JUPITER, Fla. — It was a showcase for a couple of promising stars – Miami’s Christian Yelich and Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr.
Yelich, the Marlins’ top position prospect, offset a sharp five-inning outing by Boston’s Jon Lester, hitting a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth that lifted Miami to an 8-7 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday.
Yelich is hitting .375 this spring with three homers and 11 RBI in 14 games.
What Yelich did on the game’s final pitch, Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. did on the game’s first pitch: He homered off Kevin Slowey’s first offering, and he reached base four times.
Bradley continued his tremendous spring for Boston, as he went 3 for 4 to raise his average to .519 (14 for 27).
He added an RBI double in the fourth.
“As we get further into camp and pitchers are getting their timing down, he’s still taking great swings and making good contact,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said.
Lester, meanwhile, allowed a first-inning run and three hits. He struck out four and retired the last 11 batters.
“I feel pretty good, but I don’t want to have everything clicking right now. I kind of want to build it up to that first start,” Lester said. “I feel good, and that’s the main thing.”
Yelich and Miami’s top overall prospect, right-hander Jose Fernandez, are hoping to stick with the parent club, even though both came to spring training projected to start the season at Double-A.
Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez recently said about Yelich, “He’s ready.”
“Hopefully I’m leaving a good impression, obviously,” Yelich said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s completely out of my control.”
Rookie manager Mike Redmond defers to his bosses when asked if Yelich could be on the opening-day roster. “They might come down and tell me to quit playing him,” Redmond said with a laugh. “It’s fun to get him in there. You feel like any situation he comes up he’s got a chance to do something, and he hits a home run to dead center to win it.”
Even if Yelich is ready to break camp with the big league club, the Marlins may hold him back until late April to gain an extra year before he’s eligible for free agency. If he was held back until about June, Miami would likely get an extra year before Yelich is eligible for arbitration.
The 21-year-old Yelich was Miami’s first-round pick in 2010. The 6-foot-4, 189-pound left-handed hitter grew up in Thousand Oaks, Calif. A corner infielder in high school, he moved to the outfield in the minors and has been tabbed the Marlins’ center fielder of the future.
Teammates already are giving him nicknames. Infielder Nick Green referred to Yelich as, “The Natural” following his walk-off homer. Outfielder Jordan Brown preferred, “The Truth.”
Yelich’s mother arrived from California last weekend to watch her son play. She has seen him homer in consecutive games – he went deep against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday before his winner against Boston.
“That was pretty cool – I don’t really know what to say. You can’t draw it up any better,” Yelich said.
NOTES: Boston reliever Rubby De La Rosa gave up five runs, four walks and two hits in two-thirds of an inning. He threw 36 pitches and walked in two runs.