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Miami Marlins' Christian Yelich set to return this week

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Christian Yelich is currently on a rehab assignment in Jupiter.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins have won nine of their last twelve games, despite missing an important bat in the middle of their order in Christian Yelich.  Yelich was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 24 and he has missed the past 13 games while recovering from a lower back strain.

But over the weekend Yelich began his rehab assignment in Class-A Jupiter.  Assuming Yelich does not have any setbacks in his rehab assignment, he could be back in the lineup as early as Thursday, according to Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald:

Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich expects to be back in the lineup when the team opens the second leg of a three-city, 11-day road trip Thursday in San Francisco.  That's assuming all goes well after he begins a three-day rehab stint Sunday in Jupiter.  Yelich said he has been hitting in the cages for the past three days and hasn't felt any discomfort in his lower back.

After signing a seven-year deal worth $49 million in Spring Training, Christian Yelich has had a frustrating start to his new deal.  Before Yelich was shut down with back injury, he was struggling at the plate.  In his 11 games played this season, Yelich has posted a batting line of .200/.265/.222 to go along with 13 strikeouts.

In the couple games before he was placed on the disabled list, Yelich really struggled at the plate, as he struck out seven times in his last ten at-bats.  The discomfort in his back could have been the main reason for Yelich's slow start. Last June, Yelich was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the same injury, so the health of his back will be something to watch for moving forward.

As it turns out, Ichiro may have been the Marlins most important offseason addition. Ichiro has been productive while filling in for Yelich, as he has posted a batting line of .282/.333/.352 and has done so while mostly batting towards the bottom of the order.  Ichiro has also showcased his impressive speed at age 41 by reaching on infield singles and being active on the base paths.  If there is anything positive to come out of Christian Yelich's injury, it is that Ichiro has proven that he can be a reliable replacement in the outfield.

Even though Christian Yelich struggled to begin the season, and Ichiro has been productive in his absence, the Marlins are still a better team on both sides of the diamond with Yelich in the lineup everyday.  Upon Yelich's return, it will be interesting to see how Mike Redmond adjusts the lineup.  The Marlins opened the season with Christian Yelich in the two-hole, but have had their recent success with Martin Prado hitting in that spot.

How do you think the Marlins lineup should look when Christian Yelich returns?