Marlins striving for smooth defensive shuffle

Set for position changes in '23, Arraez, Segura putting in work for quick adjustment

February 22nd, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- When Marlins general manager Kim Ng was constructing the 2023 roster, she considered the possible repercussions of the moves she was making to improve the lineup.

Having All-Star at second base meant moving free-agent acquisition to third, a position at which he has made just 24 big league appearances. But acquiring American League batting champion via trade bumped Chisholm to center field, somewhere he has never played.

On top of players out of position, this season will mark the implementation of league-wide shift restrictions. According to infield coach Jody Reed, range, ready position, anticipation and first-step movements will be at a premium with more traditional defensive alignments.

"I think we're always concerned," Ng said. "It was part of the calculus, but I would also say that if we didn't think that they could do it, we wouldn't have done it."

Reed has been tasked with making these transitions as smooth as possible -- and in a shorter period of time than usual, since Segura and Arraez will be competing in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, respectively. Spring Training is a time for players to perfect the fundamentals and increase their comfort level with teammates, and players swapping positions -- let alone playing new positions on new teams -- have even more to figure out than usual.

Both Reed and manager Skip Schumaker are confident that the newcomers will receive enough reps before and after the tournament to slot into their new spots comfortably by the time the regular season begins. In fact, the projected Opening Day lineup is scheduled to take the field Sunday and Tuesday in Grapefruit League games at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

"At the Major League level, it's all about taking care of the baseball, get your outs, take care of your pitcher," Reed said. "That's ultimately the goal. We're just going to get good at the boring. Let's focus on the routine play. Let's just hammer that every day."

Segura, a member of a stacked Dominican Republic roster, will play wherever he is asked. It's not an unfamiliar notion. A shortstop from 2012-15, he moved to second base in '16 before returning to short from '17-19. He split time between second and third in '20, then he's been back at second since.

"I've played this game for so many years, I know what I need to do," Segura said. "My main focus is practicing at third, take grounders at third, working, get ground balls off the bat at third base, get used to third base, because that's the base I'm going to play the majority of my time here in Miami. I'm ready."

During Wednesday's workout, Reed hit grounders to Segura prior to position players going through baserunning and fielding drills. He reminded Segura of the main difference between second and third: the amount of time he has at third base (with a batted ball traveling 90-100 feet) compared to second (120-125 or more).

"The ball gets down there pretty quick, and he reacts a little bit differently," Reed said. "It's going to take a little adjustment time to get his comfort level back up, and that's what we were doing today is just a little glove work, just getting him comfortable at rotating from forehand to backhand, because it does get quick. We're going to get him as many reps as we can before he leaves for the WBC, and try to get that comfort level."

The Twins signed Arraez in 2013 as a shortstop, then shifted him to second base. Since making his MLB debut in '19, Arraez has split time between second, third, first and left field. Last season, he appeared at first (65 games) more than second (41). Though Arraez will play first base for Venezuela, he plans to get work in at second -- a position he is excited to play again.

After batting practice, Reed spent time working with Arraez on the same back field. He instructed Arraez to be close to his hands on a double play and to keep his glove down.

"He's like my father right now," Arraez said. "He just wants to help me. I love to work, and I had a long time I didn't get [to play] my position at second base. Now I get to play second base every day. So I put the extra work there, and then we practice glove side, front glove. But he's amazing. I'm happy to get him, and I'm happy he helped me a lot, and I go there and practice with him every day."