April 17, 2015

Salty on benching: "Am I mad? Yeah, I'm mad. I want to play."

NEW YORK -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia isn't a happy camper at the moment, and the reasons are obvious. He's lost his starting job to a rookie catcher -- J.T. Realmuto -- and would prefer to be in the lineup, not on the bench.

But that's where he found himself Friday for a third straight game as manager Mike Redmond continued to stick with Realmuto, who went 0 for 4 on Thursday, but missed a grand slam by no more than 10 feet.

"Am I mad?" Saltalamacchia asked. "Yeah, I'm mad. I want to play."

But Saltalamacchia said he's not so angry that he'll allow it to become a distraction by pouting over it.

"I can't control this," he said. "I can't grab the lineup and put my name on it. Do I want to be in there? Yeah. There's not a day I don't want to be in there. I'm not going to sit here and complain. I want to play. But I'm not going to hurt this team. I'm not going to be the reason."

Saltalamacchia, who struggled last season and got off to a slow start by going 2 for 22 with 11 strikeouts, said he feels it's a little too soon to be making sudden lineup changes, such as the one that finds himself in a secondary role -- at least, for the moment.

Does he think six starts behind the plate is too quick to be pulling the trigger?

"In my opinion, yeah," he said. "But I don't get paid to make those decisions. I can only do what I can do, which is show up and play when I'm in there."

When he's not, Saltalamacchia said he'll do whatever he can to help Realmuto, either by helping him with pitch-calling, or in facing opposing pitchers at the plate.

"I can help the team," he said. "J.T.'s still new at this. He hasn't caught Phelps too much, so I can help him get through that. A few of these guys I've faced a lot, so I can help him with that. So I can help the team."

Saltalamacchia said Realmuto "looks good."

"I watched some of the pitches he called last night, and he was definitely on the same page I was on," he said. "He looks really relaxed and not pressing too hard, which is really big for young guys. I think he's doing a good job, and I hope he continues doing it."

April 16, 2015

Giancarlo Stanton moves to top of Marlins' all-time HR list (video)

NEW YORK -- So long, Dan Uggla.

Giancarlo Stanton moved to the top of the Marlins' all-time home run list on Thursday -- one ahead of Uggla -- with a first-inning shot off the Mets' Dillon Gee at Citi Field.

Stanton's 155th career blast with the Marlins landed in the Mets bullpen and gave him sole possession of first on the team's all-time list. The two-run homer was Stanton's first of the season, and first since Sept. 8 of last season, days before being struck in the face with a pitch.

Stanton's milestone home run came in his 644th game with the Marlins. By comparison, it took Uggla 776 games to compile his total of 154 homers.

Upon returning to the dugout after reaching the milestone, Stanton received the silent treatment from his teammates.

Realmuto, Yelich return to lineup; Phelps set to start Friday

NEW YORK -- If there were any thoughts of putting Jarrod Saltalamacchia back behind the plate after rookie J.T. Realmuto went 2 for 3 in his season debut, manager Mike Redmond put them to rest Thursday when he posted his lineup for tonight's game at Citi Field.

Realmuto was back in for the Marlins as they prepared to open a four-game series against the Mets. What degree of permanency there is to the catching situation remains to be seen. But with Saltalamacchia off to a poor start and Realmuto receiving high accolades from Dan Haren and Redmond following Wednesday's performance in Atlanta, there seems no hurry to go back to the norm just yet.

Meanwhile, Christian Yelich was back in the lineup after missing two games in Atlanta with tightness in his lower back. Yelich said his back is feeling much better.

"Nobody wanted to make it a bigger issue than it had to be," Yelich said of his back, which has given him problems in the past. "Take a few days instead of a few weeks to make sure this thing is squared away and I'm 100 percent. (It's a) way milder version of what I had last year."

Yelich landed on the DL last season with a lower back strain.

________________

David Phelps missed the birth of his third child on Monday, arriving to the hospital about 40 minutes after his wife delivered their third child, a boy. But Phelps didn't miss his scheduled bullpen session on Tuesday and is set to make his first start for the Marlins on Friday.

Phelps said that while he was in Pittsburgh to be with his wife and new child, he took time out on Tuesday to throw a bullpen with a local college team.

