Virus-stricken Marlins resume season with 18 new players

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Jonathan Villar, Jesus Aguilar, Jon Berti

FILE – In this July 12, 2020, file photo, Miami Marlins’ Jonathan Villar, left, Jesus Aguilar, center, and Jon Berti wait to bat during a baseball scrimmage at Marlins Park in Miami. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter blamed the team’s coronavirus outbreak on a collective false sense of security that made players lax about social distancing and wearing masks. Infected were 21 members of the team’s traveling party, including at least 18 players. None is seriously ill, Jeter said Monday, and he expects all to return this season. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

MIAMI (AP) — Scrambling for replacements following a coronavirus outbreak, the Miami Marlins added a Moran, a Morin, two pitchers named Josh Smith and a former Olympic medalist in speedskating.

Also among the 18 players joining the Marlins’ 30-man roster as they resumed their virus-disrupted season in Baltimore on Tuesday night were outfielder Monte Harrison and right-hander Jose Guzman, highly regarded prospects reaching the majors for the first time.

Another newcomer was pitcher Richard Bleier, returning to his former ballpark after being acquired from the Orioles in a trade over the weekend.

“We’re just excited to get back on the field,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.

After the Marlins waited nine days to play following the outbreak, the start of the game was pushed back nearly an hour when their latest test results were delayed.

Starting pitchers Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith joined Jose Urena on the injured list, leaving the Marlins without three-fifths of their rotation. Eight of their 12 opening-day relievers were also on the IL, as was shortstop Miguel Rojas.

With more than half the team needing to be replaced, newcomers included infielder Eddy Alvarez a 30-year-old Miami native who won a silver medal in speedskating at the 2014 Winter Olympics and had yet to play in the majors.

“A tremendous story on stick-to-it-iveness,” Hill said.

And this: The Marlins technically began the game in first place in the NL East.

At 2-1, Miami started the day with the best winning percentage in the division. Teams are scheduled for only 60 games each this season and it’s possible not every club will play that many because of disruptions.

In that case, with 16 of 30 clubs making the playoffs, the postseason field would be determined by winning percentage.

The Marlins’ revamped pitching staff includes right-hander Mike Morin and left-hander Brian Moran, and right-hander Josh A. Smith and left-hander Josh D. Smith, all recently acquired veterans.

“I won’t say it was a call to arms,” Hill said. “It was a call in need of arms.”

The Marlins put 17 players on the injured list, and starting second baseman Isan Diaz opted out for the rest of the season. Replacements included seven newly acquired players, and 11 players from the team’s alternate training site.

Harrison was in the lineup in center field Tuesday night, as was 33-year-old newcomer Logan Forsythe as the designated hitter.

The virus infected 21 members of the Marlins’ traveling party and forced the suspension of their season July 26 after just three games. The roster overhaul that has followed will test a farm system much improved since Derek Jeter’s group bought the franchise nearly three years ago.

“We expect to win games,” Hill said. “We have been able to acquire layers of talent, and while you never anticipate having to replace 18 players, it’s a credit to the work we’ve done organizationally to build depth to absorb what we are doing today.

“No one is making excuses. We know we have a job to do and we’re ready to go.”

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