Jake Marisnick has had the best spring in recent Marlins memory. In the process, the 22-year-old has put pressure on manager Mike Redmond to make an increasingly tough decision on whether Marisnick or should fill an open outfield spot.
“They are young guys and I think they both benefited last year from the opportunity to come to the big leagues and get some experience and at-bats,’’ Redmond said after the Marlins’ 8-4 win Sunday against the Detroit Tigers.
“It has been a nice battle, they have done a nice job. That’s one of those tough decisions I have been talking about all spring that we are going to have to make. Both guys are doing a nice job and both bring excitement to our lineup.’’
Redmond has watched Marisnick hit .436 (17 for 39) this spring but has a photographic memory of his 40 games in 2013. Last season the center fielder hit .183, with 27 strikeouts in 118 plate appearances. Ozuna, who played 70 games in the big leagues last season, hit .265 with 73 hits, 17 doubles, and 32 RBI in 291 plate appearances. Ozuna has hit .174, with eight hits and 14 strikeouts in 46 at bats this spring, but started Sunday.
With Giancarlo Stanton stable in right field and Christian Yelich spending time in center field, Marisnick and Ozuna have gotten balanced opportunities to get Redmond’s attention.
“Whatever they decide, it’s about development, getting better and getting at bats,” said Marisnick, who turns 23 the day before the Marlins’ March 31 opener. “Either way it goes, I’m just going to go day to day and keep working on my game.”
Marisnick had a clean glove in 2013, with no errors in 80 chances; Ozuna had two errors in 167 chances. Marisnick played 67 games for Double A Jacksonville last season and hit .294 with 46 RBI and 11 steals in 298 plate appearances. But to make the 25-man Opening Day roster, Marisnick must relax.
“The biggest thing has been comfort,” Marisnick said. “Just getting in there and being comfortable in the box, and that helps me relax and react to pitches. I was looking at the different pitches and getting tense at times.”
The Marlins acquired Marisnick in a 12-player trade with Toronto on Nov. 19, 2012. Marisnick and Yelich were both called up on July 22 last season.
“It comes down to consistency,” Redmond said. “You don’t always take into account spring-training numbers. Some guys are notorious spring-training players, and some guys are not. You have to go on a little bit of a track record of what guys did last year.’’
The Marlins used 16 hits and a four-run ninth inning Sunday to beat up the Tigers. Jeff Mathis hit a home run in the second inning to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead. In his fifth start this spring, Jacob Turner held the Tigers hitless through five innings.
Turner silenced Tigers fans when he punched out Miguel Cabrera swinging, on three pitches, in the bottom of the first inning. Giancarlo Stanton drilled a two-run home run over the berm in center field in the fifth inning to give the Marlins a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers plated their first run in the bottom of the fifth when a Casey McGehee error at third base allowed Austin Jackson to score. Turner exited the game giving up three hits, one run, one walk, and striking out five in six innings.
Danny Worth’s two-run homer tied it at 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth before Brian Bogusevic regained the lead for the Marlins with a ninth-inning double. The Marlins added three more runs to make the score 8-4.
Non-roster invitee Reed Johnson started in left, and Ozuna and Bogusevic spent time in center field. Bogusevic replaced Ozuna after he exited in the fifth inning with a left leg cramp. Ozuna is listed as day to day. Marisnick was a defensive substitution in center field in the bottom of the ninth inning, moving Bogusevic to right field.
“[Ozuna and Marisnick] have both played a lot this spring,” Redmond said. “Both have close to 50 at-bats. We are trying to get Reed Johnson some at bats as well. We try to mix them around in left and center field. Everyone has gotten plenty of opportunities and lots of at-bats. That’s something we have to talk about as we start to narrow down what direction we are going.”
Mathis was 4 for 5 with three RBI. Johnson and McGehee were both 2 for 3. Ed Lucas was 1 for 4 in his first game since he tightened his hamstring on March 13.
The Marlins host the Washington Nationals at 1:05 p.m. Monday in Jupiter and have six games remaining before Opening Day.
“I don’t check the lineups too much,” Marisnick said. “Spring training is about trying to get at-bats. I’m not too worried about numbers or anything but just putting together good at-bats.’’