Stanton talks about his Sports Illustrated 'Body Paint' cover

February 26, 2015

Check Out Stanton's Strange New Helmet

JUPITER -- You've seen the body paint. Now check out Giancarlo Stanton's new-fangled helmet.

When the slugger steps into a batting cage later today to face live pitching for the first time since he was struck down by a Mike Fiers pitch in September, he'll be wearing this custom-made helmet and face guard to prevent a repeat occurrence:

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The helmet was designed and manufactured for Stanton by Schutt Sports, which is better known for making football helmets that are used throughout the NFL and college.

Unlike some other helmet extensions, which are solid in nature, Stanton is going with a carbon steel frame that can withstand 100-mph pitches.

Stanton flew up to the company's Litchfield, Ill., facility Monday on owner Jeffrey Loria's private jet to see the helmet for the first time and put it on for size.

"We were so impressed with him when he came up earlier this week," said Glenn Beckmann, director of marketing and communications for Schutt. "He was genuinely interested in working this whole batter's guard out."

Stanton wanted something that would not only protect the side of his face, but a helmet that would allow him open sight lines and freedom of movement.

"He gave us the final instructions on what he wanted, and we had a working prototype to go this morning," Beckmann said Wednesday. "He was intensely engaged in every step of the development process."

The one-of-a-kind helmet and guard comes with an approximate price tag of about $500 to $1,000 -- small change for a slugger who will be making $325 million over the coming 13 years.

Beckmann said Stanton paid close attention to the details, and modeled the helmet to make sure it fit his needs. When the company fired fastballs at the guard sans the slugger to prove to Stanton that it did the job, the slugger's "face was pressed to the glass."

"He would stand there and mimic his batting stance and look to see if his site-line was obstructed at all," Beckmann said. "He held a baseball up to the gaps (in the guard) to make sure the ball would not come through."

For one final touch, Stanton had the company incorporate his initial -- "G" -- into the guard. (Look closely and you'll notice the initial for yourself.)

"We basically took Giancarlo's idea and we just translated it into wire," Beckmann said. "Then we just started creating different shapes and configurations. We got the look and then he decided he wanted to add a little style to it, and he put his G on the front of it, and we’re like 'That’s rocking.'"

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February 24, 2015

Redmond: "Expectations are good. That's what we want"

JUPITER -- It was a busy first day of full squad workouts here on the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium where the Marlins had the spotlight shining bright on them.

Giancarlo Stanton, the $325 million man, and Ichiro Suzuki, one of three professional hitters with 4,000 career hits, both held press conferences in front of dozens of reporters before the team met for an hour inside the clubhouse and hit the practice field. 

Excitement? Buzz? There's plenty of that -- and Japanese reporters -- around for the Marlins these days.

"Without a doubt it's a different feel, different atmosphere," manager Mike Redmond said shortly after emerging from that team meeting. "I think we all feel that. It's been a definite work in progress in two years. But we're heading in the right direction. There's a lot of excitement around this team.

"Expectations are good. That's what we want. We're here to win ballgames. As far as the players, the important thing is for these guys to continue to go out there and have fun, do their jobs. These guys are great players. But nobody should feel they've got to do more than they're capable of doing. There's no pressure for one guy to go out there and carry the load. We're much deeper. Those are some of the things we talked about. We got a lot of character on this team. We got guys that grind it out. We've got leaders. It's a fun group. These guys are fun to be around every day."

One particular guy Redmond doesn't want feeling pressured is Stanton, who said Tuesday he has no qualms about getting back in the batter's box after having his 2014 season ended by a fastball to his face. You can read my story on Stanton's comments from Tuesday here.

Redmond said he's not worried about Stanton feeling weird about being in the batter's box "at all."

"He's a competitor number one," Redmond said. "Will there maybe be a little bit of apprehension the first time he gets in there? Of course. That's human nature. I don't care if you're the toughest man on earth you're going to be a little bit nervous when you get in there. When he gets in there -- after a few times -- he'll be fine.

"Will there be teams that test him? Probably. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there."

Ichiro, signed to be the Marlins' fourth outfielder at age 41, said Tuesday through an interpreter he doesn't want to be thought of as the old guy in camp. He said he's here to help the Marlins win -- whether that's providing leadership or adding to his career hit total.

""A lot of guys here are 23, 25, young guys," he said. "I obviously don't know what my role is right now. I'll go through camp and find that out. Hopefully it wont look like I'm using a bat as a cane.

"[Getting 3,000 MLB hits] that is a pretty big goal and that is a goal of mine. But that is not the reason I play the game of baseball. Obviously I have other goals and motivations that have kept me here wanting to play. I don't think you can play the game if that's your only goal and I have other goals I want to accomplish."

