Marlins ace Jose Fernandez likely a month away from facing hitters

KISSIMMEE -- Jose Fernandez's return from Tommy John surgery hasn't hit any speed bumps yet and if things continue to progress as they have he'll likely begin facing live hitters in about a month.

"There are X amount of bullpens to throw and I think he has like eight left [before he faces live hitters]," Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said Friday shortly before the Marlins and Astros were rained out.

"We're doing two a week, so that's a month," Hernandez continued. "Once he gets past batting practice and stuff, then you could have road bumps because you've repped up a lot, pounded  [the arm], the intensity goes up. That's why it's not an exact science to it [as far as any exact date when he'll be back with the team]. But we have a general plan, that's big, formulated."

The Marlins have said all along the earliest Fernandez could be back is mid-June. But they're obviously going to be smart. Hernandez said Fernandez has been smart with his rehab to this point.

"Overall, he's doing it well," Hernandez said of Fernandez's rehab. "He's not overdoing it. He's getting to the point, we're getting at that stage of rehab you have to start stressing it and moving it a little bit. It's part of the way it works. The build up to this point he's done it perfectly. I watch him throw and I get amazed because I see how different they come back compared to 15, 20 years ago. Now there's such a success rate the kid's think 'It's fixed, now I'm supposed to throw two miles an hour harder.

"But he's doing great."

 

March 29, 2015

Henderson Alvarez named Opening Day starter for Marlins

VIERA -- The wait is over.

Manager Mike Redmond finally ended the suspense -- what little existed -- in naming Henderson Alvarez his Opening Day starter.

"I'm sure that's a surprise for you," Redmond said laughing.

While most teams had already announced their Opening Day starters, Redmond waited until Sunday, eight days before the April 6 opener against Atlanta. The Braves are sending out Julio Teheran.

"It's a big honor and he deserves it after the year he had last year," Redmond said of Alvarez, who went 12-7 with a 2.65 ERA and was named to his first All-Star team. "I felt really comfortable having this guy on the mound. He brings a lot to the table. He can hit. He brings a flair and an excitement. It's really a perfect fit for Opening Day."

Alvarez will become the 13th different Opening Day starter for the Marlins.

"It's really a no-brainer for us," Redmond said. "I think he's going to be pretty excited."

Redmond said it remain unclear how the rest of the rotation will line up, especially with uncertainty surrounding Jarred Cosart. Cosart's last scheduled spring start on Friday was skipped due to a blister on his right middle finger. Cosart is also under investigation by Major League Baseball for alleged gambling.

"I'm anticipating for that finger to respond and for things to be fine, and for him to be slot back into the rotation," Redmond said of Cosart, who was scheduled to test the finger by throwing a bullpen session back in Jupiter on Sunday. Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez remained behind to oversee the session.

Redmond said if all goes well, Cosart could make the final Grapefruit League start for the Marlins on Wednesday. It's possible he'll be slotted at the back end of the rotation once the season start.

Here's a look at the Marlins' Opening Day starters over the years:

1993 -- Charlie Hough

1994 -- Charlie Hough

1995 -- John Burkett

1996 -- Kevin Brown

1997 -- Kevin Brown

1998 -- Livan Hernandez

1999 -- Alex Fernandez

2000 -- Alex Fernandez

2001 -- Ryan Dempster

2002 -- Ryan Dempster

2003 -- Josh Beckett

2004 -- Josh Beckett

2005 -- Josh Beckett

2006 -- Dontrelle Willis

2007 -- Dontrelle Willis

2008 -- Mark Hendrickson

2009 -- Ricky Nolasco

2010 -- Josh Johnson

2011 -- Josh Johnson

2012 -- Josh Johnson

2013 -- Ricky Nolasco

2014 -- Jose Fernandez

2015 -- Henderson Alvarez

 

March 26, 2015

Cosart, scratched from Friday's start with a blister, says he was caught off guard by gambling allegations

JUPITER -- Jarred Cosart and the Marlins aren't saying much regarding baseball's probe into the gambling allegations the 24-year-old right-hander was roped into late Tuesday night. 

But here's what they did say Thursday: Cosart won't make his next scheduled start Friday because of a blister on his middle finger, not the investigation. And as for all that gambling stuff on Twitter, MLB is handling it and Cosart is cooperating. 

