Adeiny Hechavarria thought he was deserving of his first Gold Glove Award last year.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly and four-time Gold Glove recipient Jimmy Rollins, one of his shortstops last season with the Dodgers, likely agreed with that assessment.
“We were able to see [Hechavarria] over the last couple of years [in Los Angeles] and we all thought he was really good,” Mattingly said. “I was with [Jimmy] Rollins last year and everybody always talks a lot about Andrelton Simmons, and Rollins told me, ‘Hechavarria is the best shortstop in the league.’ ”
Hechavarria was one of three finalists for the Gold Glove among National League shortstops last season, along with Simmons and the Giants’ Brandon Crawford.
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But Hechavarria’s most prolific season in the big leagues so far was cut short after he injured his left hamstring and missed the final five weeks of the season.
Crawford ended up winning the award Hechavarria thought was his for the taking.
“I think the injury was one of the biggest reasons I didn’t win it, but I don’t worry about it too much,” Hechavarria said. “I feel like I’m the caliber shortstop that can win one. If I do win one someday, great. But if not, I’m the type of player that gives it my all every day, and if I keep doing that, I think it will happen for me.”
Crawford is still with the Giants, but Simmons will start the season in the American League after the Braves traded him to the Angels.
Hechavarria, who signed a one-year, $2.63 million contract in January, said his hamstring is pain-free as he enters his third season with the Marlins and sixth in the majors.
Hechavarria, who turns 27 on April 15, showed plenty of improvement last season both defensively and at the plate.
He posted career highs in batting average (.281), OPS (.689 — up 25 points from the previous season), on-base percentage (.315 — up seven points), hit five home runs and drove in 14 more runs than the prior season to finish with 48 in 130 games played.
According to Baseball Info Solutions, Hechavarria finished fifth last year among all shortstops in defensive runs saved with nine. The previous season, he ranked 62nd (minus-3) in the same category. Simmons led the category with 25 and Crawford was second with 20.
Most of Hechavarria’s other primary fielding stats were comparable with his fellow finalists.
Hechavarria made only nine errors in 555 defensive chances, finishing with a .984 fielding percentage, which ranked fourth among all shortstops who started at least 100 games.
Crawford played 140 games (136 starts) and made 13 errors in 631 chances, finishing with a .979 fielding percentage. Simmons made eight errors in 687 chances (.988) in 147 games (145 starts).
Marlins infield coach Perry Hill has worked with Hechavarria since he came over via trade in 2012 from the Blue Jays and has seen steady improvement in every aspect of his game.
Hill said he expects this season to be his best yet.
“He’s preparing to help us win games and just get ready and learn the new systems that Don [Mattingly] has put in and get in shape,” Hill said. “It’s been a learning curve for him for the last three years since coming over from Toronto and he’s mastered every part of the game now.”
Mattingly said Giancarlo Stanton is on track to return to action Sunday against the Mets in Jupiter. Stanton has continued to progress from the knee soreness that has kept him out of the lineup in recent days. Stanton, who last played Saturday against the Cardinals, was a full participant again in workouts Thursday.
Jose Urena gave up a run on three hits in 2 2/3 innings Thursday during a 5-2 loss against the Braves. Urena gave up two of those hits in the first inning, the latter of which led to the lone run on a two-out double by Adonis Garcia. Urena, who made a relief appearance March 4, threw 42 pitches (29 for strikes) in his first spring start. Miguel Rojas started at shortstop and went 2 for 3 with an RBI, and Christian Yelich went 1 for 2 with a double and an RBI.
Friday: Marlins RHP Jarred Cosart vs. Twins RHP Kyle Gibson, 1:05 p.m., Fort Myers.
Saturday: Marlins LHP Chris Narveson vs. Red Sox LHP Henry Owens, 1:05 p.m., Fort Myers.