Fallback option in center field
JUPITER, Fla. — Center field has become a position to closely watch over the final two weeks of Marlins’ camp.
Entering Spring Training, Marcell Ozuna was considered the frontrunner. But the 23-year-old, who missed the second half of last year due to a left thumb injury, has had some rough moments at the plate and in the field.
If Ozuna doesn’t claim the position, the fallback plan could be Christian Yelich.
Yelich can cover ground, and has played center in the Minor Leagues. His arm isn’t ideal for the position, but he could handle the job, if necessary.
Yelich has been the projected left fielder, but on Saturday night against the Yankees in Panama, he was in the lineup in center field. There would be a question of Yelich’s arm strength in center, but he has shown improvement.
Jake Marisnick is another center field candidate. Marisnick has been having a solid spring, but he is working on shortening his swing. He may be better served opening at Triple-A New Orleans to get additional at-bats. And if Ozuna isn’t the starting center fielder, then he too, could be heading to New Orleans.
Ozuna started in center field on Saturday afternoon against the Nationals. But on Friday night, Ozuna was in left field.
If Yelich ends up being in center field on Opening Day, that clears the way for Reed Johnson (non-roster invitee) to make the team and play left field. Brian Bogusevic, a left-handed hitter, could platoon. And Jeff Baker is another option as a corner outfielder.
The Marlins are seeking versatility from their players. And the club has repeatedly said it will carry the best 25.
– Joe Frisaro