Realmuto to serve as player-manager Sunday

All-Star catcher won't start again in 2018, still available off bench

September 29th, 2018

NEW YORK -- Heading into the weekend series at the Mets, Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto informed manager Don Mattingly that he wanted to catch 's final start.

As it turns out, being behind the plate for Urena and Miami's 8-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field on Friday was Realmuto's last start of the season. Mattingly on Saturday started at catcher, and will get the nod in the season finale on Sunday.

Realmuto is available off the bench, and on Sunday, the All-Star will have a chance to make his own call. Realmuto will be the player/manager for the Marlins for a day, a role Mattingly has assigned to a player in each of his first three seasons at the helm.

A year ago, it was A.J. Ellis, and in 2016, assumed the one-day role of managing.

Realmuto is winding down one of the best seasons ever by a Marlins catcher. It's also been his most productive season, power-wise. The 27-year-old has a slash line of .277/.340/.484, along with an OPS of .825. He added a career-best 21 home runs and 74 RBIs.

"He just keeps going forward," Mattingly said. "That's the one thing you notice about J.T. His approach is a little better. His swing is a little better. His game calling is a little better. He just keeps growing."

Realmuto has been the face of the franchise in a transitional building season, but there are questions surrounding his fit in the organization's long-term plans. Although he has two more seasons of being arbitration-eligible, Realmuto could be dealt if the organization is presented with a trade package that makes sense.

There's also a chance the Marlins could approach Realmuto with a contract extension. With Realmuto entering his prime years, it may not make sense to retain him if the club is a couple of years away from contending.

So Sunday may be Realmuto's final game with the Marlins.

"I haven't thought about that, at all," Mattingly said. "I don't want to think about that."

Mattingly, under contract through 2019, will manage Realmuto in November, when he is part of a group of MLB players traveling to Japan to face Japanese stars.

It's been a trying season for the Marlins, as they are building from the Minor Leagues on up.

Through the adversity, Realmuto didn't make waves, and he was arguably the best catcher in the Majors this year.

"He has his own thoughts, his own feelings, but he's not going to be a guy who is going to allow that to come to the field and distract everybody else," Mattingly said. "I had no worries about J.T. all year long.

"That's one of the things that was going on last winter. Everybody worried about J.T. I never worried about J.T., because J.T. is a player. J.T. is not going to be a guy who is going to be a distraction or be complaining. He's going to go play."

Worth noting

• The festivities surrounding 's start on Saturday hit close to home for Mattingly. Like Wright, Mattingly's playing career with the Yankees was hampered by back issues.

"I have a lot of admiration for him and the fight he's had trying to get back on the field. I think he's shown a lot of character," Mattingly said. "David's [back issues] seemed to keep compounding. Mine kind of ended up staying in one spot. His kind of, it seemed like, it went all over."