Ed Lucas was able to make a “heavy, heavy dent” on his student loan balance from his days at Dartmouth. But in reaching the majors and receiving big-league pay for the first time last season, Lucas didn’t dare lower the number on the back of his uniform.
He kept 59 — an unbecoming number for most major-leaguers — to keep himself humble.
“I want to come in here and act like I haven’t made the team,” said the well-spoken Lucas, sitting in front of his locker before workouts Tuesday morning. “I’m proud of what happened last year. But it’s a new year, and I need to approach it the same way I would have coming in as a minor-league free agent. That’s why I wanted to keep 59, because I didn’t want to make any assumptions.”
Lucas was one of the few feel-good stories in a season gone bad for the Marlins in 2013, at 31 emerging from a 10-year stint in the minors to realize his baseball dream of playing in the majors.
Lucas appeared in 94 games, totaled 351 at bats, and played all four infield positions, as well as left field.
But in order to crack the 25-man roster, he will have to prove himself all over again. He and Donovan Solano are vying for a precious bench spot, one earmarked for a utility infielder — in particular, one who can play shortstop in a pinch.
“These are both guys who have a lot of versatility,” manager Mike Redmond said. “That’s going to be a battle all spring for those guys, trying to get on the team as a utility guy.”
Lucas might hold a slight advantage over Solano in that he plays first base, which could give Redmond more flexibility in late innings should he want to pinch-run for Garrett Jones without having to burn Jeff Baker in the process. Lucas also provides the Marlins with an emergency backup catcher.
But the final decision will come down to how each player performs in spring.
“That’s going to be one of those tough decisions,” Redmond said. “We’ve got to have someone who can back up [Adeiny] Hechavarria in case anything happens to him, or if we give him the day off.”
Lucas was drafted as a shortstop and spent a fair amount of time at the position during his years in the minors.
“I’m not going to be Hechavarria,” Lucas said. “I’m not going to be making ridiculous, acrobatic plays. But I think I can be solid enough to fill in there. I might not make the plays Hech makes. But I’ll make the routine play every time they need me to. That’s my concern.”
Lucas said that even though he has had a taste of the majors and finds himself in competition for an Opening Day roster spot, he feels less pressure now than he did when he was a relative nobody.
“If anything, there’s less pressure, just because I have that added level of confidence,” he said “I know I can get the job done at this level, and I know the staff has seen me do that. I just want to be trusted at any position on the field in any given game situation.”
Marlins edge Twins
The Marlins overcame five errors Tuesday to defeat the Minnesota Twins 3-1.
“It was sloppy,” Redmond said.
The Marlins were charged with three throwing and two fielding errors, but still managed to knock off the Twins.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit his first home run of the spring for his new team, and the Marlins received solid pitching throughout.
Tuning Up• The Marlins will play a “B” game at 10 a.m. Wednesday against the Cardinals on one of the practice fields behind Roger Dean Stadium.
• Reliever Carlos Marmol is expected back Wednesday from the Dominican Republic, where he has been ironing out visa issues.
• Henderson Alvarez threw 25 pitches to Marlins hitters Tuesday, a final tuneup before his first scheduled Grapefruit League appearance Friday. Alvarez has been out with a shin infection.
• Reliever Henry Rodriguez is scheduled to throw a simulation game Wednesday. Rodriguez missed the first part of spring training because of visa issues in Venezuela. He could be ready to pitch in a regular game this weekend.
• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez at New York Mets RHP Dillon Gee, 1:10 p.m., Port St. Lucie.
• Thursday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi vs. Boston Red Sox RHP Allen Webster, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.