Salty, Koehler generate spark in win
MIAMI — Not that he didn’t have it already, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s stock in the clubhouse really skyrocketed on Tuesday night.
By simply standing up for his pitcher and getting in Ian Desmond’s face was a unifying moment for a team still bonding together.
The incident came in the fourth inning of the Marlins’ 11-2 win over the Nationals.
Desmond took exception to an inside pitch by Tom Koehler. Already in the inning, Koehler brushed back Jayson Werth, who drew a walk.
Benches cleared and there were heated exchanges, but the incident calmed rather quickly.
What the Marlins are taking from it, is they will pull together in tough times. Saltalamacchia took the kind of leadership the organization banked on when they signed him as a free agent.
“Salty had Tommy’s back out there,” outfielder Christian Yelich said. “I guess Ian was unhappy with whatever had taken place. Inside fastball. Didn’t like it. He had something to say. I don’t know exactly what he said or what Salty said. I think it was a little overblown. I don’t think the benches really needed to clear right there.”
Yelich added that during a rough stretch, the team is staying together.
“That’s just showing that we’ve got each other’s backs in here,” Yelich said. “That’s what we kind of take from it. Even though we got a little beaten up this past week, we are still going to stick together, and we’re in this for the long haul.”
Assessing the game, Giancarlo Stanton provided the big boost with his three-run homer in the first inning, and his five RBIs on the night.
But credit Koehler and Saltalamacchia for igniting a bit of much needed fire for a team desperate for a spark.
“You always want your catcher to have your back,” Koehler said. “We’re still building relationships here. For him to step up like that and tell them, ‘Listen, don’t talk to my pitcher that way,’ it definitely means a lot. It’s something that hopefully can build a little momentum and bring the team together.”
In the heat of the moment, things happen. All sides did what they had to.
Koehler is trying to pitch his game, and be aggressive, and use all sides of the plate. Desmond is understandably upset at having fastballs near his head. And Saltalamacchia had the perfect tone and showed his teammates he is there for them.
The reality, from the Marlins’ standpoint, is their pitching wasn’t doing enough during the eight game losing streak. The Nationals had taken it to Miami at Washington last week and on Monday night in the series opener. Their hitters were way too comfortable in the box.
Koehler sent a message that he would pitch inside.
“We were trying to pitch our game,” Saltalamacchia said. “Koehler was on tonight. He was throwing real well. We’ve got to mix our pitches. Last few nights we were missing over the middle of the plate. [Tuesday], we had to really concentrate on getting on both sides of the plate.
“I just said, ‘Hey, man, we weren’t trying to hit you, relax.’ ”
Saltalamacchia notes the Marlins aren’t looking to become some buzz teams inside club. They need to make pitches to all sides of the plate.
“I’m not going to say we need to establish in,” the catcher said. “I think we need to make our pitches. We’ve made some bad pitches over the last few games where we left pitches over the middle of the plate. We were trying to go away, leaving it over the middle. Try to go in, leaving it over the middle. I’m not going to say we’re going to go in on everybody, but we’ve got to hit both sides of the plate, and we’ve got to continue to pitch.”
* It’s clear that the Marlins are using spacious Marlins Park to their advantage. Even though it was a blowout win on Tuesday, several deep fly balls by the Nationals were caught. Last week, on the road, a couple of the same shots could have been for extra bases or home runs.
For the pitchers, it’s going to be important to execute better, especially on the road. Because it is clear teams are being allowed to hit the ball as far as they can to center, because it often will be a loud out.
* Nothing is official, but it appears the Marlins will start Kevin Slowey on Sunday against the Mariners, and Brad Hand will pitch out of the bullpen. It doesn’t look like the team will make a roster move to add a starter. But it appears clear Hand will go back to the ‘pen after making two rough starts.
* Jacob Turner (right shoulder sprain) will throw off flat ground again Wednesday. Turner throw pain-free from 60 feet yesterday. He could throw off the mound as early as this weekend. Turner will make at least one rehab assignment start before he is reinstated.
* With a couple of days off in the upcoming week, the Marlins could go with four starters until their early May series against the Mets in Miami. Turner could be ready by then.
* The Andrew Heaney watch is on. The lefty was impressive yet again on Tuesday night in a win for Double-A Jacksonville. Heaney is pretty close to being ready, but don’t look for him to join the rotation until at least early June. They won’t rush him, saving his service time clock while also getting him more polished. The objective is to make sure he is fully ready and not be a candidate to get sent down.
* Tom Koehler has continued in three starts what he started in Spring Training. Koehler has impressed the organization and scouts from other clubs for a while. They’ve noted he is vastly underrated. Technically, Koehler is Miami’s No. 5 starter. The reality of how he is throwing, he pretty much is their No. 3.
* Carter Capps has been doing exactly what the Marlins wanted when they started him off at Triple-A New Orleans. The hard-throwing right-hander has been refining his delivery. Rather than rush him after a few good Triple-A outings, they want him to continue what he is doing. But if a reliever option is needed, Capps appears next in line to be brought up.
— Joe Frisaro