Jeff Conine: Marcell Ozuna’s throw to seal Miami Marlins victory better than his NLDS highlight

 

mnavarro@MiamiHerald.com

There probably will never be a more meaningful throw to the plate to get a runner out in Marlins history than when Jeff Conine gunned down J.T. Snow to clinch the 2003 National League Division Series against the Giants.

The collision with catcher Pudge Rodriguez made it all the more special.

But even Mr. Marlin had to admit that what he saw Marcell Ozuna do Friday night — throw a perfect strike from left on the fly to nail the Mets’ Kirk Nieuwenheis and cap a 3-2 victory — was pretty special.

“Oh my God, way better than mine,” Conine said Saturday when asked to compare the throws.

“He was 50 feet back, 100 feet back further than I was. He made it all the way in the air. Mine only was picked up on the side, and I was able to get right behind it. No question his arm is better than mine ever was.”

Like everyone else at Marlins Park — including Nieuwenheis — Conine said he didn’t think Ozuna had a chance.

“Mechanically, as an outfielder, he played it perfectly,” Conine said. “Pretty cool way to end the game.”

Pretty rare way to end one, too. It was only the second time in club history — Conine’s throw being the other — that a game ended with an outfield assist at the plate.

MORE TIME IN LEFT?

Marlins manager Mike Redmond said having Ozuna’s powerful arm in left field has given him something to consider, and he might end up playing Christian Yelich in center field more often when he returns from the disabled list on June 29.

Since joining the Marlins last season, Ozuna has seven assists in 43 games played in the corner outfield spots. He has five assists in 97 games in center field.

“Maybe he’ll have more chances,” Redmond said of playing Ozuna in left. “I don’t know over the course of this year how many plays we could have had [if Ozuna was in left]. I can’t remember a whole lot.”

Ozuna likes playing in left field in part because he’s closer to the fans. He chats them up throughout the game.

“I enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy the game, you don’t have fun in the game,” Ozuna said.

What does he say to the fans? “At times, they tell me, ‘Good catch or nice run,’ ” he said. “I say, ‘Thanks.’ And I go do my work, concentrate.”

METS GM UPSET

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson expressed his displeasure after Friday’s game with the application of the new home plate collision rules on David Wright’s out in the eighth. Alderson told Mets reporters after the game that he contacted the league about the play to better understand how the rule is applied.

Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who made the tags on both Ozuna throws Friday, said he, Redmond and bench coach Rob Leary would have been tossed from the game had umpires ruled that he blocked the plate and didn’t give Wright a lane.

“I gave him a lane,” Saltalamacchia said. “At the last second, I might have put my foot in front, but I was also receiving the ball at the same time. It didn’t deceive where he was going. The ball got there before him. If the ball didn’t, then it’s on me.

“I think [the rule] says, if you catch the ball and you’re blocking the plate, the runner is allowed to run you over. So, in theory, David probably could have run me over. I had plenty of time. On that one, I don’t mind that as a catcher because I had plenty of time to protect myself.”

• Pitcher Henderson Alvarez said he tweaked his hamstring while hitting in the batting cages on Thursday, and it flared up during Friday’s start. But Alvarez said he is fine and will make his next start.

COMING UP

•  Sunday: Marlins RHP Anthony DeSclafani (1-1, 5.60 ERA) vs. New York Mets LHP Jonathon Niese (3-4, 2.67), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

•  Monday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (4-3, 3.76) at Philadelphia Phillies RHP Roberto Hernandez (3-5, 4.52), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.

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