3/29/2014 2:25 P.M. ET
Stanton set up for season after monster homers
By Jim Hawkins / Special to MLB.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- Could this be Giancarlo Stanton's breakout year?
Last Sunday, as the Marlins slugger stood waiting at the plate, young Tigers pitcher Drew Smyly admitted, "I thought I could sneak a fastball by him."
The pitch was obviously gone the moment it made contact with Stanton's bat -- a monster two-run homer. "He got it all," Smyly confessed later with a faint smile.
Stanton's homer was the longest anyone struck this year at the Tigers' Joker Marchant Stadium, spring home of Miguel Cabrera, the former Marlins star who now is widely hailed as the best hitter in the game and on Friday signed a contract extension with Detroit that will reportedly pay him $292 million for the next 10 seasons.
"Sometimes I don't watch them go out and get mad at myself, but on that one, I was like, 'Let's see how far this one's going,'" Smyly said. "It almost hit the light pole. You have to be impressed."
Stanton's blast sailed to the left of the batter's eye in straight-away center field, more than 420 feet from home plate, landing on the other side of the berm that separates the stadium from the practice field named for Hall of Famer Al Kaline.
It reminded the Marlins and their fans of the Stanton's mammoth blast against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla., earlier this spring that struck the upper portion of a three-tier chain-link fence that serves as the hitters' backdrop on an adjacent field. Eye-witnesses estimated the distance at 500-550 feet.
Mets manager Terry Collins later raved that Stanton has more power than any slugger he has ever seen.
Stanton had one of his better springs, batting .267 with five home runs (tied for third in the National League) and 15 RBIs (second in the NL).
"He looks happy, he looks confident, I think he's more relaxed," manager Mike Redmond said Saturday. "I think he has really benefited from the veteran guys we brought in."
Redmond has gone on the record this spring predicting Stanton "is going to have a big year."
"This guy really hasn't even scratched the surface of what he's going to be yet," Redmond said. "This guy can be the best hitter in baseball."
Still only 24, Stanton led the NL in slugging percentage in 2012 and last year became just the ninth player in history to belt 100 home runs in his first 400 Major League at-bats.
Stanton was a late scratch from Saturday's lineup after the rain began moving in, but the game was ultimately cancelled.
With Furcal out, top of Marlins' order unsettled
TAMPA, Fla. -- With Rafael Furcal, who was acquired to be the Marlins' starting second baseman and their leadoff hitter, on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, Mike Redmond has had to rethink his batting order.
Christian Yelich, who was projected most of the spring to be the No. 2 hitter, will probably move back into the leadoff slot. But with Opening Day on Monday, Redmond is still pondering his options for the two-hole.
"When we had Ralfie leading off and Yelly second, it was set up perfectly for us," Redmond said Saturday. "But things change.
"We have some options [for the two-hole]. Adeiny Hechavarria can hit there. We could hit [Jeff] Baker there, or [Derek] Dietrich.
"I've thought a little bit about leading off Hech and hitting Yelich second. I haven't really decided how that's going to work or what is going to be the best fit."
Last season, 121 of Yelich's 273 Major League plate appearances came from the leadoff spot. Batting Dietrich second would give the Marlins back-to-back left-handed hitters at the top of the order.
Hechavarria, who was sidelined last week because of tightness in his groin, was initially in the lineup, starting at shortstop and batting second in Saturday's spring finale. But he was scratched at the last minute because of the inclement weather.
"We just didn't want to mess around; what's the point?" Redmond said after the game was ultimately cancelled. "He'll play Monday. He's fine. I wanted to get him a couple at-bats, but that's all right. He's getting better each day. We want to make sure he's ready to go. That's the biggest thing with him, making sure he's healthy."
Redmond also said he is thinking about batting Baker -- the Marlins' Opening Day second baseman against Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa fourth in the order -- behind Giancarlo Stanton. In that case, Garrett Jones would likely bat fifth and Jarrod Saltalamacchia sixth.
McGehee tips cap to former teammate Tanaka
TAMPA, Fla. -- A year ago, Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee and Yankees pitching import Masahiro Tanaka were teammates on the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. McGehee was impressed with Tanaka then, and he was impressed again when he faced him at George A. Steinbrenner Field on Friday night.
"That's the same guy I remember," said McGehee, who went 0-for-2 against Tanaka in Miami's 3-0 loss. "Just a different uniform."
"He looked comfortable and relaxed," added McGehee, who called his season in Japan "a great memory for me."
Asked who in this country he would compare Tanaka's popularity in Japan with, McGehee replied, "LeBron James. He was like a well-known rock star. It was crazy. He'd go to the train station, they'd see him and it would be a mess. I'd just walk behind him."
Tanaka dominated the Marlins on Friday, holding them to three hits while striking out 10 in six innings of relief.
Tanaka, who signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees in January, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in Japan.
"He threw 160 pitches in Game 6 of the Japan Series, then he demanded to pitch the next day and went in the ninth inning and closed out Game 7," McGehee recalled.
• As he approaches his second Opening Day as manager of the Marlins, Redmond said Saturday, "It will definitely be a battle for us, but I'm excited. I think we've had a great spring. The atmosphere and the energy have been great."
• Saturday's rainout left the Marlins with an 18-12-2 record for the spring -- their first winning record in the Grapefruit League since 2008.
"I feel good about the spring," Redmond said. "It was a great spring as far as keeping everyone playing. For the most part, we will start the season healthy and go from there."
• The Marlins will need to make a couple of roster moves before Sunday's 3 p.m. ET deadline to make room for long reliever Kevin Slowey and reserve outfielder Reed Johnson on the 40-man roster. One of those openings will be created when outfielder Brian Bogusevic is designated for assignment.
• Tom Koehler, the Marlins' No. 5 starter, warmed up in anticipation of Saturday's game, then threw in the bullpen after the game was rained out.
"He'll still get his pitches in," Redmond said. "He just won't face any hitters."
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.