Depth has Marlins better equipped to handle injuries
Furcal, Baker likely to return soon; Solano, Lucas and Co. picking up the slack
JUPITER, Fla. -- As practice was beginning on Wednesday morning, the Marlins witnessed some welcome sights.
A couple of players, shaken up in Monday's 11-1 win over the Mets at Port St. Lucie, Fla., were doing baseball activities.
Rafael Furcal was in the batting cages, taking his cuts, and Jeff Baker was heading to the field with a glove in hand.
The Marlins appear to have dodged significant injuries with both infielders. On Monday, Furcal tweaked his left hamstring, while Baker experienced discomfort in his left quadriceps.
"It will be fine," Baker said. "I'll go through the day and take [batting practice] tomorrow. If all things go well, I could play Friday."
Mike Redmond is encouraged by the progress both are making.
"Both are feeling much better," the manager said. "They're going to do some light activity today. If everything goes well, they'll go through baseball activities tomorrow. I wouldn't rule out them playing the next couple of days."
Furcal and Baker are two additions the Marlins hope boost their offense.
The Marlins anticipate Furcal leading off and playing second base. Baker is a utility infielder who can play first, second and third. Garrett Jones is getting a chance to face lefty pitchers, but Baker is a platoon candidate if necessary. He also can play the corner-outfield spots.
Baker felt his quad catch while getting out of the box on a routine groundout to second. Busting down the line, even on basic ground balls, is something he prides himself on. So when he wasn't moving fast, it was a sign something was wrong.
With a couple of days to rehab, Baker is confident he will be back in games soon.
"Spring Training is going well," he said. "I'm getting acclimated to the new guys, the new staff. So far, so good. I've stayed relatively healthy. It's good."
But if Baker or Furcal need a couple of extra days, the club has some capable candidates behind him. Ed Lucas, Donovan Solano and Derek Dietrich have been playing third and second.
"The thing I've noticed is the organization does have depth," said Baker, who was with the Rangers last year. "With the guys they've brought in, the positions they play and the things they do, I think they will be OK. Fortunately, we have been healthy. Nothing will happen, we hope, and we won't have to test that."
For all teams, health is crucial.
A year ago, the Marlins were severely impacted by the injury bug. They opened the season with Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez on the disabled list. Logan Morrison started off 2013 on the 60-day DL. Giancarlo Stanton dealt with injuries in Spring Training, and he sustained a hamstring strain at the end of April.
From the start of the season to late May, the Marlins had 11 different players on the DL. Considering their youth and inexperience, they were unable to recover, starting the season at 14-41.
"We're definitely much deeper than we were last year," Redmond said. "To have a guy like Baker, who can play so many positions, it gives us options to be able to move guys around. If we do have to give a guy a day off, we're better equipped for that. We feel like with the versatility we have and the guys we've brought in, we're much better equipped to withstand that."
Opening Day is 19 days away, and the Marlins have been fortunate on the injury front.
The Braves, their Grapefruit League opponent on Wednesday, are dealing with significant injuries to their rotation. Tests showed Kris Medlen has ligament damage to his right elbow.
At Spring Training last year, the Marlins dealt with a fluke injury when first baseman Casey Kotchman needed stitches on his hand after running into the machine flinging pop flies to the infielders.
Stanton's Spring Training last year included getting hit on the back of his helmet by a Jose Fernandez fastball in live BP.
"As we've seen, stuff like that happens," Redmond said. "It happens every year. That's the key, trying to keep guys healthy and feeling good. Certain things you can't control."