Marlins notebook

Miami Marlins’ veteran trio paying dividends right away

 
 
Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee hit a RBI single in the first inning of a Major League Baseball game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park in Miami on May 6, 2014.
Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee hit a RBI single in the first inning of a Major League Baseball game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park in Miami on May 6, 2014.
David Santiago / El Nuevo Staff

cspencer@MiamiHerald.com

It stood to reason that the Marlins would get better when they shored up the lineup by signing Casey McGehee, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones.

They couldn’t get much worse. After all, they opened the 2013 season with a third baseman who is no longer in baseball, a first baseman who is no longer in baseball and a catcher who is no longer in the majors.

But ask their coaches and teammates, and the overwhelming consensus is that the three new regulars — along with backups Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker — have made the Marlins a better team on and off the field.

“Huge difference,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We are a much better ballclub than we were last year. We had some holes we needed to fill, and the guys that we brought in, we felt like would be not only better players, but serve more of a role than just good players. I think we’ve seen that.”

All three players were instrumental in the Marlins’ 7-5 victory over the Giants late Friday night. They combined for nine of the team’s 14 hits and drove in three of the seven runs.

McGehee drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth, atoning for his fielding error that cost the Marlins a run earlier in the game. Jones drove in an insurance run in the ninth. And Saltalamacchia ended an 0-for-26 drought by going 4 for 5, equaling a career high for hits.

“Whether it’s a broken bat or any kind of base hit, I think it’s just a sigh of relief, especially with the stretch I was in,” Saltalamacchia said. “It’s the way that baseball goes sometimes. You feel locked in, and then all of a sudden you feel like you’ve never picked a bat up.”

His recent hitting slump aside, Saltalamacchia has provided the Marlins with the offense and leadership they were hoping for when they signed him to a three-year contract.

McGehee has turned out to be a bargain for $1.1 million. He ranks second among major-league third basemen with 28 RBI and, along with Jones and Saltalamacchia, has provided Giancarlo Stanton with the kind of protection that has benefitted the slugger and those around him in the order. Jones took a five-game hitting streak into Saturday’s game.

“They’ve been huge,” said Stanton, who is hitting .315 and leads the majors with 42 RBI. “Every time I’ve been walked intentionally, they’ve come through a good percentage of the time. So other teams are going to notice that. They came up big [Friday night], too.”

Only Rafael Furcal of the position players the Marlins signed in the offseason has failed to pay dividends. The second baseman, whom Miami signed for $3.5 million, has spent the entire season on the disabled list with hamstring and groin injuries.

But the others have made a major difference. The Marlins have gone from the lowest-scoring team in the majors to the sixth highest-scoring team in a span of months.

Said Redmond: “It’s a special group. I know our younger players have benefitted from the additions, and it’s fun to watch them go out and compete.”

metal head

Jones said he experienced a major thrill Friday. But it had nothing to do with either his RBI single in the top of the ninth or his spectacular catch in foul territory for an out in the bottom of the inning.

No, it was meeting the members of Metallica before the heavy metal band played the national anthem. Jones said he has used the group’s hit, Whiskey In The Jar, as his walkup song ever since he was in the low minors.

“It was like a little kid in a candy store-type moment for me,” Jones said. “My brain wasn’t functioning as well as it should when you meet people you’ve always wanted to meet. I was kind of at a loss for words for a while. But they’re baseball fans, so that always helps.”

Jones was photographed with the band members in their dressing room and had them sign a bat for him.

• Right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez has accepted the Marlins’ outright assignment to Triple A New Orleans. Rodriguez was designated for assignment after making two appearances for the Marlins.

• On Friday, Christian Yelich became the second-youngest Marlin to record a leadoff home run, doing so at 22 years and 162 days, according to STATS LLC. The youngest: Hanley Ramirez, who was 22 years and 116 days when he did it as a Marlin.

• Saltalamacchia on Friday joined Chuck Carr as the only switch-hitters in Marlins history to record two hits from either side of the plate. Carr pulled off the feat twice, once each in 1993 and ’94.

• During Jones’ five-game hitting streak, he has had four hits in seven at-bats against lefties. Prior to May 14, Jones had only four hits in 31 at-bats against left-handed pitching.

coming up

•  Sunday: Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (0-1, 6.75 ERA) at San Francisco Giants RHP Ryan Vogelsong (1-2, 4.22), 4:05 p.m., AT&T Park.

•  Monday: Off

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