PHILADELPHIA -- Some of the Marlins' anticipated stars of tomorrow are actually getting a taste of the big leagues today due to a series of injuries.
Prospects Marcell Ozuna and Jose Fernandez have made the leap to the big leagues with either limited or no experience at the Double-A level.
It's not the ideal situation to develop young talent, but it is the reality the Marlins face as they are struggling in last place in the National League East.
"It's happening a little earlier due to unforeseen circumstances with injuries," manager Mike Redmond said. "We talked about it in Spring Training. We don't have a ton of depth. We're seeing that now. Guys get hurt. We've had to call guys up due to injuries."
Fernandez, 20, ranks as the organization's top prospect by MLB.com. The hard-throwing right-hander initially was set to be the ace of Double-A Jacksonville's staff. But the day before the season opener at Washington, he was officially added to Miami's roster because Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez were placed on the 15-day disabled list.
And Tuesday, Ozuna was called up from Jacksonville because Giancarlo Stanton went on the DL with a strained right hamstring. In his first three big league games, the 22-year-old Ozuna went 4-for-11 (.364) with a double.
A year ago, Ozuna and Fernandez were teammates at Class A Jupiter.
The Marlins are in a reshaping process, and the long-term plan is to develop a talented group of prospects that include Fernandez and Ozuna. Players like Fernandez and Ozuna are expected to be part of the nucleus of the club for years to come.
Now, they are learning in the big leagues.
"Are there some growing pains with that? For sure," Redmond said. "When you're bringing up young guys, there are going to be struggles. How many rookies come up to the big leagues and hit .320 or have the type of year [Bryce] Harper had?"
Harper, of course, was the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year for Washington at age 19.
The Marlins still have highly regarded prospects like outfielder Christian Yelich and second baseman Derek Dietrich, who are gaining valuable experience at Double-A.
The hope is to keep them at Jacksonville, at least until sometime in June.
"At the same time, you can bring guys up and you can develop them," Redmond said. "You can get them as part of the team and get them used to the culture and teach them how to play the game the right way. Those guys can learn in the big leagues and still have some success, and that's even better."
Pierre's hard work appreciated by teammates
PHILADELPHIA -- Handshakes, knuckleraps and high-fives are common for players after they've scored a run. The hugs are what reminded Juan Pierre that what he accomplished was special.
In the first inning of Thursday's 7-2 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, Pierre stole third base and eventually scored.
The steal had historical meaning because it was the 600th of the 35-year-old's career. Pierre is one of 14 players to reach the milestone.
Pierre also is in more elite company, as he's become the 12th player in league history to have 2,000 hits and 600 steals.
So that's why Pierre was embraced when he returned to the dugout after scoring in the first inning.
"The handshakes are normal," he said. "A lot of hugs. That's cool for your teammates to do that and recognize you. Like I've said, stolen bases are not that high on the list for people to recognize."
Pierre has long been respected for his unrelenting work ethic.
"To the young guys, I hope to tell them, that it's from a lot of hard work," he said.
Pierre has enjoyed a tremendous career for a player who lacks power and a strong throwing arm.
"I've been always been a guy that they said couldn't hit, couldn't throw and couldn't do this or that," he said. "But a lot of hard work got for me 2,000 hits.
"It was never given to me. I was never a big prospect. When I got called up, there wasn't any fanfare. I was hard-nosed, hard-grinding. Hopefully that motivates [young players] that they don't have to be the big dog to do something significant."
Mathis opens rehab assignment with Jupiter
PHILADELPHIA -- You can basically say Spring Training has once again begun for Jeff Mathis.
The 30-year-old began his rehab assignment with two hits in four at-bats in five innings on Thursday night for Class A Jupiter. He started at catcher again for the Hammerheads on Friday, before he is scheduled to exclusively serve as the designated hitter on Saturday.
Mathis broke his right collarbone on Feb. 23 in the Marlins' first Spring Training game.
"Basically, he didn't have any Spring Training," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He got hurt the very first game of Spring Training. He never gave himself a chance to get going. It's going to be up to him for how long it takes for him to get his legs under him and get in shape."
Mathis opened the season on the disabled list, and by rule, he can spend 20 days on rehab assignment before the team decides either to activate him or keep him on the DL.
The short-term plan is two games behind the plate and the third game as DH. Mathis also has to build up to catching full games.
"Being a catcher, you have to have your legs under you, and you have to catch nine innings or close to nine innings," Redmond said. "With that being his throwing arm, you have to make sure he gets his arm in shape. You want him to build his arm strength up, so when he gets here, he is game ready."