The question is, how much can the Marlins expect out of Phelps after is only two relief appearances so far totaled one inning?

"I go out and worry about getting outs, not so much what my role is," Phelps said. "That's the biggest thing for me, not trying to make too much of it."

Phelps is no stranger to starting. He made 40 starts during his time with the New York Yankees, going 12-11 with a 4.34 ERA. He made 17 starts last season for the Yankees, the last coming on July 28, and boasts a record of 9-5 with a 3.13 ERA in games started in New York (all at Yankee Stadium).

The Marlins will likely have Brad Hand and Jose Urena waiting in the wings Friday night if Phelps is unable to go more than a few innings.

April 15, 2015

Realmuto impresses Haren, Marlins in first start of 2015 behind plate

ATLANTA -- With Jarrod Saltalamacchia hitting .091 at the plate this season and coming off a rough 2014 campaign, many Marlins fans have been clamoring for change at the catcher position.

J.T. Realmuto only made that chorus grow louder Wednesday. Making his first start since being called up to replace the injured Jeff Mathis, the 24-year-old Realmuto finished 2-for-3 at the plate, drew a walk, and scored twice. He also got some hefty compliments from starting pitcher Dan Haren after the Marlins 6-2 win over the Braves.

"J.T. did a great job back there," said Haren, who gave up two runs over seven innings. "I have a pretty thorough game plan I have to go over. I'm not out there throwing 95 mph. I have a pretty detailed game plan I went over with him the last few days because I thought there’s a decent chance he was going to catch me.

"He did outstanding calling pitches, very rarely shook. He’s only caught one bullpen that I’ve thrown [thus far], didn’t catch me at all in spring training. I thought it was going to be really tough for him because I throw a lot of pitches in a lot of different counts to different sides of the plate -- and he did really, really good. I was impressed."

Skipper Mike Redmond had some love for Realmuto too.

"For him to come up and contribute both defensively and offensively, that’s a big spark for us and did a good job with a veteran pitcher," Redmond said. "I know Danny had been talking to him over the last couple of days, preparing him for the start, I thought he did great. He caught really well, had some key at bats, was a nice spark for us."

Realmuto, who went 7-for-29 (.267) with nine RBI in 29 at-bats and 11 games for the Marlins last season, said he was happy he could "contribute to a big series win."

"It was nice to get back in there and get a couple of knocks," said Realmuto, who started the fifth inning with a double and scored on Adeiny Hechavarria's two-run home run. "I had a good at-bat early and was able to get some confidence off that. The rest of the lineup was hitting as well. It's easy to get in a groove when everybody else is getting on base.

"[Haren] did a great job of preparing me. He came to me two days ago when we had a good idea we were going to work together. We've been going over pitches and what he likes to do to certain hitters for the last two days really. He did a great job preparing me for that."

> After the game, the Marlins decided to keep Jose Urena on the team and send down Carter Capps to make room for David Phelps, who will rejoin the team in New York Thursday. Redmond said the team wanted to keep an extra pitcher who could provide long relief.

"But at the same time too, we’ll find ways we can plug him in there," Redmond said of Urena.

Jackie Robinson Day has special meaning for Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon

ATLANTA -- It was Jackie Robinson Day in ballparks across the country Wednesday, which meant it was a great day for new Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon.

Having spent his first four seasons in the big leagues with Robinson's old team, the 26-year-old Gordon gained a special appreciation for the man who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. It's part of the reason Gordon has become more and more involved in MLB's push to revive baseball in black communities.

He's already met with players from the Marlins Reviving Baseball in the Innnercity's program, and hosted a free baseball camp in his hometown of Avon Park, Fla. last December.

"I try to help the kids were I’m from just to show them I’m from the same place and I made it to professional baseball and my dad did as well," said Gordon, whose father Tom was an All-Star relief pitcher and whose younger half-brother Nick, 19, was taken fifth overall in the 2014 draft by the Twins. 

"More than anything I want to show kids you can do more than just the things you see in front of you."

Gordon, who was recruited by Louisville and other basketball powers as a standout 5-11 guard, chose to dedicate himself to baseball over hoops his senior year of high school. It's a decision he has not regretted -- and one baseball hopes plays out more often with other talented young black athletes.

