September 01, 2014

Oblique strain leads to early exit for Henderson Alvarez

Henderson Alvarez came out of Monday's outing after throwing only 40 pitches due to what the Marlins announced as a left oblique strain. Though Alvarez is listed as "day-to-day," it's important to consider that only 26 games will remain after today and, well, there would seem to be little point in having him attempt a return before season's end.

But we'll learn more details after the game.

While Alvarez zipped through the Mets lineup the first two innings, retiring all six batters he faced, his fastball velocity was down from where it usually sits, and in the third inning he did nothing right. He gave up a leadoff home run to pint-sized Dilson Herrera -- the infielder's first MLB home run -- a couple of hits and a walk. After giving up a 2-run single to David Wright, the Marlins' coaching and training staff paid a visit to the mound and, after conferring with the pitcher, Alvarez took a beeline to the dugout without throwing a single warmup pitch.

Clearly, losing Alvarez is more bad news for the Marlins, who are running on fumes at the moment.

Other than a solid outing against the Diamondbacks on Aug. 16, Alvarez hasn't been himself over his past three starts, including Monday's, since coming off the disabled list from right shoulder inflammation. In the three most recent starts, Alvarez has given up 12 runs on 21 hits -- including five homers -- in a total of 14 2/3 innings (7.36). So the oblique injury is something that could have been bothering him before Monday.

Brad Hand's exile to the bullpen could end up being brief due to any loss of time to Alvarez. Hand took over in relief Monday and could remain in the rotation if Alvarez is out for any length of time, which would seem likely.

August 31, 2014

Expect only familiar faces for Marlins when rosters expand on Monday

ATLANTA --The Marlins on Sunday traded minor league pitcher Chaz Roe to the Yankees for cash considerations.

Roe, a 27-year old right-hander who was a non-roster invitee to spring training, was 3-3 with a 3.66 ERA for Triple A New Orleans.

President of Baseball Operations Mike Hill said that was the only move the team was expecting to make before Sunday night's waiver trade deadline. In fact, when rosters expand on Monday, Hill said the only new faces we'll probably see in Miami's clubhouse are ones who have already spent time there this season.

"We've always brought fewer players up especially when we're in the race -- players we think will help us win games," President of Baseball Operations Mike Hill said Sunday before the Marlins closed out their road trip against the Braves.

"So obviously the guys we'll see are the guys coming off the disabled list. [Relievers Dan] Jennings and [Carter] Capps. Then, more than likely, a couple arms just to protect you depth wise. We have a double-header later in the month [at Washington on Sept. 26]. Beyond that, an extra catcher, probably a versatile player and maybe a left-handed bat."

The last three players Hill was likely referring to are catcher J.T. Realmuto, second baseman Enrique Hernandez (acquired in the Astros trade) and first baseman Justin Bour. All three have seen time in the big leagues this season with the Marlins.

Realmuto could arrive a little later than the other. Marlins' Double A affiliate Jacksonville -- where Realmuto is playing -- is a pennant race with two games to go in the regular season. The Suns could make the playoffs and if they do Realmuto will remain with his team, Hill said. Triple A affiliate New Orleans is not going the playoffs and the Zephyrs season will end Sunday.

Jennings (six scoreless innings, 8 Ks, 0 BBs) and Capps (3 1/3 scoreless, 4 Ks, 2 BBs) have both pitched games recently with multiple innings for Single A Jupiter. Hill said Capps, whose fastball approaches triple digits, has been explosive since his return to the mound.

"We’re looking forward to getting him back," Hill said of Capps, who last pitched for the Marlins on May 25. "Since we’ll have more pitchers in the pen we won’t overwork any of those guys."

In order to accommodate Capps on the 40-man roster the Marlins will likely move Kevin Gregg to the 60-man disabled list. The Marlins' 40-man roster currently lists 21 pitchers, four catchers, nine infielders and six outfielders.

> Derek Dietrich, who started 43 games for the Marlins over the first three months of the season and still has the most starts by a second baseman for the team this season, could be another player the Marlins bring up.

