Derek Dietrich said you can hear the chatter in the Jacksonville Suns clubhouse. Sooner or later, many of the Marlins’ top prospects know the phone call from the big leagues will come this season.
For Dietrich, a 23-year-old second baseman rated the franchise’s eighth-best prospect, that call came at 1:50 a.m. Wednesday. It was not only earlier than the front office was planning but even sooner than Dietrich was really expecting — and a product of a major-league-leading 12 players going on the disabled list less than 35 games into the season.
“I knew if I continued to compete and stay consistent every single day — whether it was Single A, Double A, Triple A, wherever I was playing — I’d have an opportunity to help out the Marlins at some point in the season,” said Dietrich, who was acquired in the offseason from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Yunel Escobar trade.
Like right fielder Marcell Ozuna, who was called up a week earlier, Dietrich spent most of last season playing in the Single A Florida State League.
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“Way back in spring training one of my goals was to [make it here this year],” Dietrich said. “Now it’s to contribute and stay here.”
Whether that happens for Ozuna or Dietrich remains to be seen, but Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said the club is going to make sure both players get a good look.
“I don’t even know who is here anymore,” Beinfest said after the Marlins scored just one run during a three-game sweep earlier this week by the Padres in San Diego. “It’s been a bad run. It kind of started [the] first day of spring training when [catcher Jeff] Mathis broke his collarbone, and it hasn’t really stopped since. It’s been anything from hamstrings to whatever freak injuries — getting slid into. It’s been a little bit of everything.”
Game of survival
Beinfest said the Marlins, who open a three-game series Friday night against Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, always intended to bring up their top prospects at some point later this season. But with the loss of two starting pitchers in Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi, two middle infielders in Chris Valaika and Donovan Solano, and All-Star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, Friday night’s starter and top prospect Jose Fernandez, Dietrich and Ozuna were all pressed into duty earlier.
“I don’t know if it messes up the plan,” Beinfest said when asked if he’s concerned players are being brought up too early. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I don’t think anybody thought that Derek Dietrich would be here today, but eventually he was going to be here. Eventually, Ozuna was going to be here. Eventually, [outfielder Christian] Yelich will be here, [outfielder Jake] Marisnick will be here. [Pitcher Justin] Nicolino. Eventually, they’ll get here.
“But right now, we’re so buckled by the amount of injuries to key players we’re just trying to [survive]. I don’t know if we’ve taken a step back and asked if this is going to mess up the master plan. We’re trying to make sure [manager Mike Redmond] has 25 guys every day, which has been tough. He’s been short a lot. It’s been tough to keep up with it.”
As stressful as the first two months of the season have been, Beinfest said the bigger headache is “coming when we start to get healthy and then we have to make room [on the 40-man roster].”
“Like the Dietrich case, we spent a lot of time talking about it and the implications of putting him on the roster now,” Beinfest said. “He’s going to remain on the roster, starting it early. He didn’t need to be added until this winter, maybe even September if we would have brought him up. But we did what we had to do.”
With 11 players on the disabled list, including six on the 60-day disabled list, when can the Marlins expect some players to start coming back? Beinfest said he’s hopeful “none of this will bleed into July, and we’ll have them all back sometime in June.”
“[First baseman Logan Morrison] has been playing as a designated hitter in extended spring training,” Beinfest said. “[First baseman Casey] Kotchman is getting closer to a rehab assignment. That could be seven to 10 days out. Alvarez had the little hiccup, but he’s going to resume throwing. Eovaldi is throwing. I’m hopeful none of those guys have to wait until [the All-Star break], that they all come back earlier.
“But in those two pitchers’ cases, we really thought it was the outside, a month deal. It didn’t work out that way, and we had to make sure they were 100 percent healthy and got whatever was ailing them out of there and then wrap them up. It’s been a slow process.”
Marlins RHP Fernandez (1-2, 3.48 ERA) at Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Matt Magill (0-0, 7.88), 10:10 p.m., FSNF.
Marlins RHP Kevin Slowey (1-2, 1.81) at Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (3-2, 3.71), 9:10 p.m., FSNF.
The Marlins went 2-4 against the Dodgers last season, including 1-2 on the road. Magill will be making his third career start.