Stanton's Classic departure creates open No. 3 hole
Brantly among Marlins to try hand at slugging spot in Miami batting order
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With Giancarlo Stanton about to be away for a few weeks for the World Baseball Classic, the Marlins will have plenty of candidates to bat third in the order.
None, of course, can match Stanton's production. You don't easily replace someone who belted 37 home runs a year ago.
But Spring Training is a time to offer opportunity.
On Saturday against the Mets at Tradition Field, Rob Brantly filled the No. 3 spot.
"You don't see too many catchers batting in the three-hole," Brantly noted.
In his Minor League career, the left-handed-hitting Brantly typically batted anywhere from third to sixth.
"You guys probably read more into the batting order than I do," manager Mike Redmond said. "I'm thinking more of getting the most at-bats I can get them. At the same time, too, you are looking to see how guys respond as you move them up and down in the order. There is an opportunity out there for somebody to hit behind Giancarlo. We will see who steps up and takes on that role."
For the next couple of weeks, Stanton will be away from Marlins' camp. The slugger will head to Arizona on Sunday to hook up with Team USA.
"Anytime a guy is out of the lineup, and new guys are in there, it creates opportunities to show what they can do," Brantly said. "But it's also Stanton. Especially with the way he's been swinging since he's been here.
"It's good for the young guys to get in there. They get to hit in some spots, in normal circumstances they wouldn't be able to hit in. Pitchers might approach them differently because they are higher in the order. It's a good test."
Roster hopeful Sanabia cruises in first spring start
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After getting some help from Jake Marisnick in center field, Alex Sanabia took care of business.
Sanabia tossed two hitless and scoreless innings, while striking out one on Saturday afternoon in the Marlins' 8-8 tie with the Mets at Tradition Field.
The 24-year-old right-hander is competing for a roster spot, either as the fifth starter or a long reliever. The last time he was in the big leagues was in 2011 for three games -- two starts -- and Sanabia is striving to show he belongs.
"He looked good," manager Mike Redmond said. "I thought he did a nice job. He gathered himself. He missed out of the zone early, but got himself back on track. He did what he needed to do to get through two innings."
Sanabia received an assist from Marisnick on the first batter he faced as Collin Cowgill crushed a drive to straight-away center to lead off the bottom of the first inning.
The speedy Marisnick, arguably the best defensive outfielder in the Marlins' system, turned and raced straight back. He reached and pulled in the liner for a spectacular catch.
"That was awesome," Sanabia said. "I thought that ball was over his head, or maybe out. He squared it up pretty good for him to be able to catch it. Instead of a guy being on second and third, it's one out with bases empty. Huge play."
From that point, Sanabia pounded the strike zone and got quick outs. He threw a perfect first inning.
In the second inning, Marlon Byrd reached on third baseman Chone Figgins' throwing error. Sanabia had a wild pitch, moving Byrd to second, but he got out of the inning by striking out Andrew Brown.
Without overpowering stuff, Sanabia focuses on attacking hitters. He threw 28 pitches, 16 for strikes. The pitch he is working on is his slider, which will be key in his hopes for winning a roster spot.
For the fifth starter, the Marlins are looking at Wade LeBlanc, Sanabia, John Maine, Brad Hand and Kevin Slowey.
"It's just pretty much go out and do my job and let them figure it out," Sanabia said. "Just go out there and perform the best I can and give myself an opportunity to make the team, or get a better look."
Mahoney bolsters bid for early Marlins first-base job
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Who will play first base on Opening Day could come down to a tough choice for the Marlins.
Logan Morrison is recovering from right knee surgery, and he isn't expected to be ready the first few weeks, at least.
The Marlins have two other left-handed-hitting options -- Joe Mahoney and Casey Kotchman.
Mahoney helped his case on Saturday, belting two home runs and driving in four runs in an 8-8 tie with the Mets at Tradition Field.
Mahoney has big-time power, but he doesn't have big league experience. Kotchman, terrific defensively, has a track record, but not the protypical power.
"We need somebody to fill in there," manager Mike Redmond said. "We just have to figure out who is going to be the best fit over there. Obviously, Mahoney doesn't have the big league experience like Kotchman does, and that's a factor. But at the same time, we're looking for a guy who can provide some power in the middle of that order. Mahoney, hopefully, can fill that need.
"It's going to be interesting. I'm sure there will be a lot of conversations over that spot. We still have a lot of games left."
Mahoney is 5-for-14 (.357), while Kotchman is 4-for-7 (.571) with a grand slam in three games.
"Big today was pitch selection," Mahoney said. "Getting a changeup up over the plate, being selective. I didn't chase my first at-bat."
Ultimately, time will tell. The deeper into Spring Training, the sharper the pitching becomes. It's still too early to get an accurate read.
"When facing team's No. 1 pitchers and their top guys, we will truly get a read on what we've got," Redmond said.
Marlins getting good turnout for 'Breakfast Bunt Club'
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Each morning at 8 a.m. ET, the Marlins' "Breakfast Bunt Club" is open for business on a back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.
The turnout has been good all spring, as position players and pitchers have regularly worked on bunting.
Third-base coach Joe Espada organizes the daily drills. He's joined by Tarrik Brock, the Marlins' Minor League outfielder coordinator. When Espada is on the road, like Saturday with the team facing the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Brock takes over.
"It's my 'Breakfast Bunt Club,'" Espada said. "Starts at 8, ends at 9. Bunting is going to be a big part of our game this year."
Manager Mike Redmond has mandated the team stress the fundamentals.
"Mike wants for us to work on it every day," Espada said.
The drills are done on the tiny, fenced-off infield on the complex. The field is primarily used for infield work. For bunting, Espada sets up a pitching machine and uses small cones to locate areas the players aim to drop bunts.
The players working on bunting by 8 a.m. include Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins, Kevin Mattison, Chris Coghlan, Adeiny Hechavarria, Donovan Solano, Christian Yelich, Gorkys Hernandez, Jake Marisnick and Danny Black.
In a B game against the Cardinals on Tuesday, Black dropped down a perfect bunt single. Pierre already has had a bunt double in a Grapefruit League game, while Mattison and Hernandez have already tried in games.
"The cones are giving them a visual," Espada said. "If you keep those bunts inside those cones, you're in good shape. You'll get the job done. You will get the guy over, or you give yourself a good chance to get a hit."
• Ricky Nolasco, John Maine, Jonathan Albaladejo, Scott Maine, Chad Qualls and Michael Wuertz each threw in a simulated game in Jupiter, Fla., on Saturday morning. Nolasco allowed two runs on two hits and a hit batsman in three innings, striking out six. He threw 42 pitches.
• All 40 players on the roster are now signed after the Marlins renewed the contracts of Logan Morrison, Wade LeBlanc, Mike Dunn, Rob Brantly, Alex Sanabia, Henderson Alvarez and Giancarlo Stanton on Saturday.
• With Stanton heading to the World Baseball Classic on Sunday, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to be in right field. Chris Coghlan got the starting nod on Saturday against the Mets.
• Christian Yelich led off Saturday's game with his first home run of Spring Training, a laser to right off Matt Harvey. The highly touted prospect also batted leadoff on Wednesday against the Nationals in Viera, Fla. He opened that game with a triple to deep center off Dan Haren.
• Prospect Jake Marisnick, acquired from the Blue Jays, is regarded as the organization's best defensive outfielder. He showed why in the first inning, sprinting straight back and robbing Collin Cowgill of extra bases.