JUPITER, Fla. -- Advanced defensive metrics continue to grow throughout the Major Leagues, and some teams rely so heavily on the data that they are constantly adjusting infielders all over the diamond.
The Marlins saw a heavy shifting team on Monday when the Astros were at Roger Dean Stadium. Repeatedly, Houston shifted its second baseman over second whenever the right-handed-hitting Ty Wigginton stepped into the box. Once, Wigginton found the hole on a ground ball to the second-base side, in a spot that had the second baseman been in his normal spot, he could have made a play.
The Rays shift more than anyone in the game.
The Marlins evaluate all the data and review spray charts, but they aren't ready to become shift-happy. One reason is the organization has Perry Hill as its infield coach. Hill has his own charts and system to put infielders in spots to make plays.
"I just feel like we have the best infield instructor in baseball," manager Mike Redmond said. "This guy has had a system put in place for a long time. I've seen that system work and win a World Series. Will there be guys that we shift? Of course. As we continue to gather information on hitters in the league, for sure. As far as over-shifting, I don't think that will be becoming our philosophy."
Hill's system adjusts the shortstop and second baseman several feet each way, depending on the batter. In the case of some lefty power threats, like Ryan Howard of the Phillies, the Marlins will employ the standard shift, with the second baseman in short right field, and the third baseman either at shortstop or up the middle.
"I think there are certain guys that you shift," Redmond said. "I think everyone knows those guys. I'm not an over-shifter. I know some teams love to shift everybody. The Rays, I know, shift a lot of guys according to how they pitch. I think some of that is good. I've just seen over the course of time that maybe it could get you in more trouble than it helps you, in my opinion.
"We go through spray charts and look at where guys hit the ball. We feel like the system that [Hill] has put our defense in is the best position to make plays. Now, is there going to be a ball that goes through the hole that maybe we're out of position on? Of course. But that happens when you shift. I guess it's just philosophy. Some people like to over-shift, and they feel like that gives them the best chance, defensively."
Stanton, 24, willing to take on leadership role
JUPITER, Fla. -- When you're a buff 6-foot-6, 250-pounder and belt a baseball as far as anyone on the planet, people take notice.
On a youthful Marlins squad, Giancarlo Stanton clearly stands out. Not just because of his massive stature and his threat at the plate, but because he is looked upon to be an example.
The word "leader" to Stanton is empty if it is not backed by action.
Stanton and new catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia have been tabbed as two of the leaders in Miami's clubhouse.
"A leader isn't self proclaimed," Stanton said. "[Saltalamacchia] shouldn't be answering if he is a leader. I shouldn't be answering if I'm a leader. You're a leader because of the person you are and how you carry yourself. Not by your performance or all that. You may be looked up to because of your performance, but you're not a leader just by that. There are other things that go into it."
Even though he is still young at 24, Stanton is the most-tenured Marlin of any regular.
"I've been here the longest, so obviously, people are going to look up to me in that role too," Stanton said. "It's the little things. Rather than, 'Hey, here's my leader stamp. Here's my tattoo.' Now, what am I going to do about it?"
What Stanton has been doing is speaking up when he has to. He isn't normally a big vocal guy, but the right fielder is telling teammates what he feels needs to be said.
"I'm more vocal, for sure, about things," Stanton said. "I'm not vocal about myself, I'm vocal about what we do. I like helping from what knowledge I have.
"You help out. You've got to be more vocal. If you see someone's swing [is off], don't step on toes, but say, 'Hey, I did that too.' Or you help with ground balls in the outfield, or if someone is not doing what they're supposed to, take care of it."
After losing 100 games last year, the Marlins are looking to go through a cultural change. One theme is to make fewer bold predictions and perform on the field.
Thus far, the team is unite, and the energy level is high.
"It's more of a team, and not a bunch of individuals walking around in a forced environment," Stanton said. "It's something that needs to continue once adversity happens. But the way we're going about it is the way winning teams go about it."
High pitch count leads to short outing for Eovaldi
JUPITER, Fla. -- A high pitch count led to an earlier departure than Nathan Eovaldi was anticipating, but it didn't sour the right-hander's overall day.
Eovaldi, projected as the Marlins' No. 2 starter, was initially scheduled to throw three innings on Thursday against the Red Sox at Roger Dean Stadium.
