Marlins confident Realmuto ready for big stage
Catching prospect to see playing time behind Salty with Mathis on disabled list
ATLANTA -- An unfortunate break for Jeff Mathis has accelerated the advancement of J.T. Realmuto, who takes over the Marlins' backup catcher role.
Miami's No. 2-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, Realmuto was promoted from Triple-A New Orleans on Monday, and he will split time with regular Jarrod Saltalamacchia. With Atlanta going with lefty Eric Stults on Wednesday, Realmuto is expected to make his first start of the season.
"We feel like J.T. is Major League-ready or very close to it," Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said Tuesday. "We were going to give him some time this year in Triple-A. We had the luxury of having two Major League-proven guys in Salty and Mathis.
"Having a guy like J.T. to be able to reach back to, just shows the depth and the quality we have in your system. Certainly, right now, he's definitely prepared and capable to come up here and fill in Matty's role."
Mathis sustained a tough injury when he fractured his right hand on a foul tip on Sunday against the Rays at Marlins Park.
Realmuto saw action in 11 big league games last season and batted .241 with a double and a triple in 29 at-bats. At New Orleans this season, he appeared in three games and was 5-for-13 (.385) with five runs scored.
The Marlins consider Realmuto their catcher of the future. A year ago, he was part of Double-A Jacksonville's Southern League championship team. The Oklahoma native batted .299 with a .369 on-base percentage, eight homers and 62 RBIs.
"We all feel that one day he's going to be that frontline guy," Jennings said. "It gives you more options to run a guy out there at the manager's discretion."
Saltalamacchia, like the rest of Miami's regulars so far this season, has had his struggles at the plate. Defensively, he has shown improvement. And he's thrown out two runners trying to steal.
"He's worked very hard to improve things defensively," Jennings said. "There's only three catchers in baseball right now who have thrown out more basestealers than him. Salty, like everyone else, is trying to find his rhythm to give us the production we're looking for."