With two weeks to go before Opening Day, Marlins manager Mike Redmond has more than just the fifth spot in the starting rotation weighing on his mind.
He also is trying to figure out what the best solution in center field might be, and he said Monday a platoon situation could end up being the team’s best option.
“We could definitely go that route, that way we make sure we don’t wear one guy out,” Redmond said. “We don’t have a ton of depth out there, and we have to make sure we keep everybody healthy as well.”
If Redmond had his way, former first-round pick Christian Yelich, 21, would probably be his top choice. But it’s inevitable that Yelich, who hit .330 with 12 homers and 20 steals for High A Jupiter last year, will begin the season at Double A Jacksonville so he can gain more plate experience and the team can avoid starting his salary arbitration clock.
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“You’ve got a feel for what I think about him,” said Redmond, who watched Yelich (.381 with a team-leading five homers, 13 RBI this spring) crush a 400-foot-plus home run into a nearby pond during Monday afternoon’s rain-shortened 6-2 win over the Twins at Hammond Stadium.
“I play him all the time. I love him. Like I said, he’s had a great spring. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. But at the end of the day, he’s never had an at-bat above A ball, and we have to make sure we’re doing the right thing for him and the organization.”
With Yelich, out of the mix — perhaps until June — left-handed-hitting Chris Coghlan (.318 with five extra base hits and four RBI in 44 at-bats), right-handed-hitting Gorkys Hernandez (.303 and five RBI in 33 at-bats) and Justin Ruggiano, last year’s surprise acquisition, are the remaining choices.
Ruggiano was supposed to be the clear-cut starter before injuring his lower back. But since returning from injury last week, he has only gone only 1 for 11 at the plate in the five games he has played and still doesn’t look 100 percent.
Hernandez, who is out of minor-league options, stroked a two-run single Monday and is now 6 for his past 10 since getting off to a slow start.
“At the beginning I was anxious to do a good job because I really want to make the team and have a good season,” said Hernandez, who won a batting title this past winter in Venezuela after hitting just .192 with three homers and 13 RBI in 70 games last season.
“I spoke with [hitting coach] Tino [ Martinez] and he’s helped me a lot. The patience I’m showing now, waiting for my pitch has been the key. I’m not hurrying anymore.”
Coghlan, who has performed the most consistently this spring, has one year of minor-league options left. The Marlins could elect to send Coghlan down and keep Ruggiano and Hernandez. But it looks like Coghlan has performed well enough to deserve serious consideration for the job.
“He’s done a nice job,” Redmond said when asked if Coghlan is good enough defensively to play center at spacious Marlins Park. “But I think that’s the challenge. It’s a big outfield in Miami. We’re hoping whoever is out there just can cover the most ground.”
One thing the Marlins won’t be doing, Redmond said, is moving 35-year-old Juan Pierre over to center from left.
• Yelich, who hit 27 home runs in 909 minor-league at-bats after the Marlins took him with the 23rd overall pick in 2010, smiled when asked Monday where all his power has come from this spring.
After giving up a walk and home run to start Monday afternoon’s game, Nathan Eovaldi bounced back nicely against the Twins. He pitched five innings, gave up five hits, two earned runs, two walks and had three strikeouts. Eovaldi is 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts this spring.
“I’m not working too many pitches specifically anymore,” Eovaldi said. “It’s just working ahead. I have four pitches to my advantage, so it’s really just going out there and attacking them with what’s working for me.”
(0-1 with a 16.20 ERA in two Grapefruit League starts) might be down to his last chance to impress and make a case to be in the starting rotation when he pitches Tuesday in Jupiter against St. Louis.
“It’s safe to say [Tuesday] is a very important start for him,” Redmond said. “We’re trying to decide on this No. 5 starter and then adjusting the bullpen accordingly. It’s been good to have guys like Kevin Slowey step up and pitch well. Honestly, we’re still not sure. I’d love on the 18th of March to say it’s all set. We’re still not there yet."
: Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (0-1, 16.20 ERA this spring) at Cardinals RHPShelby Miller
(1-0, 7.04 ERA), 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
: Marlins LHPWade LeBlanc
(1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Nationals TBA, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.