Miami Marlins

After a successful minor-league season, Sierra aims for a strong finish with the Marlins

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter: We’re trying to build something that’s special

Miami Marlins Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter talks to the media before start of the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL.
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Miami Marlins Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter talks to the media before start of the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL.

The Miami Marlins have a solid idea of what they can get out of Magneuris Sierra.

The outfielder’s quickness makes him a threat to score whenever he gets on base and allows him to have above average range defensively.

They couldn’t maximize on his potential last season, his first with Miami, primarily because he struggled to get on base. Sierra hit just .190 and only drew six walks in 54 big-league games.

But after a strong minor-league season and two quality starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Marlins are hoping a more confident and comfortable Sierra showcases himself in the final month of the regular season.

“For me,” Sierra said, “it’s a new opportunity.”

One he is quickly trying to use to his advantage.

Sierra started the final two games of the Marlins’ road series against the Pirates — a 5-4 walk-off loss on Wednesday and a 10-7 series-clinching win on Thursday. He went 4 for 8 with a walk and a strikeout in those games. He is starting in center field for Friday’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals, which starts a seven-game homestand.

“He’s gotten on base. I think that’s the big thing,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You see a little more confidence in him compared to last year. ... Like we’ve talked about all those guys that have come up, we have the opportunity to see them and see what’s transpired in a year, playing another year of baseball.”

He showed the composure that was evident during a strong minor league season. Sierra, obtained as part of the Marcell Ozuna trade with the St. Louis Cardinals, had a .275 batting average with 35 extra-base hits over 129 combined games with Double A Jacksonville and Triple A New Orleans.

A strong performance over the final three weeks of the regular season could give him a case to have a headstart for a roster spot in the 2020 season.

“He’s got tools,” Mattingly said. “He’s a strong kid. He can fly. He throws good. You’re talking about, in this ballpark, the style we would like to migrate to — more of a speed game, a team that can put pressure on you. ... That’s the skillset he has. The question is where it’s going to develop to.”

Since Sierra is out of options, the Marlins were tentative about calling Sierra up to the major-league team during the regular season before the rosters expanded on Sunday. If the Marlins brought him up before then and decided to send him back down to the minor leagues, they would have been forced to designate him for assignment. Doing so subjects him to waivers, meaning other teams would have the opportunity to pick him up.

Plus, giving Sierra a full year to hone his offensive game in lower-leverage situations didn’t hurt, either.

“I’m more comfortable at the plate,” Sierra said. “I was lost sometimes (last year). I’m hitting the ball hard.”

Sierra showed that early in his second stint with the Marlins.

“So far, so good with Mags,” Mattingly said.

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Injury update

Starting pitcher Jordan Yamamoto will throw a bullpen on Saturday. It’s his first action since being put on the 10-day injured list on Aug. 28 with a right forearm strain.

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.