Marlins

Miami Marlins’ Christian Yelich thriving in ‘leading’ role

 

Left fielder Christian Yelich has done a stellar job at the top of the order and carries an MLB-leading 17-game hitting into Friday’s series opener against the Mets.

Yelich’s stats

AB: 85

Runs: 15

Hits: 28

Avg: .329

HR: 0

RBI: 5

SB: 4


mnavarro@MiamiHerald.com

Mike Redmond said it took him about an hour and a half every day last season to fill out the Marlins’ lineup card.

“Now I spend about 10 minutes,” Redmond said.

The first name at the top of his lineup most nights has been 22-year-old left fielder Christian Yelich, who will carry a 17-game hitting streak into Friday night’s series opener at Citi Field against the Mets.

Yelich extended baseball’s longest active hitting streak Wednesday in his final at-bat against the Braves, a bunt single he beat out by a slim margin in the eighth inning. Yelich still has another 18 games to catch Luis Castillo for the longest hitting streak in franchise history, but he’s climbing the charts quickly and already is tied for 12th with Cody Ross, Alex Gonzalez and Greg Colbrunn.

“I’ve been asked a lot of questions about [the streak], but I haven’t thought a whole lot about it,” Yelich said. “I think winning games is more important than a hitting streak. I’m not really going to look much into it until you start getting close up in the 50s. That’s a long, long, long way away.”

Whether it has been reaching on bunt base hits (he has three), walks (he ranks third on the team with nine), stealing bases (he leads the Marlins with four) or scoring runs (he ranks second on the team with 15), Yelich has been doing his job at the top of the batting order.

His .329 batting average and 28 hits lead the team and are a big reason why Giancarlo Stanton leads baseball with 27 RBI.

Outside of Castillo (817 career hits in the top spot for the Marlins), Juan Pierre (605), Hanley Ramirez (508), Chris Coghlan (313) and Chuck Carr (258), the leadoff spot has often been a revolving door for the Marlins. Those players are the only five who have started more than 200 games in the top spot for the Marlins.

Yelich, who hit first, second or third throughout most of his minor-league career since the Marlins took him with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 draft, says he feels “comfortable in any spot” among the top three. He just wants to be productive.

Still, Redmond will have an interesting decision to make soon when second baseman Rafael Furcal, signed for $3.5 million to bat leadoff, returns from the disabled list. Marcell Ozuna, hitting .309, has thrived in the No. 2 spot behind Yelich and in front of Stanton.

Redmond said Ozuna has benefited from seeing more fastballs hitting in front of Stanton. In the minors, Yelich and Ozuna often hit first and second, respectively. So there is chemistry there.

“It’s worked out for us,” Redmond said of hitting Yelich and Ozuna back-to-back in front of Stanton. “[Ozuna has] done a great job and been very productive in getting on base. ... As I said, the more guys we can get on base in front of Giancarlo the better off we’re going to be.”

Redmond said he thinks Yelich, the seventh-youngest player in the majors (second on the Marlins to ace Jose Fernandez), could grow into a leadoff hitter down the road. But he sees him more as a No. 2 or No. 3 hitter. Redmond still envisions shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria as a top-of-the-order guy once he develops.

“A lot of times those decisions are made really by how they do,” Redmond said. “We’ll see.”

Coming up

•  Friday: Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (1-2, 2.66 ERA) vs. New York Mets RHP Zach Wheeler (1-2, 4.63), 7:10 p.m.

•  Saturday: Marlins RHP Kevin Slowey (0-0, 4.15) vs. Mets RHP Jenrry Mejia (3-0, 1.99), 7:10 p.m.

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