Skipworth makes most of first big league callup
Adding backup catcher gives Marlins flexibility with Kotchman on DL
NEW YORK -- Up until the final week of Spring Training, Kyle Skipworth was building a case to be the Marlins' backup catcher.
But without any previous big league experience, the Marlins decided to option Skipworth to Triple-A New Orleans on the final day of Spring Training. The transaction was made when veteran Miguel Olivo signed to back up Rob Brantly.
For Skipworth, his Triple-A stint didn't last too long. On Friday, the former first-round pick was recalled after first baseman Casey Kotchman was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain.
The sixth overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, this is Skipworth's first stint in the big leagues.
"Unexpected would be the word for it," said Skipworth, who is also in New York for the first time. "Towards the end of camp there was, 'It could happen, it couldn't happen.' Things like that are out of your control."
A left-handed hitter, Skipworth saw considerable time in Spring Training, appearing in 17 games and getting 25 at-bats. He was in position to make the team after Jeff Mathis suffered a broken right collarbone.
New Orleans opened its season on Thursday night, and Skipworth was informed before the game that he was going to New York.
"What's a better way to do it, a big league callup in the Big Apple?" said Skipworth, a Riverside, Calif., native. "Maybe the only better place would have been doing it at home in Southern Cal. I'll take this. I'll take anywhere, actually."
After eating breakfast on Friday, Skipworth put on a backpack and walked for about an hour-and-a-half around Manhattan.
"I was just taking it all in," he said. "I went down to Times Square, and really I was kind of a tourist. I think everybody thought I was a hip-hop connoisseur because they were handing me CDs."
Promoting Skipworth gives the Marlins three catchers, but it also provides some flexibility. To help patch up their first-base vacancy, Olivo has been taking ground balls at the position as a possible fill-in while Kotchman is out.
The reason the club didn't promote a first baseman was largely driven by its roster construction. Miami is at its 40-man limit, and Skipworth was already on the 40-man roster.
If the Marlins called up someone who wasn't already on the 40-man roster, they would have had to clear a spot.
Skipworth spent the past two seasons at Double-A Jacksonville. He batted .217 with 21 homers and 63 RBIs in 2012.
Kearns, Olivo, Valaika among options for first base
NEW YORK -- Previous experience not necessary when it comes to playing first base for the Marlins.
The injury to Casey Kotchman, on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, has severely tested the organization's limits at the position.
Miami has three first basemen down with injuries: Kotchman, Joe Mahoney and Logan Morrison, who is on the 60-day DL.
The shortage has the team scrambling for options.
Before batting practice on Friday at Citi Field, a handful of potential candidates were fielding ground balls at first base. In the mix was catcher Miguel Olivo, outfielder Chris Coghlan, utility infielder Chris Valaika and outfielder/first baseman Austin Kearns.
Valaika has been letting a couple of the players borrow his first baseman's mitt.
"That's how it's been so far. We have four guys over there and only three gloves," manager Mike Redmond said. "That's kind of the situation we're in. We've had some guys get banged up, and we're down a couple of starting pitchers. Now, losing Kotchman -- but really we've lost a couple of first basemen."
Olivo saw limited action in five games at first base with the Marlins in 2006. That season, then-manager Joe Girardi used the veteran catcher in double-switch situations.
"I'm an athlete. I can play everywhere," Olivo said. "It's going to be a little bumpy. I've been playing catcher for so long. To help the team, to help my teammates, I'll do anything."
Redmond hasn't ruled out starting Olivo at first base, especially against a left-handed starter. Jon Niese, a lefty, will be starting on Saturday afternoon for the Mets.
Coghlan, primarily an outfielder since his 2009 National League Rookie of the Year season, played mostly third base and second in the Minor Leagues.
"I told [Redmond], I can do it, there is no doubt," Coghlan said. "I've been playing infield my whole life. It's the same thing, just a different angle. I don't have to make the throw.
"Any time you lose starters, that stinks. But, you've got to step up. If you don't, you sink."
Because Coghlan has never played first base, chances are, he won't be called upon to make any starts, especially in the upcoming days or weeks.
"We're going to throw somebody over there and see how it goes," Redmond said.
Redmond tinkers with order; Hechavarria moved up
NEW YORK -- Limited to one run in three games against the Nationals caused Marlins manager Mike Redmond to tinker a bit with the bottom of the order.
In the series opener against the Mets, rookie shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was moved up from eighth to seventh in the order. Donovan Solano was placed in the eighth spot.
"It's not really that big a deal," Redmond said. "We'll put Solano eighth. He has a little better pitch selection, and he had worked the count a little bit more."
Hechavarria has been aggressive at the plate, and on Thursday he bounced into two double plays against the Nationals.
Batting seventh allows Hechavarria a chance to be a little more aggressive because he doesn't have the pitcher batting behind him.
Recently, Redmond said he eventually sees Hechavarria developing into a No. 2-caliber hitter.
• As if getting swept by the Nationals wasn't painful enough for the Marlins, manager Mike Redmond also had to endure absorbing a foul ball off his right elbow.
During Thursday's game, Redmond was grazed by a foul ball off the bat of the Nationals' Bryce Harper. A former catcher who retired in 2010, Redmond shook it off and didn't show any signs of being clipped.
"I got hit in the elbow. Some things never change," Redmond said. "It doesn't matter if I'm playing, coaching or managing, the ball seems to find me. I was like, 'Come on, man.' It was almost impossible for him to hit me from home plate. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was far enough over. I was thinking there was no chance I was in the line of fire.
"I'm used to taking those foul tips. There is no way I can go down right there. The guys would be all over me."
• Friday was a first for Redmond. It was the first time he stepped foot in Citi Field after all the years he visited Shea Stadium as a player. The difference?
"I've got to be honest with you, I really miss the smell," Redmond joked. "They asked me what the difference is, and I said, 'By far, the smell.' When you walked underneath the stadium there, there was a smell very unique to Shea Stadium."
How would he best describe the smell of Shea?
"Stale," the manager laughed.