PORT ST. LUCIE — Mike Redmond feels whole again.
The manager not only saw the return of three of his regulars on Saturday, but was looking forward to Sunday when two more — Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek — rejoin the club.
“Even though it’s just a couple of guys, it thins you out,” Redmond said of a roster depleted by injuries and the World Baseball Classic. “We’re down to the last couple of weeks and it’s nice to have those guys back in camp. Now I feel a whole lot better.”
Placido Polanco, who has been out since March 1 with an oblique strain, started at third base against the Mets on Saturday. Greg Dobbs, who last played on Feb. 24, received five at bats in a minor league game. And Henderson Alvarez was back on the mound for the Marlins for the first time since leaving to play for Venezuela in the WBC.
With Team USA getting knocked out of the WBC on Friday, Stanton and Cishek will switch back to their Marlins jerseys Sunday. Redmond said Stanton will start against the Cardinals and Cishek will be used in relief.
“It makes me more comfortable having those guys back, knowing I can see them every day,” Redmond said. “As a team, we’re thin. So we can’t overcome a lot of nicks and bruises. It just feels better that we’re getting those guys back on the field.”
Redmond said Stanton and Cishek might experience a letdown effect from the energy-charged WBC.
“I think you always worry about a little bit of a letdown,” Redmond said. “I mean, those guys come from playing like World Series games into doing ‘pfp’s’ [pitchers’ fielding practice] on Field 4. Obviously, we can’t create that atmosphere out here.”
Polanco showed no signs of rust. He doubled in his first at bat and singled in his second. Following the double, Polanco had to dive back to second on a pickoff attempt.
“The big test [with the oblique injury] was on the pickoff play at second base when I really had to — it was a quick one,” Polanco said. “And it felt fine.”
It has been a painful spring for Polanco. Not only has he dealt with the oblique injury, but also has been receiving dental work. He’s scheduled for a root canal Monday.
“I hate it. I don’t even want to talk about it,” Polanco said of the root canal. “They have to dig in for two hours.”
And the oblique injury?
“It felt like I had a knife in there,” Polanco said. “And if you move, you feel the knife.”
Alvarez had his own issues Saturday. Redmond and the Marlins training staff went to the mound to see how he was doing after his right hamstring cramped up in the fourth inning. But Alvarez stayed in the game to face two more batters.
“I’m happy to be back,” said Alvarez, who gave up a run over 3 2/3 innings.
Redmond said he expects to have Stanton, Polanco and Dobbs in the lineup [Sunday].
• Christian Yelich hit his team-leading fourth home run — an opposite-field solo shot — and the Marlins defeated the New York Mets on Saturday, 4-2. Yelich will more than likely start the season at Double A Jacksonville. But he has opened eyes this spring, hitting .368 with eight extra-base hits.
“I’m just trying to ride it out as long as possible and see what happens,” Yelich said. “I came to camp with realistic expectations, and I really wanted to leave them with a good impression.”
After Alvarez started and pitched into the fourth for the Marlins, Kevin Slowey took over and went 4 1/3 innings, giving up a run on two hits. Slowey is making a strong case for either a spot in the starting rotation or in the bullpen as a long reliever.
So far this spring, Slowey has a 2.63 ERA from 13 2/3 innings.
“I want to be on a major-league team and this has been a great opportunity for me to show that I can be,” Slowey said.
Among those fighting for roster spots, Chris Coghlan had a pair of hits, including a RBI triple, and Chone Figgins singled and drew a walk after an 18-pitch at-bat.
• After relaxing his rules governing facial hair last season, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is demanding his players keep their razors sharp. “It’s back to the way it was before,” said one player, who asked not to be identified. “We can’t grow beards.” Neatly trimmed mustaches and goatees are OK, though. Loria is a stickler for stubble. But he eased up on the policy a year ago, which allowed players such as Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes to have facial growth. Now that they’re gone, it’s back to the old way.