The Marlins haven’t asked Yadiel Rivera to pitch or catch yet.
But he’s done pretty much everything else for them this year.
When Rivera made his first career start in center field on Saturday night, he matched a team-record by playing at his seventh different position in a season.
Rivera, who said he had not played there since his youth baseball days in Puerto Rico, was confident he could handle it as he has at every other spot he’s manned in the outfield and infield when the Marlins have needed him to this season.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“Don’t panic, we’ll be fine,” Rivera said with a smile. “I know what I’m doing.”
Rivera matched Alfredo Amezaga, who also played at every infield and outfield position for the Marlins at one point or another during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
The idea to put Rivera to play center came up after Lewis Brinson was placed on the disabled list with right hip inflammation earlier this week and with the Marlins carrying only one true center fielder on the roster – Cameron Maybin.
“When we got out of spring training they asked me if I could play in the outfield and I played a little left and right field early,” Rivera said. “Right when we got to D.C., Donnie [Mattingly] told me he might put me in center field. I got the speed and the arm to play outfield and he told me just to be ready.”
Rivera, 26, played in 43 games for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2015-2017 before being invited to spring training by the Marlins.
Although he has struggled at the plate hitting only .189 with two doubles and six RBI in 95 at-bats (72 games), Rivera has driven in two winning runs in walk-off victories with the most recent coming in Monday’s 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
But on defense, Rivera has proven has value with his versatility and solid defense (four errors in 102 defensive chances).
Rivera’s major-league experience in the outfield is limited to the two innings he played in left field April 2 against the Red Sox and one inning in right field on April 11 against the Mets. He made two put-outs in the latter appearance.
Rivera practiced fielding drills in center field over the past two days in Washington, something he didn't do in spring training.
Rivera has played 25 games at shortstop, 18 games at third base, six games at second and three games at first this season.
“Yadi has just been impressive just the way he’s been able to adapt anywhere,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s got really good baseball instincts and looks like a natural out there when you put him out there he looks really good. He could do it all, every spot.”
With starting catcher J.T. Realmuto expected to go on the paternity list in the coming days, he would have to miss at least three games if his wife gives birth before the All-Star break.
Mattingly said the Marlins don’t intend to ask Rivera to suit up behind the plate, and would recall a catcher from the minors to fill in the backup spot for that time behind Bryan Holaday.
Rivera frequently catches Marlins pitchers in between innings in full catching gear while Realmuto is putting on his own.
“We won’t ask Yadi to do that,” Mattingly said. “That wouldn’t be fair. That’s an emergency situation. You have a guy that would be willing to do it, but I haven’t gotten there.”
Brian Anderson hadn’t taken a break all season.
That changed Saturday when the Marlins sat Anderson for a day ending a string of 93 consecutive starts by their rookie right fielder dating back to the end of the 2017 season.
Anderson has had a spectacular rookie season, hitting .427 with runners in scoring position, which ranks second overall in the majors behind only Matt Kemp (.438) entering Saturday’s games. But over his last 10 games, Anderson has hit only .162 (6 of 37).
“There’s been about four or five times where during a game I’ll say something like we have to get Andy [Anderson] out of there,” Mattingly said. “It looks like he’s getting frustrated. Then he’ll fire out two hits or two RBIs and we’ll go another day. It’s just getting him a breather. He’s been so good, but like everybody else he needs a day.”
Sunday: Miami Marlins RHP Trevor Richards (2-5, 5.26 ERA) vs. Washington Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (3-10, 4.60), 1:35 p.m., Nationals Park.