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72 posts from May 2008

May 23, 2008

No More "0" in Zito

         Fredi Gonzalez was foggy on the details, unable to remember if it was Chris Seddon and Daniel Barone who defeated John Smoltz and Tim Hudson last season or whether it was some other tandem (it was Wes Obermueller and Rick VandenHurk). But his point was this: never trust a mismatch on paper.

         Barry Zito -- as in the Giants hurler formerly known as Barry "0-8" Zito -- is winless no more after pitching San Francisco to a victory over the Marlins earlier tonight. That mild shocker occured two days after unheralded Ricky Nolasco posted the win over previously unbeaten Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb, who was 9-0.

         The Marlins, especially Scott Olsen, weren't a pretty sight on Friday. Olsen looked completely out of whack and readily admitted as much afterward telling reporters he "had nothing" and "got killed."

         But nobody felt as bad as reserve outfielder Brett Carroll, who was subbing for Jeremy Hermida in right and was making his first start of the season. Carroll slammed into the wall while giving futile chase to Aaron Rowand's home run in the fourth, injuring his right shoulder and ending up groggy due to the impact. His arm was in a sling afterward and he'll be headed for the disabled list.

        The Marlins aren't exactly flush with outfielders in their minor-league system, which makes their decision to hook Jacque Jones look all the more timely. John Gall, who is hitting over .300 at Triple A Albuquerque, looms as a strong candidate to receive a promotion and take Carroll's spot on the roster.


Lineups -- Marlins/Giants (Friday)

             Jacque Jones was in uniform for the Marlins on Friday, but not in their starting lineup. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Jones would start Saturday when the Marlins face Giants right-hander Matt Cain. After that, Gonzalez said Jones would assume Alfredo Amezaga's platoon role in center with Cody Ross, spot start at the corner outfield positions, and be used off the bench as a pinch-hitter and late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield.

            With left-hander Barry Zito going Friday for the Giants, Brett Carroll received the start in right, spelling Jeremy Hermida.

            Marlins: SS Hanley Ramirez, CF Cody Ross, 3B Jorge Cantu, 1B Mike Jacobs, 2B Dan Uggla, LF Luis Gonzalez, C Matt Treanor, RF Brett Carroll, P Scott Olsen.

            Giants: LF Fred Lewis, 3B Jose Castillo, RF Randy Winn, C Bengie Molina, CF Aaron Rowand, 2B Ray Durham, 1B Rich Aurilia, SS Omar Vizquel, P Barry Zito.

            Umps: Home Tim Welke, 1B Chuck Meriwether, 2B Bill Welke, 3B Dan Guccione

Marlins at 46

       A euphoria surrounds the Marlins at the moment, and why not? They swept the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, maintained their first-place hold in the division, and proved they can hang with the big boys after skeptics scoffed at their soft early schedule.

      They're 27-19, which is the second-best record any Marlins team has had at the 46-game mark. By comparison, only three previous Marlins clubs had winning records at this juncture, and each of those teams finished above .500.

      Year                 46-game Record                  Final Record (Outcome)

      1997                       28-18                              92-70 (Won WS)

      2004                       26-20                              83-79 (3rd in East)

      2005                       26-20                              83-79 (3rd in East)

      But a winning season is not automatic at this point. I examined the previous three seasons and found 21 teams -- exactly seven per year -- that had a record equal to or better than the Marlins' current 27-19 mark at this precise stage. Of those, 17 ended up with winning records and 10 -- not quite half -- reached the playoffs.

      Four of the quick starters from 2005-07 went into freefalls and landed below .500. Those teams were the 2005 Diamondbacks (from 27-19 to 77-85), the 2005 Orioles (from 30-16 to 74-88), the 2006 Reds (from 27-19 to 80-82), and the 2006 Diamondbacks (from 27-19 to 76-86).

     Anyone wish to take a stab at what the Marlins' final record will be, and why?


May 22, 2008

Here Comes Jacque Jones


       Following Thursday's game, the Marlins announced that newly acquired outfielder Jacque Jones would be added to the roster in time for Friday's game against the San Francisco Giants.

       To make room for Jones, the Marlins optioned infielder Robert Andino to Triple A Albuquerque.

       Jones might not start right away as center fielder Alfredo Amezaga went 3 for 3 on Thursday against the Diamondbacks and appears to be swinging the bat better.

Hanley Back to Leadoff


        Hanley Ramirez not only returned to the starting lineup on Thursday, but was back in the leadoff spot. Ramirez, apparently, isn't taking anything for granted. He was out for early batting practice with a group of bench players, including Brett Carroll, Robert Andino and Mike Rabelo.

       Ramirez, who is mired in a 1 for 17 slump, didn't play Wednesday. He hasn't hit from the top spot since May 1. His hitting numbers have suffered since being dropped into the third spot, just as they did when the Marlins tried him there last season.

       In 115 at bats in the leadoff spot this season, Ramirez is hitting .322 with eight home runs, 19 RBI and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .987. In 56 at bats hitting third, he is hitting .268 with one home run, four RBI and an OPS of .743.

       Here's tonight's Marlins lineup, with the Diamondbacks to follow once posted:

       SS Hanley Ramirez, RF Jeremy Hermida, 3B Jorge Cantu, 1B Mike Jacobs, 2B Dan Uggla, LF Luis Gonzalez, C Matt Treanor, CF Alfredo Amezaga, P Andrew Miller.


      CF Chris Young, SS Stephen Drew, 2B Orlando Hudson, 1B Conor Jackson, RF Justin Upton, C Chris Snyder, LF Chris Burke, 3B Augie Ojeda, P Dan Haren.


