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37 posts from February 2009

February 19, 2009

For a Few (Million) Dollars More

        JUPITER -- The Marlins saved at least $12 million by trading Kevin Gregg, Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen and Mike Jacobs, four arbitration-eligible players who have all signed with their new teams. Willingham was the last member of that alumni group to have his contract resolved when he and the Nationals settled Wednesday for $2.95 million.

              The ink is also dry on Gregg (Cubs, $4.2 million), Olsen (Nationals, $2.8 million) and Jacobs (Royals, $3.25 million). The Jacobs deal proves once again that power pays. The one-dimensional first baseman (bad fielder, slow runner, low on-base percentage) clearly benefitted from the jetstream effect with his 32 home runs last season, nearly double his previous season's output.              .


February 18, 2009

Morning Medicine

            Saw something I've never seen before on my way into Marlins camp this morning. Hanley Ramirez was playing catch with infielder Emilio Bonifacio -- with a medicine ball. Apparently, Ramirez's fitness kick is for real. Not only was he heaving the heavy ball back and forth with Bonifacio, but he was doing so while wearing a weighted vest.

           Ramirez told reporters a couple of days ago that he added upper body strength over the winter by working out two hours a day, five days a week, with one hour spent in the gym and another swimming laps in the pool. His reported 20- to 25-lb. weight gain is a matter of some debate, but his torso is clearly thicker.

          Just wondering how it'll all play out on the field. Is a 40-40 season in the works? Or will his stolen base totals slip another notch as they did last season when he went from back-to-back seasons of 51 steals to "just" 35 in '09? At least, finally, Fredi Gonzalez all but confirmed what Ramirez told a couple of us over the weekend, that he'll drop to third in the order.    

February 17, 2009

First Full Squad: News, Notes and Observations

             Telling sight. When infielders broke into groups on Tuesday, Dallas McPherson was relegated to "B" squad status while Emilio Bonifacio worked out at third base with Jorge Cantu and the rest of the frontliners. The "A" team of infielders consisted of Gaby Sanchez and Wes Helms at first, Dan Uggla and Andy Gonzalez at second, Hanley Ramirez and Alfredo Amezaga at short, and Cantu and Bonifacio at third.

            McPherson, meanwhile, worked out at first base on another field with Logan Morrison and John Lindsey. Manny Mayorson was stationed at second, with Robert Andino at short and Matt Dominguez and Chris Coghlan at third.

            -- Fredi Gonzalez confirmed that righty reliever Jose Ceda, who has not thrown the past three days, has a minor shoulder "issue" and will not throw again for four or five days.

           -- Sean West nearly drilled Jeremy Hermida in the helmet with a fastball, causing Hermida to curse.West said his batting practice pitch "got away" from him and he would have been just as upset -- if not more -- if he was Hermida.

          -- Renyel Pinto and Kiko Calero made it official. Neither reliever will be participating in the World Baseball Classic, Pinto for Venezuela or Calero for Puerto Rico.

          -- The Marlins are on the field Wednesday about 10 a.m. It remains free and open to the public.

Marlins Extend Contract of Manager Fredi Gonzalez through 2011


              JUPITER -- The Marlins have extended manager Fredi Gonzalez's contract through the 2011 season. The announcement was made Tuesday by Larry Beinfest, the Marlins' president of baseball operations.

              Gonzalez, 45, was entering the final year of a three-year contract when he agreed to the extension.

              "We feel like everything's headed in the right direction here with him at the helm," Beinfest said.

             Said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria in a prepared statement: "Fredi's ability to work closely with our players and staff has made us a better organization and I look forward to future success with Fredi at the helm."

            Gonzalez, who was born in Cuba and raised in Miami, took over as manager after Joe Girardi was fired following the 2006 season.

            Players were told about Gonzalez's new contract just before they took the field for their first full-squad workout of spring training.

           Gonzalez said Loria offered him the extension on Saturday.

           "I don't think I let him finish the sentence," Gonzalez said. "I said, 'Yes.'"

           The 2007 Marlins went 71-91 in what was Gonzalez's first year managing a major league club before improving to 84-77 last year.


February 16, 2009

Marlins Going Slow With Ceda

               JUPITER -- Every pitcher in camp -- save for Jose Ceda -- has thrown at least two of the first three days, if not all three. But Ceda did not throw either Sunday or Monday, and he might not throw to hitters on Tuesday when the Marlins conduct their first full-squad workout.

              Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the hard-throwing Ceda, whom the Marlins obtained from the Cubs in the Kevin Gregg deal, is fine physically. But one member of the organization said Ceda is not in tip-top shape and, with the extra week of spring training due to the World Baseball Classic, the decision was made not to rush him.

             Either way, Ceda, who has taken part in all of the other drills, is expected to open the season in the minors. The 22-year-old reliever reached the Double A level in the Cubs' system last season and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.              

Jay Gibbons Reports, Answers the Questions

JUPITER – Jay Gibbons spent seven seasons in the majors, but admitted Monday that he was as jittery as a rookie when he showed up for spring training with the Marlins. It’s not hard to understand why.

Gibbons hasn't played in the majors since 2007. That’s the year his life turned upside down. He hit .230, his name ended up in the Mitchell Report, and he later admitted to receiving Human Growth Hormone. The Orioles cut him at the end of spring training last year even though he was still owed $12 million for the final two years of his contract.

