Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn't get to spend a ton of time catching Marlins top prospect Andrew Heaney this spring. In fact, he thinks he only caught about an inning or two in Grapefruit League action.
But Saltamacchia said he's definitely seen enough of him to know the 2012 first round pick is pretty good.
"The one thing I noticed was his composure," said Saltalamacchia, who rejoined the Marlins Thursday after spending the last three weeks on the disabled list recovering from concussion-like symptoms and rehabbing down in Jupiter. "Usually young guys getting their opportunity try to impress and try to throw 100 mph. He wasn't. He was real fluid, pounding the strike zone, mixing his offspeed pitches, didn't overthrow. Hoping we can see that again tonight."
Heaney’s 38 career minor league appearances are the second-fewest of any Marlins’ first-round draft pick (pitchers only) prior to making his Major League debut. Jose Fernandez made just 27 appearances before his debut in 2013; Josh Beckett made 39 appearances prior to his debut in 2003; and Chris Volstad appeared in 82 games before his debut in 2008.
Heaney went 17-7 with a 2.31 ERA, 198 strikeouts and only 48 walks in those 38 appearances in the minors between Single and Triple A. Fernandez was 14-2 with a 2.02 ERA, 165 strikeouts and 39 walks in his minor league stint, which never went past High-A.
"When you have young pitchers it's a nerve-wracking day," manager Mike Redmond said. "There's a lot of emotions, adrenaline, a lot of firsts. No doubt his first start there are going to be some things that he's probably not going to be anticipating. But that's why you've got veteran catchers to anticipate tough situations and talk them through anything that comes up during the course of the game.
"Salty's been around a long time. He and [Jeff] Mathis both have spoken to Heaney to prepare him as much as they possibly can for tonight. But most importantly it's about him going out there and pitching his game, enjoying it and most importantly having fun, doing what he's done so well throughout the minor leagues. Hopefully that translates into a big night for him and a big win for us."
Saltalamacchia said he doesn't anticipate the moment being too big for Heaney.
"Just seeing him, talking with him yesterday seems like he has that personality already," Saltalamacchia said. "If the game speeds up i'll slow it down for him a little bit. The focus is obviously going to be taking care of him and helping him get the win tonight."
SALTY STICKING WITH MASK
Saltalamacchia, who was struck by a foul ball behind the plate back on May 31, said he's going to stick with the same hockey-style catcher's mask he's worn even though former Red Sox teammate David Ross switched to a traditional catcher's mask after sustaining a similar concussion last August.
"There's no evidence saying the hockey mask is the reason concussions are happening, but I know the traditional masks are better," Saltalamacchia said. "Still, I'm going to stick with the same mask. It was just a matter of hitting that spot."
Redmond said the Marlins will keep a close eye on Saltalamacchia and give him a day off if he needs it. Saltalmacchia said he felt good catching and hitting down in the minors after some extended spring training work, but "the only timing you're going to get is by being up here. You can only get so many A balls or Triple A balls."
After hitting .299 with five homers and nine RBI in April, Saltamacchia hit just .177 with one homer and seven RBI in 23 games as he struggled throughout May.
> Redmond said left fielder Christian Yelich, who took "dry swings' and played catch Thursday, should be ready to go as soon as his stint on the disabled list ends on July 1.
"I know he's feeling good," Redmond said. "He'll probably get a couple [rehab] games in before he's up and ready to go."
> Giancarlo Stanton reiterated Thursday he probably could have stayed in the game Wednesday, but was wisely taken out as a precautionary measure after bruising his wrist.
"I'll be fine. I'll be out there today," Stanton said. "It looked like it was just about out of hand already. So the smartest decision was to get out of there."
> Marlins (36-35): 1. Rafael Furcal 2B, 2. Jake Marisnick CF, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Garrett Jones 1B, 6. Marcell Ozuna LF, 7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 9. Andrew Heaney LHP.
> Mets (32-40): 1. Eric Young Jr. LF, 2. Daniel Murphy 2B, 3. David Wright 3B, 4. Eric Campbell 1B, 5. Curtis Granderson RF, 6. Chris Young LF, 7. Taylor Teagarden C, 8. Ruben Tejada SS, 9. Zack Wheeler RHP.