LAKE BUENA VISTA -- One gets the feeling that if it were up to Marlins manager Mike Redmond or hitting coach Tino Martinez, outfielder Christian Yelich would be making his major-league debut sooner rather than later.
Sooner … as in early April.
“He’s ready. He’s having a great spring, and he’s proved he can play at this level,” Martinez gushed.
Said Redmond: “I love putting him in that lineup.”
Despite the praise, the Marlins are likely to stick to their original plan for Yelich to start the season in Class AA Jacksonville.
Yelich, 21, is the story of the spring for the Marlins. His .379 average, .500 on-base percentage and team-high nine RBI tell part of the story. But Yelich has also been impressive because he has handled himself with the poise of a veteran, Redmond said.
“A lot of young guys, they’ll go up against certain guys and swing out of the zone and chase pitches where they feel really uncomfortable against guys who have really good stuff,” the manager said. “He’s the opposite.
“The better the pitcher, it seems like the more patient he is and nothing seems to rattle him at all. That’s impressive.”
Yelich hit a two-run homer in Sunday’s 10-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves, his second home run of the spring. He was 1 for 4 and also reached after taking a Tim Hudson pitch off his foot in his first at-bat. He scored three runs.
Yelich, the Marlins’ minor-league player of year the past two seasons, has been ticketed as the team’s outfielder of the future since being drafted in the first round in 2010. Although he has never played higher than Class A Jupiter, the thought was he could force a promotion to big leagues at some point this season.
After two weeks of spring, that appears much more likely.
As for the left-handed hitting Yelich, wherever he starts the season is fine.
“It’s out of my control,” he said. “That’s part of it. You accept it. At the same time, you just figure if you take care of business and do what you need to do and do what you’re supposed to do, then everything will take care of itself and hopefully you’ll end up where you want to be.”
“Believe me, we go around and around,” Redmond said of the discussions about when Yelich could be ready. “That’s something we’ll have to talk about.
“The biggest thing is we have to make sure he’s ready to come to the big leagues. We don’t want to rush guys.”
Yelich took the approach that he would enjoy his first big-league experience this spring and not worry about impressing anyone.
It has worked.
“I went out there from Day One to have fun with it, try to learn as much as possible while I was up here,” he said. “I think going out there, being relaxed, feeling comfortable translated into success. That mind-set really helped me.”
Redmond is not completely surprised after seeing Yelich in the Florida State League last summer. Redmond was manager for Dunedin, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Class A affiliate, while Yelich was hitting .330 for Jupiter.
But Martinez, who joined the Marlins this offseason, appears blown away by Yelich’s maturity.
“He’s a very patient hitter, he’s got a great eye, his approach is fantastic,” Martinez said.
“The most impressive thing is not knowing any of these pitchers, [and] he lays off all the sliders in the dirt, forkballs in the dirt. He’s just real patient and has a great idea what he’s doing.”