Yuli Gurriel was a batting champion without a team at the beginning of spring training just a few months ago, but he has become a big part of a Miami Marlins team that will begin a series against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night in Anaheim, Calif.
Gurriel, who won the American League batting crown and a Gold Glove in 2021 while with the Houston Astros, signed a minor league deal in March with the Marlins. He was expected to be a backup to All-Star first baseman Garrett Cooper and give the club infield depth.
But Gurriel, who will turn 39 in June, has proved to be more valuable than might have been anticipated, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He went 2-for-4 with a double and triple in the Marlins' 7-6 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Thursday in Denver and is hitting .299 with three homers, 11 RBIs and an .800 OPS this season.
Gurriel went 9-for-12 in the three-game series at Colorado, including a four-hit game on Wednesday. His production has been especially important for the Marlins considering Cooper has struggled this season -- .239 with five homers, 19 RBIs and a .683 OPS -- notwithstanding Cooper's game-tying, pinch-hit, ninth-inning, two-run homer on Thursday.
Even so, Gurriel's biggest impact for the club might be his mentoring of younger players.
"He just kind of grabs you one-on-one," Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings said. "We all really respect him and just kind of gravitate towards him. ... And if you're having a rough day, (he) just says, 'Hey, stick with it. Stick with it. You're good. Keep going.'"
Miami infielder Joey Wendle agreed.
"To have a guy with his pedigree -- he's been on winning teams, he's won a batting title -- I've just really been impressed with the pro that he is," Wendle said. "He's here, he gets his work in, he knows how to take care of his body (even at) 38 years old."
Left-hander Jesus Luzardo (3-3, 3.83 ERA) will make his 11th start of the season for Miami on Friday. He is 0-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five career games (one start) against the Angels.
Lefty Reid Detmers (0-3, 4.87) will make his ninth start of the season for the Angels. He has never faced the Marlins.
Los Angeles center fielder Mike Trout enters play Friday having homered in each of his past two games. In the process, he tied, then passed, Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio on the all-time home run list, with his total now at 362.
Trout, like DiMaggio, is a three-time American League MVP, although DiMaggio missed three prime years -- his age 28, 29 and 30 seasons -- because of military service.
"It means a lot," Trout said of moving up to No. 85 on the all-time home run list. "Any time you pass or tie a great, or even just be in the same conversation with a great, it's really special, especially another center fielder."
Overall this season, Trout is hitting .275 with 12 homers, 27 RBIs and an .891 OPS, but he is still trying to find a rhythm.
"It's here and there," he said.
The Angels have won four straight games and six of their past seven; the Marlins have lost four of five.
--Field Level Media