With Opening Day fast approaching, time is running out for Miami Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro to get game ready as he recovers from right-knee inflammation.
There is good news: Alfaro was cleared by the team’s medical staff to resume baseball activities, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Thursday.
With the Marlins finishing up spring training on March 24 and the season opener against the Colorado Rockies on March 28, Mattingly isn’t ruling out Alfaro being ready for the start of the season.
“I think it’s realistic the way we’re looking at it,” Mattingly said. “It’s getting shorter, obviously. We probably can’t afford any more setbacks at this point, but if we’re able to move forward from here, it’ll be a little bit of a push. We’ll have to be careful early probably, but we think it’s realistic.”
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Alfaro, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in addition to pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart on Feb. 7 in the J.T. Realmuto trade, injured the knee in the Grapefruit League opener on Feb. 23 after running into the dugout railing while trying to track down a foul ball. Alfaro seemed to tweak the knee again on March 5 when he was picked off at second base against the New York Mets. Alfaro has played in three games for the Marlins this spring, two as a catcher and one as a designated hitter. He has gone 2 for 5 at the plate.
“We’ll get a program from medical and go from there,” Mattingly said.
In the meantime, Chad Wallach and Bryan Holaday — both competing to be Alfaro’s backup — have received the bulk of the reps behind the plate during the past week and a half.
Holaday, 31, who served as the Marlins’ primary backup catcher last season, is with the team on a minor-league contract and would need to be added to the 40-man roster to have a chance to make the club. He played in 61 games last year, hitting .205 with 16 RBI and catching 17 of 38 runners who attempted to steal bases against him — a 44.7 percent success rate that led the National League last year. He is hitting .368 (7 for 19) with three runs in 10 spring-training games.
Wallach, who dealt with a quad injury early in camp, is hitting .111 in five games. He appeared in 15 games for the Marlins last year and was the Opening Day catcher in 2018 with Realmuto starting the year on the disabled list.
Neither has committed an error this spring.
“[They’re] really doing what we asked,” Mattingly said. “Both guys are competing for that backup role, guys you feel can handle a pitching staff, call a game, block, receive. Offense would be a plus. It would be great if you had a front-line All-Star back there, but usually you don’t get that. The backup role is really a guy you ask to handle your pitching staff. … Totally comfortable with both guys.”
Power at the plate
While the Marlins’ pitching staff has been the main discussion during the team’s last five games — all wins — the offense deserves a bit of credit, too. More specifically, the team has shown off some home-run capability as of late.
Six players have combined for seven home runs during the win streak. Three of those home runs have come against MLB starters: Neil Walker and J.T. Riddle with homers against the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard on Friday and Brian Anderson hitting one to right-center field against Jacob deGrom on Tuesday.
Overall, Marlins position players who are either locks to be on the Opening Day roster or are competing for one of a few final spots have combined to hit .306 over the five-game span.