Sidelined by a wrist injury on July 2, Dietrich returned to action Aug. 17 and played in five rehab games for Jupiter where he hit .313 with a homer and two RBIs. He's played in the six games with New Orleans since being activated from the disabled list and entered the final two games of the season for the Zepherys having gone gone 6-for-21 with a solo home run, three strikeouts and a stolen base.

SOLANO SHINES

Second base remains a position of intrigue for the Marlins entering the final month of the season. Although seven players have started there this season, Donovan Solano has started to become a consistent  contributor there now that he's playing regularly.

Solano drove in two runs and had three hits in Saturday's 4-0 win including a solo home run. Counting Sunday's scheduled start, Solano has made 31 of the team's last 51 starts at second base and has hit .274 with two homers, 13 RBI and .333 on base percentage since July 1. The first three months of the season, he made just 11 starts and hit .186 with one homer and eight RBI as a utility man.

"It's good for me to play more continually," Solano said. "You feel better, you feel more comfortable. It's not like it's just one opportunity. It's more fun, less thinking."

Hill said Solano has done a good job taking advantage of his opportunity. But it's obvious Marlins still would like to get a look at Hernandez at some point. The free agent market next season isn't very appealing at second base and Hernandez can hit.

He's batting .254 with two homers and five RBI in 18 games (10 games at second base, five at shortstop and one at third base) for the Zephrys since being sent there on Aug. 13. Hernandez was hitting .337 with eight homers and 31 RBI for the Astros' Triple A team before the Marlins acquired him.

"He can hit. That’s always a nice start when they can hit," Hill said. "He’s young and athletic and can do a lot of things. We like him. We’ll see how he fits with us moving forward. But he’s young and most importantly he’s controllable, which fits as we try to make a roster."

> Hill said the Marlins can't really put their finger on what's led to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (13 errors) and first baseman Garrett Jones (13 errors) having their worst defensive seasons in the majors.

"I know both have put in the work to be good defensive players and they’re not historically bad defensive players," Hill said. "We don’t know what to chalk it up to, but we know that we need to get it better. And they know they need to get better."

As for their struggles offensively, Hill said: "I think we’ve seen glimpses of what they both bring and what we thought we were getting in signing both of them. I think their ups and downs have contributed to an inconsistent offense. When you see us rolling you see production form both of those guys, you see production from a lot of our guys."

August 30, 2014

Marlins not getting enough help from vets Saltalamacchia, Jones; Penny to start Tuesday

When the Marlins invested more than $32 million on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, first baseman Garrett Jones and second baseman Rafael Furcal the idea wasn't only for them to provide veteran leadership. It was also to get some production from them in important games and situations.

Furcal, shelved for all but nine games, has been a complete waste of $3.5 million. Saltalamacchia, making $21 million over three years, and Jones, making $7.75 over two years, have provided help at times. But a game like Friday's 5-2 loss to the Braves serves as an example of how Saltalamacchia and Jones have also let the Marlins down, too.

Saltalamacchia, averaging a strikeout once every three at bats (the eighth highest percentage in baseball this season), whiffed three times Friday including with a runner on second in the sixth inning when the Marlins had a chance to expand a slim 1-0 lead.

Jones, meanwhile, made his 13th error of the season. He also struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning, and had what should have been a double play ball go right through his glove in the seventh inning in a 2-2 game. The Braves took advantage and scored three runs after Jones' miscue to pull away.

"I know that probably nobody feels worse for not making that play than him," manager Mike Redmond said of Jones. "He’s a competitor, he's a great teammate. He’s a big part of this team. Sometimes that happens. You go through some ups and downs, both offensively and defensively. That’s why you rely on your teammates to pick you up."

The problem is Jones and Saltalamacchia haven't really been carrying their weight enough.

Jones' 13 errors are four more than the next worst first baseman in baseball (the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo has nine). His wins above replacement rating (WAR) is the worst of his career (-0.9). He's also hitting only .230 with runners in scoring position.

Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, has also made 13 errors (he had 13 for the Red Sox in 2012 and 2013 combined). He's also hitting a paltry .184 with runners in scoring position (he hit .252 last year) and his WAR (0.5) is only better than three catchers with at least 290 at-bats this season.

Both players are due raises next season with Saltalamacchia on the hook to make $7 million and Jones to make $5 million.

