ST. PETERSBURG -- Marlins skipper Mike Redmond got an early exit from Thursday's 11-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
So when the team made the second pick in the MLB draft, taking hard-throwing Texas high-school pitcher Tyler Kolek, the news didn't take very long to get to Redmond.
"I'm excited," Redmond said. "I was looking at some video before the draft and I liked him. Out of those top guys that was the guy I picked. Not that I had any influence on them. But I mean, how do you pass on a guy throwing 100 mph? I'm happy with the pick. It's a big old country-strong right-hander. Welcome him to the organization."
Kolek has drawn comparisons to the previous player the Marlins took with the No. 2 overall pick, Redmond's old teammate Josh Beckett.
Asked about that, Redmond said: "Josh never threw 100 though. You can put that in writing too because I want him to see that. He was just a soft thrower from Texas. He was only throwing 96."
CHICAGO -- Tyler Kolek lit up radar guns outside his hometown in Texas with a triple-digit fastball. The Marlins are hoping the big right-hander, who grew up on a cattle ranch, continues bringing the heat for them in the not-so-distant future.
The Marlins on Thursday made Kolek, a Houston-area high school sensation the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
"You hate to put a tag on these guys, you kind of see some Roger Clemens in his delivery," said Stan Meek, the Marlins' vice president of scouting. "We've seen the fastball up to 102 miles per hour. It's a power body, a power arm, and a power package."
The Marlins selected Kolek after the Houston Astros took another high school hurler, Brady Aiken, with the top pick. Kolek, who is listed at 6-5, 250, struck out 126 batters in 60 1/3 innings this season at Shepherd High School. He walked only eight and had an ERA of 0.35.
"With Houston picking first and him being in that state, you obviously feel kind of nervous," said Meek, adding the Marlins had settled on Kolek with the past few days.
It's not the first time the Marlins have held the No. 2 pick and used it on a Texas high school pitcher. They also did it in 1999 when they drafted Josh Beckett, who became a World Series hero for them. Here's a recent feature piece about Kolek in the Houston Chronicle.
Asked what it was about Kolek that made him appealing to the Marlins, Meek replied: "About everything. He's a big, strong physical right-hander with three pitches. We think for a big guy he has real solid control of his fastball."
The choice of Kolek surprised many experts, who figured the Marlins would likely go for either Carlos Rodon, a Miami-born southpaw out of North Carolina State, or catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, a San Diego-area prep star.
But Kolek was among the top five or six names on most draft boards.
Wrote Baseball America of Kolek: "The biggest worry scouts have with Kolek is his size, as he's bigger than most pitchers at his age. If he maintains his fitness, he has a chance to be a true No. 1 starter."
Check out this video feature on Kolek:
ST. PETERSBURG -- It might not seem like it to the average baseball fan who has seen Adeiny Hechavarria make many a sterling defensive play, but in the eyes of his position coach and those who measure fielding metrics there's still plenty of room for the Marlins' shortstop to grow.
And in Wednesday's thrilling 5-4 win over the Rays, a game where Hechavarria made seven assists and turned three big double plays, Marlins infield coach Perry Hill saw growth were most others probably couldn't.
"There were a couple plays last night where the ball was hit so hard that if he wouldn't have been in the right spot he wouldn't have made the play," Hill said Thursday. "But he moved with the count and adjusted with the location of the pitch."
That's something Hechavarria, in the midst of his second season as the Marlins' starting shortstop, didn't do enough of last year, Hill admitted. But that was mainly because he didn't know National League hitters, Hill said.
Last year, Hechavarria ranked next-to-last in Ultimate Zone Rating among shortstops (-9.0) with at least 935 innings played and was tied for 18th among regular shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved above average (-3). Entering Thursday's series finale against the Rays, Hechavarria has improved in both areas since last year with a -3.5 UZR (24th among shortstops) and plus-1 DRS (tied for 11th).
"It's still a learning process," Hill said. "We're probably still a year away from seeing the really good Hech. But as soon as he learns the league, learns the hitters, he retains all this stuff, he'll get better, much better."
Of Hecharria's six errors this season, five have been throwing errors.
"We've talked about that too," Hill said. "Those lollygag, puff throws, I don't think you'll see that again."
