Fourth outfield search wide open

MIAMI — All options remain in play for the Marlins in their search for a fourth outfielder. There are at least four candidates, and no clear frontrunner.

Free agents Nate Schierholtz and Ichiro Suzuki definitely are in the mix. But the list is deeper than these two.

The organization is pretty much exploring several left-handed hitters to handle backup outfield and pinch-hit roles. Andy Dirks, non-tendered by Detroit, and Will Venable of the Padres, in his final season of arbitration, also have drawn attention.

Schierholtz is an ideal fit because he is accustomed to the role. He’s solid defensively, and an accomplished pinch-hitter. When it is all said and done, he may be the choice.

Ichiro, of course, is the flashy name. It’s still hard to imagine that the 41-year-old, who is 156 hits shy of 3,000, would accept a National League bench role. The American League, with the DH, would give him more chances for playing time.

Miami’s outfield also is set with Christian Yelich in left, Marcell Ozuna in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right. The Marlins feel that trio is as good as any in the National League.

Still, injuries happen. And an established veteran like Suzuki is attractive.

The fact the Marlins continue to consider the 41-year-old shows they may have something creative in mind.

Perhaps the club is entertaining Ichiro also playing more than just three outfield spots. Could some first base be a consideration? Suzuki has never played first in the big leagues, and I have not gotten confirmation that is part of the club’s thinking. But if it were, it would help make more sense in luring the former All-Star to South Florida.

Free agent pickup, Michael Morse, will be the regular first baseman. But depth at the position is needed. Ichiro could get on the field more if he shows he can adjust to the spot.

Miami infield coach Perry Hill, regarded as one of the best in the business, could greatly help with the transition.

Justin Bour, a left-handed hitter, has a chance to make the Opening Day roster as a backup first baseman and pinch-hitter. But it may not be an ideal situation to have a promising young player sitting on the bench in the big leagues over playing regularly at Triple-A.

We’ll likely get more clarity on the fourth outfield situation in the next week or two.

Joe Frisaro


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