Video: Marlins Manager Don Mattingly on pitcher Wei-yin Chen
Barry Bonds was such a lightweight against lefties as a rookie that Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland sat him against southpaws. Yankees skipper Billy Martin did the same with Don Mattingly his rookie year.
The Marlins have no plans at the moment to platoon Marlins first baseman Justin Bour, who struggled against left-handers last season. But if Bour is looking for any solace on the matter, he doesn’t have far to look.
With Mattingly as his manager and Bonds as his hitting coach on the Marlins, Bour has company when it comes to overcoming the issue.
“We’re going to need him,” Bonds said of Bour. “He’s a big guy. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark. I like him a lot. He works hard. I don’t know anybody who puts more pressure on himself than he does. It’s going to be up to him to want to practice at it and want to be better at it.”
Said Mattingly: “He’s done it in the past, so there’s no reason he can’t do that again.”
Bour’s 23 home runs last season ranked second on the club, behind only the 27 put out by Giancarlo Stanton.
But every single one of Bour’s blasts came against right-handed pitching. Bour hit just .221 against left-handers, a shade more than the .219 average put up by Bonds in 1983 as a rookie for the Pirates.
“I think it’s just a matter of getting at-bats,” said Bour, who totaled only 75 plate appearances against lefties last season. “I don’t have much to go off last year as far as hitting off lefties, because there weren’t that many at-bats. But I know I can hit them just as good as righties.”
Bour is one of the biggest bargain finds in Marlins history, costing them just $12,500 — or about what it costs the team to buy 125 dozen baseballs — to acquire him from the Chicago Cubs in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
Now he’s one of the most important pieces of their lineup.
Mattingly envisions hitting Bour fifth in the lineup, right behind Stanton.
“It’s a good spot to be in, obviously,” Bour said.
It’s likely to mean pitchers will work cautiously around Stanton and pitch to Bour, giving him better offerings to hit.
But in order to make Bour even deadlier, he needs to prove he can hit lefties.
Bonds and Mattingly are convinced that will come with experience. After all, it did for them.
“When you don’t see lefties that often in a game, and they come in as [relief] specialists, it’s tough for any left-hander — even for myself, at times,” Bonds said. “Jesse Orosco used to wear me out. It took me almost until he retired before I hit a home run off him.”
Mattingly, another left-handed swinger, said Martin was reluctant to use him against southpaws his first full year in the majors.
“I was good through the minor leagues,” Mattingly said. “But when I first got to the majors, Billy platooned me a little bit. When they do that to you, you really lose the feel for hitting [lefties]. In  he did that to me, and at the end of the year, when he played me against lefties, I was lost.”
That’s one reason Mattingly said he wants to give Bour every chance to succeed. Mattingly said he’ll start Bour against left-handed pitching as much as possible this spring.
“He had sixty-something at-bats against lefties [last season], and that’s not really enough to say he can’t do it,” Mattingly said. “I think it’s better for everyone if he’s able to be in every day.”
Mattingly said there will be times when the Marlins face an especially tough left-hander — a Madison Bumgarner, for instance — that he will sit Bour.
Otherwise, he wants him to improve from experience.
“I’m going to give him his chance against lefties,” Mattingly said.
▪ In what was his first dress rehearsal as a Marlin, Wei-Yin Chen delivered two scoreless innings in Miami’s 3-2 loss on Saturday to the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Chen said. “I hadn’t pitched in a game in a long time. So coming over to a new team, there was definitely a little bit of nerves out there.”
The Marlins signed the free agent left-hander to a five-year deal over the winter as their No. 2 starter behind Jose Fernandez.
Chen on Saturday gave up three soft hits.