The Miami Marlins have, apparently, been itching for a chance to bring Lewin Diaz back to the Majors.
On Tuesday, they finally had an excuse. A quick two-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at an American League ballpark meant the rookie first baseman finally had a way to get back on the field after spending the first four months of the season blocked by Jesus Aguilar. It made the Marlins’ stance clear: They feel the 24-year-old Dominican is ready to play in MLB and, at least Tuesday, he looked it, going 2 for 5 with a home run in Miami’s 7-3 win against the Orioles in Baltimore.
“As long as there’s at-bats for him and it’s the right thing for our club at that point,” manager Don Mattingly said, “there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be here.”
With back-to-back games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Miami can use a designated hitter Tuesday and Wednesday, and either Diaz or Aguilar will be the DH both days, Mattingly said. The Marlins called up Diaz on Tuesday to give him a chance, no matter how short, to get some more regular plate appearances in the Majors after he batted .118 with two home runs in 11 games earlier this season.
Miami designated starting pitcher Luis Madero for assignment Tuesday to make room for Diaz on the active roster.
As of now, Mattingly would only commit to keeping Diaz with Miami for the two games in Baltimore, but he acknowledged circumstances could change quickly. The trade deadline is Friday and Aguilar, who has a .791 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and leads MLB with 71 RBIs, is one of several sought-after hitters in the Marlins’ lineup and could be playing elsewhere by the weekend.
“We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” Mattingly said. “We’re going to do what’s best for Lewin. He comes here this series — we know there’s at-bats for him, we know there’s playing time for him, so that’s the key. The last thing you want, really, is for him to be here, and sitting on the bench and not having a chance to play because he’s not going to improve like that.”
On Tuesday, Diaz started at first base and batted fifth. He knocked a single the opposite way in his first at-bat in the second inning, then crushed a 390-foot solo home run to lead off the fifth.
The homer traveled 105.6 mph off the bat — the hardest hit ball of the game by a Marlin — and three of his four batted balls went at least 94 mph.
In the minors and some short MLB stints, Diaz has flashed reasons for optimism and he displayed those tools in front of 10,098 at Camden Yards on Tuesday. While he’s batting just .221 for Triple A Jacksonville, the 6-foot-4, 217-pound infielder has 14 home runs and 11 doubles in 181 at-bats for a .514 slugging percentage. He’s the No. 6 prospect in the organization, according to MLB.com, and one of Marlins’ best hopes as a building-block bat in the middle of the order.
For now, this will just be a glimpse, but it could quickly become something more. With Miami plummeting out of contention this month, the Marlins are ready to start prioritizing 2022 and beyond, and Diaz, ideally, will be central to those plans.
Parting with Aguilar is complex, though. He’s under contract through next season, a beloved clubhouse presence and, with the DH likely coming to the National League, there will probably be room for him and Diaz to coexist in 2022.
For the rest of the year, it’d serve Miami well to get an extended look at Diaz. For next, the Marlins would be best off having both still in the fold.
“You’re always evaluating for moving forward when you’re watching guys play. Is this the guy? What do you think he’s going to be? Where can he go? How can he develop?” Mattingly said. “Whatever happens at the trade deadline, I don’t know if anything really changes other than there may be some new faces and there may be more opportunities for guys.”
Marlins optimistic on Rogers, Chisholm
Jazz Chisholm Jr. is still on track to return for Miami by Friday and Trevor Rogers may not be out much longer.
Chisholm went on the 10-day injured list with a shoulder injury July 19 and Rogers went on the 10-day IL with lower back muscle spasms Saturday, and it’s a distinct possibility the two MLB Rookie of the Year Award hopefuls may only miss the minimum amount of time.
Chisholm, who sustained a bone bruise in his left shoulder on a diving catch attempt last week, is already in Jupiter to take live batting practice. Rogers, who noticed the stiffness during a bullpen session over the weekend, will throw a bullpen session Wednesday in Baltimore.
Chisholm is eligible to come off the IL on Thursday, but it’s a scheduled off day for the Marlins. As long as batting practice goes well, the middle infielder should be able to return Friday.
“I know that Jazz is doing really well,” Mattingly said. “We’re all pretty hopeful that at the end of his time he’ll be ready to go.”
As for Rogers, Mattingly said the decision to place the All-Star starting pitcher starting pitcher on the IL was was because they “were being pretty cautious with him.” The 23-year-old pitcher is on an innings limit this season, anyway, and could also return as soon as he’s eligible, as long as the bullpen goes well.
Rogers is also eligible to come off the IL on Friday.
“We didn’t feel like that was worth taking a chance,” Mattingly said. “I feel like it’s going to be minimal, but still he has to get through that bullpen. He played catch yesterday at the ballpark, was able to let it go. … We’re feeling pretty good about where he’s at right this moment. This bullpen will tell us a little bit more and then really the day after is there really any repercussion from that bullpen?”
The rest of Miami’s injured players are not quite as far along in their recoveries.
- Starting pitcher Pablo Lopez will initiate his throwing program and start throwing from flat ground after going on the IL with a right rotator cuff strain July 17.
- Cody Poteet is continuing his throwing program. The starting pitcher has been on the IL since June with a right knee sprain.
- Elieser Hernandez is in Jupiter throwing live batting practice sessions. The pitcher is on the 60-day IL and hasn’t pitched since he strained his right quadriceps in June.
- Slugger Garrett Cooper is still resting and recovering he sprained his left elbow July 18.
- Utility man Jon Berti will resume light activity this week after he sustained a concussion Thursday.
- Outfielder Jesus Sanchez is going through return-to-play protocols. The rookie hasn’t played since the All-Star break after Miami placed him on the COVID-related IL on July 15.
Jordan Holloway is slated to make his first start since June on Wednesday after three straight solid outings out of the bullpen this month. The pitcher, who has been spent time in the minors and Majors this month, has a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings across three games in July.
He’ll start opposite Orioles pitcher Jorge Lopez at 7:05 p.m. in Maryland.