Playing in his first game back home since being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates nearly a year ago, Miami native Gaby Sanchez received a surprise gift from Marlins President David Samson on Friday — a suite for his family and friends to watch the game.
“The Marlins have still been very nice to me,” said Sanchez, a 2011 All-Star who was dealt to Pittsburgh along with a minor-league pitcher for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez (traded to Kansas City earlier this week) and a 2013 Compensatory Round A Draft Pick.
“Samson every once and a while will still send me a text. Those things are nice to see. We ended it with good ties. It wasn’t like we were mad or anything. It was just business,” he said.
Sanchez, 29, said the toughest part about being traded by the team that drafted him in 2005 was being away from his family. His wife, Judy, who gave birth to their first child, daughter Sky, on July 27. Four days later, Sanchez was traded.
“I didn’t see the baby for the first two months,” Sanchez said. “That part was tough. I got pictures and stuff like that. Once I got back I had to do all the fatherly duties, staying up at night because it was Judy’s time to rest. She came up [to Pittsburgh] with me this year. It’s definitely a different experience.
“Down here we’d have family come take care of the baby so Judy and I can go do stuff. Up there, it’s just us. We’re mom and dad, taking care of the baby. That’s still fun.”
Sanchez, who started Friday for the 44th time this season (he’s hitting .237 with seven homers and 26 RBI in 74 games), said he spent a long time catching up with former teammate Greg Dobbs before Friday’s game. He said he still exchanges text messages with Giancarlo Stanton from time-to-time.
“I still have a lot of friends in that clubhouse,” Sanchez said. “Although a lot of them aren’t there anymore, it’s fun to get out there and say hello [to the ones here].”
What is it like playing for a team with the second-best record in the National League these days?
“It’s fun coming to the ballpark everyday knowing with this team we have the ability to win every game,” Sanchez said. “With our pitching staff, with our bullpen we know we have what it takes to win.
“Every single guy in this clubhouse is awesome, hangs out together. I think that translates to the game. We’re having fun in here, we’re having fun out there. It’s a very loose feeling atmosphere where we’re just playing baseball and enjoying things like we should.”
Unlike fellow rookie outfielder Christian Yelich who got a chance to play at Marlins Park last year when the team took on the University of Miami and FIU in preseason exhibition games, Jake Marisnick took his first tour of Marlins Park on Friday.
Covering the spacious gaps in the outfield is nothing the 22-year-old centerfielder says he is too worried about.
He says: “I look at it and it just kind of gets me fired up, it gets me excited to run around out there. [It’s] not quite [like Double A], but Jacksonville was pretty deep too. It’s 420 feet to dead center.”
Known for his speed and dandy glove work, Marisnick was the player the Marlins demanded the Blue Jays include in the teams’ blockbuster deal last winter. Called up to the big leagues late Monday night, he entered Friday’s game still looking for his first big-league hit.
“If you look back at all the promotions I’ve had I’ve kind of gone through a little bit of a struggle. I get there and try to do too much instead of just play,” he said. “For the most part I feel comfortable. It’s just a matter of time until I settle in and feel good.”
• Roommates at in Jacksonville, Yelich and Marisnick are currently staying in a hotel here in South Florida. Yelich said it’s likely the rookies will find an apartment to share together in the coming week.
Yelich said he had four friends from California drive more than 20 hours to Denver to come watch him play Thursday. “They left during the rain delay and texted me this morning at 11 o’clock to tell me they made it home,” he said. “Pretty solid friends.”
• Rookie outfielder Marcell Ozuna, expected to miss the rest of the season, had surgery on his left thumb Friday.
Marlins general manager Mike Hill said Ozuna will likely be out six-to-eight weeks before resuming baseball activities. It’s possible Ozuna could play winter ball to prepare himself for the competition in spring training.
• Saturday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (2-5, 4.38) vs. Pirates RHP Charlie Morton (2-2, 3.35), 7:10 p.m.
• Sunday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (6-5, 2.74) vs. Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (5-3, 3.51), 1:10 p.m.
• Scouting report: Koehler, 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA over his past four starts, has never faced Pittsburgh. Morton is 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in six career starts versus the Marlins.