The Marlins' top five players in WAR are the guys who don't have playoff experience. They are: Giancarlo Stanton (6.2), Henderson Alvarez (3.7), Marcell Ozuna (3.4), Christian Yelich (3.3) and Tom Koehler (2.3).

PENNY TO START TUESDAY

Redmond decided Saturday on making veteran Brad Penny Tuesday's starter against the Mets. 

Penny, 36, made his last start Aug. 14 against Arizona and had been regulated to the bullpen after Brad Hand was chosen to be the team's fifth starter over the last two turns through the rotation.

Redmond said the Marlins plan on keeping the fifth starter's spot in the rotation open from start to start.

"He’s done a nice job," Redmond said of Penny. "He's been consistent. He’s thrown strikes. And hes been in big games and big situations and he’s earned it."

EOVALDI LOOKING TO BOUNCE BACK

Sunday starter Nathan Eovaldi, 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA over his last three starts, is hoping the Braves serve as an elixir for his struggles.

Eovaldi is 2-2 with a 2.35 in 10 career starts against Atlanta. The only team he's posted numbers against in his career (minimum four starts) is San Diego (1-1, 2.31 ERA).

"They've just been hitting the fastball," Eovaldi said of his struggles. "|'m just trying to mix in the off-speed pitches to get them off the fastball. I'm not throwing it enough for strikes."

August 29, 2014

Fantasy football season has returned to the Marlins clubhouse, plus updates on Jennings, Capps and Morris

ATLANTA – Fantasy football season has officially made its way back into the Marlins clubhouse.

The team held its annual fantasy draft Thursday night inside their hotel and "it was pretty mellow compared to years past," reliever Mike Dunn said.

Pitcher Jarred Cosart, who joined the Marlins at the trade deadline, drew the first pick and took Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. It's a decision he was still getting razzed over Friday before the Marlins kicked off an important three-game series against the Braves.

Other participants in this year's Marlins fantasy league include infielder Ed Lucas, outfielders Reed Johnson and Christian Yelich, third baseman Casey McGehee, catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Mathis and pitchers Tom Koehler and Brad Hand.

"Last night was funny because everybody was locked into computers and trying to figure things out," said Dunn, who took Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning with his first round pick, sixth overall. "It gets intense. Salty flew his brother in for the series, but he really brought him in a day early to help him with the draft."

Dunn said this was the fourth year he’s participated in the fantasy draft. Reliever Chris Hatcher has joined him to become co-owner of Dunn's team. They’re called the Git-R-Dunns.

Dunn said outfielder Justin Ruggiano, now with the Cubs, won last year’s title and reliever Chad Qualls, now with the Astros, finished second.

"It's different every year especially when you got different guys playing and you don't know how they're going to draft," Dunn said. "Last year I had a bunch of good players on my bench and people were pissed because I wasn't trading them. Ruggiano wanted to make trades as soon as the draft was done.”

Saltalamacchia said he took Lions receiver Calvin Johnson with his first pick. He still hasn't decided on a team name.

"It's always a good for guys to get together and do something outside of dinner or coming to the ballpark," Saltalamacchia said. "Plus it keeps us in touch in the off-season. This is definitely not the rowdiest draft I've been to. It was calm and quiet. But it was still a lot of fun to do a little trash talking."

A HELPFUL ADJUSTMENT

Credit pitching coach Chuck Hernandez with helping Cosart, Saturday's starter, find his groove again. The two know each other from their days in Philadelphia when Hernandez spent half a year with Cosart in the Gulf Coast League.

Cosart was 1-2 with an 8.02 ERA in July when he was still with the Astros. He's 2-1 with a 2.08 in four starts since joining the Marlins.

"He's had a few little things, mechanically, that have really helped me get back into the strike zone on a more consistent basis," Cosart said. "Just little stuff with my upper half, staying more compact, stuff like that. Keeping things simple. I think that did wonders for me."

JENNINGS, CAPPS ON MEND

Manager Mike Redmond said the plan for the Marlins is to bring back relievers Dan Jennings and Carter Capps once rosters expand on Monday.

Capps has pitched two-thirds of a scoreless inning twice in the past week in the Florida Gulf Coast League, and is scheduled to pitch in Single A Jupiter Saturday. Jennings, who appears closer to a return than Capps, made his fourth appearance for Jupiter Friday night.

