With Opening Day two weeks away, the Miami Marlins received some bad news about one of the few remaining veterans on their roster. Third baseman Martin Prado suffered a setback from knee surgery and will begin the 2018 regular season on the disabled list.
Martin Prado experienced discomfort in his right leg while running on Tuesday, and the team said on Wednesday morning that the 34-year-old third baseman will start the season on the disabled list.
Prado had not participated in any Spring Training games as he was recovering from right knee surgery. Hamstring and right knee issues limited him to 37 games in 2017, and he was being eased back into game shape all Spring Training.
“[Prado] was borderline, anyway,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We really didn’t think he’d make Opening Day. We thought after that Philly series. But this probably pushes that timetable back.”
Prado, 34, hit .250/.279/.357 (70 OPS+) in those 37 games last season. He is one year removed from a .305/.359/.417 (113 OPS+) batting line with 37 doubles in 153 games, so you needn’t look back far to see the last time he was productive. The Marlins were surely hoping Prado would return to his 2016 form with a healthy knee, creating a trade market. Miami would likely have to eat some of the $28.5 million remaining on his contract the next two years to facilitate a trade, however.
Martin Prado will open the regular season on the disabled list.USATSI
Anderson has always shown power potential, combining strength with a leveraged swing and good extension through the hitting zone. He got to that power more than ever in 2017, driving the ball with authority from line to line, with plus raw power to his pull side. Anderson also can hit for average, showing good feel for finding the barrel while employing a selective approach. After bouncing between the infield and outfield in college and then working at both second and third base during his professional debut, Anderson has manned the hot corner exclusively since the start of 2015. His hands, range and plus arm are all fits at the position.
For what’s it’s worth, the ZiPS projection system is very bullish on Anderson. The system pegs him as a true talent 1.8 WAR player in 2018. The Prado injury stinks, and no one wants to see a player get hurt, but I’m guessing the Marlins are looking forward to seeing what Anderson can do with extending playing time.
The Marlins of course started to tear things down over the winter, trading Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon, and Marcell Ozuna in cash-cutting deals. Chances are J.T. Realmuto and Dan Straily (and others) will find themselves on the move in the coming weeks and months as well. A healthy Prado would be a real nice trade chip. Unfortunately he’s not healthy right now, and all Miami can do is get take it slow and get him healthy so that when Prado gets back on the field, he stays on the field.
JUPITER, Fla. – When it’s time, it’s time, when there’s hardly any avoiding the obvious, when a young man has developed the body and skills and sufficient wisdom, when there is a place for him, when an organization is counting on him.
Still, when it’s that right, when the chase has been all there is, and what’s next is the very outcome the chase was about, when it’s for him and his momma and every good decision he ever made and some she made for him, well, that’s a lot to trust himself with. Lewis Brinson, 23, is going to be the center fielder for the Miami Marlins, just how it looked to him some 15 years ago, when a kid from Coral Springs squinted at the television and today’s Juan Pierre became tomorrow’s Lewis Brinson.
And now, two weeks from opening day, as the inevitable has come, it’s still enough to hope for, and maybe too much to trust. He wouldn’t want to startle it. To scare it off. To believe it before it is.
“We’ll see where that path is,” Brinson said Wednesday morning, “if that’s the path for me.”
He tried not to smile. He smiled anyway.
“I think,” he said, “I’ll feel it once I get my name announced on opening day.
“I’m just very hesitant on a lot of things. Previous organization, previous years, I thought something was going to happen for me and it kinda went left. So I’m very humble with that. I like to put my work in and do everything I’ve got to do to ultimately get to where I want to be, and that’s the opening day roster. You want to believe you’re ready and you’re ready to step up and be that guy, but it’s not your decision to make. So, I’ll just wait for my name to be called and I’ll be very excited when it is.”
The whole point of the Miami Marlins anymore, of course, is Lewis Brinson. Him and others like him, they being young and elastic and talented and cost effective. For that reason, Marlins camp carries itself with an airy disposition. The coaches coach. The players learn, and fail, and succeed, and try again. The winter selloff, like all tear-downs, came with a requirement for perspective and patience. That means a lot of these young fellas will be sorting it as it goes, and then trying not to take yesterday too hard.
No one will convince a Marlin of 2017 that Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish or even Lance Lynn would have made the Marlins of 2018 at least relevant. At least capable. At least worthy of your A-game.
But, in the absence of that, perhaps, along with the absence of their entire outfield and half their infield (and any pretense of contending for a while), there does come a good amount of stubbornness. Coaches, players, the front office, they insist this is best for the franchise, that it’s been a lot of fun and healthy too, that young men such as Brinson are what sweeps the path.
