MIAMI—Just over three weeks since a COVID-19 outbreak ravaged through the Marlins’ clubhouse, a few of the 18 players that tested positive are gearing up to return to the major league roster—most notably, Sandy Alcantara and Miguel Rojas.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday afternoon that Miguel Rojas was perhaps the furthest along out of those 18 players. The bulk of Rojas’ concern, Mattingly said, is getting reps at shortstop. As for hitting, Rojas said he was thrown right into the fire against Marlins’ top prospect Sixto Sánchez.
“This guy welcomed me to the alternative site,” Rojas said in an interview on MLB Network. “This guy was throwing 98-100 mph. The first couple of at-bats seeing live pitching after three weeks of staying in a hotel room, it was kind of difficult.”
The 31-year-old shortstop was leading MLB with a 2.050 OPS in a very small sample size before testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Since his absence, Jonathan Villar, Eddy Alvarez, and Jon Berti have picked up the role of middle infield, and they’ve been holding down the fort as best as they could. Villar has had his share of hitting success, and Alvarez has shown his ability on the field and the basepaths. But at 9-7, the Marlins’ lineup looks to get even better upon Rojas’ return.
As for the pitching side of things, Sandy Alcantara is eager to return as well after spending three weeks in quarantine,
“I feel 100 percent ready to go right now,” Alcantara said on a Zoom call with the media. “I’m just waiting for the call.”
And the Marlins are also certainly eager for Alcantara to come back, as well. After the COVID-19 outbreak, only two starting pitchers from their Opening Day roster (Pablo López and Elieser Hernandez) remained. On top of that, the Fish also lost 8 bullpen arms.
Despite a stellar performance against the Baltimore Orioles that included two shutout victories, the Marlins’ pitchers have fallen back down to earth since then. Since August 7, the Marlins have given up 5.8 runs per game, and their bullpen has a 5.62 ERA.
Mattingly said every player has their own personal game plan in terms of returning to major league play, and wouldn’t give many details in regards to where the pitchers are in their recovery. However, Alcantara told media that he threw a 20-pitch bullpen session a few days ago, is scheduled to throw 50 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday.
It isn’t yet clear when exactly each player will return. One caveat, however, is that they must travel with the entire team—they can not rejoin the team if they are already in the middle of a road trip. So any player that doesn’t go up to Washington with the team on August 20 will have to wait until the Marlins come back to Miami on August 28.