Amezaga amazingly versatile

Amezaga amazingly versatile

WASHINGTON -- In the NFL, they give Pro Bowl status to special teams players. The NBA has a separate honor for the best sixth man.

If Major League Baseball gave a distinction for the best utility player, a strong candidate would be Marlins all-purpose performer Alfredo Amezaga.

"He would get it every year," Florida third-base and outfield coach Bo Porter said. "Being a National League ballclub, he is probably the best luxury for any manager. You have a guy who can play seven positions, and he is above average in every place you put him defensively."

The unassuming Amezaga is a 30-year-old who has bounced around from the Angels to the Rockies, Pirates and, now, the Marlins, where he has been a valuable asset the past three seasons.

A member of Mexico's 2006 World Baseball Classic squad, Amezaga has played every position for Florida except catcher and pitcher. A natural middle infielder, the switch-hitter right now is being used as a platoon starter in center field.

"On any given day, he can be the best defender on the field," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Cody Ross, who is splitting time in center field, is a big fan of the player who fills in for him against right-handed starting pitchers.

"It's a pretty good compliment when you can be out there and be the best [defensive] outfielder on the field, and then be the best infielder on the field, and he's not an everyday player," Ross said.

Already, Amezaga's versatility has shown and been crucial to the Marlins getting off to a 4-3 start.

In Monday's 10-7 win over Washington, Amezaga's two-out, two-run double set the stage for Hanley Ramirez to belt a three-run homer that provided the team with a five-run third inning.

On Sunday, while playing center field, Amezaga made the team's best defensive play thus far when he sprinted to the gap in left-center and hauled in Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez's long drive with the bases loaded. On the play, he crashed into the wall, stumbled to the ground, but held on for the out.

"I always say that I'm going to try to eat the wall," Amezaga said of not being afraid to sacrifice his body to make a play.

When he returned to high-fives in the dugout, he joked: "Routine play."

Upbeat, but low-key, Amezaga is flattered by the praise he gets from his teammates.

"I don't think I'm the best player on defense, but I think God gave me a good skill and I'm going to take advantage [of] that," he said.

Not too many in the league can excel in as many spots as Amezaga.

In the second game of the season, he started in center field and then switched to third base in the eighth inning, only to return to center field in the 10th inning on a day the Marlins beat the Mets, 5-4.

A year ago, Amezaga played 87 games in center, three in right field, two in left field, 18 games at shortstop, 12 at third base, 11 at second base and four at first base. He added eight outfield assists.

"Look around the league," Marlins first-base coach/infield coach Andy Fox said. "How many guys can play that many positions? And he's an above-average fielder in just about every position he plays."

A close comparison is Chone Figgins of the Angels.

"What separates those two is they can play center," Fox said.

Because he is not a regular at one spot, Amezaga realistically doesn't have a chance to win a Gold Glove. Yet, if a top fielding award for a utility player was handed out, he'd be a frontrunner.

"I think that's been talked about inside baseball a lot, but what would the criteria be?" said Fox, of recognizing utility players. "How many innings would you have to play? Is it an outfielder or an infielder? But look around the league, there are not many guys that can do all that he does."

During his playing days, Fox, who played all the infield spots and even caught, said some of the notable all-purpose performers were Bill Spiers and Jose Vizcaino.

"Guys like that," said Fox, who played from 1996-2004. "But a lot of those guys weren't outfielders."

When Fox was in the Yankees organization, he developed a friendship with the multi-dimensional Randy Velarde, who passed on a little advice.

"He was very successful at it," Fox said. "Something he said stuck with me: 'If you just take the mindset that you are not going to be an All-Star at every position, you're going to get better, because your expectations are to just make every play that you can make.' The next thing you know, you grow into things you didn't know were possible for you to be doing."

In the case of Amezaga, he just plays and lets his instincts take over.

"He is so in-tuned to the game that, as a manager and as a coach, you say to yourself what a luxury it is to have this guy," Porter said. "When you put him in the game, he can play seven positions."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.