JUPITER — As outfield prospect Christian Yelich’s Grapefruit League numbers continued to climb, the biggest unanswered question was when the 21-year-old would be sent down.
Although a standout spring might have had some thinking “if” rather than “when,” the future of the prospect lies in the farm system for now. Yelich has been waiting for the “when” for weeks, despite producing one of the strongest bodies of work on the Marlins roster this spring.
Slowly, the nameplates around him have disappeared. On Friday afternoon, Yelich’s name was missing, too.
“I’ve kind of been expecting it for awhile, and it hadn’t happened,” he said.
Yelich saw his locker move from the temporary bank he shared with other non-roster invitees Jake Marisnick and Jose Fernandez to one of the walls with the major-league regulars.
“I can’t be disappointed. I came in here and I knew it was going to happen. I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the experience of my first big-league camp,” he said. “I think I was able to do that. Hopefully, I left a good impression.”
Yelich hit .364 in 44 at-bats with a team-leading five home runs, including a two-out game-winning shot for the Marlins against the Red Sox on March 11.
He leads the team in hits with 13, and he’s tied for fifth in the league with an1.269 OPS.
For a player who hasn’t seen action above A-ball, his adaptability has been a pleasant surprise for manager Mike Redmond. He said the poise Yelich possesses is something he has rarely seen.
“He’s so calm ... usually you see guys get into an uncomfortable situation where they’re facing really good pitchers and they’ll start expanding the zone and swinging at balls they normally won’t swing at,” Redmond said. “But he doesn’t panic; he stays within himself. He knows what he can and can’t hit.”
Yelich’s time with Double-A Jacksonville might be a short stop on the way to the majors. Redmond says he can do it all, but the humble personality he maintains is refreshing for someone with his skills.
“He was very impressive, and not just on the field, but the way he handled himself,” Redmond said. “He’s a great teammate, he’s a great player. His day will come.”
The young outfielder’s standout moment at camp was on the other side of the Everglades, when the Marlins made the long bus trip to Tampa.
“I think my favorite moment was getting to meet [ Derek ] Jeter before the Yankees game. That was pretty cool,” he said. “I grew up and that was my guy. I always watched him.”
Fellow Marlins outfielder Juan Pierre introduced the two; although, Yelich is sure Jeter has no idea who he is.
“It was probably just another day at the ballpark for him, but for me it was something really special and something I’ll never forget."
• In the final meeting of the Marlins and the New York Mets on Friday night, reliever Ryan Webb allowed the visitors a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Miami.
The Marlins are 3-2-1 in the spring against their National League East rivals.
Ricky Nolasco went head-to-head with Mets Opening Day starter Jon Niese. Niese had only allowed one run in 12 2/3 innings before facing the Marlins.
Rob Brantly and Nick Green delivered two-out RBIs in the fourth. The Marlins maintained the lead until the top of the eighth.
Nolasco worked six innings, allowing four hits. His workload was increased to 101 pitches, throwing 62 for strikes with five strikeouts. Nolasco hit two Mets batters, his only two of the spring.
“[Ricky] was on cruise control there for five innings; he threw some great breaking balls and got out of some jams,” Redmond said. “He’s right on schedule.”
• Second baseman Donovan Solano has been out since Wednesday with a stiff back. He was at the Marlins’ complex on Thursday (team off day) to receive treatment. He told Redmond that he is feeling much better.
• Along with Yelich, right-hander Jonathan Abaladejo and catcher Jake Jeffries were reassigned to minor-league camp. Right-hander Tom Koehler has been optioned to New Orleans.
• Saturday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (3-0, 3.38 ERA) vs. St. Louis Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
• Sunday: Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (0-2, 10.80) at Astros (TBA), 1:05 p.m., Kissimmee.