The Philadelphia Phillies are in the thick of the race for the National League East title and wild-card race, and the Miami Marlins are in the division’s basement.
Yet, when they meet on Saturday in the middle game of a weekend series, they will have at least one trend in common.
Both teams have moved established catchers out from behind the plate, at least temporarily.
Philadelphia (69-65) has shifted catcher J.T. Realmuto to first base to replace Rhys Hoskins, who suffered an abdominal tear and had season-ending surgery on Tuesday.
For Miami (56-79), former Phillies backstop Jorge Alfaro has been playing left field and some first base. Miami’s motivation is not an injury. It’s to get a long look at young catcher Alex Jackson, who is batting just .120 in 92 at-bats this year.
Coincidentally, Realmuto and Alfaro were traded for each other in February 2019.
Replacing Realmuto at catcher is Rafael Marchan, a 22-year-old rookie from Venezuela. A switch-hitter, Marchan has been solid in 17 games this year, batting .267 with seven runs scored.
“Rafael is mature for his age,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s fundamentally sound with a slow heartbeat.
“That slow heartbeat helps him at an important time of the year.”
Girardi was referring to this stretch run for the Phillies, who have won six of their past seven games, with the only blemish during that span a 10-3 loss to the Marlins in the opener of this series on Friday night.
On Saturday, the Phillies will start lefty Ranger Suarez (6-4, 1.48 ERA), who was moved into the rotation on Aug. 2.
The Phillies are 4-2 when Suarez starts. Prior to this, Suarez hadn’t started a game since 2018.
Suarez has never started against the Marlins. As a reliever, he has faced them 11 times, going 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA. Suarez is 0-1 with a 10.00 ERA in five Miami appearances.
This year, though, Suarez has had success against the Marlins, sporting a 2.57 ERA in five appearances.
As for his transition from bullpen (1.12 ERA this year) to starter (2.03), it’s been as smooth as a new cue ball.
Meanwhile, the Marlins are expected to start lefty Trevor Rogers (7-6, 2.45).
Rogers, who made the All-Star Game this year, was considered the frontrunner to win NL Rookie of the Year. But that was before July 31, which is the last time he pitched before going on the family medical emergency/bereavement list.
Rogers is 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in four career starts against the Phillies.
This year, though, Rogers is 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts. The Marlins are 2-1 in those three games, and the best of those for Rogers was his performance on May 19. In that game, he allowed just one run and struck out eight in 7 2/3 innings.
With Rogers back in the rotation, the Marlins have moved rookie starter Zach Thompson (2-6, 3.11) to the bullpen.
Thompson pitched one scoreless inning on Friday in his bullpen debut.
“We want to see what that looks like,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Thompson as a reliever. “We’re going to be careful with his usage.”
–Field Level Media