"Obviously I was caught off guard by the whole situation and all I'm really saying to everyone is I'm following MLB protocol and talking with MLB security and they're taking care of the rest," Cosart said in a very brief meeting with reporters shortly before joining his teammates for pre-game stretch on the backfields at Roger Dean Stadium.

"So that's where I stand right now and that's it," he said.

Acquired by the Marlins at the trade deadline last July, Cosart deleted his official Twitter account late Tuesday night after screenshots of purported direct messages from himself to a gambling expert were leaked by a third party using the same social media outlet.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney confirmed Wednesday morning the commissioner’s office was investigating the matter.

It’s unclear whether the allegations involving Cosart revolve around baseball or sports-betting on another sport.

Players are allowed to legally gamble on sports other than baseball. But if it is proven that he was betting on baseball, there are stiff penalties. If he bet on a baseball game he wasn't involved in its an automatic one-year suspension. If he bet on a game he was involved in he's banned for life.

Cosart’s trouble began late Tuesday night when a purported gambling expert on Twitter who goes by the handle @GhostFadeKillah tweeted out screenshots of direct messages between Cosart and a friend. 

During the alleged conversation, Cosart says: “I bet LARGE. Shhhh lol lookin for some help anywhere I can … Saw a retweet on your under play and hammered it.”

Two other Twitter accounts have since surfaced claiming to be Cosart, but he said Thursday morning neither account belong to him.

"Anything that happened after [the official account] is not me," Cosart said. "My other one's completely deleted and being looked at by MLB and all the new ones -- that's not me."

As for the blister, manager Mike Redmond said Cosart developed it on his middle finger after his last start on Sunday.

"He’s going to play catch today to see how it felt and then we’ll re-evaluate to see where he’s at as far as his next start," Redmond said. "Brad Hand will make [Friday's start in Kissimmee versus Houston]. we’ll reevaluate how Cosart feels and go from there."

Redmond said he's spoken with Cosart regarding the allegations and added "it’s better to let these things play out and find out more information and when we do that we’ll have a comment."

Asked if he's seen a change in the pitcher, who has struggled this spring (0-2, 8.49 ERA), Redmond said: "No. He's fine."

Mike Hill, President of Baseball Operations, said baseball has given the Marlins no timeline as far as when they think the probe will end.

How did the Marlins become aware of the situation involving Cosart?

"We all saw the article on-line," Hill said.

March 25, 2015

MLB looking into gambling allegations tied to Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart

Major League Baseball is investigating allegations tying Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart to gambling.

The 24-year-old Texas-born right-hander, acquired by the Marlins at the trade deadline last July, deleted his official Twitter account Tuesday night after screen shots of purported direct messages from Cosart to a gambling expert were leaked by a third party using the social media outlet.  

"Major League baseball is aware and they are investigating it and we have no further comment at this time," Marlins spokesman Matt Roebuck said. 

It’s unclear if Cosart was gambling on baseball or another sport. But if it is proven that he was betting on baseball, there are stiff penalties.

“Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year,” Rule 21 states.

“Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”

Here's the original tweet that started the firestorm and was sent out by the third party called @ghostfadekiller

The third-party later tweeted this morning:

Phone calls by The Miami Herald to Cosart’s agent at Select Sports Group have not been immediately returned.

Cosart went 4-4 with a 2.39 ERA in 10 starts for the Marlins after being acquired from Houston last season. He’s struggled this spring going 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA in four Grapefruit League starts.

The Marlins starting rotation, which won’t get staff ace Jose Fernandez until June at the earliest, has struggled overall this spring and could ill-afford to lose one of its top three arms.

A second Twitter account, purportedly Cosart's, made the following comments this morning regarding the allegations:

Cosart

That account was deleted less than an hour later.

Asked if the new Twitter account was actually Cosart's, Roebuck said he couldn't confirm nor deny it because he didn't know.

March 24, 2015

Despite four-run, third inning, Koehler upbeat after six innings of work vs. Red Sox

JUPITER -- Big innings has usually been what spells doom for Tom Koehler.

