7/1/2013 11:00 P.M. ET
Mathis' Sunday grand slam not his only game-changer
By David Villavicencio / Special to MLB.com
MIAMI -- Jeff Mathis's walk-off grand slam gave the Marlins a 6-2 victory Sunday, but the winning hit was just one of his big plays in the ninth inning.
Mathis' blast followed a huge play in the top of ninth. With the game tied at 2, the 30-year-old threw out Mark Kotsay trying to steal second on a failed hit-and-run. Marlins manager Mike Redmond felt the play made a significant difference for his club on Sunday.
"It's a tie game, and that's a big play," Redmond said. "If he hits a ground ball and it's first-and-third, that's a big play for them. He swung and missed, and we threw him out. That was really a transfer of momentum for us."
Kotsay was the 11th runner Mathis has thrown out this season in 16 opportunities. The veteran catcher believes his throwing improved significantly as a member of the Blue Jays a year ago and has continued to progress working with Redmond and Marlins bench coach Rob Leary.
"Last year, I started to kind of figure it out and feel better throwing the ball," Mathis said. "I was working with Don Wakamatsu, and we worked on some things. I was backing up last year, and I wasn't in there very much so we had time to work together. I just started feeling a lot more comfortable and everything started feeling more consistent. I've continued doing that stuff here with Leary and Red, and it's helped."
Mathis does not take all the credit for his success throwing out runners, acknowledging the importance of the pitching staff holding runners.
"I have to give credit to the pitching staff," Mathis said. "They've been holding guys on, holding the ball and picking over. That combination of things helps keep guys from getting big leads, and that gives us a chance."
While he has always been known as a defensive catcher, Mathis loves helping his team in other ways, too. After entering the ninth inning 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, Mathis delivered the key hit to complete one of his best games as a Marlin.
"It feels good to produce," Mathis said. "My number one goal is defense and handling that pitching staff. Anything else is a plus. Throwing guys out, keeping guys off the bases and out of scoring position is big in any kind of game. Then last night to get a hit like that is huge."
Hot-hitting Solano recalled; Brown optioned
MIAMI -- On June 10, Donovan Solano was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. A few weeks later, the 25-year-old is headed back in the big leagues.
Solano has hit .379 (25-for-66) with two homers in 17 games with Triple-A New Orleans. Miami optioned outfielder Jordan Brown to New Orleans to make room for Solano on the 25-man roster. Brown went 1-for-9 in his latest stint with the club and is 3-for-15 in the Majors this season.
Solano had been on a tear in the Minors since he was activated from the disabled list on June 10. A versatile defender, Solano missed a month with an intercostal strain and his replacement, Derek Dietrich, flourished in his place.
The Marlins elected to keep Dietrich over Solano once Solano was healthy, as Dietrich was batting .223 with five homers and 13 RBIs through June 10.
But Solano's hot hitting in the Minors could not be ignored, and the 25-year-old will join the Marlins in Atlanta on Tuesday for the beginning of a three-game series against the Braves.
Qualls, Marlins honor fallen Arizona firefighters
MIAMI -- Teams around Major League Baseball took time to recognize the 19 firefighters who lost their lives Sunday battling the wildfires in Arizona.
The Marlins and Padres participated in a moment of silence prior to Monday's series finale to honor those who passed away fighting the Yarnell Hill fire, northwest of Phoenix.
Marlins reliever Chad Qualls is familiar with the area after spending the 2008-09 seasons with the D-backs. The veteran reliever is concerned for all those affected by the fires, especially the families of those who lost their lives.
"I was up in the north Scottsdale area when I lived there, and I know it gets real hot and dry and gusty," Qualls said. "It had to catch them off guard. It's a shame. My heart goes out to their families. It's something you don't like to hear about, especially about people who put their life on the line to save others. It's tough news."
Alvarez, slated for Thursday debut, will bolster rotation
MIAMI -- Henderson Alvarez will make his Marlins' debut in Thursday's series finale against the Braves.
Manager Mike Redmond announced that Alvarez, who has been on the disabled list since SpringTraining with right shoulder inflammation, will follow Ricky Nolasco when he joins the rotation.
"He's going to pitch Thursday after Ricky," Redmond said. "[Tom] Koehler will throw tomorrow, Ricky Wednesday and then Alvarez. Then we will adjust."
Redmond does not know what his starting rotation will look like beyond that. The rookie manager said a six-man rotation is not an option. Jose Fernandez, Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi are the other three starters.
Alvarez wrapped up his rehab assignment on Friday with an impressive start, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings for Double-A Jacksonville. The right-hander, who tossed a bullpen session at Marlins Park on Sunday, is set to join the rotation after allowing just three earned runs over 24 1/3 innings spread over four rehab outings.
Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis is familiar with Alvarez, because they played together for the Blue Jays in 2012. Mathis believes the addition of Alvarez will help bolster an already talented young rotation.
"He's another good, live young arm," Mathis said. "He knows how to pitch, and he's had success. He has some innings under his belt at the big league level. We're hoping he can come in and pitch like he is capable of and stay healthy."
The return of Alvarez would give the Marlins the rotation that many projected as the team headed into Spring Training. Redmond is excited to see what the group can do now that they are all available.
"That's one thing we missed coming out of Spring Training," Redmond said. "Having Eovaldi and Alvarez get hurt, we weren't really able to see what those guys were capable of doing. Now it's nice to get those guys down there and create some stability and see what they can do over the course of a season."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.