Being a catcher, Jeff Mathis is used to pain. He's had his face and wrists broken over the course of his catching career. But nothing quite prepared Mathis for the pain he experienced after having his collarbone broken by a Matt Holliday foul ball on the second day of spring training.
"There was a week and a half where I couldn't get out of the recliner because of the pain," the 30-year-old Mathis said. "I made my way to the field for maybe 30 or 45 minutes a day. But then it was straight back to the recliner because any movement, like moving my left hand, hurt."
After nearly three months of healing and getting back into baseball shape, Mathis is out of the recliner and back in the fold for the Marlins, who brought him off the disabled list on Tuesday before opening a 3-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
"Hopefully it's the start of guys coming off the DL and good things to come down the road," said manager Mike Redmond. "That was a big blow to lose him the first game of spring training. He would have been back there catching a lot to this point had he not got hurt."
The injury to Mathis, which occurred in the third inning of the first spring training game on Feb. 23, was the start of an injury avalanche for the Marlins. They now have 10 players on the DL, but a few are inching closer to returning. First baseman Casey Kotchman, for example, was fielding ground balls during batting practice Tuesday and testing his injured hamstring in running drills. He'll likely begin playing minor-league rehab games in the coming days.
With a career .198 average in the majors, Mathis has relied on his defensive and pitch-calling ability to keep him in the majors for nine seasons with the Angels, Blue Jays and now the Marlins. He came over in the trade with Toronto to offset the loss of John Buck, who was among the five players the Marlins sent to the Blue Jays.
Adding Mathis now gives the Marlins three catchers on the roster. Rob Brantly was behind the plate Tuesday and Redmond said Mathis would likely start at least one of the three games in the series with the Reds.
"(Miguel) Olivo we can use off the bench," Redmond said. "Without (Austin) Kearns being here, it gives us a right-handed bat off the bench."
Even though they are not obligated to pay Kearns while he is on the restricted list, the Marlins are doing so anyway, according to sources. Kearns left the team to attend to family medical issues in Kentucky. Kearns is making $700,000 this season.
Derek Dietrich and Marcell Ozuna, who figured to be playing at Double A Jacksonville at this point, instead found themselves in the middle of tonight's lineup for the Marlins, with Dietrich batting third and Ozuna in the clean-up spot.
"We've used many combinations this year," Redmond said. "But we're looking for guys to produce, and it seems like all these different combinations we've used seem to produce about the same thing. So we'll go with a couple of young guys in the middle of the order that I know will go up there and swing the bat, and we'll see what happens. I'm not scared. I have confidence in them."
The cooling system that moved through South Florida last night means the roof and outfield glass panels will be open tonight.
Marlins: 1. Pierre, lf; 2. Polanco, 3b; 3. Dietrich, 2b; 4. Ozuna, rf; 5. Ruggiano, cf; 6. Dobbs, 1b; 7. Hechavarria, ss; 8. Brantly, c; 9. Nolasco, p.
Reds: 1. Choo, cf; 2. Cozart, ss; 3. Votto, 1b; 4. Phillips, 2b; 5. Paul, lf; 6. Frazier, 3b; 7. Lutz, rf; 8. Hannigan, c; 9. Bailey, p.
Umpires: HP -- Bucknor; 1B -- Tichenor; 2B -- Scott; 3B -- Miller.