ATLANTA -- Derek Dietrich played only 63 games in Double A Jacksonville last season, but he says the impact he made coming through with big hits earned him the nickname “Prime Time” from his teammates.
A day after smacking a game-tying RBI double off Braves All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning, Dietrich on Tuesday afternoon was sporting a Leon Sandcastle T-shirt inside the Marlins clubhouse. It’s a shirt those Double A teammates gave him in honor of the original “Prime Time.”
Sandcastle in a fictional character depicted as a disguise for Hall of Fame cornerback and former Braves outfielder Deion Sanders.
“I wear it proudly,” said Dietrich, who became the first Marlins player to have an RBI extra-base hit in his first career pinch-hit at-bat since Jeremy Hermida hit a pinch-hit grand slam in his first career plate appearance on Aug. 31, 2005, against the Cardinals.
“I was happy to have the opportunity to get up there and have the chance to tie the game or take the lead,” Dietrich continued. “Kimbrel is obviously the best closer in the game. I was just looking for a good pitch up in the zone that I could hit, move the guy over. He made it very clear I wasn’t going to get a pitch to do that because he was hammering that outside half with that great fastball. At that point, you’re just looking to hit something hard. I was able to do that.”
Dietrich, hitting .290 with three homers and nine RBI entering Tuesday’s game, has been hitting a lot of balls hard. But he was on the bench for the fourth game in a row Tuesday in part because of his struggles on defense — a team-leading four errors in 47 chances. Last season, he made only two errors in 258 chances, but hit .214 in 57 games.
Although manager Mike Redmond suggested Monday the defensive struggles might be related to a ground ball in spring training which broke Dietrich’s nose, Dietrich says he’s just in a defensive slump and not being apprehensive.
“I played great defense for this team last year, and I’m confident really on the defensive side,” Dietrich said. “I know I’m helping the team offensively. I’m just looking every day to help this team win. Whether it’s off the bench or playing every day at second — you know you want to play every day and have a chance. I think I’m doing that.”
Said infield coach Perry Hill: “He’s a good worker and a tough kid. He’ll come out of this. He’ll be fine.”
• Even though Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have been very productive at the top of the lineup, Redmond said he still hasn’t decided what he’ll do when Rafael Furcal (hamstring) returns from the disabled list. Furcal signed a $3.5 million deal to bat leadoff and play second for the Marlins in 2014.
“I haven’t really thought about it yet because we’re still waiting for that day [when Furcal returns] to happen,” Redmond said. “Definitely will be a [tough] decision to make with Yelich leading off and hitting the ball well, too. But we’ll figure that out when that day comes.
“Last year I spent about an hour and a half a day on that lineup trying to piece that together. Now, I spend about 10 minutes. If it takes me 15 minutes when he comes back, then I’m fine with that.”
• Former Marlins pitcher Ryan Dempster has been hired by the MLB Network as an analyst and will make his debut on TV on Wednesday.
He’s the fifth former Marlins player to become an analyst for the network, joining Mike Lowell, Cliff Floyd, Kevin Millar and Al Leiter. Except for Leiter, four were teammates of Redmond’s when he was with the Marlins from 1998 to 2004. Redmond said he thinks Dempster will be great on TV because he’s funny.
“Those guys took the easy road instead of coaching,” Redmond quipped Tuesday. “Now they can sit up there and second guess me. I love it.”
• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 3.55 ERA) vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Aaron Harang (3-1, 0.70), 12:10 p.m., Turner Field
• Thursday: Off.