Only the slog is ahead. It won’t end well, probably, in 2018. But it will end, even though it won’t feel like it some days. And then they’ll start over, a little closer next time, and the trick is to have everyone tend to today and believe with every last cell in whatever’s coming, both for themselves and the ballclub, because that’s the job and, also, by the way, there’s no alternative.
What will come of the Miami Marlins? The Kansas City Royals lost 90 games in 2012 (and 100 in 2006), and a World Series in 2015. The Chicago Cubs lost 96 in 2013 and a World Series in 2016. The Houston Astros lost 111 in 2013 and a World Series in 2017.
Many organizations have tried this route and failed. The Marlins, for one. Many times. You know where that won’t matter? The history? In their dugout. In their batting cages. On their buses to the ballparks. In some ballpark out there when the sun seems about two feet too close and the score doesn’t look good and last night’s dinner is sitting a bit too high. And that may be the best of it.
That’s about when the Marlins will know what they’ve got and who they’ve got. Who’ll compete for the inches that might not count anywhere but in their consciences.
Lewis Brinson was the centerpiece in the trade that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee. He is 6-foot-3 and appears bigger, listed at 195 pounds and seems broader. They call him special because he is. Also, because he has to be. He’d better be. Please, be.
He’s been a top-20 prospect for the better part of three years, including 2017, his last with the Brewers. He batted .331 in the Pacific Coast League, hit 13 home runs and stole 11 bases. He hit .106 in 21 games for the Brewers.
“I tried to impress everybody,” he said. “You know, big lights, big camera, you’re up in the big leagues, you want to do big things immediately when you get up there. That wasn’t the case.”
So, the Brewers covered those first few major league steps. The next come here, with a regular job alongside grown men against grown men, on many nights when the Marlins themselves will be outmanned. If it’s time, then Lewis Brinson will believe it when it is. And it is time.
“I think I’m ready to be up there full-time, but that’s not up to me,” he said. “I’m going to keep playing, keep playing hard, keep working on what I need to work on, and just go out there every day and play my game. Not worrying about what I can’t control. Just worrying about what I can control. And what I need to do every day to get better.”
The Miami Marlins know their fans have plenty of thoughts about the direction of the organization both on and off the field.
Now, they are streamlining the way those fans can share their feelings.
The Marlins announced Tuesday that they are launching a new listening campaign called ‘Dímelo’ (Spanish for “talk to me”) that gives fans the opportunity to give feedback on a slew of topics, ranging from in-game experience to team branding to food options and more.
Feedback can be given in English or Spanish. It can be done in-person at Marlins community events and at booths that will be installed at Marlins Park or online at Marlins.com/Dimelo.
“We made a promise back on day one that we would listen to our fans, and this is part of our commitment to that promise,” CEO and part-owner Derek Jeter said in a release. “This new campaign will allow fans to have their voices heard throughout the year as we continue to build this organization and re-engage with our fans and partners.”
The Marlins will also interact with fans on social media using the hashtag #DimeloMiami.
Mattingly said it was borderline anyway as to whether Prado would have been ready for Opening Day. Prado will not participate in any baseball activities for the next few days and then will have to start the rehab process again, which will delay his eventual return to action.
Prado, 34, is entering the second of a three-year, $40 million deal with the Marlins.
“We were trying to be slow with him and slow with the process so as he got into a little more volume, he felt it and stopped,” said Mattingly, who initially projected Prado to return after the team’s first road trip on April 9. It’s unclear how long Prado will be out following this latest setback.
Prado’s 2017 season was plagued by injuries even before it started and limited him to only 37 games. Prado, whose last game played was July 17, pulled his right hamstring while playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic last March. He went on the disabled list twice last season because of hamstring issues before having knee surgery.
With Prado out, rookie Brian Anderson becomes the frontrunner to be the Marlins’ Opening Day third baseman.
Anderson, who has shown some power in the minors with 52 home runs over four minor-league seasons, made his major-league debut last season and played in 25 games, hitting .262 (22 of 84) with seven doubles and eight RBI.
Anderson, 25, also took part in the MLB All-Star Futures Game in Miami last year.
“Brian has been kind of knocking on the door anyway,” Mattingly said. “This puts more playing time on him. I’ve been comfortable with him. We think a lot of things that happened for him last year will be good for him this year. Being able to get up and have some success, some probably not as much as he’d like, but I think enough to get comfortable and know what this is all about.”
