Marlins to try left-handed Bour vs. southpaws

First baseman has only 103 career at-bats against lefty pitchers

Marlins to try left-handed Bour vs. southpaws

MIAMI -- A right high ankle sprain cost Justin Bour two months of his 2016 season and limited the left-handed-hitting first baseman to just 90 games. The way the Marlins are talking now, they're open to giving him an opportunity to make up for lost time by giving him more opportunities to face left-handed pitching.

In Bour's first couple of seasons in the big leagues, Miami has always had a right-handed-hitting alternative to face tough left-handers.

Last year, it was Chris Johnson, but the veteran is a free agent. If he does return, it may be on a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invitation, which is not a guarantee to make the squad.

"There still is a lot of offseason left," said Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill. "We will continue to monitor the market and see what's out there."

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Bour, 28, was on his way to a second straight 20-homer season in 2016 before his ankle sprain on July 2, which kept him out until Sept. 6. He finished with a slash line of .264/.349/.475 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs. Before the injury, Bour had 15 homers, 46 RBIs and an OPS of .873.

Miami may wind up with a right-handed counterpart for Bour, but it doesn't appear to be in a hurry to make that move. The addition of backup catcher A.J. Ellis has the club considering giving catcher J.T. Realmuto some action at first base, a position he has never played in the big leagues.

How often that occurs may depend on if Bour shows he can handle lefties.

"We've talked about trying to challenge him more and expose him more to left-handed pitching," Hill said.

Bour, who broke in with the Marlins in 2014 and gained a majority of the playing time in '15, has a small sample size against lefties.

In 2016, Bour was 7-for-30 (.233) with two doubles and two RBIs. In 258 games over his career, he's 23-for-103 (.223) with 13 RBIs.

Besides Bour, Miami didn't have much of a power presence at first base in 2016. From the position, the club had just 21 total homers, with Johnson providing five and Xavier Scruggs adding one.

Only three (all by Johnson) of the homers from the position were against left-handed pitchers.

One reason the Marlins may not be in a rush to bring in a platoon candidate is they didn't generate much power from the position when Bour was out.

If the club wanted to be creative, there are other internal candidates. Third baseman Martin Prado could slide over to first on occasion. Derek Dietrich, also a left-handed hitter, can play third or first base. Miguel Rojas is the team's best fielding first baseman, but most of his time at the position is as a defensive replacement in the late innings.

Bour is the primary threat. According to Statcast™, his average exit velocity of 93.09 mph is well above the MLB average (89.57), and his average distance of balls put in play is 228.55 feet, more than 10 feet farther than league average (218.07).

Statcast: Bour's laser home run

Bour has shown the ability to use the entire field. Of his 15 homers, five were from left field to dead center.

The next step for Bour is repetitions against lefties, and the Marlins are open to giving him a chance.

"There is not that clear-cut complement at first base," Hill said.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.