Al­faro en­dures in­jury scare in spring opener

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Wells Dusen­bury

JUPITER — Four in­nings into the spring train­ing sea­son, dis­as­ter nearly struck for the Mar­lins.

In Satur­day’s Grape­fruit League Opener, Car­di­nals third base­man Jedd Gy­orko popped a lazy foul ball near Mi­ami’s dugout and Mar­lins catcher Jorge Al­faro took off run­ning.

One of the team’s key off­sea­son ac­qui­si­tions, Al­faro lost track of the dugout and col­lided full-speed with as­sis­tant Trey Hill­man and the dugout rail, ham­mer­ing his knee and leav­ing him down on the ground.

While Mar­lins fans waited a few min­utes with bated breath, the 25-year-old not only emerged on his own — but re-en­tered the game.

“I’ll be fine,” said Al­faro, who grounded out in his one at bat. “I was run­ning to the ball, “[The play­ers] were yelling at me, but I didn’t hear it. I got my eyes on the ball and I tried to catch it. I didn’t know how far I was from the fence, but I’ll be good.”

“It was pain, but I just wanted to breathe a lit­tle bit and get some wa­ter...I al­ways like to fin­ish what I start. They [wanted to take me out], but I said ‘I want to keep play­ing’. It doesn’t mat­ter [that it’s spring train­ing], it’s a game. You have to win and com­pete.”

Ac­quired from the Phillies in the J.T. Real­muto trade, Al­faro ex­ited the game, which Mi­ami lost 11-1, in the fourth in­ning in a sched­uled move. For the Mar­lins, see­ing their catcher go down was a star­tling sight.

“[It] was pretty scary,” Ro­jas said. “It was re­ally his first time play­ing on this field. He didn’t know the di­men­sions of the ball­park

and the first game is al­ways hard. Your heart is rac­ing. We’ve been play­ing baseball for 20 years and it’s like that same feel­ing — ev­ery first time, you feel like you’re go­ing 100 miles per hour.”

Sandy solid in de­but

Get­ting the start against his for­mer team, Mar­lins pitcher Sandy Al­can­tara was solid in his sea­son de­but. The right-han­der tossed two score­less in­nings, giv­ing up one hit, one walk, while strik­ing out three on 31 pitches — 22 of which went for strikes.

In a promis­ing sign, the 23-year-old’s fast­ball hov­ered be­tween 96-98 MPH on the af­ter­noon.

“My fast­ball felt re­ally good com­ing out,” Al­can­tara said. “I pre­pared in my off­sea­son, work­ing a lot [on it].”

Ac­quired last year from St. Louis in the Mar­cell Ozuna trade, Al­can­tara made six starts for the Mar­lins in 2018, post­ing a 3.44 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. The right-han­der is be­ing counted on to be one of Mi­ami’s core start­ing pitch­ers go­ing for­ward.

Still, Al­can­tara has to earn a spot in this year’s ro­ta­tion with six other play­ers — Jose Urena, Trevor

Richards, Pablo Lopez, Caleb Smith and Wei-Yin Chen — com­pet­ing for five spots.

“I feel good — I hope they give me an op­por­tu­nity to be in the ro­ta­tion and I hope that I’ll be there,” Al­can­tara said.

Vic­tor Vic­tor Mesa makes pro de­but

The Mar­lins crown­ing achieve­ment this off­sea­son, highly touted Cuban signee Vic­tor Vic­tor Mesa made his pro­fes­sional de­but. The top-ranked in­ter­na­tional free agent, Mesa en­tered the game in the sixth in­ning at cen­ter field. In his one plate ap­pear­ance, he grounded out to short.

For Mesa, there will likely be a lengthy ad­just­ment process be­fore he hits the ma­jor league level. It’s been nearly two years — 23 months to be pre­cise — since he last played or­ga­nized baseball.

“I felt good for be­ing my first game after all the time with­out play­ing,” Mesa said.

“My tim­ing’s still off, but it’s some­thing pos­i­tive that I made con­tact,” Mesa said. “I’m talk­ing about speed I’ve never seen be­fore and I made con­tact with these type of pitch­ers.”

JEFF ROBER­SON/AP

Mi­ami Mar­lins start­ing pitcher Sandy Al­can­tara threw two score­less in­nings in Satur­day’s spring train­ing game against the St. Louis Car­di­nals.

JEFF ROBER­SON/AP

Mar­lins cen­ter fielder Vic­tor Vic­tor Mesa made his spring train­ing de­but Satur­day against the Car­di­nals.

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