Marlins’ practice priority with two weeks until Opening Day: Getting into game mode

In terms of time, the Miami Marlins on Friday were exactly where they left off when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training.

Two weeks away from Opening Day. Fourteen days left to finalize any roster decisions, make any lineup adjustments, get any final work in before the season officially gets underway.

So, naturally, the Marlins now are getting the team prepped the same way they were back then, or at least the best they can given the parameters.

Unlike when spring training stopped, though, the Marlins have only had about a week’s worth of organized team practices leading up to the two-week mark of camp ending compared to a 17-week layoff. For comparison, they were four weeks into spring training when the coronavirus pandemic put things on hold.

Also unlike the times of old, the Marlins (like the rest of MLB) are maneuvering through baseball practices during the time of COVID-19. Practices were staggered over the first week, with about 20 players each in the morning and afternoon sessions before being merged into one group over the past couple days.

“It’s been three-and-a-half months,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “No matter how much work you’ve done to be ready for this — which our guys have been pretty good at — it’s still been three-and-a-half months since you’ve seen a hitter in the box or had to deal with a first and second situation, all those little things that I think will become more second nature as we go.”

With that said, intrasquad scrimmages and simulation games, similar to what they did on Thursday and Friday, will be the norm at Marlins Park for the next 10 days.

After that, they wrap up camp with a pair of road exhibition games against the Atlanta Braves on July 21 and 22 before making their way to Philadelphia for a three-game series against the Phillies that ushers in this 60-game sprint on July 24.

The exhibition games, which were announced Friday, serve as the only opportunity for either team to get into live game situations against another team prior to the season. The rest of the three-week summer camp session solely consists on intrasquad games and practices.

The July 21 game is slated for a 7:10 p.m. first pitch. The July 22 game is set to start at 4:10 p.m. Both games will be televised on Fox Sports Florida.

“Obviously, playing as a group against somebody else is really what you’re trying to get to,” Mattingly said. “I think the fact we are able to get a couple of [exhibition] games is good for us, and good for them probably, too. It just gets you closer to where you need to get to.”

They also will give fans a glimpse at what road game broadcasts will look like this year. Marlins play-by-play announcer Paul Severino and color analyst Todd Hollandsworth will call the games remotely from Marlins Park, just like they will for road games during the 2020 season.

Practice tidbits

Pablo Lopez and Jose Urena were the starting pitchers for Friday’s scrimmage. Lopez threw five innings, Urena four.

Relief pitchers who had time on the mound Friday: Ryan Cook, Stephen Tarpley and Aaron Northcraft threw out of the bullpen.

The format was similar to what took place Thursday: A rotating group of hitters, situational work, no full defense at any given time. More activities and true game format are expected to be added next week as they get closer to Opening Day.

The middle infield combo of shortstop Miguel Rojas and second baseman Isan Diaz looked sharp Friday, helping turn a pair of inning-ending double plays for Lopez in the first three innings.

Some love for a couple non-roster invitees in Miami natives Sean Rodriguez and Eddy Alvarez. Both had a couple hard hits late in the scrimmage.

A programming note: There is no media access to Saturday’s practice session. Elieser Hernandez and Jordan Yamamoto are anticipated to be the starters who get extensive work on the field based on how the team has rotated players since camp started.

Roster updates

With catcher prospect Will Banfield on the 10-day IL, the Marlins announced Friday that they added catcher Santiago Chavez to their 60-player roster pool.

The team also announced Friday that they officially signed undrafted Florida State left-handed pitcher Antonio Velez.

Velez, a 6-1, 212-pound left-handed pitcher, primarily worked out of the bullpen in two years at FSU. He struck out 71 batters in 62 2/3 innings, walked 14 and had a 3.16 ERA. His most memorable outing was his final one, tossing six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts against the top-ranked Florida Gators in Gainesville. He also threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings against LSU in the 2019 NCAA Super Regionals.