Signed for his lively bat, Jorge Soler was a hit in his debut for the Miami Marlins.
In fact, the reigning World Series MVP already had two of them before taking the field.
Miami’s biggest offseason acquisition, Soler batted leadoff and singled twice in the top of the first inning against St. Louis lefty Steven Matz on Saturday. Soler later added a third hit in a 9-2 win.
“The first day was really good,” Soler said via an interpreter.
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Soler started 11 games as a leadoff man last season, hitting four homers from that spot.
He then became the first player in World Series history to hit a leadoff home in the top of the first inning of Game 1, connecting for the champion Atlanta Braves in Houston. Soler homered three times in six games against the Astros.
In Jazz Chisholm and Miguel Rojas, the Marlins have traditional, faster leadoff candidates. But Miami's analytics suggest Soler deserves consideration this season at the top of the order.
“It seemed to work last year for Atlanta when he got there late,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said.
Soler’s power is unquestioned. A career .246 hitter with 121 home runs and 343 RBIs across eight major league seasons, Soler led the American League with 48 homers in 2019 — that year, with Kansas City, was the last time Soler stole a base.
The Royals traded Soler to Atlanta in last year in late July, and he launched 14 of his 27 total home runs after the swap.
Soler led off Saturday’s game by pulling Matz's pitch down the third base line. Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado made a diving stop behind the bag, but couldn’t get enough velocity on the throw to beat Soler to first.
Later that same inning, Soler lined a single to center. In the fourth inning, he looped. Soler scored twice in going 3 for 4.
With the 30-year-old outfielder having only been in camp for four days after signing a three-year, $36 million contract, Mattingly expressed a little concerned that all the early success put Soler at greater injury risk.
“It’s his first game, he’s probably a little amped up,” Mattingly said. “He’s not going to take it easy, right? So that’s what made me a little nervous.”
His teammates liked the look of the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Soler at the top of the lineup.
“That’s a big leadoff hitter,” said Garrett Cooper, who batted second on Saturday. “That’s a big threat at the top of the lineup. The past four years I’ve been here we’ve usually gone with kind of a speedy guy up top. To add power — a 30-, 40-home run hitter — at the top of the lineup is pretty dangerous.”
After playing an uneventful left field on Saturday,. Soler immediately went to a back field for some defensive coaching.
He won’t play in the Marlins' Grapefruit League game against Houston on Sunday, taking some swings in a minor league game instead.
“Seeing different pitches is going to be good for him,” Mattingly said. “He just needs at-bats.”
NOTES: Matz absorbed the brunt of the Soler-led Marlins outburst. The Cardinals prime offseason free agent acquisition needed top be pulled for a reliever with only two out in the first inning, having already allowed five of the six runs that would be charged to him. In accordance with spring training rules, Matz did return to pitch the second inning, tossing a scoreless frame.
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