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NEW YORK (CBSMiami/AP) — Perhaps the most coveted player remaining on the Miami Marlins roster from a year ago made a big splash in his season debut.
J.T. Realmuto is back in the lineup for the Marlins and ready to help their rebuild.
The athletic catcher was activated from the disabled list Tuesday and hit a three-run homer in Miami’s 9-1 win over the New York Yankees. He had been sidelined by a bruised back since March 11.
Under new CEO Derek Jeter, the Marlins traded away NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon during an offseason payroll purge. That left Realmuto as one of the few proven players left in Miami, and there were rumblings he wanted out, too.
“That stuff was all over once spring training started, regardless of how the offseason would have went,” Realmuto said at Yankee Stadium. “In this situation, when something happens, you want to get back on the field and help the guys. … I haven’t been paying any attention to that. I’m here to play baseball.”
Realmuto was behind the plate Tuesday night for the last-place Marlins, who opened 4-12. He batted fifth against Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and drove in a run with a grounder his first time up, reaching safely on an error.
In the fifth inning, Realmuto put Miami ahead 7-0 when he lined a three-run shot to right field off Tanaka, giving him four RBIs.
“I’ve just got to step in and do my part, and try to help the team win the best that I can,” Realmuto said before the game. “Obviously, we’ve been struggling lately. But that’s just how the game goes. It’s an up-and-down roller coaster. I kind of hope to step in, be a little sparkplug and kind of get the guys going a little bit.
“They’re fighting. They’re battling. It’s a tough game. Obviously, things haven’t gone our way. Guys in the clubhouse are keeping their heads up and staying positive in their daily work. That’s all you can really ask for. In times like this, you just kind of ride the storm,” he added.
Realmuto went 3 for 3 with a homer, a double and three runs scored in a rehab game with Class A Jupiter. To make room for him on the roster, the Marlins optioned catcher Chad Wallach to Triple-A New Orleans.
Wallach was 4 for 31 (.129) with two RBIs and 17 strikeouts in nine games. He is the son of Miami bench coach Tim Wallach, who played 17 seasons in the majors.
Realmuto hit .278 with 17 home runs and 65 RBIs in 141 games last year. He batted .303 with 11 homers in 2016 and is a .280 career hitter with 38 home runs, 84 doubles and 13 triples over three-plus seasons in the big leagues.
“It’s good to have him back,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Just less pressure on other guys. Obviously right now we’ve had trouble scoring runs, so he can be a part of that. Just another kind of cog in the wheel. So, looking forward to seeing what it looks like.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)