MIAMI -- Amazing. State of the art. Impressive.
People describe Marlins Park in a lot of different ways, but players seem to all describe it the same way.
Through two games, there was just one home run hit at Marlins Park, a two-run shot by Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez on Friday night. The new ballpark has mammoth dimensions that have contributed to the lack of power hitting early in the building's young life.
The left-field foul pole stands 345 feet away from home plate, while it is 335 feet to the wall down the right-field line. The power alleys are expansive as the gap in left-center is 386 feet away from home, and the right-center-field gap is 392 feet away. The wall in center field is an astonishing 418 feet away, prompting Martinez to declare the need for special recognition for anyone strong enough to hit it over the park's farthest section of fence.
"Whoever hits it out to center should get an award," Martinez said.
Some would say the lack of home runs just has to do with a lack of games played in the new ballpark, but the chatter in both clubhouses indicates otherwise.
"Some of the balls that were hit out there would have been out in the majority of the parks," Martinez said. "It's a big outfield."
Gaby Sanchez provided a good example of a ball that may have been a homer in another stadium on Friday night. The Marlins first baseman crushed a game-winning double over Martinez's head that bounced off the wall in left-center field.
"I hit it good," Sanchez said. "We haven't played here enough, so it's hard to judge balls here in this park. It doesn't matter if it went out or not, it's the outcome that was great."
Marlins bench coach Joey Cora agrees that it may be too soon to say if the new ballpark's dimensions are too big. But he definitely has noticed several balls stay in play that might have been souvenirs in other team's stadiums.
"That ball Gaby hit, he crushed it," Cora said. "He either better go to the weight room a little bit more or whatever, because it seems like it's going to play big. But it's still April, so you don't know what it's going to do when it gets hotter. So far, it's a big, big, big ballpark."
Entering Saturday, the Marlins had not been able to animate the 70-foot tall home run structure beyond the left-field wall, but Cora jokingly suggested that they should expand its use to more than celebrating a Miami home run.
"One thing that we're going to suggest to Mr. [Jeffrey] Loria is, I don't think there are going to be many home runs hit in this ballpark," Cora said. "If he's planning on using that thing, maybe they should turn it on when we win games instead of only when we hit home runs, because there is a good possibility that we win more games than hit home runs in this ballpark with the way it's playing right now."
Sanchez and several of his teammates hit balls that fans and players thought would get over the fence, only to land in the outfield grass or in a defender's glove. But Sanchez insists Miami's hitters are not frustrated with the size of their new ballpark yet. In fact, he feels the expansive outfield could provide a significant advantage to the Marlins.
"We want the opposing team to be frustrated.," Sanchez said. "For us, we have a lot of guys that are gap-to-gap guys. For us, the park does play in our favor. We have a lot of guys that have a lot of speed like [Jose] Reyes and [Emilio Bonifacio] and Hanley [Ramirez]. Those guys hit the ball in the gap, and all of a sudden maybe a double in other parks, in here it's a triple. The park is going to play differently. Maybe we have to hit it a little bit harder and go to the weight room a little bit more."
Marlins give sore Infante night off as precaution
MIAMI -- The Marlins' hottest hitter got Saturday off, and the team hopes he doesn't need any more time.
A sore left groin kept Omar Infante out of the starting lineup against the Astros at Marlins Park. Donnie Murphy started at second base for Infante, who is hopeful to be back in the lineup on Sunday.
Infante said he felt some discomfort on his final two swings in Friday's 5-4 win in 11 innings.
Off to a .367 batting average, Infante said he was available to pinch-hit on Saturday.
"We don't want to take any chances," said Marlins bench coach Joey Cora, filling in as Ozzie Guillen serves his five-game suspension. "If we need him today, he will be there. And hopefully tomorrow he will start."
The day of rest is more of a precaution.
"It's not worth it. It's too early in the season," Cora said. "He came up at the end of the game, and he was sore. He came out today saying he's OK. We decided it ain't worth it. Probably, if it was September and we were in the middle of the pennant race, he'd be out there. Now it doesn't make any sense."
Infante is 11-for-30 with three doubles, a triple, three home runs and five RBIs in eight games. He's riding a six-game hitting streak.
