The long, injury-filled spring training for catcher Jorge Alfaro looks to finally have some good news.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Alfaro will return to the lineup on Saturday in the team’s second-to-last spring training game and continues to remain optimistic that the catcher will be ready for Opening Day on Thursday despite a pair knee injuries more or less derailing the last month.
“We’re really confident with where he’s at,” Mattingly said.
Alfaro, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in addition to pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart on Feb. 7 in the J.T. Realmuto trade, injured the knee in the Grapefruit League opener on Feb. 23 after running into the dugout railing while trying to track down a foul ball. Alfaro tweaked the knee again on March 5 when he was picked off at second base against the New York Mets. Alfaro has played in three games for the Marlins this spring, two as a catcher and one as a designated hitter. He has gone 2 for 5 at the plate.
He was cleared to resume baseball activities last week and has spent his time on the back fields taking part in catching drills and taking at-bats in minor-league games. Mattingly said he was impressed with Alfaro’s work over the past few days. Alfaro had three hits and a walk in his first four plate appearances on Friday, according to Mattingly.
“He looks pretty good as far as health wise,” Mattingly said.
In Alfaro’s absence, Chad Wallach and Bryan Holaday have handled the bulk of catching responsibilities. Wallach is on the 40-man roster; Holaday is a non-roster invitee.
As the Marlins continue to sort out their starting pitching in the winding days of spring training, Mattingly is taking full advantage of the minor-league games on the back fields to make sure all the candidates are getting enough work in live settings.
“You’re guaranteed that they’re going to get what you want them to get,” Mattingly said. “You get the pitch count you want to get to, the amount of ups you want them to get.”
The Marlins have seven candidates — Jose Urena, Dan Straily, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards, Caleb Smith, Sandy Alcantara and Wei-Yin Chen — competing for five rotation spots. Alcantara threw 88 pitches over six innings with the Triple-A team during an intrasquad game on Friday, giving up three hits and two earned runs while striking out seven. Richards is throwing on a back field Saturday while Urena and Smith pitch against the Houston Astros on Saturday.
The Marlins haven’t ruled out keeping all seven, with two staying in the bullpen and sharing innings to keep the younger pitchers fresh. Mattingly said there’s also a possibility of sending one of the four younger pitchers (Alcantara, Lopez, Smith, Richards) to Triple-A New Orleans to start the season.
“You never really end up with the team you start with,” Mattingly said. “We know we make a big deal out of who makes it out of spring training. Guys feel that way, too. They want to make it right out of the gate, but at the end of the day, you’re going to need a lot of guys.”
Urena, tabbed as the Opening Day starter, is the only pitcher who has been formally named to the rotation. Mattingly said meetings with take place with the pitchers on Saturday.