4/6/2014 12:32 P.M. ET
Rehabbing Furcal playing role of cheerleader
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
MIAMI -- A strained hamstring may be keeping Marlins second baseman Rafael Furcal out of the lineup, but it hasn't diminished the 36-year-old's importance on the team.
Furcal is doing his part to root on his teammates and offer pointers when necessary.
Thus far, the club has offered plenty to cheer about.
"We've got a good team," Furcal said. "We're playing good. We keep fighting. That's the way it should be. I'm so happy. When you play that way, anything can happen."
Furcal strained his hamstring during a Grapefruit League game on March 15. He opened the season on the disabled list, retroactive to March 21.
On Monday, the veteran will head to the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., to join extended spring training. Once he is running without discomfort and cleared to play in games, he will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Jupiter.
Furcal is expected to need pretty much all of the 21 days allotted for his rehab assignment. So he may not be ready to return until late April or early May.
With Furcal out, Jeff Baker and Derek Dietrich have been handling second base.
Salty getting acclimated to NL pitchers
MIAMI -- Adapting to a new pitching staff was Jarrod Saltalamacchia's first priority after signing as a free agent with the Marlins. Familiarizing himself to the National League was next.
The Marlins catcher is starting to do just that. After a couple of rough days at the plate to open the season, the 28-year-old is finding his stride, evident by his 4-for-8 showings with two doubles in the first two games of the series against the Padres.
"The first few games, I was kind of searching," Saltalamacchia said. "I don't know these pitchers too well. So I was taking some pitches maybe I should have been swinging at. I'm getting more familiar with these guys and starting to feel more comfortable at the plate."
Saltalamacchia was the Marlins' major offseason acquisition. A switch-hitter entering his prime, Saltalamacchia gave the organization immediate credibility. He brings championship experience, coming off a World Series campaign in Boston.
But changing from the American League to the NL while learning a new pitching staff is an adjustment. Making his transition easier is the fact the Marlins' offense has responded early, providing plenty of run production. Thus far, Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee have been major contributors.
"The way the offense has been swinging, I don't have to do too much except put fingers down," Saltalamacchia said, referring to calling pitches from behind the plate.
A year ago, with mostly rookies and inexperienced players, the Marlins ranked last in the Majors in runs scored.
Saltalamacchia sees a much more polished team in Miami this year. And he credits the front office for targeting proven veterans to help guide a young nucleus.
"Like I said in Spring Training, you had guys who were in Double-A coming up for the first time last year," Saltalamacchia said. "It's tough to figure things out at the big leagues.
"They did a great job bringing some veteran guys in who have experience, and they have an approach at the plate. They can kind of help everybody out. And the pitching staff has been doing a phenomenal job to help us stay in the game."
Marlins' gap hitters delivering at spacious park
MIAMI -- Marlins Park, with its large dimensions and high outfield wall, is not ideally suited to produce an abundance of home runs. Still, the building can work to hitters' advantage, with the right approach.
In constructing the 2014 roster, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill and his staff sought players who could work the park to their advantage.
Finding potential home run hitters wasn't the objective. The club sought run producers, and if meant they hit doubles, so be it.
That's why Miami signed free agents Casey McGehee, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones and Jeff Baker. These are veterans capable of capitalizing on the big gaps.
The Marlins entered Sunday leading the Majors with 18 doubles. The also ranked first in runs scored with 40.
"The thing is the guys are taking what they're given," manager Mike Redmond said. "Casey is not over-swinging. How many times has he just hit a base hit up the middle to score a run? That's the key. We don't need homers. We don't need the ball to go into the seats. We just need hits. Whether that be doubles, singles or whatever. We'll take it."
The Marlins finished last in the Majors in doubles a year ago.
"I think guys are feeling good," Redmond said. "They're confident. Guys are going out there and they're having great at-bats."
The general feeling is the club should focus on line drives, which can turn into doubles at home, and on the road, the same approach should account for more home runs.
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised," Redmond said of the offense. "But is it great to see? Absolutely. These guys have worked hard. We've talked about the character of this ballclub. It's only been a few games, but it is fun to see these guys work together and pick each other up. They're helping each other out with pitches. Guys are helping out who know the pitchers. I like the team atmosphere right now.
"But pitching is the key. It gives us a chance, but it's fun to see us go out there and swing the bats."
• On Sunday afternoon, the roof at Marlins Park was closed for just the second time in the season-opening homestand. The operable wall also was shut. Both times the roof was closed was for day games. The roof was open 14 times in 2013, and the team estimates it could be open roughly 20 times this year. The weather for the opening homestand was ideal, in terms of temperature and little to no chance of rain.
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jose Fernandez's career 2.09 ERA in 30 MLB starts puts him in exclusive company. Since the live-ball era began in 1920, only a few have posted an ERA of 2.10 or lower in their first 30 starts. Fernandez is joined by Stan Bahnsen (2.05 from 1966-68), Vida Blue (1.97 from 1969-71) and Orel Hershiser (2.07 from 1984-85).