According to a study by USA Today, there were 68 African-Americans on opening-day rosters last week (roughly 7.8 percent of the 868 players listed on rosters on disabled list). That's a far cry from 1986 when 19 percent of major leaguers were African American. 

Yet, there are signs an influx of young African-Americans like Gordon's brother are entering the game. Nick is one of 18 African-Americans drafted in the first round since 2012. Seven African-Americans are ranked about the Top 100 prospects in the game by ESPN's Keith Law.

More -- including a few from Miami -- could be among the next wave.

"When I first got here we had the Ayudan week and I got to meet the Marlins [Junior Division] RBI kids who won the World Series," Gordon said. "It was amazing to see that talent these kids have coming from inner city Miami. I didn’t really get to see much of it in LA because they were in Compton and it was tough to get over there. In Miami, I got to see them first hand and that was amazing." 

Gordon said he goes back to his high school in Avon Park often to be around the kids and talk about the game. "I got a lot of cousins who play baseball for my high school now," Gordon said. "It’s getting better."

> Marlins skipper Mike Redmond said he's hopeful left fielder Christian Yelich (back tightness) can return to the lineup Thursday against the Mets, but he's not going to push the Gold Glover back before he's ready.

> Marlins pitching prospect Jose Urena, expected to be sent back down to the minors when David Phelps comes off the paternity list Thursday, was happy he was able to make his big league debut and pitch a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday's 8-2 win over the Braves.

"I felt good, got an inning in, looked good, wasn't nervous," Urena said. "It's been a wonderful experience. The majority of people who get called up go through this, come up for a short time. The important thing is to take a good experience back with you to the minors."

April 14, 2015

Stanton explains why he didn't use face mask in final at-bat Tuesday; Yelich talks back tightness

ATLANTA -- For the first time since a Mike Fiers fastball struck him in the face and ended his 2014 season last Sept. 11, Giancarlo Stanton went to bat Tuesday night without the specially designed protective face mask made for him.

It happened in his final at-bat in Tuesday's 8-2 win over the Braves -- and only because Stanton said he was facing a left-handed pitcher.

So how did it feel? "Fine," Stanton said. "Just like my whole career prior."

Stanton doubled down the third baseline against Braves reliever and former Marlins Rule 5 pick Andrew McKirahan. The hit plated two runs and completed a 3-for-3 evening with four RBI for the two-time All-Star. Stanton walked in his other two at-bats and raised his batting average from .130 to .231.

Stanton had faced a lefty only two other times previously to Tuesday, but opted not to go without the protective mask.

The Marlins face Braves left-hander Eric Stults on Wednesday. Asked if he'll go without the mask again  versus Stults, Stanton said: "Honestly, it's whatever I feel like doing."

Stanton said he'll continue to wear the mask "for the most part" against right-handers.

How did it feel to finally break out of a 3-for-23 slump to start the season and get a win?

"We've got to win, that's the biggest part," Stanton said. "Contributing too is good for us. We need [to win] a series tomorrow."

What did Stanton think of second baseman Dee Gordon laying out the team's bats across the clubhouse pre-game to wake them up?

"At least we keep it loose still," he said. "We're not coming in here like our dogs died. We've got to have fun."

> Gordon, by the way, wanted no part of taking ownership for the little bat display he orchestrated. Instead, he opted to play coy.

"I walked in here today and there were a lot of bats on the floor and I was like, who did it? and nobody knew,' he said with a grin. "It worked I guess. Whoever did that they are pretty smart. It helped. He’s a team player I guess."

Pitcher Tom Koehler, who got the win Tuesday, saw it all go down.

"I actually got here while it was going on and I was really confused," Koehler said. "[Gordon] said, 'Where's your bat? You've got to get a hit today too.' All of a sudden he's dumping out the pitcher's bag. I said, 'Dude man, save the hits for you. I'm not going to get a hit.'

"He got us going. Who knows. When he threw my bag down it probably helped me get that bunt down.' Had he thrown it a little bit more, maybe I would have gotten two bunts down.'"

