Whether the Jazz Chisholm Jr. center field experiment works or not, it won’t be for lack of trying.
Back in January, Chisholm informed Marlins manager Skip Schumaker that he’d be willing to play any position that helped the team win. The Marlins soon traded for 2022 AL batting champion and second baseman Luis Arraez, necessitating a move to center field for the 25-year-old.
Almost immediately—and weeks before position players had to report to the Marlins spring training facility in Jupiter—Chisholm took to the ballfields of Miami with fellow Marlins outfielders, including veterans Avisaíl García and Jorge Soler.
“The importance of the guys that are around you is just extremely amazing,” Chisholm said. “If your guys are around you and they’re willing to help you every step of the way, you’re gonna have a great time out there. You’re gonna have fun out there and you’re gonna be a great player.”
Chisholm said one of the positives of this outfield is that it operates as a collective group as opposed to a cast of individuals.
“It’s not like I’m the only guy out there as a center fielder,” Chisholm said. “It’s more like…I’m also playing left, right, and center field. And it’s the same for all three outfielders—we’re all talking to each other on every ball hit, every pitch thrown.”
Schumaker said the outfielders have been going through communication drills with outfield coach Jon Jay, where they take live reads off the bat together to try to feel each other out.
Chisholm had four putouts on Friday, including a running catch to rob Cardinals designated hitter Tyler O’Neill from getting extra bases and a sliding catch in shallow center field to rob second baseman Taylor Motter of a hit.
“The one that went in the gap is why he’s in center field,” Schumaker said, “because not a lot of guys can run those balls down.”
But the communication between Jazz and his teammates in the outfield was probably the most evident on a play that was just out of his reach. In the bottom of the third in Friday’s game, Cardinals right fielder Alec Burleson hit a ball to shallow center field that Chisholm had to dive toward. The ball went off his glove and rolled back to left fielder Peyton Burdick, who was backing him up on the play.
Alec Burleson with a line-drive double past a diving Jazz Chisholm Jr. pic.twitter.com/vcIzI7K2KV— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) March 3, 2023
“As soon as I went for that ball and I didn’t come up with a play, Burdick came to me right away and he’s like, ‘hey, that’s a hell of a try,’” Chisholm said. “(Burdick told me), ‘you know I’m always here to back you up.’ That’s the perfect time to dive—in the gap when you know you got two guys (around) the ball, and you’re the main guy at it.”
Marlins outfielder Jorge Soler said they’ve been working on little details about making proper jumps that he needs to make.
“But some of these things won’t come to you if you’re just explaining,” Soler said through a translator. “You got to play the game. You got to actually start understanding the reading of the ball.”
Like Soler alluded to, the game always seems to find you. In Chisholm’s first opportunity in the first inning against the Cardinals last weekend, he misread a broken bat single off the bat of Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado. Chisholm took a step back, and quickly had to run in on the ball that landed in shallow center field. The following night against the Boston Red Sox, he threw a ball all the way to the back stop while trying to throw out a runner that he had no shot at getting.
“(My teammates) keep me up out there,” Chisholm said. “They don’t let me hang my head down. It’s amazing.”