Miami Marlins

This speedy Marlins outfielder is making strides late after a rough start to the year

The Marlins #34 Magneuris Sierra slides safely back to first in the sixth inning as the Miami Marlins host the Washington Nationals on Monday, September 17, 2018.
The Marlins #34 Magneuris Sierra slides safely back to first in the sixth inning as the Miami Marlins host the Washington Nationals on Monday, September 17, 2018. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

As Starlin Castro drove a ball back to the center field wall in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals on Monday, Magneuris Sierra knew he had to be aggressive.

So the speedy outfielder did what he does best. He got a quick jump from first and sped his way around the basepaths and almost outran teammate Austin Dean, who was at second base, as he made it from first to home in just 10.09 seconds, according to Statcast.

“It was one of those situations where if he got tired, I was going to pass him,” Sierra said jokingly after the game.

That play in specific — and throughout the Marlins’ 8-5 comeback win in general — provided a microcosm of just how dangerous Sierra can be on the basepaths.

The problem for Sierra in his rookie season, however, has been reaching base. In 118 at-bats this year, Sierra is hitting just .178 with 33 strikeouts.

But Sierra’s production has seen a minor uptick as of late. Heading into Tuesday, he has reached base in four consecutive games. It’s a small cross section of success, but it’s enough for Sierra to feel optimistic as the season winds down.

“It’s good to see him just playing and putting a smile on his face because he’s trying so hard,” manager Don Mattingly said.

He did that multiple times Monday. The fifth-inning baserunning serves as Exhibit A.

Marlins prospect Magneuris Sierra talks about making his club debut on Tuesday.

Exhibit B came one inning later, when he ripped a 2-1 sinker from Wander Suero into shallow right field for a two-RBI single to tie the game at 4-4. His hit was the fourth straight for the Marlins in that sixth inning.

But Sierra’s biggest contribution happened after he was already on first. With the Nationals wary of giving up a stolen base, new reliever Jimmy Cordero threw four pickoff attempts to first base in an attempt to catch Sierra.

The fourth, however, resulted in a balk, allowing Sierra to advance to second and Dean to come home from third.

“I was just trying to stay aggressive and trying to provoke the situation,” Sierra said.

Mission accomplished. The goal now is to extend this short stretch of success through the final stretch of the season.

“I’m just trying to keep working and not keep my head down,” Sierra said. “Stay positive and keep working for the team.”

Leading off

As the Marlins continue to rotate their batting order throughout the final month of the season, Mattingly has experimented with using shortstop J.T. Riddle in the leadoff spot lately.

Riddle on Tuesday started his sixth game at the top of the order, all since Sept. 1, and is one of 11 players to bat leadoff for the Marlins this season. The others: Derek Dietrich (55 games), Starlin Castro (25), Rafael Ortega (24), J.T. Realmuto (11), Martin Prado (9), Rojas (9), Lewis Brinson (7), Sierra (2) and Cameron Maybin (2).

In his first five games as the leadoff hitter, Riddle posted a .368 batting average (7 for 19).

“I just kind of want to look at him there, honestly. With our guys and kind of that mixture of guys that we’re looking at and where we’re going with the lineup, you just want to see if they have that role. Between him and [Miguel Rojas], he runs pretty good. It separates your right-handers a little bit. So we’re just trying to give him some looks up there. Give him some looks up there and put him in a spot where he needs to get on base and put a little more responsibility on him.”

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