Don Mattingly seldom singles out a player for criticism.
At least openly.
But Mattingly had little choice Friday when asked about rookie center fielder Magneuris Sierra, who took his leisurely time getting to Bryce Harper’s hit and then lobbing the ball back to the infield.
Harper promptly stretched his single into a double.
“That just can’t happen,” Mattingly said. “There’s no way in the world that guy should ever go to second base on that ball.”
“He’s playing scared. He’s playing tentative,” Mattingly said of Sierra, who was called into the office after the game and reprimanded. “You just can’t play like that here. And it’s one of the things we won’t keep watching.”
Sierra was on the bench Saturday after starting in 21 of the Marlins’ previous 23 games.
It all underscored what’s become a glaring problem for the Marlins: replacing what was the best outfield in the majors a year ago is not going smoothly or quickly.
“It’s pretty easy to say you knew it was going to be a big difference,” Mattingly said. “You’re hoping for the best with your young guys and they’re going to come in and just tear it up right away.”
That hasn’t come close to happening.
When the Marlins traded away their outfield trio of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, they left themselves with not just a hole to fill but a large vacuum.
Marlins outfielders led the majors last season with an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .896. The Yankees’ outfield, which ranked second, wasn’t even close at .853.
The Marlins outfielders rank 28th of 30 teams -- ahead of only the Royals and White Sox -- with an OPS of .686.
“To do what Giancarlo, Christian and Marcell did last year, it’s hard to imagine that you just plug in three guys and they’re just going to take up the slack and never know you missed them,” Mattingly said.
The Marlins were expecting more from Lewis Brinson, who was acquired in the Yelich trade. Brinson not only struggled at the plate but landed on the disabled list. He could be back in the lineup by the start of the Braves series next week.
Sierra, acquired in the Ozuna trade, has not looked good at all. He is hitting just .169 and has failed to walk even once in 72 plate appearances.
The Marlins’ best outfielder has been Brian Anderson, who is a natural third baseman.
On Saturday, the three outfielders on Mattingly’s lineup card were Rafael Ortega, Austin Dean and Isaac Galloway. Combined, the three had just 61 games of major league experience.
“There’s been some good and there’s been some bad,” Mattingly said.
The Marlins will be reminded of what once was when the Yankees and Stanton arrive on Tuesday for a two-game series at Marlins Park. And it will be a painful reminder.
The Marlins are making sure Jose Urena won’t be taking the mound during their four-game series with the Braves at the end of next week.
Urena, who is appealing the six-game suspension he received for plunking Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. with his very first pitch in Atlanta on Wednesday, will now start Sunday against the Nationals.
That would leave him lined up to face the Braves in his next start.
But even if his appeal is settled before then, Mattingly made it clear he would not appear in the Braves series one way or the other. Mattingly said that he would slip Elieser Hernandez into the rotation during the Atlanta series.
Dan Straily, Wei-Yin Chen and Pablo Lopez would round out the rotation for the rest of the four-game series.
“It’s not something we want to do,” Mattingly said of having Urena face the Braves and risk retaliation.
With the rotation change involving Urena, Lopez and Trevor Richards will receive an extra day of rest and face New York in the two-game series against the Yankees.