METAIRIE — Saturday’s exhibition game between the Miami Marlins and the New Orleans Zephyrs was all about the pitchers.
Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc, a Lake Charles native who prepped at Barbe, pitched only four innings, but they were all perfect. The fifth year veteran retired all 12 batters he faced and struck out two. He threw 47 pitches, 30 of those for strikes.
The Marlins rolled out the bullpen for the rest of the game, using seven pitchers. But the Zephyrs still were held to three hits, all singles.
Zephyrs outfielder Matt Diaz broke the ice with two outs in the fifth inning, dribbling an infield single off of Ryan Webb, who relieved LeBlanc. Wilson Valdez and Kyle Skipworth also had singles, theirs off of A.J. Ramos, who was the sixth pitcher for the Marlins.
Zephyrs starter Brad Hand certainly had a tougher start. The 23-year old in his sixth-year in the organization also pitched four innings, but he gave up eight hits and four earned runs. His first pitch of the game was hit for a single by Marlins outfielder Juan Pierre. Placido Polanco then homered over the left field wall for the Marlins’ first two runs.
“I felt good,” said Hand, who got the start because it was his turn in the rotation. “I just left a few pitches up, but I threw strikes for the most part, which was good. It’s always good to pitch in front of your parent club, show them what you’ve got.”
Hand said he was even happy for LeBlanc’s exhibition.
“We’re good friends,” Hand said. “I’m excited for him. ”
Polanco, the Marlins starting third baseman, hit two home runs on Saturday — the only two he’s hit this spring training. His first, in the first inning, drove in two runs. His second, in the fourth inning, sailed over the Budweiser sign in left center field and drove in three runs. The 37-year old journeyman hit two home runs last season with the Marlins in 303 at bats. Marlins outfielder Isaac Galloway hit a solo shot to left center field in the seventh inning.
The Marlins were in the first base dugout for Saturday’s game, while the Zephyrs were moved to the third base dugout, which is normally the visitors’ spot.
With a 6-0 lead after the fifth inning, the Marlins made wholesale changes to its lineup in the sixth. Every defensive player was replaced except center fielder Justin Ruggiano, who played his position the entire game.
The sixth inning also is when Baton Rouge native Austin Nola entered the game. The former LSU shortstop received a long and loud ovation when he came to bat in the sixth inning. The Zephyr Field press box even welcomed him home with the intro to the LSU fight song. Nola went 0-for-2.
While the big league Marlins were on the field, they were rooted on by a team called the Miami Marlins who came in from Ascension Parish. The Ascension Baseball Club’s Miami Marlins, a youth baseball team for 13- to 15-year-olds, was decked out in Marlins uniforms. The team is coached by Alexandria native Dewayne Wells, who has a long friendship with Marlins left fielder Pierre, also an Alexandria native. The team annually adopts whatever team Pierre plays for — last year it was the Phillies. After Saturday’s game, Pierre met with the youngsters and gave them signed baseballs.
The official attendance for Saturday’s game was 9,032, a good turnout according to Zephyrs General Manager Mike Schline. He said more than 9,200 tickets were sold for the game.
“We’re pleased,” he said. “And a lot of the seats that were empty were paid for.”