Marlins’ Derek Dietrich honors late grandfather, longtime Pirates employee, with big game in Pittsburgh

Derek Dietrich had plenty of family in the stands at PNC Park Thursday night, from his grandmother and great-aunt to his mom and dad to his girlfriend, visiting from their various locales for a series that means a lot to him.

This weekend is the first time Dietrich is playing in Pittsburgh against the Pirates, the organization that employed his late grandfather, Steve Demeter, for so long in so many roles: major league coach, minor league manager, roving instructor and scout.

“Playing in Pittsburgh this time around was special. I really wanted to last year and unfortunately I was on the DL,” said Dietrich, who went 3 for 4 with two doubles, three RBI and two runs scored in the series opener Thursday. “It’s awesome, playing in front of them and honoring him in a way. It’s special for me.

“Really, honestly, it gave me a little extra because I wanted to play well for them. I feel like I had a little extra strength, maybe from above, this evening. It’ll take all I can get.”

Demeter, who also had a brief big league career in 1959-60, was a baseball lifer, and he passed that love and knowledge on to Dietrich before he died in February 2013 — two months after the Marlins acquired Dietrich from the Tampa Bay Rays and three months before Dietrich made his major league debut.

“My grandfather taught me everything about the game of baseball. How to play the game, how to respect the game, how to go about my business and obviously the fundamentals,” Dietrich said. “I traveled with him when he scouted. When he was home from managing, we’d get over to the baseball field and it was a real family effort for me.

“My grandfather would critique, my dad would throw BP and my mom would be there shagging balls. It was truly a family effort. For that, I’m forever grateful. I’m blessed to have such a great support group.”

One memory in particular came to the forefront Thursday afternoon when Dietrich arrived at the ballpark. When he visited Pittsburgh as a kid, it was mostly to the old Three Rivers Stadium. But by the time he was a legitimate pro ball prospect coming out of high school, he visited PNC with Demeter.

“I did come here for a pre-draft workout when I was in high school,” Dietrich said. “Actually, driving up [Thursday], I remember getting out of the car and coming into this workout with him. He brought me here and I had a good workout, but it’s not where I ended up. But it’s special in every way.”

Koehler feels good

Right-hander Tom Koehler (shoulder bursitis) made his first rehab start for High-A Jupiter on Thursday, tossing four innings (69 pitches) while allowing three runs. He gave up five hits (two homers), walked two and struck out five.

On Instagram, Koehler wrote: “Results weren't great but physically I felt good. First step to coming back better than ever.”

Manager Don Mattingly said that Koehler feels healthy is the most important takeaway.

“The reason we were going to option him [to Triple-A New Orleans] was because he wasn’t performing, right?” Mattingly said. “Maybe the reason he wasn’t performing was because his shoulder was bothering him and we didn’t know about it. But now we get back to, at first it’s health, and then it’s performance. We’ll just see where we’re at once he feels good health-wise.”

Elsewhere in rehab land, righty reliever Junichi Tazawa (rib cartilage inflammation) went on an assignment with Jupiter Friday. Third baseman Martin Prado (right hamstring strain) and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (left oblique strain) could start playing in minor league games by the end of next week.

“If everything continues to go well,” Mattingly said.

thealey@sunsentinel.com; @timbhealey

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