> Redmond said the Marlins are hoping to have reliever Bryan Morris back when the team returns home from their nine-day road trip on Monday. Morris left Tuesday's game against the Angels with a strained groin and with rosters expanding there is no need for the Marlins to put Morris on the disabled list should he need it.

August 26, 2014

Bryan Morris returning to Miami with hip injury

ANAHEIM -- Bryan Morris is returning to Miami to have his right hip examined, a potentially devastating injury for the Marlins if it causes the reliever to miss extended time.

Morris, who was seen leaving the team's clubhouse in street clothes on Tuesday as the Marlins were beginning to take batting practice, informed club officials that he was experiencing discomfort in his hip.

"We're going to get it checked out, so I don't want to jump to any conclusions," said Michael Hill, the Marlins' president of baseball operations. "But, at the moment, I don't think it's anything major."

Morris, who last pitched in Colorado on Saturday, has arguably been the Marlins' top reliever ever since being acquired from the Pirates in June. In 35 appearances for the Marlins, Morris is 3-0 with a 0.48 ERA. He has allowed only two earned runs in 37 2/3 innings.

"Obviously, he's been a big part of our bullpen success," Hill said.

Hill said the Marlins had no immediate plans to promote anyone from the minors, but that could change.

"With the off day (on Thursday), we have (Brad) Penny and (Brad) Hand that can move to the pen," Hill said. "And then rosters expand Monday. If we can avoid not doing anything, we will. But if we need to get another arm here, obviously we will. I hope it's only a couple of days."

August 25, 2014

Marcell Ozuna moves to cleanup spot

ANAHEIM -- After watching his lineup come up short in Denver more often than he would have liked, manager Mike Redmond decided it was time to shake things up -- moving Marcell Ozuna into the cleanup position and dropping Casey McGehee into the fifth spot -- as the Marlins prepared to open a three-game series against the Angels.

"He's driving in runs and getting big hits," Redmond said of Ozuna, "and it seems like a perfect time to get our hottest hitter behind 'G' (Giancarlo Stanton). We've had a tough time driving in those runs, and we need to drive those runs in to win ballgames."

After enjoying a huge first half when he led the majors in hitting with runners in scoring position, McGehee has been unable to match that success the second half. He's drive in only two runs since July 27. Ozuna, on the other hand, has been on a tear, hitting .478 (11 for 23 with three homers) over the past seven games.

"When you've got a guy swinging the bat like 'O,' you try to get him in situations where he can drive in the most amount of runs," Redmond said. "Maybe that'll help 'G' get a few more pitches to hit."

Redmond said the lineup shuffling might also help get McGehee back on track, too.

"Sometimes just moving a spot makes a difference, gets him going, and gets him back on track," Redmond said.

While Ozuna hasn't hit cleanup this season, he spent a fair amount of time in the fourth spot as a rookie last season. He hit .255 (42 for 165), but had a low OPS of .637 and did not homer when hitting in the fourth spot.

 _________________

 With another off day looming on Thursday, Redmond said he'll only use his top four starters until he has to turn to a fifth -- either Brad Hand or Brad Penny -- on Tuesday of next week.

 _________________

 Jeff Baker had a solid series at the plate in Denver. But it was another story entirely whenever he was required to put his body in motion.

Baker came out of two of his starts due to sinus issues that he believes were made even worse by the altitude. Baker, who went 4 for 10 with three doubles in the Rockies series, was taken out of Friday's and Sunday's games when the sinus pressure became unbearable.

"Anytime there is exertion, the heart rate goes up from running around and the pressure builds up," Baker said. "The pressure around my right eye was so bad (Sunday) that I couldn't see. It's scary. It gets bad."

After he doubled and scored in Sunday's seventh inning, Baker was replaced at second by Donovan Solano in the Rockies' seventh.

"Hopefully in Anaheim it'll be good," said Baker, who was in Monday's starting lineup.

