Alcantara puts attack, command on display

March 1st, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- When Miami right-hander is at his best, he attacks the strike zone, and he did that for the most part on Monday afternoon in his spring debut, a Marlins 2-0 win over the Mets in seven innings at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

In two scoreless innings, Alcantara gave up two hits -- one of which was negated when Brandon Nimmo rounded too far off first base after hitting a leadoff single and was thrown out. And although Alcantara walked Pete Alonso with two outs in the first, he was consistent across a 24-pitch, 16-strike outing. The 25-year-old threw all five of his pitches, maxing out at 96.9 mph.

"[I feel] really comfortable," Alcantara said during a Zoom call. "My command was really good. I commanded the fastball on all sides of the plate. I'm working hard here in Spring Training, in the offseason, and I see it. ... It's giving me the result."

Alcantara, who was the club's Opening Day starter in 2020 and projects to earn that honor again in '21, improved his zone percentage to 51.7 from 47.3 over the past two seasons. Command had been an issue for him coming up through the Minors and early in his MLB career.

"We always worry about Sandy, just making sure he's aggressive on the plate, just going ahead and attacking," manager Don Mattingly said. "Thought he lost some balls arm-side on somebody he walked in there, for the most part, I felt like he stayed on the hunt. Aggressive is what you like out of him."

Jitters out of the way

Reliever Anthony Bass, who was signed to a multiyear deal to work in high-leverage situations, escaped trouble in the third inning in his spring debut. Following a leadoff walk and a single, Bass retired the heart of the Mets' lineup -- Francisco Lindor, Alonso and J.D. Davis -- in order.

Bass entered the appearance wanting to work on his splitter, which he calls his third-best pitch. He turned to it 26 percent of the time in his 23-pitch outing. (In 2020, he used it at a 6.8 percent clip.) His fastball velocity reached 94.7 mph; he expects it to top 96 mph by the end of Spring Training.

"I was pretty happy with the overall execution of a lot of the pitches I made today," Bass said, "focusing on my two-seam fastball both sides of the plate and getting a feel of my split, which is my third pitch. I didn't really want to bust out my slider if I didn't need to."

Flashing the leather

Isan Díaz, competing for the second-base job, has looked comfortable on defense through the Marlins' first two games. In Sunday's win, he turned a nice inning-ending double play with Jazz Chisholm. On Monday, he again showed range -- going to his left, spinning and throwing to first to end the second.

"Those long ones, you know, try to kind of expect that one, not trying to let it catch me off guard," Díaz said. "Something that I kind of include in my routine every day, so obviously in games when it happens, I'm going to be ready for it."

When Alonso sent a grounder to the left side behind the second-base bag in the third inning, Díaz dove and flipped the ball behind his back to shortstop Miguel Rojas for the force. The play helped halt momentum for the Mets, who had two runners on.

"He seems sure of himself," Mattingly said. "That's what you see is just that confidence, comfortable playing the position."

What's the order?

Monday's spring home opener could be an early indication of how Miami's lineup will shape up for the regular season.

LF Corey Dickerson
CF Starling Marte
1B Jesús Aguilar
DH Adam Duvall
3B Brian Anderson
SS Miguel Rojas
2B Isan Díaz
C Jorge Alfaro
RF Lewis Brinson

Among the returnees, Dickerson led the club with 21 leadoff appearances in 2020, with Marte and Aguilar pacing the Marlins hitting second and third, respectively. With the addition of Duvall, Anderson could be pushed back to fifth -- as he was on Monday. Of course, much can change should the universal designated hitter make a last-minute return.

"We're pretty right-handed for the most part, so when you look at Andy and Duvall, [Garrett Cooper] and Agi, those are like four guys right there that are -- just kind of power -- not the same guy but very similar guys that are all dangerous and all can do some things," Mattingly said. "Throw Marte in that group. It's like, how do you try to balance it? And that's really what we'll be trying to do is trying to put that best lineup, how it fits together. But right now, it's a matter of trying to get at-bats."

Highlights from the game

Other Marlins debuts

• Adam Duvall went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.

• Ross Detwiler and Anthony Bender threw a scoreless inning apiece, while Shawn Morimando pitched two shutout frames.

Up next

Pablo López will make his spring debut at 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. St. Louis will counter with veteran Adam Wainwright.