▪ J.T. Realmuto said his bruised lower back was “definitely better” and fully expects to be ready for Opening Day.
Realmuto hurt his back on Sunday when he collided with New York Yankees’ Gleyber Torres on a pickoff play at second. Realmuto said Torres’ knee hit him on the lower back causing the issue.
“I was late and he was coming into the line going for the ball and I’m trying to dive back so I tried to elude him and as he tried to slide, his knee jammed into my back and created a little contusion there,” Realmuto said.
Realmuto expects to resume baseball activities as early as Friday, and eventually play enough in the spring to get ready for Opening Day.
“As long as I get a few more games under my belt, I’ll be fine,” Realmuto said.
▪ Pitcher Elieser Hernandez will miss a turn in the rotation as he continues to heal from a wisdom tooth extraction.
▪ Mattingly said it would still be some time before pitcher Brett Graves (oblique strain) can pitch again.
▪ Reliever Brian Ellington has begun his throwing program as he rehabs from biceps tendinitis.
Thursday: Marlins LHP Dillon Peters vs. New York Mets RHP Matt Harvey, 1:10 p.m., Port St. Lucie.
Friday: Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara vs. St. Louis Cardinals TBA, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
JUPITER, Fla. • Matt Carpenter, who hasn’t played in an exhibition game yet as he has been tending to an ailing back, will be the designated hitter for the Cardinals on Tuesday as they face the Miami Marlins.
Carpenter, who will bat third in the lineup, did walk in his first at-bat in an intrasquad game on Sunday, prompting manager Mike Matheny to joke Tuesday morning, “That’s more than a lot of the guys here.”
Carlos Martinez, the Cardinals’ first-day starter on March 29 in New York, will face Jose Urena, who will be the starter for the Marlins, who are 10-5-2 in the Grapefruit League standings. The Cardinals are 7-8-2.
Cardinals reliever Luke Gregerson, back from the White House where he joined his World Series champion Houston teammates on Monday, is progressing with his oblique injury to the point he can throw a bullpen session in the next couple of days, Matheny said.
Urena will hit for the Marlins but Martinez will not.
1. Dexter Fowler rf
2. Tommy Pham cf
3. Matt Carpenter dh
4. Marcell Ozuna lf
5. Jose Martinez 1b
6. Yadier Molina c
7. Jedd Gyorko 3b
8. Greg Garcia 2b
9. Yairo Munoz ss
RH Carlos Martinez p
1. Cameron Maybin rf
2. Lewis Brinson cf
3. Starlin Castro 2b
4. Derek Dietrich lf
5. Tomas Telis c
6. Brian Anderson 3b
7. Garrett Cooper 1b
8. Miguel Rojas ss
9. Jose Urena p
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His first game with the Marlins was nearly his last.
It was March 5, 1993, an hour or so before the Marlins were to play their first spring training game in Cocoa, that Rock Hughes feared for his job.
He had been ordered to make a burger run for hungry players and coaches, and as he was threading his way through heavy game traffic, he spotted something in the back seat of his car that brought him panic.
There sat the game balls, which were in his care.
“My heart sunk,” Hughes said. “I was sweating bullets.”
This was no nondescript spring training game we were talking about. This was Marlins baseball history. Owner Wayne Huizenga had flown in 150 VIP’s on a chartered jet. All 6,696 seats were sold. Groundskeepers raked the infield wearing tuxedos.
With time growing short, Hughes made an immediate U-turn, weaving around traffic by driving onto the shoulder, pulling into the parking lot as the final chords to the national anthem were being sung, and racing onto the diamond with baseballs in hand. Just in time.
“I could have had the shortest Marlins career ever,” Hughes said, laughing.
Instead, Hughes — the visiting clubhouse manager, a wide-encompassing position that entails taking care of players and coaches every needs — has had the longest.
As the Marlins prepare for their 25th anniversary season, Hughes, 49, remains the team’s only full-time employee who has been with them throughout. He has worked under four owners and outlasted 15 managers, 537 Marlins players, and thousands of others in an ever-changing cast of minor-league players, coaches and on-field and office staff.
Current third base coach Fredi Gonzalez pre-dates Hughes, managing the Marlins’ first minor-league team in 1992. But twice he left to go manage and coach the Atlanta Braves.
Rock Hughes is the only original employee left with the Miami Marlins.
Until this year, Hughes was one of three employees to have worked continuously for the Marlins from the start. But one, an executive secretary in the front office, resigned in October. And the other, a West Coast-based scout, became a special assignment employee — a part-time designation — in January.
“It makes me proud, that’s for sure,” Hughes said.
