Notes: Lewin confident; López's breaking ball

March 8th, 2021

When saw his name in the Marlins' lineup for Sunday afternoon's 4-4 tie with the Mets at Clover Park, he couldn't help receiving a boost in confidence -- something he had been lacking at the onset of camp. Díaz, who has appeared in each of Miami's seven Grapefruit League games, got his first start in a lineup filled with the organization's top prospects.

Díaz took advantage of the opportunity, going 2-for-3 from the fifth spot. In his first at-bat, the 24-year-old said he was looking for a high pitch because of All-Star right-hander Marcus Stroman's good sinker, which produces an elite ground-ball rate. With two strikes, the left-handed hitter found a hole in the shift for a two-out RBI single to right-center. According to Statcast, he turned on Stroman's 91.6 mph cutter with a 103.9 mph exit velocity. Díaz then doubled down the right-field line on lefty Aaron Loup's changeup in the fourth. That hit came after the slick-fielding first baseman committed a fielding error on a routine play in the first. Díaz redeemed himself by turning an unassisted double play to end the frame.

"He's definitely looking more comfortable," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a Zoom call. "His at-bats obviously better today. He's had some good swings throughout camp, but it's good to see him looking more comfortable. He's made some small changes. You see his hands just a touch higher. I think it's good for him. So it's going to be fine. He'll get a lot of at-bats in spring. There's just not a ton of first basemen in camp."

Miami's eighth-ranked prospect, Díaz finished 6-for-39 with two doubles and three RBIs after his callup in 2020. After that first taste of the Majors, he worked over the offseason on gaining muscle mass to feel stronger over the course of a long season. Díaz also played on the same Dominican Republic Winter League team as Fernando Tatis Jr. and Robinson Canó. He leaned on the veteran Canó, who offered this advice: "It doesn't matter where the pitch is, just try and hit with the barrel of the bat."

"It was a beautiful experience," Díaz said via an interpreter earlier in the spring. "Being up there is everybody's dream to play this game, to make it to the Majors. I've got to continue to keep working, swinging at good pitches. Planning ahead this year, that's going to be one of the things I'm going to be working on is swinging at good pitches, get good at that, so I can go back to the Major League level and stay there for a long time."

The latest on López's breaking ball
In his second spring start, Pablo López induced a double play in each of his three scoreless innings. The final one came on his breaking pitch, which he turned to four times in the outing -- all in the third.

"With the breaking ball, you want to keep a stiff wrist," López said during a Zoom call. "You have to keep a mindset in between -- it's not a curveball, it's not a slider. I just want the shape in between them. So it's a matter of messing with your wrist and how you want to snap it. Sometimes with a breaking ball, you don't snap it, but with a breaking ball like that, we're trying to work with this thing. We're trying to snap it a little bit and in that angle we want the rotation to go."

Second-base battle
Isan Díaz and Jazz Chisholm started at second and short, respectively, on Sunday. Díaz picked up his first hit of the spring with a leadoff triple in the third. According to Statcast, the sharp grounder down the right-field line had an exit velocity of 104.9 mph. Across three plate appearances, Díaz saw 19 pitches, showing he could consistently work the count. Chisholm, MLB Pipeline's No. 66 overall prospect, was hitless in two at-bats.

"I kind of made notes on him today," Mattingly said of Isan Díaz. "I thought those were [his] best at-bats in spring, for sure. He also turned a couple double plays, looked really easy for him and natural. I was happy with that today, to see that for him starting to get in a little bit of a rhythm."

Prospect watch
• JJ Bleday (MLB Pipeline's No. 20 overall) finished 1-for-2 with a walk.

• Will Banfield (Miami's No. 30) appeared in a Major League Spring Training game for the first time, taking over at catcher in the ninth.

• Jerar Encarnación (No. 17) made his 2021 spring debut, coming in to play first base for Lewin Díaz. Playing a position he has appeared at just four times in his Minor League career, Encarnación made a nice pick of José Devers' low throw for the final out of the fifth.

"It's really about getting him at-bats," Mattingly said of Encarnación. "It's definitely a secondary position for him. Our guys think he has a chance to be really good there. We still look at him as an outfielder, but we do think it's something he can do."

Up next
Projected No. 3 starter Elieser Hernandez will make his second spring appearance at 1:05 p.m. ET on Monday against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. St. Louis will counter with lefty Kwang Hyun Kim.