The Marlins' fifth-starter ran into another one of those big innings Tuesday against the Red Sox, giving up all four hits and four earned runs of his six-inning start in the third against Boston. Outside of that, he was stellar, tossing five  hitless, scoreless innings and that's the positive he took out of his start.

"We've talked about that before it's something that has to be limited," Koehler said. "If you let them score one or two it gives you an opportunity to come back and some runs up on the board. Anytime they put up three or four runs in one inning it makes it tough.

Other than that, he said, "I felt good today. I pitched a little more game like with the sequences. Things felt good. Obviously just got myself in trouble throwing the ball away and some hard hit balls there. But overall, it's a step in a positive direction."

The Marlins came back to beat the Red Sox with an eight-run eighth inning with the starters for both teams out of the game. Jordany Valdespin hit the go-ahead, two-run triple for the Marlins, who also took advantage of a Red Sox error in that ugly eighth.

Koehler threw 80 pitches, walked two and struckout five and said he felt strong. His ERA is now 5.14 this spring. 

"The previous times out there I was just overcooking [the breaking ball] a little bit, trying to throw one for a strike in a two-strike situation, trying to make it too nasty," he said. "Your head wants to do one thing but physically you're not there yet. That's why they call it midseason form. So, I had to dial it back a little bit and focus on the execution of the pitch. The stuff is there right now. It's executing it. Overall, I think I did a much better job of it."

Manager Mike Redmond saw progress.

"He had that one inning where he gave up four runs, but it was nice to see him settle in and put up some zeroes," he said. "Really, I thought his last couple innings were really good. That was Tommy Koehler. He got himself down in the zone. That's what you're looking for, see guys make adjustments and make in-game adjustments. I think he was able to do that after giving up a couple runs. He settled in and pitched like he's capable of pitching.

"You always want things to go smooth and for guys to build up their innings. Unfortunately it doesn't always work like that. We're working through a tough turn in the rotation. These guys still have two more shots before we leave here. I'm looking for them to make adjustments, get some outs and put up some zeroes."

Reliever Carter Capps among seven optioned to the minors on Tuesday

JUPITER -- With a week to go in Grapefruit League action the number of players inside the Marlins clubhouse continues to dwindle. We're down to 37 now (updated in the afternoon).

Hard throwing right-handed reliever Carter Capps, whom the Marlins traded Logan Morrison for prior to the start of the 2014 season, was among seven players sent down to the minors Tuesday. The other six were not on the 40-man roster: catcher Vinny Rottino, infielder Austin Nola, left-handers Pat Misch and Pat Urckfitz, right-handers Ryan Chaffee and Vin Mazzaro

Capps, though, was among a group of about seven relievers competing for the last two bullpen spots. He's had a rough spring (9.64 ERA, four walks, six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings). 

"Capps was a tough one," manager Mike Redmond said Tuesday morning. "I think for him it's just a matter of going down and being more consistent. He's got big league stuff and has been there. But we've talked about our depth. To have a guy like him in the system in Triple A, he can pitch in the big leagues and get guys out. We know that. It's nice to have him down there."

Capps, whose fastball has clocked in the triple digits before, started last season in the minors too and was then called up April 27. He looked pretty good, posting a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts and just three walks in nine appearances before heading to the disabled list on May 26 with a sprained throwing elbow.

It looked like he might need surgery, but the Marlins held off and Capps returned to the team in September and pitched in eight games. He looked sharp until his last appearance of the season when he gave up three earned runs in a third of an inning against the Nationals and his ERA jumped from 2.70 to 3.98 for the season. The Marlins have spent the past year working with Capps on his delivery.

"He needs to be more consistent with his command and when that happens he'll be ready," Redmond said.

Capps' departure to Triple A New Orleans means the Marlins are essentially looking at six relievers for the final two spots in the bullpen.

Assuming closer Steve Cishek, setup men A.J. Ramos and Bryan Morris, left-hander Mike Dunn and right-hander Aaron Crow (set to make $1.975 million in 2015) aren't going anywhere, the guys still fighting for spots are left-handers Brad Hand (out of options, 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 5 Ks, 6 BBs) and Andrew McKirahan (Rule 5 pick, 0-1, 2.57 ERA,5 Ks, 3 BBs), and right-handers Nick Masset (non-roster invitee, 1-0, 3.86 ERA), Sam Dyson (2-0, 3.00 ERA, 5 Ks, 1 BB), Preston Claiborne (0-0, 1.69 ERA, 4 Ks, 2 BBs) and David Phelps (2-0, 0.82 ERA, 9 Ks, 5 BBs).

