8/11/2013 1:45 P.M. ET
Hechavarria continuing to mature at the plate
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Adeiny Hechavarria has dazzled the Marlins and their fans with his glove all season -- so much so that his teammates and coaches consider him the best defensive shortstop in the National League.
In Saturday's 1-0 win over the Braves at Turner Field, Hechavarria delivered with his bat. The 24-year-old rookie from Cuba tripled to open the ninth inning, and he scored on a wild pitch for the lone run in the game.
Like so many young players on the Marlins, Hechavarria has endured his ups and downs in his first full big league season.
Defensively, he's lived up to his billing.
When the Marlins acquired Hechavarria from Toronto last November, the club believed he was a better defender than the player he replaced -- Jose Reyes.
Reyes, however, is a four-time All-Star, and a more established and dynamic offensive player.
As his career progresses, the Marlins are hopeful Hechavarria can establish himself as a .270 or so-caliber hitter.
The way he handles shortstop, the organization believes that is plenty of offense to counteract his glove.
"I try to defend, and the days I don't defend well, I try to hit," Hechavarria said in Spanish. "And the days I don't hit, I will defend."
The series in Atlanta features two of the NL's promising young shortstops. The Braves boast Andrelton Simmons, a player Hechavarria profiles to closely resemble.
Simmons has a fielding percentage of .985, fourth best in the NL, compared to Hechavarria's .978, which is sixth. Simmons has eight errors in 978 2/3 innings, to Hechavarria's nine in 893 2/3.
Hechavarria doesn't get caught up in who the opposing shortstop is. The only time he did that was while he was with the Blue Jays a year ago -- when he took the field opposite Derek Jeter.
"I was a big fan of Derek Jeter when I came over [from Cuba]," Hechavarria said. "When I saw him play, I was like, 'I've got to play like that.'"
Pierre close to passing DiMaggio on all-time hits list
ATLANTA -- When Juan Pierre first stepped onto a big league field, never did he imagine he would be in position to eventually surpass the great Joe DiMaggio in a key statistical category.
But the Marlins' veteran outfielder indeed is primed to pass not just Joltin' Joe, but another Hall of Famer as well -- Willie McCovey -- on the all-time hits list.
Pierre's pinch-hit double on Friday night against the Braves at Turner Field was career hit No. 2,209 for the veteran, who ranks 178th overall.
With one more hit, Pierre will match Willie Randolph (2,210) for 177th. McCovey sits in 176th place (2,211), followed by Joe Kuhel (2,212). Sitting in the No. 174 spot is DiMaggio, with 2,214 hits.
So Pierre is five shy of matching the Yankee Clipper.
"You think of Joe DiMaggio, Willie McCovey," Pierre said, "I feel my name should be nowhere close to them. I guess it is pretty cool, but I wasn't aware of it until like a week ago. It's pretty cool."
Pierre broke into the league in 2000 with the Rockies, and he's now in his second stint with the Marlins. He set the single-season hits mark with 221 in 2004.
A speedster with little power, Pierre's game has always been to single or bunt his way on base. Because he isn't a home-run threat, pitchers regularly go right after him, rather than risk issuing a walk.
"In order for me to get on base, I'd have to get hits," Pierre said. "That's what I had to do in my career. Then, batting leadoff, it gives you a lot of opportunities to get hits or make outs. It was one or the other."
Regarded as a throwback player because of his tremendous work ethic, Pierre is proud to be in elite company.
Consider, Pierre ranks 80th in MLB history among strictly left-handed hitters. McCovey is at 79.
"That stuff is staggering to me," Pierre said. "I never set out to play the game for that. Literally, I was happy to be in the big leagues. I just go out there and play. To be 80th, I can't comprehend that.
"I bet if you went around baseball circles, they'd say, 'No way Juan Pierre is up there on that list.' I just go out there and play hard. If you play long enough, I guess the numbers will be there."
Hill makes first start behind the plate
ATLANTA -- From personal experience, Koyie Hill certainly can relate to the struggles Rob Brantly is going through.
The 34-year-old has seen action in nine MLB seasons over an 11-year span. The Marlins on Friday selected the veteran's contract from Triple-A New Orleans. That same day, the team announced Brantly was being optioned to Triple-A.
Brantly, 23, started on Opening Day for Miami, and he was being groomed to be the catcher of the future. But after having his rough times at the plate and on the field, his playing time was limited behind Jeff Mathis.
At New Orleans, he will play regularly.
Hill, meanwhile, is making his first start on Sunday in the series finale against the Braves at Turner Field.
"No matter what position you're playing, this is a tough level to learn at," Hill said. "Kudos to the guys who can. I wouldn't look at it as a bad thing for [Brantly] going down there and getting some time in. A million other guys have had to do that, too. I don't think it's a personal attack on anything that he does. I think it's just part of the process."
Hill's first start as a Marlin allowed Mathis to take a breather.
It is Hill's 315th game in the big leagues, and he's seen all sides since he broke in with the Dodgers in 2003.
In 2005, Hill was the D-backs' Opening Day starter, catching former Marlin Javier Vazquez that day.
From 2007-12, he played for the Cubs.
The Marlins are counting on Hill being a capable backup to Mathis. They are looking more for him to handle a young pitching staff than be a big producer at the plate. He has a .211 career batting average.
On Friday night, in a 5-0 loss at Atlanta, Hill caught one inning, and he got a single in his lone at-bat.
So, he got brief playing time with his new teammates.
Developing catchers, he says, is a "process."
"I went to the big leagues in 2003," said Hill, "and I didn't feel like I was confident in what I was doing behind the plate until like 2006."