Christian Yelich said his back is feeling better and the Marlins left fielder is hoping he'll be back in the lineup when the team opens a four-game series in San Francisco Thursday.
That's assuming all goes well once he begins a three-game, three-day rehab stint Sunday in Jupiter. Yelich said he's been hitting in the cages for the last three days and hasn't felt any discomfort. He's been on the disabled list since April 20.
> Jeff Baker picked up his first hit of the season Friday in his sixth pinch-hit appearance and earned himself his first start of the season Saturday against Phillies ace Cole Hamels.
With first baseman Michael Morse struggling (.202, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and the left-hander Hamels on the mound, manager Mike Redmond opted to use Baker over left-handed first baseman Justin Bour, who is 6-for-7 since he was called-up to replace Yelich on April 24.
"Bake’s hit left-handed pitchers, so we’ll get him out there and let him go," Redmond said of Baker, who is 8-for-17 versus the Phillies over his last eight games. " We’ve been trying to get our bench guys in there, but with the off-days we’ve had, it’s been tough. But those guys have been good, they’ve been patient. Baker got a big hit last night off the bench. Mo, he’s scuffling a little bit, so give him a day off. It’s nice to have guys that can step in and play and contribute."
> Mat Latos, who injured his left hamstring in Wednesday's win over the Mets, threw a bullpen before Saturday's game. He said his knee was still sore, but if he got through the bullpen fine it's likely he'll stay on schedule to make his next start Tuesday in Washington.
> Justin Nicolino continues to put up zeroes down in the minors. The left-handed prospect tossed six scoreless innings Friday night in Triple A New Orleans and hasn't given up a run since his first start of the season on April 9. That's a span of four starts and 24 innings.
> Dee Gordon has hit .607 (17-for-28) over the first seven games of the homestand is on pace to shatter the record set by Miguel Cabrera (.517, 15-for-29) for average over a nine game homestand May 22-31, 2006.
OZUNA'S SWING IMPROVING
Marcell Ozuna admits it's hard for him to ignore the fact he hasn't hit a home run yet through his first 21 games. But he's not discouraged.
"This is the first time in my career I haven't hit a home run in over 20 games," he said Saturday. "But I'm not dwelling on it, I just keep looking ahead, keep working hard and I know the home runs will come.
"I thought the one I hit [in the ninth Friday] was going to be the first home run, but it went foul. After that, I just thought about putting the ball in play. That's my mindset -- hit the ball hard."
Ozuna did and doubled home Giancarlo Stanton with the winning run moments after his near miss home run. After starting the season 6-for-31 with 13 strikeouts and only two RBI in his first nine games, Ozuna has gone 17-for-42 (.405) with six doubles, three RBI and 10 strikeouts over his last 12 games.
"His last week, his at-bats have gotten much better," manager Mike Redmond said. "I know you guys talk about the power, ‘when is he going to hit a homer?’ or whatever, but those will come. We just need him to continue to get big hits in the middle of that order. When he’s able to do that, that’s a good sign for us because we’re scoring runs. We need him to hit in the middle of that order."
REALMUTO TALKS FLIP
When he was a shortstop in high school J.T. Realmuto practiced flipping the ball to second base all the time. As a catcher, the opportunity to flip the ball back to the pitcher covering the plate doesn't happen often, and when it does it doesn't usually result in tremendous success.
But it worked out for Realmuto and the Marlins Friday. Tom Koehler's wild pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth inning ended with Realmuto throwing a perfect ball back to Koehler, who applied the tag to Ryan Howard for the final out of the frame.
"It's not like we work on it religiously but every now and then we'll practice balls to the backscreen, sliding on your knees, grabbing it and throwing them out at home plate," Realmuto said. "I would say its definitely less than four or five times in a game where I've actually been able to get that guy out. That was definitely the first time it happened on this stage. So it was nice."
The Marlins designated veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia for assignment Monday in part because of how well Realmuto has developed. Redmond loves the way his young catcher is playing and said after Friday's win part of the reason the pitching staff is performing better is Realmuto's doing.
Said Redmond of Friday's flip to Koehler for the out: "That’s one of those plays where, really, you’ve got to get a great bounce off the backstop. In here, there’s not a whole lot to bounce off of, just the fish tank. At the same time, these are things we work on in spring training, the pitchers covering home plate. You might see that once or twice a year, maybe, but it’s always nice to execute it like we practice it. And it worked. Saved us a run."