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73 posts from May 2009

May 22, 2009

What's Wrong With Ricky Nolasco? -- Redux

             Ricky Nolasco wasn't pitching all that well on regular rest, so the fact he's being smacked around on short rest might not necessarily explain what's happening here tonight. The Rays are teeing off on Nolasco, who has been pounded for eight runs in the first two innings. He threw 67 pitches while his ERA has soared a whopping 9.07.

            He certainly doesn't look like the same pitcher who won 15 games for the Marlins last season, and his body language suggests he is as confused as anyone for what's happening. This guy was nasty in '08, and now his stuff looks flat and lifeless.

            Can't see the Marlins having any chance whatsoever with Nolasco pitching like this.



Brett Hayes Up, Marlins Odds and Ends

                Hayes                                                                                                                                                                 Brett Hayes (yes, we know, a third catcher) was called up from Triple A New Orleans and added to the Marlins roster. The reason: the Marlins didn't have many options to choose from on their 40-man roster. They didn't want to recall Cameron Maybin for what will be only a 2- or 3-day stay. And they were unable to bring back Alejandro De Aza and Brett Carroll because of a 10-day freeze period. So Brett Hayes it is, if only for the time being.

                Toinight's Lineup:

                Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 2. Jeremy Hermida, rf; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 1b; 5. John Baker, c; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. Chris Coghlan, lf; 9. Ricky Nolasco, p.

                   -- Not sure whether Cristhian Martinez was around long enough to drink his cup of coffee. But the Marlins liked what they saw of him on Thursday and wouldn't be reluctant to bring him back if the need arises. Had he put away Justin Upton with two outs in the 8th, losing him on a walk after getting ahead 0-2, he might have avoided the loss in his big-league debut. Instead, Mark Reynolds followed the Upton walk with a 2-run, go-ahead homer. Martinez, who was called up as an emergency reinforcement for the fatigued bullpen and was optioned back to Double A Jacksonville after the game, struck out four in two innings.

                  -- The Marlins held leads in all three games they lost to Arizona. They have now owned leads in 13 of their 23 losses.

                  -- The Marlins are averaging about the same number of errors as they did last season, but the ones they're making are proving more costly. The Marlins made 117 errors in 161 games in 2008. They are presently on pace for 115 errors over a 162-game season. But they've also allowed 23 unearned runs. If they continue at this pace, they'll end up with 88 unearned runs compared to 60 last season.

                  -- Fredi Gonzalez won't be in the dugout for tomorrow's game against the Rays. He'll be in Atlanta to attend his daughter's (Gigi) high school graduation. Bench coach Carlos Tosca will man the helm in his absence. Gonzalez said he'll be back in time to manage Sunday's game.

                 -- Still no word on Saturday's starter, though it appears it'll either be Sean West or Daniel Barone, with West the more likely candidate.

                 -- The bullpen will remain short-handed for tonight's game. Gonzalez said Leo Nunez and Burke Badenhop are not available, and that he would turn to Kiko Calero only as a last resort. Gonzalez said Nunez is still feeling the effects from Wednesday's doubleheader. The slight-of-build reliever pitched in both games. "He was really spent," Gonzalez said. "He was upset the second game that he couldn't give us more." Nunez gave up a game-deciding, 3-run homer to Justin Upton in the 13th inning.

               -- Cody Ross is back in the lineup after leaving Thursday's game with a migraine headache. He said he began seeing "squiggly lines and stars" when he went to the outfield after his at bat (strikeout looking) in the fourth inning. That's a sign, Ross said, of an oncoming migraine, something he experiences about once or twice a year. "I could have played if it was just a headache," Ross said. "It's the part of not being able to see. I felt bad because we were short on the bench."

May 21, 2009

Thin Pen and Bench: Marlins Going Short-Handed Tonight

                 Manager Fredi Gonzalez joked that he might just take his customary seat in the dugout tonight, light up a cigar, and watch the Marlins and Diamondbacks go at it at Land Shark Stadium. That's because he won't have many decisions to make, not with only 14 to 16 players at his disposal.

                 The bullpen was all but wiped out by Wednesday's doubleheader, the second-game of which went 13 innings and didn't end until 1:48 a.m. So the Marlins called up a couple of relievers from the minors today -- right-hander Cristhian Martinez and lefty Dave Davidson -- just to get through the crisis period. The Marlins made space for them on their 25-man roster by optioning outfielder Alejandro De Aza to Triple A New Orleans and placing Alfredo Amezaga on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to last Saturday.

