Jennings plugging leaks in Marlins' outfield
BOSTON -- On Opening Day, the Marlins' outfield contained some of the game's premier young talent in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
But in "a season of changes," as manager Dan Jennings put it, Miami has been forced to plug leaks at several spots in its starting lineup. This especially extends to the outfield, where Stanton remains sidelined with a hand injury and Ozuna was recently optioned to Triple-A New Orleans amid hitting woes.
As a result, Tuesday's game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park featured a starting outfield of Michael Morse in left, Cole Gillespie in right and Yelich manning center field for the first time this year.
"It's definitely been a season of changes," Jennings said, "but I think you could ask any of the other 29 clubs that. Injuries are part of the game. Guys getting moved up and down are part of the game. The versatility is huge, and you look at the end of the roster, and we tried to be fair doing that to make sure there was versatility."
Morse didn't last long in left, as he shifted to first base in the second inning when Jeff Baker exited with left oblique pain. Ichiro Suzuki assumed Baker's spot in the lineup and played left.
The versatility Jennings mentioned includes Jordany Valdespin, who had his contract selected from New Orleans as expected on Tuesday. He slashed .287/.342/.378 in 60 games with the Zephyrs this season and has Major League experience at all three outfield positions, as well as second base (45 games) and shortstop (five games).
"He gives us some versatility both in the infield and outfield," Jennings said. "We spoke to the Triple-A staff down there, [and they] said he was swinging the bat well. We had him on standby at one time earlier in the season ready to go. Jordany brings energy. He's got the ability to pop a ball out of the ballpark. He can steal a base for you, and he can really play anywhere in the outfield, as well as second base."
Yelich, who won a Gold Glove Award last year for his standout defense in left field, is expected to see most of the time in center with Ozuna in the Minors. Yelich was credited with 13 defensive runs saved playing left in 2014, according to Fangraphs, but he also cost the team three runs while playing center that year.
Jennings added that Gillespie and Valdespin could spell Yelich in center, with Morse and Ichiro giving Miami the option of platooning its corner outfield spots when needed.
"We'll mix and match what's going to be the best, and we'll try to play some platoons to certain situations," Jennings said. "We won't go straight platoon, but we'll try to get our best defensive club out there that will help our club every night."
Morse's experience in the outfield -- 403 of his 676 career games have been played there -- gives the Marlins even more flexibility and would allow them the opportunity to slot both Morse and first baseman Justin Bour into their lineup on occasion. "That, and [Morse's] makeup, what he brings inside the clubhouse, and the fact that you're talking about a lifetime .[.277] hitter with some power," Jennings said.