> Redmond said Phelps will start Wednesday in Lakeland against the Tigers. Right-hander Dan Haren, who is also slated to start, will pitch on a backfield here in Jupiter. 

> Left fielder Christian Yelich, who signed that seven-year, $50 million deal over the weekend, should be back in the Marlins lineup Wednesday in Lakeland. He's been dealing with a blister on his finger.

TUESDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (10-9): 1. Reed Johnson LF, 2. Jeff Baker 2B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Michael Morse 1B, 5. Martin Prado 3B, 6. Marcell Ozuna CF, 7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 9. Tom Koehler RHP.

> Red Sox (10-8): 1. Jemile Weeks 3B, 2. Dustin Pedroia 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez LF, 4. Allen Craig 1B, 5. Garin Cecchini DH, 6. Rusney Castillo CF, 7. Xander Bogaerts SS, 8. Jackie Bradley Jr. RF, 9. Blake Swihart C. LHP Brian Johnson.

March 23, 2015

Rough patch by Marlins starters does not yet concern Redmond

JUPITER -- The past few outings for several members of the Marlins’ projected rotation haven’t gone well. But manager Mike Redmond said there is no cause for alarm, at least not yet.

“I know when the lights go on and the adrenalin kicks in, these guys will be ready to go,” Redmond said. “I know when the bell rings, we’ll be ready to roll.”

But recent outings by Jarred Cosart, Tom Koehler and likely Opening Day starter Henderson Alvarez haven’t been pretty. Cosart’s last two starts have been especially poor.

“I don’t get excited about spring training outings,” Redmond said. “I try not to get caught up in the results. I think when they go out there for the last start (of spring training), you’ll see a different mentality.”

For now, Redmond said there are no plans to make changes to the projected rotation of Alvarez, Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Koehler and Cosart even though the Marlins have a couple of back-up options in David Phelps and Brad Hand.

“I would say that we’re probably set with those five guys,” Redmond said. “But I would never say 100 percent that we’re set, because you never know what could happen. That will be something that we’ll all talk about in the next few days.”

-- Christian Yelich (finger blister) is not in the lineup this afternoon. Redmond said it’s not a serious matter, though, and he expects Yelich to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

March 21, 2015

Rangers in talks with Marlins for Brad Hand; Rule 5 pick Andrew McKirahan could be dealt

JUPITER -- The Marlins are in trade with discussions with the Texas Rangers for Brad Hand. And he might not be the only left-hander the Marlins end up trading before the end of spring training.

According to sources, a host of teams are interested in Andrew McKirahan, the southpaw reliever the Marlins selected in the Rule 5 draft. McKirahan, who belonged formerly to the Cubs organization, is in high demand.

And since it appears he won't win a spot in their bullpen, the Marlins would prefer to deal the pitcher rather than give him back to the Cubs, which would require them to first place him on waivers. Interest is such in McKirahan that the Marlins would rather get something for the pitcher rather than lose him on waivers.

As for Hand, the left-hander is out of options and can't be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. Knowing that he would be claimed, the Marlins might try to squeeze a middle- to high-level prospect from the Rangers -- or anyone else -- for the lefty.

As a result of their many offseason trades, the Marlins now feel a need to strengthen their minor-league system, which was weakened over the winter.

Henderson Alvarez, Jordan Zimmermann engage in target practice -- with each other

VIERA -- Henderson Alvarez struck Jordan Zimmermann with a pitch.

Then Zimmermann sent Alvarez sprawling to his knees with a little payback offering, provoking an exchange of words.

It didn’t escalate further. But give it time.

If Saturday’s spring training game -- a 4-2 win by the Nationals over the Marlins -- is any indication, it could be an interesting season series when the two N.L. East rivals hook up for real.

Zimmermann, facing the Marlins for the first time since no-hitting them on closing day last season, was hit by an Alvarez pitch in his first at bat.