________________

Tonight's lineups:

Marlins: 1. Christian Yelich 7; 2. Jeff Baker 3; 3. Giancarlo Stanton 9; 4. Marcell Ozuna 8; 5. Casey McGehee 5; 6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia 2; 7. Adeiny Hechavarria 6; 8. Donovan Solano 4; 9. Reed Johnson DH. Pitching: Jarred Cosart.

Angels: 1. Kole Calhoun 9; 2. Mike Trout 8; 3. Albert Pujols 3; 4. Josh Hamilton dh; 5. Howie Kendrick 4; 6. David Freese 5; 7. Erick Aybar 6; 8. Chris Iannetta 2; 9. Collin Cowgill 7. Pitching: Wade LeBlanc.

August 24, 2014

Marlins lack finishing kick in marathons

DENVER -- Shortly after the clock struck midnight back home on the East Coast last night, the Marlins turned into pumpkins and lost a 5-4 decision in 13 innings to the Rockies -- the last-place Colorado Rockies. Steve Cishek game up a game-tying tape-measure home run in the ninth to Corey Dickerson before Sam Dyson lost it in the 13th on a Dickerson RBI single.

And so instead of advancing to within three games of the wild-card leaders and improving to two games over .500 for the first time since June, the Marlins remained at four out and returned to the ho-hum .500 level.

So much for the Marlins' 1-run magic. While it was easy to point the finger at Cishek and the fact last night's outcome provided further indication of his difficult August in which batters are hitting .417 (15 for 36) against him, just as much blame could be assigned to a lineup that struck out 16 times, left 15 men on base, and pretty much went silent at the end.

All of it added up to a stinging defeat against a team the Marlins were hoping to sweep and must now defeat this afternoon just to win the series.

It also added up to yet another loss in a marathon consuming more than four hours (4:28 to be exact).

While the Marlins are 9-10 in extra-inning games this season, a closer examination reveals it's the extra-long ones -- games of 13 innings or longer in duration -- that have been their greatest undoing. They are now 0-6 in such marathons, with five of those coming in June. If you throw in a loss to the Dodgers on May 3, which was over in nine innings but took 4:07 to complete, the Marlins are 0-7 in games lasting four hours or longer.

No wonder the Marlins are at the forefront of the push to speed up games.

Then again, last night's game would have never made it to the 13th had Adeiny Hechavarria made this ridiculous, game-saving catch in the 12th on Justin Morneau's shallow fly ball with two outs and runners at the corners:

August 23, 2014

Base runners add up to big night for Marlins

DENVER -- Henderson Alvarez was left shaking his head after the Marlins erupted for a 13-5 win over the Rockies last night. Coors Field has a way of doing that to pitchers, and Alvarez was no exception.

"It's crazy," Alvarez said of pitching in the ballpark, which is not conducive to low ERA's.

Alvarez and the Marlins emerged victorious even though the pitcher was in battle mode throughout, giving up 10 hits, including a pair of two-run homers over six innings.

Pitching at altitude for the first time, Alvarez said he experienced shortness of breath while on the mound.

Colorado's pitchers were likely a bit winded, too. After all, the Marlins kept them occupied by putting 26 runners on base by base hit, walk or hit batsman. According to baseballreference.com, that's the most base runners for the Marlins in a 9-inning game since 2008 when they put 30 aboard at -- you guess it -- Coors Field in an 18-17 loss to Colorado.

The Marlins on Friday totaled 16 hits, walked nine times and recorded one hit batsman when (who else?) Reed Johnson was plunked by a pitch.

The 26 Marlins to reach base tied for 10th-most on the franchise's all-time list in a 9-inning game.

August 21, 2014

Does winning a bunch of one-run games pay off?

The Marlins went into their off-day Thursday leading the majors in walk-off wins (11), one-run wins (32) and wins in their last at-bat (21). 

So does being great at winning tight games pay off? History shows us the majority of the teams that have won at least 32 one-run games in a season since 1993 have gone on to do some good things.

A dozen made the playoffs, two won the World Series (2005 White Sox and 1997 Marlins) and seven reached the League Championship Series. Only one of those 22 teams finished with a losing record: the 2000 Marlins, who wound up third in the NL East at 79-82.

Here's the list of the 23 teams since 1993 that have won at least 32 one-run games during the season. Remember, the Marlins (63-63) have 36 games left on the slate. The record for the most one-run wins in a season belongs to the 1978 Giants (42-26). They finished 89-73 and third in the NL West.