But in the first inning, the hard-throwing right-hander got into a bind, needing 36 pitches to get out of a bases-loaded jam.
Even though he didn't allow a run, the Red Sox did their job, making Eovaldi work. The righty's second inning went much more smoothly, as he needed just 13 pitches to retire the side in order.
After logging 49 pitches, Eovaldi's afternoon was finished after two scoreless innings. He struck out four and allowed one hit.
Eovaldi's day was pretty much dictated by his laboring first inning.
"The 36 pitches in the first inning killed that," he said of pitching into the third inning. "I got the guys 0-2, and I tried to do too much with my offspeed pitches and my fastball. I was trying to be too fine, trying to make the nasty pitches. Ended up going 2-2, full count. Guys were fouling them off after they'd seen multiple pitches."
In terms of life on his pitches, Eovaldi was strong. His fastball in the first inning was between 96-98 mph. He threw four changeups, a pitch he is trying to develop. One of them plunked Ryan Lavarnway in the wrist in the first inning.
The second inning was a breeze, as Eovaldi struck out Bryce Brentz and ended his afternoon by striking out Heiker Meneses.
"The second inning was a lot better," Eovaldi said. "As opposed to trying to make it on the corner, or off the plate. Just think down. If it's over the middle, just think down, in the strike zone."
Fiery Furcal happy to get off spring schneid
JUPITER, Fla. -- A bit of frustration set in after Rafael Furcal's second straight hard liner was caught on Wednesday afternoon in the Marlins' 5-2 win over the Mets.
In his first at-bat, Furcal lined out to first base. And in his second at-bat, he threw his hands up in disgust after he stung the ball to right -- for another out.
Finally, in Furcal's third at-bat, he singled to left, giving him his first hit of Spring Training, making him 1-for-7.
"Yesterday, those guys were playing around with me," Furcal said. "'Hey, Rafi, what happened?' I tell them, 'Hey guys, don't hit it where the people are.' I've got to find the hole.
"I'm having fun with my teammates. In my mind, I'm a veteran. I want to go to home plate and have a lot of good, quality at-bats and hit the ball hard."
Furcal, 36, is making the transition from shortstop to second base. One reason the Marlins signed him as a free agent was because of his experience of winning.
The Marlins may be young and they may have lost 100 games last year. But Furcal feels the clubhouse is filled with potential and future All-Stars.
"We have a lot of talent," he said. "The thing is when you want to win, everybody has to be on the same page. Everybody has to be together, 25 guys. Play with the same intensity every day.
"On this team, a lot of guys are going to be All-Star players. You've got [Giancarlo] Stanton. You've got [Christian] Yelich, [Adeiny] Hechavarria, [Marcell] Ozuna. And this guy, [Jose] Fernandez. You've got a lot of good pitching and a lot of young players. They're going to be All-Star guys. I'm so excited to be around and help them as much as I can. We'll see what happens. Everybody is hungry to win."
• The lack of Major League experience in the Red Sox's lineup on Thursday raised some eyebrows at Roger Dean Stadium, and may not have sat well with the Marlins. Just two of the position players in the starting lineup -- Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ryan Lavarnway -- had previously appeared in big league games. MLB guidelines state teams should have a minimum of four players who are regulars or have platooned the previous season.
A blog in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel quoted a source claiming Marlins executives were "outraged" and planned on contacting the league office. However, through a team spokesman, president of baseball operations Michael Hill relayed the Marlins have no issue with Boston's travel roster. And Miami has no plans on making any protest to MLB.
Asked about the Red Sox's lineup after Thursday's 0-0 tie in a game halted because of rain, Redmond said: "I don't know their travel schedule, but I know that we were trying to get our work in. It's probably a better question for [Boston manager] John Farrell."
Said Farrell: "In writing? It's strongly suggested, and yet you deal with travel, you deal with availability of players, you deal with what we're trying to get done. Today is an enormous workday for our entire infield with [coach] Brian [Butterfield] back at home. We earmarked this day on the calendar to do just that. The integrity of the game and for what the fans are going to come and see, we certainly take that into account, but our team is the priority, the individual needs guys have. That's where we are."
• Carlos Marmol is back in camp after being gone since last Saturday to tend to some visa issues in the Dominican Republic. The reliever threw off the mound on Thursday, and he is scheduled to pitch in a game on Sunday.
• Henry Rodriguez is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut on Saturday.