‘He’s a winning player:’ How Yuli Gurriel has helped Marlins whether he’s playing or not

·3 min read

Step inside the Miami Marlins’ clubhouse on any given day and you’ll find a similar scene unfolding.

Veteran first baseman Yuli Gurriel will be getting ready for the game, stretching or watching video or simply relaxing after taking a few early rounds of batting practice, and he will have an entourage around him. Sometimes it’s just casual conversation. Other times, they’re going to him for advice about pregame routines or approaches to specific game situations.

Gurriel, 38, isn’t an everyday starter for the Marlins — he’s splitting time at first base with Garrett Cooper — but his mere presence and wisdom commands respect and attention even if he isn’t personally seeking it.

It comes with the territory. Gurriel has been where the Marlins want to go. He has won two World Series with the Houston Astros. He has been to the playoffs on an annual basis. He’s won his share of individual accolades, including a Gold Glove and a batting title. He knows what it takes to succeed.

“We all really respect him,” catcher Jacob Stallings said, “and just kind of gravitate toward him.”

Gurriel, in turn, does his best, whether he’s playing or not, to make sure his teammates are in the best position to succeed.

“He’s a winning player,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “There are guys around his locker every single day for a reason because there’s so much knowledge. Guys are learning from him, whether it’s the young guys or even the veterans. He’s been a huge addition for us.”

Gurriel, who signed with the Marlins this offseason after spending his first seven seasons with the Astros, said he is grateful to be in a position to help his teammates regardless of if he’s playing or not.

And while he acknowledged being a role player instead of an everyday starter has been an adjustment, Gurriel said being on the bench at times actually helps him find ways to help his teammates.

“During games,” Gurriel said, “I get to see what they do specifically and that actually helps me to give better feedback.”

Miami Marlins first baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) slides in at home scoring as Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Diaz (35) receives the throw late in the sixth inning at Coors Field on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
Miami Marlins first baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) slides in at home scoring as Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Diaz (35) receives the throw late in the sixth inning at Coors Field on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

Of course, the Marlins like when he’s playing, too, and Gurriel has lived up to what the Marlins have wanted from him. He enters Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels hitting .299 with an .800 on-base-plus-slugging mark, 11 RBI and 11 runs scored in 29 games played.

Gurriel has been especially productive on this road trip, going 10 for 16 at the plate in the four games he has played. He had multiple hits in all three games he played against the Colorado Rockies, including a 4 for 4 day on Saturday. He hit triples in back-to-back games for the first time in his career on Saturday and Sunday, becoming just the third player this season with triples in consecutive games (the Yankees’ Harrison Bader and Phillies’ Trea Turner are the others).

“Yuli has been outstanding,” Schumaker said.

Gurriel’s success is a direct result of his preparation. He knows there are going to be stretches when he isn’t playing regularly. Those are the times when he’s putting in even more work. He’ll take swings before coming to the ballpark and then go into the cages around the fifth inning to get hot in case he’s needed to pinch-hit.

“I spend almost a whole day just warming up and trying to make sure that the rhythm is the same,” Gurriel said.

His commitment certainly isn’t lost on his teammates.

“To have a guy with his pedigree — he’s been on winning teams, he’s won a batting title — I’ve just really been impressed with the pro that he is,” shortstop Joey Wendle said. “He’s here, he gets his work in, he knows how to take care of his body [even at] 38 years old.”