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Mattingly: Brinson an 'interesting' leadoff option

Marlins No. 1 prospect homered off Strasburg to begin game vs. Nationals
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Climbing up the Minor League ladder, Lewis Brinson has had his share of leadoff home runs. Nothing, though, like hitting one off an All-Star of the caliber of Stephen Strasburg.

Brinson opened the Marlins' 8-3 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday with a home run to center off Strasburg at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Climbing up the Minor League ladder, Lewis Brinson has had his share of leadoff home runs. Nothing, though, like hitting one off an All-Star of the caliber of Stephen Strasburg.

Brinson opened the Marlins' 8-3 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday with a home run to center off Strasburg at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

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"I've led off before with a homer," Brinson said. "Off Stephen Strasburg? Nothing like that. A pitcher like that, that feels good, too. Especially off a curveball, to get one off a guy like that."

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With the wind blowing out, the ball may have gotten a little boost, but there is no disputing the power potential of Brinson, ranked as Miami's No. 1 prospect and 27th overall in the Majors by MLB Pipeline.

Officially, Brinson has not yet been informed that he's made the club's Opening Day roster. But he's had a strong Spring Training, batting .333 in 48 at-bats. The Marlins not only are considering Brinson as their starting center fielder, he's also in the mix to lead off.

"You want someone who gets on base also," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously, there's been a trend going in this direction."

Mattingly noted the Twins have used Brian Dozier and the Cubs have gone with Kyle Schwarber -- players with power -- in the leadoff spot. Brinson has a speed/power dimension the Marlins have not had leading off since early in Hanley Ramirez's career.

"He's interesting up there because he gets that [extra] at-bat," Mattingly said. "We'll keep looking."

Camp battle
Rounding out the rotation isn't the only priority for the Marlins' staff before Spring Training concludes on Sunday. Solidifying the bullpen is also a work in progress.

With Nick Wittgren being optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday, there is a spot for a right-handed setup reliever. A candidate who is making a strong case to be on the club is Tayron Guerrero, the rangy 6-foot-8, 210-pound righty from Colombia.

Guerrero has not allowed a run in 9 1/3 innings of Grapefruit League action, with two strikeouts and two walks. His fastball has been in the 97-99 mph range.

"For us, he's been legit," Mattingly said. "We keep trying to test him in different things, and he keeps throwing strikes."

Guerrero last pitched in the big leagues in 2016, when he was with the Padres. He appeared in one game for San Diego, tossing two innings.

Throwing strikes has been the issue with Guerrero since he's been with the Marlins. At three Minor League levels last year, he logged 36 1/3 innings, walking 29 while striking out 40.

"I don't think his stuff was ever the issue," Mattingly said. "It was just a matter of if he was going to throw strikes. At least in this camp, he's cleaned that up. He's been on the attack. Obviously, the results have been there. His numbers have been really good."

Injury report
Elieser Hernandez is finally eating and sleeping well again. The 22-year-old has dealt with the aftermath from a dental procedure for more than a week. He had a wisdom tooth extracted, and was dealing with complications due to an infection. Hernandez lost six pounds since, but the Rule 5 Draft pick is starting to feel like his old self.

Hernandez is throwing off flat ground, and building back towards getting on the mound. As a Rule 5 Draft pick, he must make the roster, but he may start off on the disabled list. Either way, the Marlins like what they see, and Hernandez could be in the rotation when healthy.

"We really like Elieser, I'll tell you that much," Mattingly said. "He's thrown the ball well here. He's been poised. He's got three pitches. He throws strikes. He holds runners. This guy has been really good."

Video: MIA@STL: Hernandez throws three scoreless innings

Up next
The Marlins return to Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on Wednesday and face the Cardinals for the last time in Grapefruit League action at 1:05 p.m. ET, live on Gameday Audio. Miami's starter was initially scheduled to be Sandy Alcantara, who was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday. Getting the call instead is right-hander Zac Gallen, Miami's 14th-rated prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Gallen was sent down earlier in camp, and he faces his former club. St. Louis is starting right-hander Matt Bowman

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Lewis Brinson