1. 1993 Royals 38-32. Finished 84-78 and 3rd in the AL West
2. 1993 Braves 37-22. Finished 104-58 and lost to the Phillies in NLCS
3. 2005 White Sox 35-19. Finished 99-63 and won the World Series
4. 2009 Mariners 35-20. Finished 85-77 and 3rd in the AL West
5. 1998 Mets 35-26. Finished 88-74 and 2nd in NL East
6. 2013 Diamondbacks 34-21. Finished 81-81 and 2nd in NL West
7. 2002 Dodgers 33-15. Finished 92-70 and 3rd in NL West
8. 2004 A's 33-19. Finished 99-66 and lost to the Twins in ALDS
9. 1997 Braves 33-20. Finished 101-61 and lost to the Marlins in the NLCS
10. 2011 Giants 33-22. Finished 86-76 and 2nd in NL West
11. 1996 Dodgers 33-23. Finished 90-72 and lost to the Braves in NLDS
12. 1996 Expos 33-23. Finished 88-74 and 2nd in NL East
13. 2005 Angels 33-26. Finished 95-67 and lost to White Sox in ALCS
14. 2002 A's 32-14. Finished 103-59 and lost to the Twins in ALDS
15. 2004 Dodgers 32-16. Finished 93-69 and lost to the Cardinals in NLDS
16. 2014 Marlins 32-19. Currently 63-63 and 3 games back in the Wild Card race
17. 2007 Diamondbacks 32-20. Finished 90-72 and lost to the to Rockies in NLCS
18. 2000 Marlins 32-20. Finished 79-82 and 3rd in NL East
19. 2006 A's 32-22. Finished 93-69 and lost to Tigers in ALCS
20. 1997 Marlins 32-22. Finished 92-70 and won the World Series
21. 1996 Padres 32-23. Finished 91-71 and lost to the Cardinals in NLDS
22. 2000 Angels 32-23. Finished 82-80 and 3rd in AL West
23. 1993 Expos 32-24. Finished 94-68 and 2nd in NL East

MARLINS HISTORY (MOST ONE-RUN GAMES IN A SEASON)

1. 1993 Marlins 62, 25-37
2. 1998 Marlins 60, 31-29
3. 2011 Marlins 59, 27-32
4. 2013 Marlins 59, 24-35
5. 1997 Marlins 54, 32-22
6. 2003 Marlins 53, 30-23
7. 2000 Marlins 52, 32-20
8. 2012 Marlins 52, 26-26
9. 2014 Marlins 51, 32-19
10. 2010 Marlins 50, 23-28
11. 2009 Marlins 50, 30-20

August 20, 2014

Yelich, Ozuna red-hot at the plate as the Marlins head out on 9-game road trip

The Marlins are hitting the road for an important nine-game road trip beginning Friday in Colorado and Giancarlo Stanton isn't the only hot bat they're taking with them.

His outfield mates have been catching fire of late.

Left fielder Christian Yelich recorded his third straight three-hit game in Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers, completing an impressive home stand in which he hit .514 (19 for 37) with six runs, four doubles and two RBI.

Center fielder Marcell Ozuna, who was hitting .170 with only six RBI in his first 26 games after the All-Star Break, closed out the final six games of the Marlins' homestand 9-for-23 and with home runs in back-to-back games against the Rangers.

"He's a streaky guy and this would be a heck of a time for him to get on a big streak," Redmond said of Ozuna, who is now hitting .261 with 18 homers and 65 RBI on the season. "It looks like maybe he's starting."

Yelich's success is just a continuation of what he did in July when his 33 hits were the most in a single month his career. Back on June 6 he was hitting .240. After his three hits Wednesday his average is now .288.

"I haven't changed anything," Yelich said of his approach at the plate. "The stuff is finding holes. It's how baseball works. You can be hitting line drives right at people's chests and people think you're struggling. Or you can just have the ball find holes and people ask 'Well what's going different for you?' You kind of just try and ride it out as long as you can."

> Redmond said after Wednesday's game left-hander Brad Hand will start Sunday in Colorado over veteran right-hander Brad Penny.