PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As the Marlins' World Baseball Classic participants return to Grapefruit League action this weekend, so do a couple important pieces who have remained with the team but have been withheld from game play.
Infielders Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs got back on the field Saturday, with Polanco (right oblique) batting second and playing third base against the Mets, and Dobbs (right calf) playing in a Minor League game at the complex in Port St. Lucie.
Polanco went 2-for-3 with a double and a single, and said the biggest test was when he had to dive back to second base on a pickoff throw in the first inning.
"Some days are gonna be good, some days are gonna be bad," Polanco said. "Felt fine overall. The big test was on the pickoff play at second base, where it was a quick one. But it felt fine."
Dobbs had appeared in just one game this spring, going 1-for-3, and could help at third base when Polanco needs a breather. Polanco has appeared in four games this spring, hitting 4-for-10 with two runs and an RBI. Manager Mike Redmond said earlier this week that Polanco was feeling much better but just needed to feel comfortable taking the field again.
"I think when you're a little bit banged up as a player, in your mind, everybody says you're fine, you're ready to go," Redmond said. "But until you're ready to go in your mind, that's the biggest thing. And he felt like he could go out there. He's played a long time. He knows when his body feels right and when it doesn't, so when he feels like he's ready to go, I trust that he's ready to go."
Coupled with the return of Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek from the World Baseball Classic, the return of Polanco and Dobbs gives the Marlins a nice boost heading into the final weeks of Spring Training.
"It makes me more comfortable having those guys back knowing that I can see them every day," Redmond said. "As a team, obviously we're thin, so we can't overcome a lot -- a lot of knocks and bruises. Even with Polanco being banged up a little bit, Dobbs being banged up, it just feels better that we're getting all those guys back on the field."
Polanco is expected to play Saturday and Sunday -- probably a couple at-bats, and about five innings per game, Redmond said -- before getting the day off on Monday. Then he'll play two more in a row before the Marlins' off-day on Thursday.
Alvarez sharp in return from Classic
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez was sharp in his return to the team from the World Baseball Classic on Saturday.
In his first outing since pitching for Venezuela in the tournament, Alvarez scattered three hits and one run over 3 2/3 innings against the Mets. He struck out one and walked one batter. He threw 53 pitches, 26 for strikes.
"It felt good pitching for the first time after the Classic, and I'm happy to be back," Alvarez said through a translator.
Alvarez went 0-1 in one relief appearance for Venezuela, allowing three runs in three innings. On Saturday, he faced just 10 hitters in the first three innings before a few hiccups in the fourth.
The righty received a visit from the training staff and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez after Ike Davis singled up the middle, when the ball nearly clipped Alvarez's leg. He said he had a minor hamstring cramp from trying to stop the ball with his foot, and he remained in the game after throwing a few warm-up pitches.
"It just cramped up real quick, and then went away," he said.
Two pitches later, Marlon Byrd hit a ground-rule double to left field, scoring Davis for the only run that Alvarez allowed on the afternoon.
"Thank God I felt good, I felt strong," Alvarez said. "The fastball was sharp."
Stanton, Cishek take day off before return
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Marlins stars Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek returned from the World Baseball Classic healthy and with some big-game experience under their belts, ready to rejoin their Major League club this weekend.
Neither player made the trip to Port St. Lucie on Saturday afternoon -- manager Mike Redmond encouraged them to take the day to unwind -- but both are expected to play Sunday in Jupiter. Fla., with Stanton expected to be back in the outfield and Cishek coming out of the bullpen.
"Even though it's just a couple guys, it thins you out," Redmond said. "So it's nice to have Stanton back and, like anything, we're trying to build that chemistry and get things rolling. We're back down to the last couple weeks and it's nice to have those guys back in camp. Now I feel a lot better."
Appearing in five of Team USA's six games -- the final three at Marlins Park in Miami -- Stanton hit .235 (4-for-17) with one RBI, four walks and three strikeouts. Cishek, expected to close for the Marlins this season, was tied with fellow closer Craig Kimbrel for the Team USA lead in appearances (four) as he surrendered one earned run in 2 1/3 innings. He walked two, struck out two and hit a batter, with one hold.
"I think, for Cishek, that experience was big for him," Redmond said. "He said he's never pitched in that environment and I think that's important for young guys -- to be in an environment with a lot of pressure, especially with the role he's gonna be in this year. … As a manger or as a coach you sit there and you look and you're evaluating guys and you look at how they do in the biggest situations, and he was tremendous."
With about two weeks remaining in camp, this gives the two players a chance to work out any further kinks before Opening Day and allow them to mesh with their teammates, who they have been away from since the beginning of the month. It also gives the Marlins a bit more depth where they need it. But there may be a bit of an adjustment period, Redmond said.
"I think you always worry about a little bit of a letdown," he said. "Those guys come from playing like World Series games into doing like PFPs on field four."