When Alvarez came to bat in the fourth, Zimmermann left him eating dirt in the batter’s box in an attempt to get out of the way of an inside pitch.

Alvarez said he wasn’t trying to hit Zimmermann on purpose, and Zimmermann said he was throwing inside to Alvarez because he thought he was squaring to bunt.

None of it looked harmless, though.

And Alvarez said afterward that he thought Zimmermann was trying to send a “message” with his inside offering.

“I thought Zimmermann’s was intentional,” Alvarez said through a translator. “It was just kind of returning the message.”

Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Alvarez “struggled with his command” and “had a tough time locating all of his pitches, but acknowledged that “anytime you hit the pitcher, it looks bad, right?”

“But he certainly wasn’t trying to hit the pitcher on purpose,” Redmond said of the Alvarez plunking of Zimmermann.

-- The Marlins have announced an 11 a.m. Sunday press conference at which they are expected to announce the signing of outfielder Christian Yelich to a 7-year contract extension worth $49.57 million.

Miami Marlins have avoided the spring injury bug

VIERA -- Outside of Adeiny Hechavarria's "tired arm" that caused the shortstop to miss a handful of games early on, the Marlins have avoided a serious spring training injury to any of their players. And, yes, they are knocking on wood the trend continues to the season opener on April 6.

"We've been fortunate," said manager Mike Redmond. "I try not to think about it too much."

Redmond is asked everyday to provide a health update, and everyday his answer has remained consistent: "Nothing to report."

The same can't be said for other teams around the league. Just within the National League East, the Mets lost Zach Wheeler with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, the Phillies lost Cliff Lee with a forearm injury that could cost him the season, and the Nationals are presently without Anthony Rendon (torn MCL) and Yunel Escobar (oblique), not to mention Jayson Werth, who underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and won't be ready for the start of the season.

For a fuller picture, take a look at this team-by-team list of injuries and ailments, and it becomes abundantly clear the Marlins are living a charmed existence. Outside of Jose Fernandez, who is working his way back from Tommy John and is due back in mid-summer, the medical report on the Marlins is clean.

"We've been fortunate and hopefully that will remain the case," Redmond said. "I think it's always a concern for everybody. There's no doubt that a lot of success for the season rests on keeping guys healthy."

More than two weeks remain to the opener, so the Marlins out of the woods yet. They lost Alejandro De Aza  with a sprained ankle he sustained in the final exhibition game in 2008. And last year, Ed Lucas was hit by a pitch in the final Grapefruit League game, breaking his hand, only hours after learning he had made his first Opening Day roster. 

March 18, 2015

Bour, Dietrich, Realmuto, Rienzo & Rojas optioned to Triple A

JUPITER -- The clubhouse population is continuing to thin as the Marlins made more roster cuts Wednesday, with the latest round centered around high-level minor-leaguers on the team's 40-man roster.

First baseman Justin Bour, infielder Derek Dietrich, catcher J.T. Realmuto, reliever Andre Rienzo and infielder Miguel Rojas were optioned to Triple A New Orleans while pitcher Chris Narveson was reassigned to minor league camp.

Wednesday's reductions bring the spring roster to 44 players, meaning the Marlins must whittle 19 more before the season opener on April 6.

"These are guys we felt like weren't going to make the team, and we wanted them to go down and get some at bats," said manager Mike Redmond. "These are guys that have big-league time, so it's a tough conversation. I'm sure they were wishing they were able to stay longer. I guess the message to those guys is just to be ready. These guys are all good players. It just shows the depth that we have now, and it's nice to have these guys in Triple A. I know it's not nice for them because they all want to make the team."

It's uncertain whether Narveson, a non-roster invitee, will accept the assignment and remain in the organization. But the Marlins are hoping he will.

________________

With the exception of Mat Latos, who will be on the mound, Redmond's lineup for this afternoon's game against the Nationals is very likely the one he'll send out in the season opener.

1. Dee Gordon, 2b; 2. Christian Yelich, lf; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 4. Michael Morse, 1b; 5. Martin Prado, 3b; 6 Marcell Ozuna, cf; 7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c; 8. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 9. Mat Latos, p.