The excitement of Opening Day and the return of a 162 game season was diminished a bit on Wednesday morning when it was announced that top prospect Sixto Sanchez’s health was once again in jeopardy. The Marlins announced that, during his first action since being optioned, Sanchez was removed from a sim game due to experiencing discomfort in his throwing shoulder. Per reports, Sanchez was in the second inning of what was to be expected a five inning outing.
The original plan with Sixto was to build him up to at least 75 pitches before committing to him making the 26 man roster. It appeared as though Sanchez had just enough time to do so before rosters were due in. However, 24 hours before his last tuneup outing in the Tuesday sim game, the Marlins optioned Sanchez to the alternate training site. While this was the safest move for Sixto especially considering the Marlins do not need a fifth starter until April 9th, the fact he was sent down before even making his final appearance and the fact that for most of spring training, the Marlins were, according to Don Mattingly, planning on carrying five starters from the start of spring, was slightly auspicious. Now, that auspiciousness has turned to deep concern.
This morning, the Marlins reported that Sixto underwent an MRI and that it revealed “mild inflammation” in the upper right portion of his throwing shoulder. The team said Sixto will be given a few days’ rest before beginning rehabbing via a throwing program. The team did not provide a timetable on Sanchez’s return but called it a “slow progression”.
Judging by how Don Mattingly reacted to the news, it could have been much worse.
“I thought the news was pretty good. Obviously you don’t want it to be anything major,” Mattingly said. “[We’re] just going to take care of him and have this process work its way through. Feeling that you’ll get Sixto back or get him here at some point is a good thing.”
While it is a relief that Sixto avoided any serious structural damage, the continuous issues with his health are concerning and in some ways frustrating for both himself personally and the organization. For as careful and cautious as the Marlins have been with him, this sort of development at this point raises questions regarding the long-term reliability of the Marlins’ top prospect to stay on the field and how many innings he can provide, especially given his build and how hard he throws. Not only will his innings be limited this year, they probably will be next year as well.
Undoubtedly, as they have been previously, the team will be extremely wary with Sixto’s build back. His throwing program should go something like this: two weeks of rest, long toss, mound work, lives, minor league rehab starts. All things considered, it would be surprising to see Sixto back before June.
Jazz Thrives Under the Lights
For a lot young prospects who make the Opening Day roster for the first time, the emotions and attention overwhelm them and they stray from the values that got them to that point. For Jazz Chisholm Jr., that could not have been farther from the truth on Thursday. Rather than let the elements of his first Opening Day get the best of him, Jazz embraced them, stayed true to himself and his usual carefree nature and showed signs of things to come.
Jazz made his first statement via fashion when he showed up to work in a Lamello Ball Charlotte Hornets jersey and most noticeably, with his hair dyed blue. According to Jazz, he dyed his hair at the request of a teammate.
“When I came into spring training with the blonde, Sandy Alcantara was like “Hey, when you come on Opening Day, I want it to be blue,” Jazz said. “I was like, “I got you!””
Before the game started, Jazz who has always been a fantastic steward for fans, could be seen interacting (from a safe distance) with those in attendance for the first time at loanDepot park since 2019.
Jazz said pregame that despite the career milestone, he does not feel like he will have any butterflies when he gets on the field because the field is where he is at peace.
“The baseball field is what takes away my butterflies,” Chisholm Jr. said. “I’m just going to try to go out there and have fun and just enjoy the game the way it comes.”
Although he didn’t record a hit on the night, Jazz struck the ball hard twice. His first AB against Rays ace Tyler Glasnow, he grounded into the shift. The ball left the bat 100.5 mph and had an expected batting average of .510. His second at bat, he lined out. The ball left the bat at 95 mph. He’s carried the same bat to ball skill and consistency from the second half of spring into the regular season and as long as that persists, results shouldn’t be too far away.
Regarding how he thought Jazz handled the big moment, Mattingly said he believed Jazz welcomed being part of such a big moment and relished in it.
“I think he likes the energy and the lights. He handled it great today,” Mattingly said. “He sees the ball good, he quits early on balls. He’s going to have to keep working to keep shortening, but he has everything it takes to be a good player.”
When Derek Jeter says Jazz is a “different kind of athlete”, that comment is not limited to just his batting and fielding skills. Young players with a mindset such as this to let his love for the game prevail above all circumstances and challenges is something not found often. A guy who oozes and spreads happiness and joy to both fans and his teammates, there is very little not to like about him. Jazz has every quality necessary — both tangible and intangible — to be both a fan favorite and franchise cornerstone infielder.
Mattingly Preaches Continued Vigilance
As exciting as it is to have baseball back in a more normal capacity, the Marlins and the rest of the league were reminded on Thursday morning that, although circumstances are improving, COVID-19 is still a prevalent force and that following protocols needs to continue to be prioritized. A few hours before their Opening Day game against the New York Mets, it was revealed that multiple players on the Washington Nationals roster tested positive for COVID-19. The game was postponed and not long after, the entire series was called off. Don Mattingly said the situation sounds eerily familiar and that it can, has and will sneak up without notice and wreak extreme havoc on a team and staff.
“Very similar to what happened to us last year. No positive tests during [spring] 2.0 at all. Anything can happen and it seems to spread quickly,” Mattingly said. “For your club losing multiple guys at one time, that’s what could set you back.”
Mattingly mentioned that the club will breathe a sigh of relief when vaccinations are more widespread but until then, he and the team will remain on high alert.
“We are in a little bit of a tricky area right now, everybody leaving their camps and their bubbles, more travel,” Mattingly said. “It’s a time you still have to be vigilant.”