Panik, 'running on fumes,' energizes Miami

Infielder homers in Marlins debut, adds go-ahead single in six-run fifth

July 1st, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- It has been a hectic 48 hours for sleep-deprived . During a Zoom interview following the Marlins’ 11-6 comeback victory over the Phillies on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, he didn’t shy away from saying as much.

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Panik, whom Miami acquired in the Adam Cimber-Corey Dickerson trade with Toronto on Tuesday, homered and later drove in the go-ahead run in his club debut -- in a game that lasted four hours and six minutes and included a 38-minute rain delay.

The 30-year-old Panik arrived in Philadelphia around 1 p.m. ET. He had been unable to find a direct flight from Buffalo, N.Y., where the Blue Jays have been playing home games, in time for Tuesday's series opener. So he and his wife packed up their apartment and drove Tuesday night to their home in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. Panik then made the three-hour drive from there to Philadelphia on Wednesday morning, and he started at third base and hit seventh in Miami’s lineup.

“It was good to get right out there, kind of running on fumes right now, just running on adrenaline, but it was a good night,” said Panik, who reached base three times. “It was really fun playing with these guys. Always good to end up with a win, even though it's midnight right now. Definitely a good first day, and a lot more good to come, hopefully.”

It was quite the first impression for Panik, as he took Aaron Nola deep in the second inning in his first at-bat. He sent the ninth pitch of the at-bat -- a curveball -- over the right-field wall. Then in Miami’s go-ahead six-run fifth inning, Panik worked an eight-pitch at-bat against Neftalí Feliz that culminated in an RBI single.

Magneuris Sierra, who won a pregame standoff against Ronald Torreyes, began the rally with a pinch-hit single. After two outs, the Marlins rattled off six straight hits, including four against Nola to chase him. Miami tacked on three more runs over the final four frames to record double-digit runs for the seventh time this season.

Manager Don Mattingly had seen Panik come through in clutch situations over the years, particularly when his Dodgers faced the rival Giants. He found it refreshing to be on the winning side of it this time.

“He puts at-bats together, and I think that's what you look at when you really look at clubs that are tough to get through,” Mattingly said. “It is like when you get six, seven, eight guys doing that, having those types of at-bats -- not that you're always going to get hits and it's not always going to be that many pitches -- but those kind of at-bats wear guys down. That's how you win a lot of games when you've got guys like that.”

Mattingly had no qualms about throwing Panik into the fire. Jon Berti, who was feeling under the weather, had started the last 10 games at third base, slashing .323/.389/.581 during that stretch. Berti has seen most of the action at the hot corner in Brian Anderson's absence. Moving forward, a platoon is possible, since Berti is a right-handed hitter and Panik is left-handed. Mattingly said Panik will be used primarily at third base and off the bench, though he also can spell Jazz Chisholm Jr. at second and play first if need be.

Panik comes with an impressive pedigree across eight MLB seasons. He was part of the World Series-winning Giants in 2014, was an All-Star in '15 and received a National League Gold Glove Award at second base in '16. Panik has some familiar faces inside the Marlins' clubhouse. He came up in the Giants' organization with Adam Duvall and Steven Okert, and he played with Anthony Bass last season with Toronto.

Okert also made his Marlins debut on Wednesday, tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He came on in relief of John Curtiss, who allowed a baserunner and threw three pitches in the bottom of the fifth prior to the rain delay. When Curtiss returned to the mound, he walked a batter and got a lineout before being taken out. Okert had last pitched in the Majors on Sept. 30, 2018, with the Giants.

“It's awesome,” Okert said. “A year ago, I would've thought this was impossible to do again. So I'm just thankful for the opportunity that they gave me right now. I'm just going to try to go out there and enjoy it every day and just do the best I can.”