Single A Jupiter soon, Redmond said.
"We all liked him in spring training," Redmond said of Mahoney. "When we talked about a guy who could potentially hit behind Stanton he was one of the guys. He has a lot of pop. He was having a good spring and just got hurt that last two weeks of spring training and that was it. Had he stayed healthy, that decision probably would have been a lot tougher."
> Logan Morrison, who was slated to be the Marlins Opening Day first baseman but is still recovering from knee surgery, said Monday his target date for his first rehab action is May 3rd. Morrison is hitting, throwing and now just beginning to put his full weight on his knee while running.
> Tuesday night's announced crowd of 14,222 was the smallest in Marlins Park's brief two-year history. The Marlins, who obviously expected smaller crowds this season with only 5,000 season ticket holders (a drop off from 12,000 a year ago), only drew fewer than Tuesday's total 14 times in their final year at Sun Life Stadium.
> Braves (7-1): 1. Andrelton Simmons SS, 2. Jason Heyward RF, 3. Jason Upton LF, 4. Evan Gattis C, 5. Dan Uggla 2B, 6. Juan Francisco 3B, 7. Chris Johnson 1B, 8. Jordan Schafer CF, 9. LHP Mike Minor.
> Marlins (1-7): 1. Juan Pierre LF, 2. Donovan Solano 2B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Placido Polanco 3B, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Miguel Olivo C, 7. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 8. Chris Valaika 1B, 9. RHP Alex Sanabia.