                 That leaves the Marlins with just three bench players tonight: Wes Helms, Ross Gload and Ronny Paulino. And Gonzalez said he does not plan on using any of his relievers, other than the two new arrivals, in support of starter Andrew Miller.

                 Martinez and Davidson might not be up for long, only long enough to get through tonight and, perhaps, tomorrow. The Marlins will likely call up a starter -- with Sean West looming as the favorite -- to pitch Saturday against Tampa Bay.

                 Gonzalez said there's a chance he could use someone like Burke Badenhop as a pinch-hitter early in the game.

                 "You guys won't have anything to second-guess tonight," Gonzalez told reporters.

                 Tonight's lineup:

                 Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio; 3b; 2. Jeremy Hermida, rf; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 1b; 5. John Baker, c; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. Chris Coghlan, lf; 9. Andrew Miller, p.

                 Diamondbacks: 1. Augie Ojeda, ss; 2. Ryan Roberts, 2b; 3. Justin Upton, rf; 4. Mark Reynolds, 3b; 5. Eric Byrnes, lf; 6. Chad Tracy, 1b; 7. Chris Snyder, c; 8. Chris Young, cf; 9. Max Scherzer, p.

Marlins Bullpen Exhausted -- Moves in the Morning

                    Tonight's doubleheader, which including a 13-inning nightcap, took such a toll on the Marlins' bullpen that manager Fredi Gonzalez said the club will make moves sometime tomorrow to replenish the pen.

                    "They're running on fumes," Gonzalez said. "They have nothing in the tank. I just hope tomorrow morning nobody wakes up with a sore arm or bad elbow."

                    Matt Lindstrom, Kiko Calero, Leo Nunez and Dan Meyer pitched in both games of the twinbill. One of the Marlins' long relievers, Hayden Penn, started the second game, went 2 2/3 innings and threw 70 pitches. The other long man, Burke Badenhop, took over for Penn, threw 3 2/3 innings and 53 pitches. Renyel Pinto went 1 2/3 innings and threw 28 pitches in the second game. And Brian Sanches went two innings and threw 34 pitches in the second game.

                    Gonzalez said the Marlins were even prepared to use Andrew Miller had the second game gone much longer, and Miller is slated to start Thursday.

                    Gonzalez, pitching coach Mark Wiley, and members of the front office staff --Larry Beinfest, Mike Hill and David Samson -- met behind closed doors in the manager's office for about 15 minutes to discuss the situation.

                    "I'm sure we'll make some moves tomorrow morning," Gonzalez said. 

Marlins, D-Backs Split Doubleheader -- Final Game Ends at 1:48 a.m.





            Cody Ross called Dan Uggla’s home run in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader “a great moment.” After all, the 3-run shot off the foul pole was pivotal in the Marlins’ 8-6 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

            The second game?

            Not so great for the Marlins, who had to settle for a split of the twinbill when the Diamondbacks fought back for an 11-9 victory in 13 innings.

Justin Upton delivered the deciding blow, a 3-run homer off Leo Nunez that landed in the upper deck in left-center. It was the second homer of the game for Upton, who also hit one off the upper deck facing in left in the third inning.

On a day that began at 5:10 p.m. with the start of the first game, a makeup from Monday’s rainout, few fans remained to see the final out, which was recorded at 1:48 a.m.

It might have ended sooner if not for misplays and missed scoring opportunities.

With the score tied in the 11th, the Marlins had a chance to win it when they put runners at the corners with no outs. But Ross bounced into an inning-ending double play to spoil the bid.

The Diamondbacks went ahead in the 12th when Mark Reynolds hit the second of his two home runs, a solo shot off Dan Meyer.

But, thanks to a wacky fielding play by Arizona left fielder Eric Byrnes, the Marlins tied it again in the bottom of the 12th. Byrnes fielded Alejandro De Aza’s double in the corner. But as he prepared to throw back to the infield, the ball slipped backwards out of his hand and over the retaining wall in foul territory.

De Aza was awarded third on the error and ended up scoring on Chris Coghlan’s RBI single.

