Gurriel makes Miami's roster: 'He's a winning baseball player'

March 30th, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins general manager Kim Ng revealed on Marlins Radio Sunday that first baseman will make the Opening Day roster, while shortstop will not -- though he will remain in the organization. Both had the ability to opt out on Saturday.

The veterans each signed a Minor League deal on March 10 and had been trying to make up for lost time over the past two weeks. Manager Skip Schumaker said after Friday night's 3-2 Grapefruit League win over the Astros: "They're both showing that they still can play the Major Leagues."

"It was really challenging trying to get ready in those two weeks, new things and adjustments you have to make, but at the end of the day, I was able to make those adjustments and make the team, which is the most important part," Gurriel said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr.

With a full 40-man roster, Miami needed to clear space for Gurriel. The corresponding move was transferring (Tommy John rehab) to the 60-day injured list.

Gurriel, who will turn 39 in June, is a two-time World Series champion with the Astros and won the American League Gold Glove Award at first base and the AL batting title in 2021. He went 5-for-22 with an RBI double and one strikeout in seven Grapefruit League games, including a hit in each of his final three. Gurriel also homered off lefty Trevor Rogers in Monday's scrimmage

"He can spell [] however many times a week. We see him taking some spots at the DH at times, a day here, a day there, also pinch-hitting late in the game," Ng said. "Gurriel in particular puts together a pretty professional at-bat, and if you need the ball in play, he's going to be a pretty good guy you can call on."

Cooper, a 2022 All-Star, is slated for primary first-base duties for the first time, having appeared at the position a career-high 73 times in 2019. But there wasn't an obvious backup option on the roster, with Miami preferring to keep at second base. No. 10 prospect Jordan Groshans had been learning first this spring, but he missed two weeks with a left shoulder issue after making two diving plays, and he was optioned to Triple-A Jacksonville prior to Sunday's 2-2 tie with the Nationals. Gurriel has also been taking grounders at second and third to showcase his versatility.

"That defense is real, so I don't care what any metric says," Schumaker said Saturday. "He can play third, he can play second, he can play first. He's that type of athlete. He's been needed to play first in Houston, but if you watch him take ground balls, he can play multiple positions, and he's a baseball player. That's just who he is. He's a winning baseball player."

The 33-year-old Iglesias is a slick-fielding shortstop who could’ve served as a right-handed-hitting complement to the left-handed-hitting . At the plate, Iglesias went 3-for-15 with two doubles, four strikeouts and one walk in seven Grapefruit League appearances. He didn't receive a start over the weekend, instead entering games late Friday through Sunday.

Wendle has served in a utility infield role throughout his seven-year career, but he is projected to be the everyday shortstop. Schumaker said utility player Jon Berti would "play some shortstop, maybe more than he did last year [10 games]," especially against tough lefties.

"It was a very difficult decision because [Gurriel and Iglesias] got to camp late, and I just wish we had more at-bats and we had more games to see them play," Ng said. "But ultimately, you don't get to determine what exactly happens on that front. So we just had to make the best decision that we could. One of the messages to [Iglesias] was, 'We'd just like to see you more.' We talk about guys coming in and working themselves into shape and getting their timing and all those types of things, this just gives us more leeway and gives him more runway to get those things in order."