May 21, 2008

A little Wiley wisdom

Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley’s words of encouragement (or whatever they were) might have saved the seventh tonight. Ricky Nolasco, who pitched his best game siince the 2006 season, looked wild when he started the inning by walking Justin Upton and sailing the first pitch high to Eric Byrnes. That’s when Wiley went to the mound with some words.

We don't know what the words were -- or if they were suitable for print -- but they got Nolasco's attention.

It worked. Nine of Nolasco’s next 10 pitches were strikes. He struck out Byrnes on a 1-2 changeup, got ahead of Mark Reynolds 0-2 before getting a pop-out and finished the inning by striking out Chris Snyder on three pitches.

Gonzo and cutting the cord

        When Luis Gonzalez got to his locker Wednesday a message was hanging there for him to read: “Cut the Cord.”

The joke of course had to do with Gonzo’s hanging out and talking to some of his old Arizona teammates on the field before Tuesday’s Arizona-Marlins game.

It didn’t take Gonzalez long to detect where the message came from, and he promptly removed the sign and hung it on Logan Kensing’s locker.

“It doesn’t take long to figure it out in the clubhouse,’’ he said. “They're not that many guys who would do something like this.

“There are always guys like that. Logan is a quiet assassin, kind of like Ryne Sandberg. We used to ride to the games together and it took me a while to figure out he was a prankster. As a Hall of Famer he’s really a good prankster. He used to freeze your shower shoes. He would get them, pour water on them and freeze them. You stepped into them and they were two blocks of ice.’’

Someone in the clubhouse then remarked: “That’s probably the only time Logan Kensing and Ryne Sandberg’s name will be in the same sentence.’’


     With Hanley Ramirez out of the lineup for a day of rest, Fredi tinkered with his lineup, moving Jorge Cantu into Ramirez’s third spot, and putting Cody Ross in center field and the eighth spot in the lineup. Alfredo Amezaga stayed in the leadoff spot and replaced Hanley at short.

            Of course, the Marlins are facing Brandon Webb, who is trying to become the first pitcher to go 10-0 in his first 10 starts since Andy Hawkins of the 1985 Padres.

The Marlins have hit Webb in the past, and his 5.05 ERA against them is his highest ERA against any team in the National League.

Here are the lineups


Amezaga SS

Hermida RF

Cantu 3B

Jacobs 1B

Uggla 2B

Gonzalez LF

Treanor C

Ross CF



Young CF

Drew SS

Hudson 2B

Jackson 1B

Upton RF

Byrnes LF

Reynolds 3B

Snyder C

Webb p

Hanley gets a day off

Hanley Ramirez didn’t ask for it, but he was given the day off Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“He’s the manager. There’s nothing I can do about it,’’ said Ramirez. “It gives me a chance to relax, watch the game and cheer for the guys.

“He (Gonzalez) just said he was going to give me a day off today. Hopefully, not tomorrow,’’ he said. “I will go to the cage, take some (extra) batting practice and try to fix what I’ve been doing bad, and start (all over) tomorrow.

Ramirez’s batting average has dropped 34 points in the last 10 games. He is in a funk lately and has only one hit in his last 15 at-bats. He has struck out 10 times over that span.

Gonzalez said everything is just going wrong for Ramirez, and that he takes balls that are called strikes and swings at pitches that are balls.

“It seems like every pitch he takes on the borderline is a strike right now,’’ Gonzalez said.

“Yeah, that’s the way it is right now,’’ Ramirez said. “When you are hot those pitches are called balls. Right now everything is going bad for me. But we are winning and I’m happy for that. If I was doing bad and the team was doing bad, I would feel differently. But we’re still in first place, and that’s where everybody wants to be.

“Sometimes you just want to give him a breath of fresh air,’’ said Gonzalez, who told Ramirez after Tuesday’s game. “I told him to come in today and if he wants to take practice fine. I know he was in the video room working on some things with (hitting coach Jim Presley) looking at some videos and trying to make some adjustments.

“It’s no big deal,’’ he said. “It’s just one of those things in the course of a long season you may start pressing… and you take the fastball down the middle and start swinging at the curveball in the dirt.

Sometimes you just give him a little mental break, and usually that jumpstarts him the next day,’’ he said. “He said he wanted to play, but I said no, take a little breather. But he is fine.’’

“He struck out three times last night, and maybe he could have walked four times,’’ he said.

There has been speculation that Ramirez has been pressing since agreeing to a six-year $70 million deal, and there is also speculation that Ramirez is better in the leadoff spot. He was moved to the third spot in the order May 7. His numbers are much better in the leadoff spot, and Gonzalez is leaning more and more every day about moving him back to the leadoff spot.

Tuesday Gonzalez said he “wouldn’t rule it out,’’ and on Wednesday Gonzalez said “it’s 50-50 on whether he will move Ramirez back to the leadoff spot.

May 20, 2008

Willingham out for at least another month

Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham is expected to be out for at least another month, and possibly longer.

Willingham flew to Los Angeles Sunday and was examined by Dr. Robert G. Watkins, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon who specialize in back problems.

"He's the Dr. James Andrews of backs,'' said Willingham, who had an MRI Monday.

"He told me it was a herniated disc, which is the same problem I have had (since last year),'' Willingham said. "But I felt better seeing him. He has a core program of measuring strength, and I am at Level 1. I won't resume baseball activity until I reach Level 5 of his core program.

"He didn't put a timetable on it, but he said three weeks before resumiing any baseball activity. It could be before then,'' Willingham said.

Willingham, who missed the last week of the season last year with soreness in his back and has had problems with the back in the past, said Watkins "did not rule out surgery,'' but added that option would be a last resort.

If it takes three weeks before Willingham does any baseball activity, it will be more than a month before anyone could realistically expect him to be back in the lineup.

Willingham has been on the disabled list with a sprained back since May 2.