Cubs fall to Marlins, but Nelson Velazquez holds on to roster spot as team reinstates Cody Bellinger

In a corresponding move, the Cubs designated catcher Luis Torrens for assignment.

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The Cubs’ Nelson Velazquez rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Miami Marlins on Friday.

The Cubs’ Nelson Velazquez rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Megan Briggs/Getty Images

MIAMI — Nelson Velazquez struck first Friday, sending a first-pitch sinker over the left-field fence at loanDepot park. It was a fitting way to announce that he was still here.

Velazquez received his second call-up of the season when center fielder Cody Bellinger went on the paternity list this week. But when the Cubs reinstated Bellinger on Friday after the birth of his second child, Velazquez stayed. To make room on the roster, the Cubs designated Luis Torrens for assignment.

“Hate to lose a guy who earned everything that was given to him to start the season,” manager David Ross said before the Cubs’ 3-2 walk-off loss to the Marlins. “Tried to get him some at-bats here and there. And just trying to do what’s best for him and us at this point in the season.”

Torrens broke camp with the team after signing a non-roster invite deal during the offseason. Serving as the team’s third-string catcher and an option at designated hitter, he had 20 at-bats in the first month of the season. He hit .250 in those limited opportunities.

“Wish [Torrens] well,” Ross said. “Hopefully we get to keep him. There’s probably a really good chance he gets claimed by a big-league team, and good for him. I hope he goes on and has a lot of success.”

Velazquez also has had limited major-league at-bats, but as he has pinballed from Triple-A Iowa to the big leagues and back, his bat has stayed hot, and he has shown growth in the outfield.

Look at the Cubs’ series against the Padres this week. Velazquez showed off his range with a catch in the left-field gap, homered and drew a walk off closer Josh Hader with two outs in the ninth inning of a close game.

“Ever since I’ve been here, even in spring training, he’s done what he’s been doing,” Bellinger said. “He’s a really good hitter, and he’s showing that to the world right now.”

Velazquez has a 1.059 slugging percentage in 17 at-bats. And he has taken factors outside of day-to-day performance in stride. After he hit a game-turning grand slam against the Mariners earlier this month, he didn’t play for the next three games, then was optioned to Iowa.

His mindset is one that he honed over the course of his rookie season.

“I just put in work, control what I can control,” he said. “There’s some stuff that you have no control over, that if you’re not playing, you don’t have control over it. But you have to put in your 1,000% if you want to be there.”

Then this spring, Velazquez played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic at loanDepot park — which still had WBC signage above the lockers in the visiting clubhouse when the Cubs walked in Friday.

“Just being around him every single day when [we] were with the Puerto Rico team,” right-hander Marcus Stroman said, “you could see how much he loved it, how much he was picking everybody’s brains and how much knowledge he was taking in.”

Now Velazquez has earned an extended opportunity on the Cubs’ bench.

“It means the world to me,” he said. “I’m in the right spot. Here is where I want to be. That’s the team that signed me in 2017. I’ve been with the Cubs for six years. There’s nothing better than to be here with them and help the team win games.”

Velazquez gave the team a third-inning lead with his solo homer. But after some back-and-forth, as Stroman held the Marlins to two runs in 6⅓ innings, the Cubs lost it in the ninth.

Reliever Michael Rucker put three runners on, including two hit batters. Then he allowed a walk-off single to Jean Segura on a ground ball that just got by a sliding Dansby Swanson at shortstop.

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