MIAMI — Nick Fortes knows the value of being a catcher is multi-faceted.
“You can always affect the game in so many different ways,” Fortes said.
And he has done just that over the course of the past three weeks for the Miami Marlins. He’s getting the bulk of the work at catcher and producing at the plate after a slow start offensively to the season.
Fortes has been the primary catcher for Jesus Luzardo, Braxton Garrett and top prospect Eury Perez.
And while Luzardo’s results have been up and down as of late (he gave up at least five runs in two of his past five starts but just one apiece in each of his last three), Fortes has been navigating Garrett and Perez through solid stretches.
Garrett, who started the Marlins’ series opener against the Kansas City Royals on Monday with Fortes catching, has pitched to a 1.66 ERA over his past four starts, allowing just four earned runs over 21 2/3 innings with 26 strikeouts against six walks with a .160 batting average against.
“I can’t speak enough about Nick,” Garrett said. “Along with me, we’ve just learned to pitch, learn to move the zone, throw all the pitches to both sides. He has such a good feel.”
Perez, meanwhile, has a 1.86 ERA in his four starts with Fortes behind the plate. He has allowed just four earned runs over 19 1/3 innings with 17 K against 9 walks and a .186 batting average against.
Fortes and Garrett have been building a rapport for the past five years, going all the way back to when they were playing together in High A in 2019.
But Fortes and Perez? They have been building a connection for all of … three weeks. Fortes never caught Perez in the minor leagues or in spring training.
“It’s a credit to Fortes,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “He’s trying to navigate a kid through a game and Nick’s very new to catching, too, at the big-league level honestly. He’s maturing every single day. Hearing him talk between innings with Stott and the pitchers, you hear him grow literally every inning. There’s learning curves with Eury. There’s learning curves with Nick. The fact that they’re doing this together and getting better and better after every start is just a testament to where Nick is.”
Perez’s thoughts on working with Fortes?
“He’s unbelievable behind the plate. He’s a guy that I communicate [with] very well,” Perez said. “Every time I shake him off, he tells me ‘You’ve got to throw this. Trust me here’ and I’ve been doing that. I’ve been letting him guide me through these games. He’s an unbelievable guy. He’s making great calls behind the plate. I appreciate that.”
And Fortes has been producing at the plate, too. Since May 16, Fortes is hitting .333 (14 for 42) with one double, two home runs, six RBI and seven runs scored. The Marlins are 7-4 in his 11 starts in that stretch.
“I’ve made some adjustments at the plate and I’ve started to feel more comfortable,” Fortes said. “Just trying to extend that feeling as long as I can.”
Start time for Marlins-Royals finale moved up
The Marlins’ finale against the Royals on Wednesday has been moved up from 6:40 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.
The move was made because the Miami Heat play Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Kaseya Center.
“All eyes are on South Florida sports, and we want our fans to enjoy the fun in rooting on the Marlins followed by the HEAT on Wednesday,” Marlins president of baseball operations Caroline O’Connor said in a press release. “The earlier start time on Wednesday is a win for South Florida sports fans, as we join with our community in cheering on the HEAT for their first 2023 NBA Finals home game and wish continued success for the HEAT and Panthers as they return home in their title quests.”