Miami Marlins quick hits on Johnny Cueto, Nick Fortes, Steven Okert, Jon Berti
With spring training quickly coming to an end, some quick Miami Marlins updates and notable developments.
▪ Johnny Cueto, who has been dealing with minor arm soreness for a couple weeks, threw 61 pitches over 4 2/3 innings on the back fields in a Triple A game on Friday. Cueto struggled in his first inning before settling in for the rest of his outing.
“Triple A [hitters] were super aggressive, first-pitch swinging the first inning,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said, “so there was some contact early in the game. The last three innings were really good. It looked like the way he kind of was last year toward the end of the year. Velo was up. The cutter really played. The curveball was good. The change he was utilizing it behind and ahead [in the count], so that was a really good day for him.”
Cueto said he anticipates being ready for the start of the season and that he will likely have one more outing — most likely in another back-field game or a scrimmage — before his season debut.
▪ Nick Fortes, who has been dealing with right knee tendinitis, caught Cueto’s outing and said he is slated to catch in Grapefruit League games both Saturday and Sunday before the team wraps up camp.
“I think I looked good,” Fortes said. “My knee felt good, which is priority No. 1. I feel like I caught well and had some good at-bats. That’s all I can really ask for today.”
Fortes, like Cueto, said he anticipates being ready to start the season.
“The training staff has done a great job with getting me back to where I need to be,” Fortes said. “From here on out, it’s just all maintenance and just feeling good.”
▪ One person who is unlikely to be ready to start the season: Left-handed relief pitcher Steven Okert. He hasn’t pitched since Monday while dealing with soreness in his left inner thigh and currently isn’t listed to pitch in any of Miami’s remaining spring games. He is not currently throwing off a mound.
“Bad timing obviously,” Okert said. “There’s never a good time to get hurt, but [especially] right at the end of camp. Just got to get healthy and come back so I can help the team as best I can.”
Okert said he doesn’t have a scheduled plan to throw over the next few days.
“The plan is to get him healthy,” Schumaker said. “He felt really good today, which is a good sign. [Thursday] was a good day when he came in for rehab and he woke up today feeling a lot better, but you don’t want to push things too hard where he misses a month. I think you just kind of take it day by day right now and our trainers are doing the best they can to get him ready.”
Okert’s absence opens the door for a reliever like Andrew Nardi, who has impressed the coaching staff this spring, to crack the Opening Day roster.
▪ With Joey Wendle getting a half-dozen at-bats on the back fields Friday, Jon Berti started at shortstop for the Marlins in their 3-2 spring training win over Houston Astros and left-handed pitcher Framber Valdez on Friday night at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
“Berti’s been reliable. You trust him,” Schumaker said. “He can play [shortstop]. He’s more than capable of playing there. We’re taking a look at [Berti starting] maybe against lefties.”
If the Marlins truly feel this way, it could be an uphill battle for veteran infielder Jose Iglesias.
Iglesias and first baseman Yuli Gurriel both signed minor-league deals on March 10 but can opt out from those deals on Saturday if they choose unless Miami gives them assurance they will make the Opening Day roster.
Of the two, Gurriel has always been more of a lock to make the team than Iglesias. The Marlins only have one natural first baseman on their 40-man roster in Garrett Cooper, who has a track record with injuries. Iglesias’ value would come as a platoon shortstop with Wendle if Miami wanted Berti, who led the league in stolen bases last year, to remain as a super-utility player. If Berti becomes the primary backup shortstop, it makes Iglesias’ potential role moot.
Garrett Hampson, who was already added to the 40-man roster and can play all three spots up the middle (second base, shortstop and center field), is also an option. Hampson still has a minor-league option.
Miami’s 40-man roster is full but the team has flexibility with a couple spots. Right-handed pitcher Max Meyer will move to the 60-day injured list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Right-handed relief pitcher Tommy Nance, who isn’t throwing while dealing with a shoulder injury, is another 60-day IL candidate. And the team has to figure out its course of action with right-handed pitcher Nic Enright, their Rule 5 Draft pick who is undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.