With only two weeks to go before Opening Day, the Marlins on Monday reassigned 17 players to their minor-league camp — including their two previous first-round picks, Andrew Heaney and Colin Moran.
With 39 players left in big-league camp, manager Mike Redmond said the plan is to get his regulars three to four at-bats per game over the next week to 10 days and let those fighting for one of the few available spots on the 25-man roster settle it either on the field or through injury.
“Kind of a busy morning — we’re getting there,” said Redmond, before the Marlins went out and beat the Mets 10-7 at Roger Dean Stadium to improve to a National League-best 12-7-2 this spring.
“We’ve had a busy last three days with us traveling [to Panama] and getting the team back here [late Sunday night]. We’ll grind it out here the next two days and get a well-deserved day off Wednesday. I think everybody is looking forward to that.”
Heaney, tabbed the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball by both MLB.com and Baseball America, is expected to start the season in Double A Jacksonville and should earn himself a call-up to the big leagues at some point this season.
“He got better as camp went on,” Redmond said of Heaney, who gave up five hits and two earned runs over 7 2/3 innings in three Grapefruit League appearances and looked especially good his last time out, tossing three scoreless innings and giving up just one hit against a good Tigers lineup.
“He’s got great stuff, great ability. It’s just a matter really now fine-tuning some of the little things and that just comes with experience, going down there, continuing to log his innings, continuing to build up arm strength and get that experience he needs to be successful in the big leagues.”
Moran, who is expected to start the season in High-A Jupiter and probably won’t get called up until 2015, went hitless in six at-bats this spring. But he drew three walks and scored two runs in his start against the Yankees on Saturday in Panama.
“I look at the situations we put guys in and how they handle it. That’s actually one of the reasons I wanted to start Moran in that game, too,” Redmond said. “You have a young guy — put him in a big-time situation as a young guy and see how he reacts. And he did great. I know when I was young, coming up I wanted somebody to show that faith in me so I can show them what I could do.”
The other players reassigned to the minors Monday: left-handers Adam Conley, Josh Spence, Greg Nappo and James Leverton; right-handers Bryan Evans, Rett Varner and Nick Wittgren; catcher Austin Barnes; infielders Danny Black and Mark Canha; and outfielder Joe Benson.
Four other players who have played in the big leagues for the Marlins were optioned back to the minors. They were: right-hander Sam Dyson, left-hander Brian Flynn and catcher Rob Brantly to Triple A New Orleans and left-hander Edgar Olmos to Double A Jacksonville.
Redmond said pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs (strained quad, played his last game March 11), second baseman Rafael Furcal (hamstring, last played Saturday) and utility man Ed Lucas (hamstring, last played Thursday) will begin working their way back into the lineup after Wednesday’s off day.
Redmond said it’s likely all three will begin getting at-bats in minor-league games before returning
“I think we’ll probably start them back out there. It’s just easier to control the situation,” Redmond said. “You don’t have to have them run the bases if you don’t want them to run the bases.”
Even though Furcal said he believes he will be ready for Opening Day, the Marlins are being careful with him and will start him on a running program before he plays in a game. Is the team concerned he only had 18 at-bats this spring and might not be ready for the start of the season?
“I think it’s a concern,” Redmond said. “At the same time, too, he’s played a long time. I think he knows what it takes for him [to be ready]. I’m not as worried for him about the at-bats. I just want him to go out there and feel good and have his legs under him. I think that’s the most important thing at this point.”
Furcal said the reason he reinjured himself Saturday was because the only way he knows how to play the game is hard.
“That’s the only way I know how to play baseball,” he said. “I don’t know how to control myself.”