So what drew Ichiro to the Marlins?

"What I wanted most was just the warm feelings the Marlins gave me," he said. "Everybody knows the people who came to Japan to the press conference and so it wouldn't be tough on me they had the physical done in Japan. They are accommodating for me in the fact that here at spring training they'll have a facility for me to have my [pilates] machines here and in Miami also the same thing to accommodate the things that are very important to me as a player. There was nothing that came my way I didn't like or would say no to. That's a big reason I'm here."

> Redmond reiterated Tuesday he plans to "mix and match" with the lineup during spring training a little bit. "Maybe hit Giancarlo fourth, try [Martin] Prado two, see where Yeli fits in the three-hole," he said. "But definitely our lineup is stronger and deeper and that's going to benefit everyone."

February 23, 2015

Ichiro arrives at Marlins camp, signs autographs as Japanese media converges

The Ichiro effect is in effect for the Marlins.

Monday, the 41-year-old outfielder and 10-time All-Star arrived in Jupiter for duty and a throng of more than two dozen Japanese reporters were there to watch his every move. Ichiro stretched, ran, played catch with his interpreter on a backfield and then took batting practice in the cages.

When he was done, he went and signed autographs for fans who lined up and chanted his name. Ichiro, the first Japanese player in Marlins history, will address the media on Tuesday when position players officially report.

Team president David Samson said Saturday the Marlins will have at least 90 games broadcasted in Japan this season, up from about the two they average per season. Signed to a one-year $2 million deal, Suzuki is one of just three players with over 4,000 professional hits. He had 1,278 hits in Japan and has 2,844 hits in the majors.

Manager Mike Redmond said he'll find ways to get Ichiro plenty of at-bats this spring. 

Asked if he has any special memories of Ichiro from when he played against him, Redmond said Monday, "Well, he ran down a lot of my balls that would have been hits."

"We're definitely going to have to talk about that," Redmond said.

Redmond said he's never had a chance to speak to Ichiro face-to-face and is looking forward to it Tuesday. "This guy is a professional," he said. "I know he's a hardworker and I think he's going to really enjoy playing with our young players. I'm sure they'll learn a lot from him as well."

New Marlins pitcher Mat Latos gets ripped by former team

New Marlins pitcher Mat Latos told us he's a flat out honest guy. He might have been a little too honest this time.

Mat LatosIn a Q&A with Fox Sports senior writer Ken Rosenthal Sunday, Latos made some comments about his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, that didn't go over too well.

Like he told us Marlins scribes Friday, Latos told Rosenthal he rushed back from knee surgery last year and he regretted it. The only difference this time was Latos told Rosenthal he rushed back in part because the Reds pushed him to.

"I was told that I needed to start doing activities at a minimum of 10 days after surgery," Latos told Rosenthal. "They had me throwing on the fifth day after surgery. Then they had me running the seventh day after surgery. Then I was already lifting 10 days after surgery."

So it wasn’t entirely your decision, Rosenthal asked.

"No," Latos said. "They asked me how I felt. I felt great. I did. Because I didn’t have something jagged and sharp in my knee as I was walking and running on it.

"It’s kind of obvious when you’re looking at it and the [physical therapist] is looking at it, and this knee looks like a water balloon and this knee looks like a regular knee, don’t you think you would say, "Hey, let’s get some of that swelling down before we do anything?” But there’s nothing I can do about it. I went along with it because I wanted to be out there. I figured they knew what they were talking about."

Latos later told Rosenthal the focus in the Reds' clubhouse "went to [expletive]" after Scott Rolen and Bronson Arroyo were no longer with the team. Cincinnati finished 76-86 last season without Arroyo after making the playoffs in 2013 without Rolen.

Monday, Latos' former teammates fired back. Reds manager Bryan Price told Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Fay the comments by Latos were "a bunch of tabloid B.S. that’s unnecessary.”

Pitcher Homer Bailey told Fay of Latos: “If this was a court of law, the cross examination would go after the credibility of the witness.”

Bailey said the Reds never rushed back from his own knee injury, and Price said Latos never told him anything about his knee and coming back too soon. Latos by the way was quoted last June as being miffed he was being forced by the Reds to make an extra rehab start.

Latos told a Marlins reporter Monday he was taking a break from speaking to the media. 

February 22, 2015

Memory of season's final at bat still taunts Yelich

JUPITER -- Christian Yelich made the final out of the 2014 season for the Marlins. But it wasn't just any out, and he spent the entire offseason re-living it.

Nationals left fielder Steven Souza made a spectacular diving catch on his fly ball into the gap, preserving a no-hitter for Jordan Zimmermann. Yelich

How many times has Yelich seen the replay of that catch since then?

