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Slow starter Yelich begins to find groove

Slow starter Yelich begins to find groove

JUPITER, Fla. -- A year ago, Christian Yelich had a dream spring. The left-handed-hitting Marlins outfielder batted a blistering .364 with a .451 on-base percentage and a .818 slugging percentage. He added five home runs and drove in 14 runs.

Even before games began this spring, the 22-year-old admitted he would have a tough time duplicating his numbers.

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But Yelich also wasn't looking for a complete fall in Spring Training. He entered Friday hitless in his first 11 at-bats, with five strikeouts. The drought was snapped with a first-inning single to center off St. Louis' Adam Wainwright.

Yelich added a second hit, and he finished the Marlins' 7-3 win 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored

"I wasn't panicked," Yelich said. "I really didn't think there was any call for concern. I thought the at-bats were getting better over the week. I thought it was just a matter of time before one of them got through there. But obviously, it's nice to finally be on the board and helping the boys again."

If anything, Yelich says, last year was the anomaly. He is used to starting slowly, and then picking things up.

"This is kind of usually how Spring Training goes for me," Yelich said. "Not like last year. Last year was the complete opposite. In the Minor Leagues, it was actually more like this. But I don't think it's been this long without ever squeaking one out."

Spring Training is never a true indicator, but the competitor in players want to succeed as often as possible.

"Nobody ever wants to get out, even if it's Spring Training," Yelich said. "It's still competitive and you want to do well. You want to help your team win, even if it is Spring Training. It is frustrating, but it's a process. I feel like every day, it's getting closer to finally getting one."

Yelich projects to bat second this season, ahead of Giancarlo Stanton. So he will be counted on to get on base and get the offense going.

"Might as well get it out of the way right now before it comes to April," the young outfielder said.

As part of his hitting routine, Yelich is working with third-base coach Brett Butler on bunting.

A pure hitter, Yelich isn't looking to become a small-ball player. But if he can offer the option to be able to bunt for hits, it will be a weapon, especially if teams are shifting him.

"I think it's something, if it's there, you have the option of taking it," Yelich said. "It kind of keeps them honest, defensively. To have a well-rounded game is never a bad thing."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter Less