05/10/2013 10:31 PM ET
Injuries force Marlins to fast-track prospects
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Dealing with injuries is part of the game. What's out of the ordinary is the pure volume of Marlins who have spent time on the disabled list this season.
Already 12 players have or are still serving 13 different stints on the DL, which is the most of any team in the Major Leagues.
The rash of players going down was displayed a few days ago in San Diego. On Tuesday, the Marlins placed second baseman Donovan Solano on the DL in the afternoon with a strained left intercostal, and his replacement, Chris Valaika, suffered a broken left wrist the same night.
The two injuries resulted in promoting prospect Derek Dietrich from Double-A Jacksonville about a month earlier than anticipated.
"It's been a bad run," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "It kind of started the first day of Spring Training when [Jeff] Mathis broke his collarbone, and it hasn't really stopped since."
Mathis, a veteran catcher, is on rehab assignment at Jacksonville and could arrive to the big leagues soon.
Toward the end of Spring Training, the front office was anticipating right-hander Jose Fernandez, outfielder Marcell Ozuna and Dietrich would be part of a loaded Double-A club. Now, all three are in the big leagues. And in a few weeks, if not sooner, outfielder Christian Yelich could also be making his MLB debut.
Ranked 13th on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospect List, Yelich is riding a 15-game hitting streak for the Suns.
This is a transition season for the Marlins, as the team reloads with younger players, many of whom were expected to continue their development in the Minors.
"I don't know if it messes up the plan," Beinfest said. "You've got to do what you've got to do. I don't think anybody thought that Derek Dietrich was going to be here today, but eventually he was going to be here. Eventually, Ozuna was going to be here. Eventually, Yelich will be here."
Calling up prospects has become a need because manager Mike Redmond has struggled to keep healthy bodies on the field.
"Right now, we're so buckled by the amount of injuries to key players," Beinfest said. "I don't know if we've taken a step back to say, 'OK, is this going to mess up the master plan?' We're trying to make sure Red has 25 guys every day, which has been tough. He's played short a lot. It's tough to keep up with it."
Valaika undergoes surgery on broken wrist
LOS ANGELES -- Marlins infielder Chris Valaika, who fractured his left wrist on Tuesday at San Diego, underwent successful surgery on Friday at the University of Miami Hospital.
Valaika sustained a break to the tip of his radius bone in the eighth inning.
A Santa Monica native, Valaika entered the Marlins' road trip eager to travel to Los Angeles to see family and friends.
Instead, on Friday the 27-year-old was back in Miami, where it was determined he needed surgery. Dr. Patrick Owens performed the procedure, inserting two pins in his wrist.
There is a chance Valaika could be done for the season. He will need four to six weeks to recover from the surgery, and about the same amount of time to build back up.
"He's going to be down a while," manager Mike Redmond said. "He left the other day to get checked out, and it showed that he needed surgery."
Valaika, who started at second base on Tuesday, sustained the injury while covering second on Yonder Alonso's stolen base. His glove hand was pinned and bent backwards after grazing with Alonso.
Koehler replaces LeBlanc in rotation
LOS ANGELES -- The Marlins are shaking up their rotation a little bit.
Tom Koehler will be replacing Wade LeBlanc, giving Miami five right-hander starters.
LeBlanc, 0-5 with a 6.11 ERA in seven starts, was initially scheduled to start on Sunday. Now the left-hander will be going to the bullpen, where he is an option to pitch long relief.
Koehler, who has a 3.32 ERA in six relief appearances, will be making his second MLB start. The right-hander started the 2012 season finale.
"He's going to get an opportunity to go in and make a start, and we'll see how he does," manager Mike Redmond said. "This gives us another lefty in the bullpen, and a guy who can throw multiple innings. We'll flip-flop them.
"Tom has been a starter in Minor Leagues, and he's had success. And it gives us a little flexibility in the bullpen. We've got a guy who can come in and face some lefties. And he's built up to where he can give us multiple innings, if we need him. "
Koehler opened the season at Triple-A New Orleans, where he made three starts and had a 1.06 ERA before being called up.
The Marlins also are flip-flopping Alex Sanabia and Ricky Nolasco in the first two games of their homestand against the Reds, which starts on Tuesday at Marlins Park.
Nolasco will start on Tuesday, while Sanabia, who was hampered by a tight right groin in his last start, will go on Wednesday.
Marlins dealing with growing pains on defense
LOS ANGELES -- The importance of making the routine plays was preached daily by the Marlins coaching staff since the first day of Spring Training.
So much time and energy was devoted to being sound defensively, which is a reason why manager Mike Redmond is not pleased with how his young club has done in the field.
The Marlins have committed 29 errors, which is tied with the Cubs for the most in the Major Leagues.
"I think we've had some mistakes on plays that we should have made," Redmond said. "On routine plays. And maybe we've had some plays that guys with a little more experience would have made. But, at the end of the day, this is the big leagues, and guys are getting the opportunity to go out there and play. We've got to play defense. That's the way it goes. You've got to make plays in this league or you don't stick around."
Boras on hand to watch Fernandez
LOS ANGELES -- Jose Fernandez's seventh big league start was the first time his agent, Scott Boras, got to watch him pitch in person.
Fernandez, Miami's 20-year-old right-handed sensation, took the mound on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
The Marlins moved Fernandez from Class A to the big leagues out of necessity. The day before the season opened, the team placed Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi on the disabled list, each hindered by right shoulder inflammation.
So, without any Double-A development, Fernandez is developing in the big leagues.
"He doesn't have the typical soul of a 20-year-old," said Boras, a California-based agent. "He has an older soul. He loves to study hitting. He asked me information all the time."
Before the season started, Boras was informed of the Marlins' decision by team owner, Jeffrey Loria.
Boras says Fernandez is a rare talent because he commands three pitches. Along with a 95-plus-mph fastball, the Cuban-born right-hander has a plus slider and changeup.
"Placing him at the Major League level, it's challenged him, obviously, to pitch with three pitches, and create a more dynamic perspective [for hitters]," Boras said.
If Fernandez had gone to Double-A Jacksonville, he could have dominated basically with just his fastball.
"He had the ability to dominate with just one pitch," Boras said. "When you want a player to grow, normally the Minor Leagues, you're going to have to have him use three pitches to be effective as a preparation process."
The Marlins have already said they will closely monitor Fernandez, limiting him to between 150-170 innings.
"Again, the club has kind of said, 'We're going to keep him on a Minor League scale,'" Boras said. "If you're pitching a lot of innings prior to being 24, your chances of pitching after 30 are not good.
"Whether he pitches 150 or 160 innings in the Minor Leagues, the key thing for me is, this is the forum that allows him to really acquire the knowledge you would hope someone would acquire below. But you're doing it at the highest level, because the talent allows him to compete, and provide the team with an opportunity to win."
Boras, who also represents Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, notes that Fernandez is getting a head-start at the big league level.
"When Matt Harvey was 20, he was a sophomore in college," the agent said.
• Mathis, on rehab assignment with Jacksonville, could join the Marlins as early as Tuesday in Miami. The veteran catcher broke his right collarbone on Feb. 23, in Miami's first Grapefruit League game.
• Logan Morrison, on the 60-day disabled list with a right knee injury, is being used as a designated hitter in extended spring games. He went 2-for-3 with a home run, single and walk on Friday in Jupiter.
• Giancarlo Stanton, on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring, remains in Miami receiving treatment.