            Then again, it was a long day for both teams, but an even longer one for the Diamondbacks after reliever Scott Schoeneweis learned that his wife, Gabrielle Schoeneweis, had been found dead by her 14-year-old daughter in their Arizona home.

Schoeneweis flew home, leaving coaches and teammates in shock.

“We were all shaken, including myself,” said Diamondbacks pitcher Doug Davis, who started the first game.

Said Arizona manager A.J. Hinch: “His world was rocked. He took it as expected – very hard.”

Hinch held a pre-game meeting to inform his club.

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said he was informed about the situation beforehand. But Marlins players did not learn about it until after their Game 1 victory and expressed shock and sympathy.

The news tempered that win, which involved equal parts hitting and pitching.

But the biggest hit belonged to Uggla, who has been mired in a lengthy slump. His home run was the key blow in the win for the Marlins.

“I was on second,” Ross recalled of Uggla’s fifth-inning shot. “I saw it go over my head, and it looked like it took a left turn. And it looked for a second like it was going to go foul. But it banged off the foul pole.”

            Uggla’s blast, which clanged off the yellow pole for a 3-run homer, fueled the win for the slumping Marlins.

“It was like a relief,” Ross recalled. ‘Our team needed it. He needed it. It was just a great moment for us.”

Uggla homered again off Rauch in the bottom of the 13th inning in the second game, but that shot was too little, too late, and lacked the impact of the earlier homer.

Chris Volstad was sharp early in the first game.

After giving up a first-inning single, he retired 11 straight and appeared to be on track for his first victory since his second start of the season – way back on April 14.

“I had my fastball down and my curveball was really good today,” Volstad said.

But Chris Snyder’s 2-run homer in the fifth tied the score.

Of the 21 losses the Marlins took into Wednesday, 11 had come in games that they led at one point or another. Volstad was determined not to make it 12 for 22, but he needed help.

Volstad got it in the bottom of the inning when Uggla homered off Jon Rauch, who had just entered in relief of Davis. Uggla had gone hitless in his seven career at bats against Rauch.

That made it 7-3.

But the Diamondbacks chipped away, cutting it to 7-4 in the sixth and adding two more runs in the seventh off Dan Meyer to narrow the gap to 7-6.

Wes Helms drove in a run with a pinch-hit single in the eighth, though, and Matt Lindstrom pitched a perfect ninth to preserve the victory for his eighth save.

Volstad finished with a career high nine strikeouts.

“I’m not really a big strikeout guy,” Volstad said. “But I had all my stuff working and everything was down in the zone, except for one pitch.”

Volstad said it was a much-needed win for the Marlins.

“Everyone contributed today,” Volstad said. “It was a team win, and we needed that team win.”



May 20, 2009

LIVE! -- Game 1 of Doubleheader

             Top 9: The Marlins get the 8-6 win and put themselves in position for a possible doubleheader sweep as Lindstrom delivers a perfect ninth and records his eighth save. The story of this game is the offense, which finally shows signs of life. It's only the second time this month they score eight runs.

             Bottom 8: Lindstrom receives an extra run to work with when Wes Helms delivers a 2-out RBI single off Doug Slaten. The Marlins almost ended up with nothing after putting themselves in prime scoring position -- first and third with no outs. Ronny Paulino is tagged out in a rundown between third and home after De Aza bounces to first and the throw comes to the plate and Bonifacio flies to left. In the middle, Ross Gload reaches on shortstop Stephen Drew's third error of the game. Thus, the run is unearned. 8-6 Marlins as we move to the ninth.

             Top 8: Mark Reynolds stole his fourth base of the game to tie an Arizona franchise mark. But the D-Backs are held scoreless and it remains 7-6. Chris Young failed to put down a sac bunt, striking out when he fouled off his 2-strike bunt attempt, and is now wearing the Golden Sombrero due to his 4-whiff game. Unless the Marlins score in their half of the inning, it looks like it's going to come down to Matt Lindstrom to preserve the win. He's warming up in the 'pen.

             Bottom 7: Cody Ross is smoking hot at the moment. After doubling this inning, he has now reached base in seven straight trips to the plate. Nothing comes of his 2-out double, though, and this one looks like it'll go down the wire.

