Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins relying on player versatility as roster spots continue to shuffle

Brian Anderson has split time this season between starting at third base and right field.
Brian Anderson has split time this season between starting at third base and right field. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Brian Anderson is widely viewed as the Miami Marlins’ third baseman of the future. Marlins manager Don Mattingly has attempted to get him as many reps as possible at the hot corner this season and has noted his improvement defensively over the season.

But there are still times — out of necessity or want — that Mattingly still plays Anderson out in right field. Anderson played there in Friday’s 11-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, making a leaping grab in the seventh inning to rob Elias Diaz of an extra-base hit and almost throwing out a runner on a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

“I wouldn’t say tempting,” Mattingly said, “but it’s easy to put him out there.”

It’s not just Anderson.

Mattingly has mixed and matched where his players take the field defensively this season, rarely using the same day-to-day setup. Injuries, player versatility and the Marlins’ desire to play matchups depending on the opposing starting pitcher all play factors in this.

Not including the starting pitcher spot, the Marlins have used 56 different defensive alignments in their first 68 games this year.

Saturday’s defensive lineup against the Pittsburgh Pirates — Garrett Cooper at first, Starlin Castro at second, Anderson at third, Miguel Rojas at shortstop, Jorge Alfaro at catcher, Curtis Granderson in left field, JT Riddle in center field and Harold Ramirez in right field — is one of eight the Marlins have used more than once this season. The team has not used a given alignment more than three times this year.

In fact, Castro has been the only constant, starting all 68 games so far this year at second base. Rojas has started 60 games at shortstop although he can play anywhere in the infield in a pinch. Alfaro has 50 starts behind the plate. No one else has more than 47 starts at a given position.

However, a handful of players on the active roster have seen regular action at multiple positions this year.

Anderson has 47 starts at third base and 19 in right field.

Cooper, who has been with the big-league team for just 32 games so far this year after dealing with a pair of injuries, has 22 starts in right field and nine at first base.

JT Riddle started seven games at shortstop at the start of the year before being demoted to Triple A. Since being brought back up to the major-league level on May 31, he has played exclusively in center field, starting seven games there.

Rosell Herrera, a utility player who primarily comes off the bench as a defensive replacement, has one start at shortstop, four in left field, 10 in center field and four in right field.

Harold Ramirez, called up on May 11, has four starts in left field, 16 in center field and seven in right field.

And that list doesn’t include Martin Prado (first and third) and Jon Berti (shortstop, third base and outfield), both of whom are on the 10-day Injured List.

Smith progressing

Caleb Smith, after seeing the team doctor on Friday, has been cleared to begin his throwing progression and is one step closer to completing his IL stint. The Marlins placed the starting pitcher on the 10-day IL on June 7 with left-hip inflammation.

“Hopefully we’re on the other side of this little hip thing,” Mattingly said. “I know he’s excited to be able to play catch today and get out on the field. This is the start of getting him ready.”

The Marlins do not have a timetable for Smith’s return. The next start for his rotation slot is set for Monday in St. Louis. Elieser Hernandez started in Smith’s place on Tuesday, throwing 5 2/3 innings.

This and that

Pirates right-handed pitcher Dario Agrazal is making his MLB debut against the Marlins on Saturday. He is the ninth starting pitcher to make his MLB debut against the Marlins since 2010. The other eight posted a combined 6-2 record with a 3.95 ERA, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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