On Wednesday in Philadelphia, Infante was shaken up when he was run into by Hunter Pence on an interference play.
Infante said he was fine after the collision.
Marlins play it safe with walk-off celebration
MIAMI -- Along with being in a new ballpark, the Marlins have a new way of celebrating walk-off wins.
They introduced a safer, although messier, way to rejoice on Friday night after Gaby Sanchez's double in the 11th inning scored Chris Coghlan to lift Miami to a 5-4 win over the Astros.
It was the team's first win at Marlins Park, and first walk-off hit in the big leagues for Sanchez, a Miami native.
The celebration carried into the postgame interview on MLB Network, where Sanchez was doused with water and received two shaving-cream pies to the face.
First, closer Heath Bell added the water jug to the head move.
"I've been doing that for a few years now," Bell said. "That's my thing. It's water. I'm not a big fan of the shaving cream. If there is a walk-off or something like that, I like the water jug. It's a good effect. Wakes you up."
Still, Sanchez couldn't avoid getting a healthy dose of shaving cream. Emilio Bonifacio got him, and then when Sanchez was looking for a towel, Anibal Sanchez provided a second helping off shaving cream.
Gaby Sanchez was a mess during the remainder of the interview.
"Luckily where they do it, I can see everything that is happening," he said. "So, we don't want any craziness where somebody tries to jump and get you. So I got water-jugged and two pies in the face with shaving cream."
The Marlins know all too well what can happen when players get out of control. In 2010, Coghlan tore a meniscus in his left knee during a postgame celebration.
"They're grown boys. All these guys are grown boys," bench coach Joey Cora said. "They've seen it on TV. They know how people got hurt. They've seen it on this ballclub, too. It was emotional because of what the ballclub has been through. And we got the first win at the new stadium. It was emotional."
Bell endures wild ride, but escapes unscathed
MIAMI -- A wild ninth inning for Heath Bell on Friday caused some minor concern, but the Marlins closer was ultimately able to work out of a bases-loaded jam.
With the score tied, Bell collected two quick outs in the ninth, before walking three straight, throwing 13 straight balls at one point.
Still, he got out of it when Carlos Lee's check-swing tapper went to first for the final out.
"Obviously, we were a little bit concerned, but he got through it," bench coach Joey Cora said. "That's Heath Bell. He's a veteran. He knows what he's doing out there, so we let him go. We've seen him pitch plenty of times. He's going to get in trouble every once in a while."
While Bell throws 95 mph, he prides himself on pitching and not just trying to overpower hitters with fastballs.
The fact that the Astros have a young team, and Bell hasn't seen many of their hitters yet, he was actually more comfortable facing a veteran like Lee.
"All that was going in my head was, 'Throw a quality strike and don't throw it down the middle,'" the Miami closer said. "If you want me to throw it down the middle, I could. I didn't want them to hit a home run or have a big hit right down the middle. I think young kids are looking for right down the middle."
Manager Ozzie Guillen, who will have his five-game suspension end on Tuesday, is nervously watching the Marlins play as he stays away from the ballpark. Joey Cora spoke with Guillen after Friday's 5-4 win in 11 innings over the Astros. "He said he had a headache watching the game," Cora said. "That's what he told me, it was a headache watching the game. It was 11 innings. There was nothing he can do about it. Just watching. It's tough. He sounded better. It's tough on him not to be here with the guys, especially with this being a new team and the excitement that's been around all winter and all spring. He wants to be here badly."
Astros left fielder J.D. Martinez, who once won back-to-back state titles at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., had more than 100 family members and friends at Marlins Park on Friday and Saturday. Martinez, who grew up a Marlins fan, has the distinction of hitting the first regular-season home run at Marlins Park. Martinez attended Game 7 of the 1997 World Series in Miami. And like many youth players in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, he took hitting lessons at the home of former big league catcher Paul Casanova, who played for Ted Williams and was a teammate of Hank Aaron. Martinez actually visited Casanova in Miami Gardens on Friday.
Hanley Ramirez, who entered Saturday batting .133 with one homer and three RBIs, decided it was a time for a change. So the third baseman got rid of the red-orange hair and went with a jet black look.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.