             Top 7: The Diamondbacks refuse to go away. Tracy homers off Dan Meyer to lead off the seventh and Arizona cuts the lead to 7-6 on Parra's RBI single. Kiko Calero has to take over for Meyer with one out to prevent further damage. By the way, many of the seats have filled over the course of the game. Sure seems like a larger crowd than is normal for a typical weekday. Probably doesn't hurt that fans are being treated to two games for the price of one.

             Bottom 6: A 1-2-3 inning for the Marlins.

             Top 6: Just heard some disturbing news involving Diamondbacks reliever Scott Schoeneweis, whose wife was found dead earlier today at their home in Arizona. Here's the story I just found: http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/dpp/sports/mlb/diamondbacks/wife_of_diamondbacks_pitcher_found_dead_05_20_2009. I was just told by the Arizona Republic's beat writer that Schoeneweis left the team to return home shortly before today's game.

             -- Volstad's day is done after the D-Backs make it 7-4. De Aza goes in to pinch-hit for the pitcher. Volstad finishes the day with a career-high 9 K's.

              Bottom 5: It seemed like a smart move at the time when Zona manager A.J. Hinch replaced Davis with Jon Rauch to face Uggla with the bases loaded and one out. After all, Uggla had gone 0 for 7 with three K's against the tall reliever. But Rauch uncorked a wild pitch, enabling Ramirez to score from third, and Uggla followed with a long, 3-run homer that caromed off the foul pole in left to make it 7-3. Uggla now has 4 RBI on the game.

              Top 5: Oops! Just like that, Zona makes it 3-3. Reynolds draws a walk to lead off the inning, steals second and third, and scores on Tracy's single up the middle. Snyder homers to left on an 0-1 pitch. Could this become another of those blown-lead losses for the Marlins? The problem has been their failure to add on runs, obviously. May has been a disaster offensively. They're hitting .229 for the month and their 65 runs in May (going into Wednesday) tied them with the D-Backs for 26th in the majors.

              Bottom 4: A quiet fourth for the Fish.

              Top 4: Volstad is absolutely dealing. He just polished off another 1-2-3 frame and has now retired 11 straight. The D-Backs are flailing. V-Stad has 6 K's. Career high is 7. We might get out of here before midnight after all.

              Bottom 3: Marlins go up 3-0 on Uggla's bases-loaded walk. The lead should be larger, but Bonifacio was picked off first after reaching on a bunt to start the inning. Anyone keeping a tally on the number of times Bonifacio has been picked off this season? I know of at least one other instance. The good news for Bonifacio is that he's already reached twice. He began the day with an on-base percentage of .302, which ranked him 22nd among the 27 leadoff hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. Some pretty big names below him, though: Grady Sizemore, B.J. Upton and Jimmy Rollins, who is pulling up the rear.

              By the way, do you think Davis was being especially careful with Uggla? Uggla might not be hitting a lick, but he's dangerous when the bases are jammed, as evidenced by a career .415 (17 for 41) average in those situations.

               Top 3: Volstad still cooking even after being robbed of what would have been his second hit of the season. We're told he was once a pretty decent batsman at Palm Beach Gardens High, but have seen no evidence of that so far. He is now 4 for 41 as a big-leaguer. His pitching, on the other hand, is a different story. He set the D-Backs down in order again. That makes eight straight. The only hit -- Parra's single in the first -- was a weak looper to shallow left.

               Bottom 2: Check out Baseball Tonight later today. We just saw an amazing, Web Gem candidate to end the third. As Volstad's line drive goes sailing toward center, D-Backs pitcher Doug Davis throws his arm up in the air and deflects the ball to Arizona 1B Chad Tracy for the "easy" 1-3 out. They don't teach that one.

               Top 2: Very sharp 1-2-3 inning for Volstad, who strikes out Reynolds and Young before getting Tracy on an easy ground ball. Here's the view from the press box:


               Bottom 1: The Marlins draw first blood, jumping out to a 2-0 lead. Bonifacio and Hermida start things off with back-to-back singles and execute a double steal before Jorge Cantu records his 34th RBI with a ground ball out that scores Bonifacio. The only NL players with more RBI than Cantu: Fielder, Pujols and Ibanez. Cody Ross drives in the second run with a double. Ross now has a 5-game hitting streak. Now let's see if the Marlins can make this lead stick to the end. They've lost leads in 11 of their 21 losses.

