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."