“I’m excited. I’m nervous,” said Gibbons, who signed a minor-league contract but is given a strong chance of sticking with the Marlins as a fourth outfielder. “It feels like I’m a rookie again.”

Gibbons said hitting .230 in ’07 had more do with missing all of ’08 at the big-league level than did the allegations and subsequent admission, which landed him a 15-day suspension – a penalty that he said was erased last year.

“I played terrible,” Gibbons said. “If I hadn’t played terrible in ’07, I would have had a job in ’08.”

Of course, Gibbons was paying close attention when Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids following a Sports Illustrated report that he tested positive for steroids in 2003.

“The whole thing’s sad to me,” Gibbons said. “You’ve got the greatest player in the game. I have to say I feel for him a little bit.”

Gibbons told reporters he wants to put his past behind him and receive a fresh start.

“It does feel like it’s been a long time since I played,” he said. “It was definitely hard to watch on TV (last season). It was a tough year in that aspect.”


February 15, 2009

Pinto, Calero on WBC Fence

          JUPITER -- Foggy morning here for spring training, Day 3. Just a couple of updates to get things started.

          Renyel Pinto, who said Friday he did not plan to participate in the World Baseball Classic for the home country (in his case, Venezuela), said he's now a "maybe" for the tournament. The reason: at least three members of the Venezuelan baseball delegation, including the general manager and pitching coach, phoned Pinto and urged him to reconsider. Pinto had wanted to remain in camp with the Marlins in order to focus on the regular season. He'll wait to decide.

         Pinto isn't the only one. Non-roster invitee Kiko Calero, a veteran reliever, is also considering his options. Calero is on the provisional roster for Puerto Rico and would like to take part. He said his experience in the inaugural WBC in '06 was more memorable to him than pitching in the 2004 World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals. But Calero doesn't want to miss out on an opportunity to make an impression with the Marlins, so has postponed his decison on the WBC until next week.

       There are no such WBC reservations for pitcher Chris Leroux. The native of Montreal confirmed that he will play for Canada in the upcoming tournament.


February 14, 2009

Hanley Ramirez to Bat Third

           Ramirez swinging     Hanley Ramirez said Sunday he'll be batting third to start the season, with either Cameron Maybin or Emilio Bonifacio hitting in the leadoff spot.

               "I've got to change my approach now," Ramirez said. "Me, Uggla and Cantu -- we've got to drive in runs. And Maybin and (Bonifacio) have to get on base."

               Ramirez has enjoyed more success batting leadoff than he has in the third hole. Last season, Ramirez hit one homer and drove in just four runs in his 56 at bats in the third spot.

               But he said he doesn't think he struggled because he put extra pressure on himself. He said that pitchers challenged him differently.           

              Over the winter, Ramirez said he gained 20 to 25 pounds, most of it in his upper body, and worked out in the gym from two to 2 1/2 hours each day, Monday through Friday..

February 13, 2009

90 Miles to the North: Day 1 Observations

         While the big news of the day for the Marlins was taking place down the road in Miami, where the long-running stadium soap opera continued, it was baseball as usual at the team's spring training headquarters. Friday was the official report date for pitchers and catchers, which might be the most overblown day in all of sports, professional or amateur. Nothing actually happens. There is no roll call, nobody checking off player names as they announce themselves as present. The real action, if one can call it that, starts Saturday when pitchers and catchers conduct their first workouts.

        A few observations from Friday's unofficial workouts: 

         1) Most players don't give a hoot about the proposed new ballpark. That's because most of them know they probably won't be Marlins by the time one opens. Favorite saying: "I hope the visiting clubhouse is nice." So while the stadium issue was being debated in Miami, the Marlins were out on the field working out the cobwebs, oblivious to it all. I didn't hear one player ask about the stadium and how deliberations were going.

         2) There seems to be an unusually high percentage of position players already in camp. Working out and taking live batting practice: Dan Uggla, Cameron Maybin, John Baker, Mike Rabelo, Cody Ross, Gaby Sanchez and Jeremy Hermida. No-shows Friday: Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Alfredo Amezaga, Wes Helms, Robert Andino, Dallas McPherson. But regulars aren't due to report until Monday. The first full-squad workout is Tuesday.

        3) Pitcher Jose Ceda is one big dude. Wait 'til you see him.

        4) Pitcher Jason Standridge, a non-roster invitee, is one friendly guy. He went out of his way to introduce himself to anyone and everyone -- coaches, players and even reporters.

        SATURDAY: The first organized workout for pitchers and catchers is scheduled for 2 p.m. on the back diamonds at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. It's free and open to the public.  Bring a hat and sunscreen. Shade is scarce.


Uggla: "The Really Rich Guy"

               Cody Ross was the first to react when Dan Uggla arrived for spring training, one day after winning his salary arbitration case against the Marlins.

               "There he is!," Ross, preparing to take his cuts in the batting cages, yelled so everyone could hear. "The really rich guy!"

               Arbitrators ruled in favor of Uggla, awarding him a salary of $5.35 for the coming season. The Marlins had offered $4.4 million.

              "It was an experience I was glad to go through," said Uggla, who attended the hearing in Arizona. "But I'd much rather come to terms with the team (in the future) than have to go through that."

              Uggla said he has no special plans for his new wealth outside of providing for his family.

              "You dream about that kind of stuff all your life," Uggla said of his newfound wealth. "Now that it's finally here...I'm still pinching myself. It's not about what I can buy now. It's making sure (family) is okay."