"Too many," Yelich said. "I'm gonna see it. It's gonna be there forever. I'll be way done playing and have a family, watching a show, and I'll still see it. My little brother was watching the top plays of the year, and it was No. 5 or something."

Yelich's wore a pained look of frustration when Souza made the catch, and Nationals fans made sure the Marlins outfielder saw the photo of that moment.

"The Nationals fans made sure that I saw that on Twitter," Yelich said of the photo. "They were making sure I saw it for like five days afterward."

Yelich has now played in two Closing Day games in his MLB career, and both were no-hitters. The first was thrown by teammate Henderson Alvarez to cap the 2013 season.

"I don't think you'll see one that dramatic again," Yelich said of Souza's game-saving catch. "That's the one you'd like to have. When it's to break up a no-hitter, you'd like to have those ones. You'd like to see those fall. He (Zimmermann) thought it was going to fall by his reaction. He (Souza) made a great play out there." 

February 21, 2015

February 20, 2015

Dan Haren "committed" to Marlins; Jose Fernandez anxious to pitch

JUPITER -- The uncertain status of Dan Haren was put to rest Friday when the veteran hurler said he was "committed" to pitching for the Marlins.

Haren, who had threatened to retire before being traded to the Marlins in December, said he intended to continue his career in Miami despite reservations after the deal was completed.

"I'm happy to be here," Haren told reporters as pitchers and catchers reported Friday. "I had a good talk with (manager) Mike Redmond earlier this morning, so I'm ready to get going. I'll do my thing.  I never had any conversations with the front office, trade me or else. Maybe they got the feeling after a while because there wasn’t that much commnication at the beginning."

Haren acknowledged that while the trade came as a "shock" and he took his time making up his mind about whether or not to retire, he eventually concluded to continue after discussing the situation with his family.

Haren also said he never demanded the Marlins trade him to a West Coast team, where he had always preferred to play.

"I think a lot of things were probably overblown," Haren said. "I never really said anything directly to anyone, to media at all. A lot of it was just reports. I wanted to make sure I was going to be 100 percent committed, into it. I didn’t want to put any less effort. Once I was committed in the offseason into putting in the work, I was ready to go."

Haren, who underwent off-season surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, figures to hold down the fifth spot in the rotation.

"I had surgery in the non-throwing shoulder earlier in the offseason," Haren said. "I really wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t committed to playing. When the trade happened, my family had a tough time with it. I talked to (Marlins president of baseball operations) Mike Hill, and he gave me time. And I had to talk to the family to make sure they were going to do it again. And I wanted to make sure I was 100 percent into it because I didn’t want to say, 'Ok, I’ll go to Miami.' I didn’t want to give a half-hearted effort."

But Haren said the trade gave him pause for a while.

"The trade, it surprised me for sure," he said. "It was out there saying I would retire if I got traded. But not having a no-trade clause, you have to use other methods as leverage. So I definitely considered retiring."

Haren said he also had about an hour-long phone conversation with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria in January about his decision.

"I felt like I was kind of portrayed as being snobby or stuck up," Haren said. "It was really kind of the opposite. Sometime after the holidays, I let them know I was ready to go."

Haren told ESPN.com in November -- before the trade -- that he would rather retire than pitch anywhere else than on the West Coast.

"My signing with the Dodgers last year and my decision to exercise my player option were based on my desire to play in Southern California near my family," Haren told ESPN in an email in November. "I had other opportunities, but at this point in my career, I have no interest in playing in a city away from my family."

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CAUTION: It was windy! So the audio is not great. You have to turn it up to hear it.

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Jose Fernandez said he is practicing patience with his surgically repaired arm, but acknowledged he is itching to get back on the mound.

“I want to pitch tomorrow in the big leagues. Are you kidding me?," Fernandez said. "That’s who I am. But I think you’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to take care of your arm. It’s not only about you. It’s about your teammates. They’re counting on me, and I think you’ve got to be responsible enough to take the proper care of your arm.”

Fernandez, who underwent Tommy John surgery last May, is projected to return to the mound for the Marlins in mid-summer (he said doctors have given him a target date of July 16), and begin throwing off a mound in spring training the first week of March.

"Honestly, who knows when I'm going to come back?" Fernandez said. "I think that goes on how I feel. I'm really not going to have a date until five days before that start."

Fernandez has been throwing off flat ground from a distance of 150 feet and began throwing a breaking ball for the first time earlier this week.

He said he has not experienced any setbacks during his recovery.

"So far there hasn't been any discomfort, any setbacks," he said. "I haven’t felt anything in my arm, at all. It’s funny, because it feels like I never had a surgery. The strike zone is there. The location is there. I’m throwing everyday. 150 feet. I started throwing breaking balls this week. No pain. Nothing weird."