Curtis Granderson stepped into the batter’s box and battled through a seven-pitch at-bat with Michael Wacha before ultimately grounding out to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to open the Miami Marlins’ game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
One batter later, Martin Prado waited two pitches before hitting a 77 mph change-up to the shortstop for the second out of the inning.
Even with 28 combined seasons of MLB experience among them, Saturday was the first public step this spring in both of their continued baseball journeys.
The former is new to the team, but not to baseball. He’s a 15-year MLB veteran and three-time All-Star on a minor-league contract who is leaving his mark on a young outfield while competing with those same fresh faces for a roster spot of his own. The latter has been one of the Marlins’ de-facto leaders, a battle-tested infielder due $15 million this year who is trying to stay healthy enough to leave the same presence on the field as he has in the clubhouse.
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After a week to get ready on the back fields at the Roger Dean Stadium training complex, including a simulated game on Friday, there time has come.
“You don’t want to get too far into it that you’re fighting and trying to get at-bats for guys,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Hopefully, we’ve got enough time to get them regular playing time and get them the at-bats we need.”
Granderson, a career .252 hitter with 903 RBI and 332 home runs to his name, had stints with the Detroit Tigers (2004-2009), New York Yankees (2010-2013), New York Mets (2014-2017), Los Angeles Dodgers (2017), Toronto Blue Jays (2018) and Milwaukee Brewers (2018). He was an All-Star in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and led the American League with 119 RBI.
Even at 37, he looks to still have gas in the tank. Granderson played in 123 games last year between stints with the Blue Jays and Brewers, hitting .242 with 13 home runs, 22 doubles and 38 RBI.
Granderson went 0-for-2 on Saturday as Miami’s designated hitter in the 4-3 loss, but he wasn’t focusing on the specifics.
“You take the positives with everything you get,” Granderson said. “The plan literally was to make it through today, feel good, be ready and go. I feel like I did that. … Set a goal for the day, and I accomplished it.”
But in addition to trying to make the Marlins’ 25-man roster, he is also serving as a valuable mentor for what is expected to be a young corps of outfielders.
“I told him from the get-go that I was going to pick his brain,” outfielder Lewis Brinson said. “He’s been nothing but expected — a seasoned vet. He’s seen it all.”
Granderson, however, feels the mentor role can go both ways.
“Roles are always going to be ever-changing,” Granderson said earlier in camp. “You always have to be in a situation where you can listen, be approachable and, if need be, provide some information that can ultimately help everyone. The one thing I’m telling everybody is ‘I’m looking to you guys to learn some things as well.’”
As for Prado, the 35-year-old has played in just 91 games over the last two years while dealing with an assortment of injuries. He’s adjusted his routine since then. Less focus on weight training. More emphasis on flexibility. Anything to keep him limber.
Prado finished Saturday 0-for-2 but held his own defensively at first base before being subbed for Garrett Cooper in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“It’s been a long process to get to this point,” Prado said. “The team has been really patient with me. … I just want to be out there healthy. That’s all.”
Both Prado and Granderson will play in a simulated game on Sunday while the team travels to Orlando to face the Atlanta Braves.
This and that
▪ Jose Urena threw 2 1/3 innings in his start on Saturday, giving up four hits and a pair of runs while striking out three. Urena said after his outing that his goal for the spring is to improve the location on his slider and curveball.
▪ Other notable Marlins’ performances from Saturday: JT Riddle notched his first hit of spring training — a two-out, two-RBI single to right-center field that tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth inning. … Sergio Romo threw his second scoreless inning of camp. He has struck out five of seven batters he faced and has walked just one. … Second baseman Isan Diaz was solid defensively and drew a pair of walks at the plate. … Zac Gallen gave up a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth after striking out the first two batters he faced.
▪ A couple roster notes: San Francisco Giants claimed right-handed pitcher Merandy Gonzalez off waivers, and the Marlins sent catcher BJ Lopez to Minor League camp. The Marlins now have an open spot on the 40-man roster.