Hughes said he wasn’t much of a ballplayer growing up.
“I couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield,” he said.
But his involvement with the sport traces back to his childhood when Hughes and his siblings tagged along with their father, Gary Hughes, on scouting missions to small-town minor league outposts.
“My Dad would take myself and my brothers and sisters on these scouting trips in his old Cutlass Supreme,” Hughes said. “We’d hold the JUGS [radar] gun for him. I held it from an early age — when I could barely hold the gun up — for 50 cents a game.”
When Hughes became the Marlins’ first scouting director, he helped his son land a job with the team, performing odd jobs as a visiting clubhouse assistant and umpire’s room attendant.
Hughes has kept a photo of himself from that first year, wearing the old teal Marlins colors while applying rubbing mud to new baseballs, a pre-game ritual.
“I was green to this business,” Hughes said.
No task was ever too small, both then and now.
Rock Hughes, left, shares a laught with Quinton McCracken, outfield/baserunning Coordinator.
“My duties that first spring training were everything,” he said. “I was taxiing people to and from the game. Players. We were feeding them. We were cleaning up after them. Just long, long days, as it is in the clubhouse. It was a busy time in my life. But, as I look back, they were some of my fondest memories.”
Hughes remembers the excitement he felt when Orestes Destrade, the Marlins’ first first baseman, handed him the keys to his Mercedes and asked him to drive it down to Fort Lauderdale from the team’s spring training camp in Viera.
“He told me to enjoy myself, and I was too nervous to actually enjoy it,” he said.
Hughes was there for the Marlins’ inaugural game, watching from the dugout when Charlie Hough whiffed the Dodgers’ Jose Offerman on a called third-strike with a pitch that was a foot outside.
“Frank Pulli was the umpire,” Hughes said. “He called it a strike right out of the gate. The crowd went nuts, and I think I continued going on with my busy day. I was able to appreciate that pitch.”
Hughes was on hand for both of the Marlins’ World Series title wins, leaping from his seat inside the dugout when Craig Counsell scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 of the 1997 Series. Years later, he ended up marrying Counsell’s sister.
Rock Hughes has been a clubhouse attendant since the team’s first spring training game in 1993.
When Josh Beckett tagged out the Yankees’ Jorge Posada to end the 2003 Series, the pitcher handed his glove to Hughes for safekeeping during the ensuing celebration.
“I remember Beckett giving me the mitt with the ball still inside it and saying, ‘Do me a favor and do not let this ball out of this glove,’” Hughes said. “He was very adamant that he did not want that ball to leave that glove.”
Hughes did as told and, at last report, the ball has remained in Beckett’s glove ever since. After both Series wins, it was Hughes who popped the champagne corks during the clubhouse celebrations before handing out the bottles to players, consuming none of it for himself.
“I’ve got a job to do and you can’t really do it [if you’re drinking with them],” he said. “That’s for the players.”
It hasn’t always been fun and games.
The days might be long, but the years are short. I’ve always enjoyed my job. Everyday I come to work, I love it. Baseball’s been my life. It really beats working for a living.
Rock Hughes, the Marlins visiting clubhouse manager
Hughes, by working behind the scenes, sees a side of players that fans don’t. As such, Hughes has witnessed both joy and sadness.
He remembers seeing pitcher Alex Fernandez standing alone, slumped against a hallway wall after injuring his shoulder during the 1997 National League Championship Series against the Braves.
“And just to watch how sad that he was, that really got to me,” Hughes said. “That was a tearjerker for me because of how much he had put into it to get there. That was a tough moment.
“There’s a lot of pressure on these guys. They’re human. It’s stress for them, and you’ve got to take that into consideration.”
These days, Hughes continues to go about a daily routine that involves long hours but, for him, immense satisfaction. He is often the first to show up at spring training, arriving at 5:45 a.m. most days to set up equipment, and one of the last to leave, turning out the lights at 7 or 8 p.m.
“You just keep your head down and work hard,” Hughes said. “No job is too big and no job’s too small.”
There isn’t anything else he would rather be doing.
“The days might be long, but the years are short,” Hughes said. “I’ve always enjoyed my job. Everyday I come to work, I love it. Baseball’s been my life. It really beats working for a living.”
Looking back, Hughes can even smile about that frightening first spring game, when he became caught in traffic with the game balls sitting in the back seat of his car, a quarter-century of Marlins baseball about to begin and awaiting his arrival.
“I’m the longest-tenured (Marlins employee) and it could have been the shortest,” he said with a laugh. “Everything’s funny after a while. It’s been a great ride for 25 years.”