NEW YORK -- As the Marlins spent the past few weeks displaying the potential for a much brighter future, their top prospect Christian Yelich was recovering from the latest of the ailments that have slowed his development at the Minor League level.
But as Yelich prepared to serve as the designated hitter for the United States team in Sunday afternoon's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field, he was no longer worrying about the strained abdominal muscle that recently sidelined him for five weeks.
Instead, the talented 22-year-old outfielder was simply looking forward to completing the remainder of this year in healthy and productive fashion.
"I've still got some time this year," said Yelich. "I just want to have a strong second half and stay on the field the whole time. Then, I'll be good to go."
While the Marlins have already seen Jose Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna go from top prospects to top National League Rookie of the Year candidates this year, the club is still waiting to benefit from the five-tool talents possessed by Yelich, who is rated as the game's 10th-best overall prospect by MLB.com.
Yelich returned from his five-week stint on the disabled list to play three games for Double-A Jacksonville earlier this week. He then took advantage of a chance to show his potential on a grander stage, as he recorded hits in his only two at-bats for Team USA in Sunday's 4-2 win over the World Team. His second-inning double off Enny Romero drove in the game's first run.
"It's awesome every time," Yelich said. "It's a big league atmosphere out [there], and you get to play with the best guys in Minor League baseball. You just try to soak it all in. This was probably my last one. I had a good time."
This was the second consecutive Futures Game appearances for Yelich, who experienced last year's event with Fernandez, who was selected to represent the Marlins in Tuesday night's All-Star Game.
While it would be overly optimistic to predict Yelich could earn an All-Star selection as quickly as Fernandez did, there is no doubt he could make an immediate impact in Miami if he is able to avoid the injury woes that have plagued him over the past couple of seasons. There seems to be a belief he could be promoted to the Major League level before rosters are expanded in September.
"It's a possibility that you know is just around the corner," Yelich said. "But you try not to think about it. Thinking about it won't do you any good. You've just got to try to put it out of your mind and take care of your business on the field. Then, everything else can just follow suit."
Life on the disabled list has unfortunately become far too familiar to Yelich, who missed three weeks last year while recovering from a concussion. After making a solid impression during the first few weeks of his first big league Spring Training this year, he was saddled with plantar fasciitis, a painful left heel ailment that limited him to just 10 games with Jacksonville in April.
Yelich hit .269 with five home runs and a .955 OPS in the 28 games he played for Double-A Jacksonville in May. But just when he was finding his groove and showing why he is so highly regarded, Yelich suffered the abdominal strain on June 2, while diving for a ball in the outfield grass. He attempted to play the next day, but exited when he was unable to run toward a long drive that hit off the left-center-field wall.
"I'll just take it one day at a time," Yelich said. "My real main focus is to just stay healthy and stay on the field. Just being able to go out there and play every day, you sometimes take that for granted when you're healthy. Then, when you can't, you realize how much you miss it and how much it [stinks] to be on the [disabled list]."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less