YELICH ON BACK TIGHTNESS

Left fielder Christian Yelich, scratched from Tuesday's lineup with back tightness, is hoping to feel better and get back in the lineup by Thursday against the Mets. But he's not going to rush back either.

"It kind of hasn't been feeling good for the last few days," Yelich explained postgame Tuesday. "I kind of tried to play through it and it was making it worse. I talked to [head trainer] Sean [Cunningham] and all those guys, Red, and they said 'let's give it a few days and get back out there.' Give it a day or two and hopefully I'll be back at it."

Yelich insists the highlight reel diving catch he made in Monday's game didn't make the back feel any worse. "It was already going on," he said. 

Yelich scratched from lineup with tightness in back; Ichiro to start in his place

ATLANTA -- Christian Yelich made one of the best catches of the young season Monday night against the Braves. Now he's paying for it some with tightness in his back.

The Marlins scratched the Gold Glove-winning left fielder from the lineup Tuesday and will start 41-year-old veteran Ichiro Suzuki in his place.

Manager Mike Redmond said the Marlins don't have a timetable for Yelich's return. They just don't want to see him go on the disabled list so they'll try and be cautious.

With the Marlins scheduled to close the three-game series in Atlanta Wednesday afternoon, it's likely Yelich won't be back until Thursday at the earliest.

"I think it's something that has kind of been lingering for a day or so," Redmond said. "That play probably didn't help it."

In the second inning Monday night, Yelich chased down a Cameron Maybin line drive on the left field warning track, making a lunging, over the shoulder catch before tumbling to the ground.

"I think the important thing is to get him feeling good," Redmond said. "If it is a day or two or a DL stint, that's the important thing. Right now we're just treating it as a day-to-day thing. We'll evaluate him [Wednesday] and see how he is. I know he's been getting treatment on it all day, trying to get that thing feeling better."

Ichiro made his first start of the season Sunday in place of center fielder Marcell Ozuna, who showed up late for stretch and was scratched from the lineup.

"We weren't sure how it was going to happen, where we would get him into games," Redmond said of Ichiro. "As you see, there have been places where we can plug him in. What he brings to our ballclub is huge. Maybe Ichiro tonight is what we need to give us that lift, to give us that spark."

WAKING UP THE BATS

The Marlins had a new sign up greeting all visitors upon entry to the clubhouse Tuesday: "DON'T TOUCH BATS!"

Off to a 1-6 start and hitting just .211 with one home run as a team, somebody on the team took it upon themselves to grab roughly 30 to 40 bats and spread them across couches and the floor in the clubhouse. A source said the culprit was leadoff man Dee Gordon, one of the few players on the team off to a hot start.

"Someone just decided to wake all the bats up. Pick em up throw em around," Saltalamacchia said. "

"It’s kind of like a baseball thing if you have a bat in your hand and it drops out of your hand you say, ‘oh, that bat’s awake, let’s use it.’

"I've seen some guys take firecrackers and put it next to the bat to wake it up. Its part of the game, it’s all fun. It doesn’t do anything but some for some guys who are superstitious it might work. Sometimes it’s just something to loosen everybody up."

Redmond, who once took batting practice in the nude when he was a player to try and break the Marlins out of a funk, didn't mind the good-natured joke.

"I'm up for anything," Redmond said. "I'm hoping at this stage I don't have to take my clothes off again. I leave that up to the players now to figure out how to motivate each other. This is a great group of guys. We all know this hasn't started off as we planned.

"The same time, too, we have to turn the page and move on. These guys are in good spirits. I still think the key for us is just to relax. We still have some guys trying too hard, and maybe pressing a bit. It's human nature for guys to want to not only be successful, to help their team. But at the end of the day, the quicker we can relax and just get back to being ourselves and playing our game is when we're going to be able to turn this thing around.

"There's a lot that goes on in the clubhouse from 12 until game time. It's more about consistency. Showing up, being the same guy every day. You need guys to be able to make you laugh, and to have fun, despite where you're at.

"I'd love to say baseball is a game where everything is great all the time, but it isn't. Every team goes through winning streaks, where you're feeling good and high, and losing streaks where you can't seem to do anything right. It's always magnified more at the beginning of the season or the end of the season.

"If this was going through a month from now or two months from now it probably wouldn't be a big deal. Because it comes at the start of the season, it becomes a bigger deal.

