PITTSBURGH -- Splitting playing time behind the plate has been one of Marlins manager Mike Redmond's toughest challenges.
Jeff Mathis, a veteran, has received the bulk of the work the past few months. The 30-year-old has regularly caught rookie Jose Fernandez, as well as Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.
Rob Brantly, 23, caught Tom Koehler in Miami's 4-2 loss on Wednesday night to the Pirates. And he's had history with Jacob Turner, stemming from when both were with the Tigers. Turner, Brantly and lefty prospect Brian Flynn were dealt to the Marlins from Detroit on July 23, 2012, for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.
"The thing I'm worried about with Mathis is wearing him out, playing him too much," said Redmond, a former big league catcher who is well aware of the grind of the position. "Brantly is a guy who has had some good games. And he's had some games where everything has sort of snowballed on him.
"What I'm looking for from him is to eliminate those games where one thing happens bad, and here comes another, then another and another. It's eliminating that kind of snowball effect back there. Hopefully he's able to work on that and get better."
Brantly has started 56 games, and he's had his struggles in several areas.
"There are a few things he needs to continue to work on, like his game-calling," Redmond said. "He's had some tags at the plate that we've been working on. I think a lot of it just comes down to experience. This kid just hasn't caught many games."
Brantly has seven passed balls, compared to two for Mathis.
Mathis has thrown out 42.9 percent of the runners who have attempted to steal off him, compared to Brantly's 29.5 percent.
"That's a position where we really can't afford any injuries," Redmond said. "I know being a backup catcher as well. If they ran me out there too much, I might have gotten hurt. Or I did get hurt, and I played through it anyway.
"With Mathis, we've got to take care of him. As much as we all appreciate what he does, we have to take care of him too. I don't want to wear him out."
Slumping Marisnick gets first breather since callup
PITTSBURGH -- Sometimes taking a step back is the best way to move forward.
Marlins rookie Jake Marisnick is going through that right now.
In a 1-for-13 slump over the last four games, the 22-year-old was given Thursday afternoon off.
It's the first time since Marisnick was promoted from Double-A on July 23 that he wasn't in the Marlins' starting lineup. Justin Ruggiano made the start in center for the series finale against the Pirates at PNC Park.
Ruggiano also is looking to get on track. He's mired in an 0-for-35 rut entering Thursday, which is a team record drought by a position player.
How does Marisnick handle the rough times?
"Just stay level-headed and not get too down on yourself and not panic," Marisnick said. "That can go a long way in getting yourself out of a funk. Staying on an even keel and getting your work in and taking care of everything every day. That's a big part of it."
Marisnick's batting average has dipped to .192 in 15 games and 52 at-bats.
"Pitchers definitely don't give in as much here," the center fielder said. "Every pitch, they're trying to do something with it. In the lower levels, guys on 2-0 will just try to get a fastball over. Here they're trying to hit a spot or mix you up."
Marisnick saw quickly that big league pitchers don't just groove a fastball in a fastball count. The first time he had a 2-0 count, he was treated to two straight changeups.
To get on track, Marisnick is working on his pitch recognition and keeping his swing short.
"I'm just a little long to the ball right now," he said. "I still have to fine-tune on some pitches, and make sure I'm getting the ball over the plate and not chasing pitches."
Three a tough magic number for Miami offense
PITTSBURGH -- No matter the combination of hits and walks, the Marlins repeatedly find themselves scoring three runs or fewer per game.
"It seems like we just keep getting stuck on that three. Usually, it's six hits, three runs," manager Mike Redmond said. "I laugh, but I'm really crying inside. We've got to keep battling. Our pitching continues to give us a chance and keep us in these ballgames."
The problem is the run support remains minimal. In their four-game losing streak heading into Thursday, the Marlins have scored eight total runs.
In the first game at Pittsburgh, they lost, 4-3, on Tuesday, and on Wednesday night fell, 4-2.
For the season, the Marlins have scored three or fewer runs 74 times, and they are 13-61 in those games.
"We've had that happen to where we've put so much pressure on our pitchers, where if they make a mistake, it ends up costing us the game," Redmond said. "We've got to be able to score more runs."
On the plus side, first baseman Logan Morrison is heating up. He's had a hit in all six games in August, and is 11-for-25 (.440) with three doubles, one triple and six RBIs in the month.
After missing major chunks of the last two seasons due to two right knee surgeries, Morrison is making strides with consistent playing time.
"I feel like now he's just starting to feel more comfortable," Redmond said. "He's been able to put together better at-bats. Hopefully he will go out and finish these last couple of months strong."