Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto shines in first action of season

NEW YORK -- J.T. Realmuto is back in the lineup for the Miami Marlins and ready to help their rebuild.

The athletic catcher was activated from the disabled list Tuesday and hit a three-run homer in his season debut, a 9-1 win over the New York Yankees. He had been sidelined by a bruised back since March 11.

"Hopefully, the spark lasts a lot longer than one game," Realmuto said. "With these young guys, you can see they don't get their heads down. They wash it away with their shower that night, and the next day they're coming in hungry, ready to go try and win a ballgame."

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 that he wanted out, too.

"That stuff was all over once spring training started, regardless of how the offseason would have went," Realmuto said before the game 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. 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. Realmuto finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs and scored twice in a victory that improved Miami's record to 5-12.

"I've just got to step in and do my part and try to help the team win the best that I can," he 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 spark plug 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."

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."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.