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Jorge Alfaro cleared for baseball activities

@JoeFrisaro
March 14, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The race to be ready for Opening Day is about to begin for Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro. Cleared by the team’s medical staff to resume baseball activities, Alfaro will have two weeks to get up to speed for the start of the season on March

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The race to be ready for Opening Day is about to begin for Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro.

Cleared by the team’s medical staff to resume baseball activities, Alfaro will have two weeks to get up to speed for the start of the season on March 28 against the Rockies at Marlins Park. The 25-year-old bruised his right knee in the Grapefruit League opener on Feb. 23 and further aggravated it on March 5. He was then shut down to allow the inflammation in his knee to dissipate.

Despite the missed time, manager Don Mattingly on Thursday morning didn’t rule out having his frontline catcher behind the plate when the season begins.

“I think it’s realistic, the way we’re looking at it,” Mattingly said.

The Marlins’ final Grapefruit League tilt is March 24, so the clock is ticking on Spring Training games. But with Minor League games on back fields, there are ways for Alfaro to get playing time.

“It’s getting shorter, obviously,” Mattingly said of Spring Training winding down. “We probably couldn’t afford any more setbacks at this point. But, if we’re able to move forward from here, it would be a little bit of a push. We’d have to be careful early, probably. But we think it’s realistic.”

Alfaro first bruised his knee running into a railing in the dugout, and the aggravation came after sliding into second base.

The Marlins acquired Alfaro from the Phillies as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade in early February. In Alfaro's absence, Bryan Holaday and Chad Wallach have been sharing most of the starts. Wallach, who is on the 40-man roster, also had a minor injury setback earlier in camp. He missed some time with a right quad strain but is now back playing.

Holaday, a non-roster invitee, would have to be added to the 40-man roster if he makes the Opening Day roster.

“Both of those guys are looking at that backup role,” Mattingly said. “Those guys you want to be able to handle a pitching staff, call a game, block and receive. The offense would be a plus.”

Holaday was with the Marlins in 2018, appearing in 61 games as Realmuto’s backup.

Wallach was actually the Opening Day starting catcher last year because Realmuto started off on the injured list with a low back bruise. He saw action in 15 MLB games last year but spent most of the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

“The backup role is really a guy you ask to be able to handle the pitching staff,” Mattingly said. “To be able to call the game, be involved with all that. I’m totally comfortable with both guys.”

Holaday has enjoyed a strong Spring Training, hitting .368 (7-for-19). Wallach appeared in his sixth Grapefruit League game on Thursday against the Astros. If Alfaro isn’t ready for the opener and starts out on the injured list, both Holaday and Wallach are likely to make the club.

For Holaday, 31, returning to Miami made sense because he gained familiarity with the staff in 2018.

“It really is spring as usual,” he said. “It’s been a fun spring. It’s really nice when you get to come back to a team that you’re familiar with the pitching staff. It makes your job a lot easier. There’s still a lot of guys I’ve got to get to know and get to know what makes them work. But it’s been a fun and challenging spring.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.