"For me, my really only concern is our guys, and make sure they don't get overwhelmed or over-frustrated, and that they stay consistent, and try to get through this together. I think that's the most important thing."

Morse said when he was with the Giants during last year's World Series winning season the team went through a 22-30 stretch in June and July where they saw a 10-game lead in the division evaporate. 

"I'm the wrong guy to talk to about losing," Morse said. "Little things like this I think make our team stronger. The goal is to make the playoffs, not have the most wins in the regular season. At the end of the season there's always a good story about what happened during the season. Maybe this is part of our story."

> Redmond said pitcher David Phelps, who returned home to Pittsburgh to be with his wife who gave birth to a baby boy early Monday, will rejoin the team Thursday in New York. Phelps will start Friday in place of the injured Henderson Alvarez against the Mets. 

"He didn't get there in time. He was about a half hour late," Redmond said of Phelps flight home early Monday morning for the birth of his son Jack. "But everything is going well with the baby. [Phelps is] excited to make that start on Friday."

Carter Capps and his unique delivery getting attention

ATLANTA -- Carter Capps -- and his unique delivery -- is suddenly getting all kinds of attention.

Capps, who made his 89th major-league appearance Monday night against the Braves, has had USA Today, Deadspin and Yahoo write articles on him in the last 24 hours because he hops off the pitching rubber as he throws a pitch.

Note to the rest of the world: Capps has been pitching this way for years.

Last Thursday, Capps' mechanics were called into question down in Triple A New Orleans when umpires ruled his first two pitches of the season illegal because he “disengaged from the pitching rubber too soon.”

The Marlins sought a clarification and Capps came back and made another appearance without umpires having a problem with his delivery. Called up Monday, he pitched a scoreless inning of relief against the Braves -- with no warnings or balk calls. Capps said before Monday's game he shouldn’t have any issues moving forward.

“They said I just have to drag my foot and make sure I don’t get too elevated in the air and make sure there is more on a lateral plane,” Capps said. “As long as I do that, they have no problem with it.

“[The delivery] doesn’t look pretty, obviously. But that’s the first time anybody had a blatant problem with it.’"

Here's video of Capps' delivery from this spring: https://vine.co/v/O0vI99qMItv

April 13, 2015

Henderson Alvarez headed to DL with shoulder injury; Carter Capps on his way up

The news could have been worse -- much worse -- for the Marlins.

As it now stands, Henderson Alvarez will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury after results of MRI's performed Monday were "inconclusive," according to sources. The Marlins will call up right-handed reliever Carter Capps from Triple A New Orleans to fill his roster spot, and slide either David Phelps or Brad Hand into a starting role.

This isn't the first time Alvarez has dealt with a shoulder issue. He missed the first half of the 2013 season with shoulder inflammation and served a 15-day DL stint last August with a shoulder problem. Both times, he returned and pitched well.

Obviously, the Marlins are hoping for similar results following a period of rest for Alvarez.

There were serious concerns Sunday after Alvarez struggled in a loss to the Rays. His velocity was alarmingly lower, and MRI's were ordered for both his shoulder and elbow. He didn't make the trip to Atlanta, and now it appears he'll be out for 15 days at a minimum.

With Capps headed up, the Marlins will have three now players on their roster tonight when they open a 3-game series in Atlanta. Catcher J.T. Realmuto and infielder Reid Brignac will also be added to replace Jeff Mathis and Don Kelly, each of whom suffered broken fingers in Sunday's loss.

The Marlins are also expected to transfer right-hander Aaron Crow -- out for the season following Tommy John surgery -- to the 60-day disabled list in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Brignac.

April 12, 2015

Henderson Alvarez headed for MRI on elbow source says

A bad opening week at home for the Marlins could turn out to be even worse, maybe catastrophic.

According to sources, Opening Day starter Henderson Alvarez is going to have an MRI on his throwing elbow. Our Clark Spencer broke the news on Twitter roughly 10 minutes ago. 

Manager Mike Redmond said Alvarez's velocity was down on Sunday in the 8-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Alvarez was an All-Star last season.

The Marlins (1-5) open a 10-game road trip Monday in Atlanta.