Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick had a pretty good hunch Monday was going to be their night — the night they had dreamed about for most of their lives.
The two highly touted outfield prospects in the Marlins farm system were playing in Tennessee when first Yelich, and then Marisnick, were lifted for pinch-runners after each reached base in the third inning.
It was a strong sign the Marlins were about to promote them to the big leagues. But they wouldn’t know for sure until after the game was completed, and for the next six or seven innings, they sat inside the dugout, filled with speculation and nervous anticipation.
“It was the longest six or seven innings I’ve ever had to sit through,” Yelich said.
Once the game ended, Double A Jacksonville manager Andy Barkett delivered the news they were hoping for. Instead of taking a seven-hour drive to Huntsville, Ala. — the next stop on the schedule — they were to fly to Denver and join the Marlins.
Standing inside the Marlins clubhouse at Coors Field on Tuesday, Yelich and Marisnick talked about their dream come true.
“It’s been a dream since I’ve been 4 years old,” Yelich said. “I’ve worked for it every day of my life since I was 4. It’s pretty special.”
Said Marisnick: “When we found out, we were both really excited.”
The Marlins have had major expectations for Yelich, 21, ever since they chose him in the first round of the 2010 draft. And they demanded that Marisnick, 22, be included in the package of players they obtained from the Blue Jays in the blockbuster trade with Toronto last November.
Yelich is regarded as one of the top hitting prospects in all of baseball, and he provided an immediate glimpse of his talent when he singled in his first three major-league at-bats Tuesday. Yelich got his first major-league RBI on a single to center that scored Adeiny Hechavarria in the third inning. He added another RBI single in the fifth.
Marisnick grounded to short his first two times up.
To make room for the two outfielders, the Marlins returned two slumping rookies back to the minors: infielder Derek Dietrich and outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
“I want to make this really clear, that the offensive woes of this team I don’t want attributed to them,” said Larry Beinfest, president of baseball operations, in discussing the decision to demote Dietrich and Ozuna to Jacksonville. “That’s not why this is happening. We rushed them to the big leagues out of need. They had almost no Double A experience, and they did a great job for us.”
And the Marlins wish to evaluate Yelich and Marisnick over the final 2 1/2 months of this season.
“This is a good time to bring them and let them have the experience,” Beinfest said. “As a general rule, we don’t like sitting young players, and they’re not coming here to sit.”
Yelich started in left and batted second Tuesday. Marisnick, the better of the two defensively, was in center and hit in the sixth spot. Their arrival — coupled with the departures of Dietrich and Ozuna — had a ripple effect.
Veteran outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Juan Pierre will now see greatly diminished playing time, though Redmond said he would occasionally sit the left-handed swinging Yelich against certain southpaws.
With Dietrich gone, Donovan Solano will begin seeing more playing time at second, where he started the season before a stint on the disabled list opened the door for Dietrich.
Given all the expectations placed on him, Yelich said he is not afraid.
“I’ve had to deal with expectations since Day One, being a first-round pick,” Yelich said. “You get expectations right out of the gate. It’s still baseball. It’s on a bigger stage, obviously. But I don’t think it will be any different, and it shouldn’t be a distraction. It’s still baseball at the end of the day.”