REDMOND TO ROOKIES: "JUST HAVE FUN."
You never forget your first time -- and Marlins manager Mike Redmond wants to make sure designated hitter Justin Bour and catcher J.T. Realmuto enjoy their MLB debuts on Thursday.
"Just relax and just have fun," Redmond said he told the rookies. "I got a chance to talk to [Realmuto's] mom in the coffee shop in the morning. This is the fun part of managing, being able to see young guys make their MLB debut. I think we all understand how important this day is and not only important is to them, but their families. We all just want them to go out there and have fun in a day they'll never forget. And get that first hit out of the way as soon as possible. As you guys have seen we've been able to bring a lot of young guys to the big leagues for their first opportunity either pitching or position players with their first at-bats."
The last time two Marlins rookie position players made their debuts in the same game -- last July 23 when Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick took the field together at Coors Field in Colorado. Yelich had two hits and Marisnick went hitless in four at-bats.
Redmond said the hard part for Realmuto on Thursday will be slowing things down.
"You're naturally going to be uncomfortable because you haven't had the time with the bullpen guys and the starter and all that stuff," Redmond said. "The best thing you can do is trust your abilities and do as well as you can and have fun. Just allow your abilities and talents to come forward. Sometimes its easier said than done."
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Marlins will send Jacob Turner to the mound Thursday afternoon in search of both the team's first season-series sweep over the Rays since 2005 and the club's 12th interleague victory in a row.
And Turner will have two rookies in the lineup making their MLB debuts trying to help guide him there.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto, called up for the concussed Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Sunday, will start behind the plate and bat eighth. Justin Bour, a power-hitting left-handed bat called up to take the vacated spot of Derek Dietrich, will hit seventh and serve as the designated hitter.
"More excited than butterflies," Realmuto said Wednesday knowing he would probably start Thursday. "I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, kind of what you dream about growing up as a kid. Hopefully I can go out there and play well and help the team win."
The Marlins' current 11-game interleague winning streak is the longest active in the majors and 2 shy of the all-time mark of 13 by the Yankees (2003-04) and Rays (2004) and is the longest by a National League team since St. Louis won 12 in a row from 2004 to 2005.
During their streak, the Marlins beat the Royals twice on the road, swept the Tigers to end the 2013 season in three games, swept the Mariners at home in April in three games and now have taken three from the Rays in the annual Citrus Series.
KOEHLER SURVIVES ROUGH START
Tom Koehler was wearing the look of relief on his face after Wednesday's 5-4 victory at Tropicana Field.
His first inning of work was flat out miserable. He only threw four of his first 15 pitches for strikes. Two of those strikes ended up in the cheap seats. Ben Zobrist put one beyond the right field wall for a two-run homer. Longoria then drilled another over the left field wall -- a solo shot -- five pitches later.
"I wish I could tell you [what happened there] if I knew I would have fixed it," Koehler said. "Just missing to the lefties a little bit up and away. I think we were just trying to be a little took quick and a little too fine instead of just challenging them, allowing the stuff to play. You're facing a big league lineup and when you fall behind guys it makes it little bit easier to hit and that's what happened there."
Koehler needed 37 pitches in all to get through the first -- only 51 fewer pitches than Henderson Alvarez used to toss a complete game shutout against these same Rays on Tuesday.
The rest of the night wasn't any easier for Koehler, but he battled through it.
After giving up a pair of leadoff walks to the last two Rays hitters in the fourth, he struckout David DeJesus swinging and then got Zobrist to bounce into an inning-ending double play. He used another inning-ending double play off the bat of Desmond Jennings to get through the fifth.
"Just got to credit the way the guys played behind me defensively," Koehler said. "They made some great plays at short, turned some real quality double plays. We were able to combat a walk with a double play. It allows you the chance to win a ballgame by at least stretching it to the fifth.
"Obviously not an ideal game. But games like this are sometimes a little bit more rewarding than when you go eight shutout because you kind of realize you got to put everything you have out there and just try to keep the team in it."
> Marlins (31-28): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Donovan Solano 2B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Garrett Jones 1B, 6. Marcell Ozuna CF, 7. Justin Bour DH, 8. J.T. Realmuto C, 9. Adeiny Hechavarria SS. RHP Jacob Turner.