SD@MIA: Hechavarria doubles after Denorfia's drop

MIAMI -- The sample size may be small, but Adeiny Hechavarria's motivation level right now is at a personal high.

Quite frankly, the Marlins' shortstop was not happy with the numbers he posted in 2013. As a rookie, in his first full season with Miami, Hechavarria batted .227 with a .267 on-base percentage.

Defensively, he is extremely talented and athletic, but his approach at the plate lacked discipline. Like the rest of the team, Hechavarria struggled. According to Baseball Reference, his WAR was a negative 1.6.

Working with hitting coach Frank Menechino, Hechavarria has focused on a middle-of-the-field approach. The shortstop has adjusted his hand placement a little farther away from his body, and he has shortened his swing.

The results are evident, as Hechavarria has 11 hits through five games entering Saturday, and he's coming off a career-high four-hit performance in Miami's 8-2 win over San Diego on Friday night.

"I was just disappointed in my performance last year," Hechavarria said. "That was a driving force in me improving myself this year. I made a couple of changes. I'm separating my hands from my body a little bit more. That's helped me so far."

Obtained from Toronto as part of the blockbuster trade following the 2012 season, Hechavarria is still a developing player. He will turn 25 on April 15.

"When I'm tight and I'm anxious, that's when I open my swing up," the Cuban-born shortstop said. "I've been keeping myself composed. That's when I'm driving the ball up the middle or the opposite way."

Marlins manager Mike Redmond feels the slick-fielding shortstop has the chance to be a regular top-of-the-lineup hitter. Hechavarria batted leadoff on Friday night because San Diego started lefty Eric Stults. He was back atop the lineup Saturday against righty Andrew Cashner.

"He's had some amazing at-bats," Redmond said. "He had a nice spring. You can kind of see him get more and more comfortable with his at-bats. He's worked hard with his plate discipline and swinging at strikes. I said it last year: I envision this guy at the top of the order, whether it is first or second."

The Marlins are counting on the top of the order to get on base for Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of the heart of the lineup.

"Hech brings a lot to the table, especially in that leadoff spot," Redmond said. "He can run. It's all about getting on base. If we get on base for Giancarlo and the middle of that order, we have a chance to score some runs."

Furcal headed to extend spring training

There's a good chance Rafael Furcal misses the entire month of April

MIAMI -- When the Marlins head out of town on Monday to begin their first road trip of the regular season, Rafael Furcal will be heading to extended spring training at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.

Furcal will receive his treatment, and he eventually will start his rehab assignment. Recovering from a strained left hamstring, Furcal will be eased into game action. Once he is cleared to play in games, the veteran will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Jupiter.

Manager Mike Redmond said on Saturday afternoon that there is no exact timetable for when Furcal's rehab assignment will start. But once it does, the second baseman is expected to need close to the full 21 days allowed.

"We're just going to wait and see," Redmond said. "There is so much that can happen between now and that timeframe. I think the most important thing is that we get him healthy, and when he is healthy, he can come to the big leagues and play multiple days in a row."

It is appearing highly likely that Furcal could miss the entire month of April.

The Marlins are off to a good start, and they are platooning Derek Dietrich and Jeff Baker at second base until Furcal is ready.

Ex-starter Hand saves 'pen with rare three-frame save

SD@MIA: Hand retires Cabrera to notch first MLB save

MIAMI -- When Brad Hand opened Spring Training, the lefty was competing for the fifth-starter spot. He ended up making the Opening Day roster as a multiple-inning lefty reliever.

Because of a rare situation on Friday night, Hand finds himself tied with Steve Cishek for the Marlins' lead in saves.

Even though the Marlins enjoyed a comfortable lead on Friday night, Hand pitched three innings and closed out the game. By rule, a reliever who throws at least three innings and records the final out gets awarded a save, regardless of the score. Miami beat San Diego, 8-2.

A career starter, Hand says he last logged a save in high school.

"They'd bring me in every once in a while, if the game got close," Hand said. "I kind of knew they were coming in there to finish the game. In the eighth, I might have gotten pinch-hit for if we had second and third or something."

Hand becomes the first Marlins reliever to log a three-inning save since Kevin Gregg on April 22, 2007. It also was the 10th three-inning save in club history.

The only pitcher in franchise history to do it more than once was Terry Mathews, who did it three times in 1995. Two of those were four innings.

"I talked about it in Spring Training, and at the beginning of the season, the importance of having guys who can throw multiple innings," manager Mike Redmond said.

Hand's three-scoreless-inning stint enabled Miami to handle the game with just two pitchers -- Tom Koehler and Hand.

"It's nice to not have to rely on the same guys every single night when you're winning the ballgame," Redmond said. "Brad has pitched some big innings for us."

Worth noting

Casey McGehee is the first Marlins player to reach 10 RBIs through five games. The most through six games is also 10, set by Jorge Cantu in 2010.

• Hechavarria's four-hit game on Friday night had some historical context. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, over the last 10 years, Hechavarria is the first shortstop with at least 11 hits through five games since Edgar Renteria of the Giants also had 11 in 2010.