The Miami Marlins had initially planned to have Rafael Furcal fill in the second base position instead of incumbent candidates Donovan Solano, Derek Dietrich, or Ed Lucas. But so far in 2014, that plan has yet to come to fruition, as Furcal suffered a hamstring injury during Spring Training and was forced onto the disabled list to start the year. Towards the end of April, however, it seemed as though Furcal was on the road to recovery, as he began rehabbing for the injury.
Word from this weekend was not good on that front, however. Furcal left a Friday game for Double-A Jacksonville after apparently aggravating the hamstring injury from earlier this year. From Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:
According to Associated Press reports, Furcal walked off the field with a slight limp and refused comment. But Jacksonville manager Andy Barkett said Furcal is day to day.
"We'll see how he feels tomorrow," Barkett said. "He moved around fine in pregame. He just hasn't played in a year and he's trying to get his body right. I feel for the guy. He's a great player and all we want is for him to get back in the big leagues. I know he's a little frustrated and we're all frustrated for him because he's such a competitor. But, at the same time, we've got to be cautious."
The Marlins want Furcal back, if only to get some veteran presence back on the roster. They had initially promised him the second base spot in the hopes that he would bring veteran stability and a leadoff batter to the roster. Miami has yet to receive anything from their initial $3.5 million guaranteed investment.
But the irony of this is that the Fish, at this stage, are in good shape without Furcal. In his place, Dietrich has flourished in the early going, batting .250/.373/.446 (.369 wOBA) to start the season. Even with a recent cold streak, Dietrich's numbers have been more than acceptable, and the newfound walk rate is a surprise. There is still a question regarding his surprising patience (38 percent swing rate after a 50 percent mark in 2013) and his defense is still alarming, but Miami figures to give him as much time as possible to figure out his kinks at the big league level so long as he remains capable of hitting.
Furcal's looming return was going to bring up the question of what to do with Dietrich, so this latest setback gives Miami some more time to figure out their game plan and see more of Dietrich. At the same time, the Marlins made a commitment to their free agent signing and should honor it post-injury unless in an extreme circumstance. Dietrich is the better choice, but he is not such an overwhelming option that it should override the Marlins' word. In time, Furcal should yield playing time if he struggles, but it is likely Miami should still give him a chance to play.
The Marlins should at the very least be cautious with Furcal. Beyond the benefits of time to evaluate Dietrich, Furcal is coming off a season-long injury and might remain rusty after the time off. Furthermore, hamstring injuries can be easy to re-aggravate, and Furcal's injury history points to him running into future problems with a frail, aging body. Miami gets the best of both worlds by delaying his return in order to be careful with re-injury.