               Top 1: Volstad cruised through the first without any difficulty. The guy can't buy a win, though. Volstad's last victory came April 14 at Atlanta. In his six starts since, he has gone 0-3 with an ERA of 3.96. Another small crowd, though not as skimpy as those the past two nights. Then again, the weather is a heckuva lot nicer.

               All aboard for the 29th doubleheader in franchise history for the Marlins. They're 6-6-16 (six sweeps, six times being swept, and 16 splits) in twinbills. Speaking of Marlins history, it was nice to see Dontrelle Willis turn in an impressive outing for the Tigers last night after everything he's been through.

               Looks like the weather's cooperating. Sun's out, at least. I'll be updating throughout the game, which starts at 5:10.

               Here are the lineups again (along with each hitter's numbers vs. Davis and Volstad). By the way, four guys named Chris (Coghlan, Volstad, Young and Snyder) in the starting lineups.

               Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b (---); 2. Jeremy Hermida, rf (1 for 1, 2b); 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss (2 for 9, 2 rbi); 4. Jorge Cantu, 1b (0 for 3); 5. Cody Ross, cf (4 for 13, 1 HR, 5 rbi); 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; (2 for 7); 7. Ronny Paulino, c (5 for 18, 2 rbi); 8. Chris Coghlan, lf (---); 9. Chris Volstad, p.

               Diamondbacks: 1. Felipe Lopez, 2b (1 for 3); 2. Gerardo Parra, lf; 3. Justin Upton, rf; 4. Stephen Drew, ss (1 for 3); 5. Mark Reynolds, 3b (0 for 2); 6. Chris Young, cf (2 for 3, HR); 7. Chad Tracy (1 for 3), 1b; 8. Chris Snyder, c; 9. Doug Davis, p.


Amezaga, Etc.

              The earliest that Alfredo Amezaga will be available to the Marlins is Saturday. Amezaga, who has a bruised knee, said he'll be re-examined by a doctor on Friday. There's an outside chance the Marlins could put Amezaga on the disabled list, retroactive to his last game on May 16. But manager Fredi Gonzalez said there's been no discussion of that so far.

              Amezaga said not being able to play has been difficult for him. He said he can't even watch the game from the dugout because he must remain in the training room to ice the knee every three innings.

             -- Spoke briefly with Josh Johnson, who said his shoulder felt fine this morning. Johnson exited his start last week in Milwaukee after the fourth inning, and after mentioning slight discomfort in his right shoulder. But Johnson said he didn't experience the same feeling Tuesday night when he went 6 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks. "Felt normal," Johnson said.

             -- Ricky Nolasco threw off the bullpen mound just a moment ago and is a go for Friday when he'll be starting on short rest. Nolasco threw 76 pitches in his rain-shortened start on Monday. Look for the Marlins to dip into the minors to call up a starter for Saturday. Sean West, at Double A Jacksonville, is a top candidate for that outing. West, who pitched on Monday for Jacksonville, is lined up for a Saturday start.          

Let's Play Two -- Game 1 Marlins Lineup

           Do    Some lineup tinkering as the Marlins prepare for their 29th doubleheader in franchise history. They are 6-6-16 (six sweeps, six times being swept, and 16 splits) in the 28 previous twin bills.

             Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 2. Jeremy Hermida, rf; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 1b; 5. Cody Ross, cf; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Ronny Paulino, c; 8. Chris Coghlan, lf; 9. Chris Volstad, p.

May 19, 2009

Penn on Wednesday, Nolasco on Friday

                It's official. Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced after Tuesday's game that Hayden Penn would start the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader and Ricky Nolasco would start Friday on short rest. Saturday's starter remains a question mark.

                Penn will be receiving his first start since 2006 when he was with the Baltimore Orioles.

                "I'm goign to try to go as deep as I can," said Penn, who may be limited to no more than 60 and 70 pitches.

                Nolasco will go on 3-day's rest when he starts Friday. He threw 76 pitches before rain cut short his outing on Monday.

Pitching Configurations -- Sean West, Perhaps?

               With all the scheduling uncertainty due to the rain, the Marlins' pitching plans are in a state of flux. Josh Johnson is scheduled to go tonight, but the heavy drops have started falling at the ballyard and the infield has been covered. If tonight's game is rained out, the Marlins and Diamondbacks will likely play doubleheaders on Wednesday AND Thursday, as Arizona does not return to South Florida the rest of the season.

               Chris Volstad is set to start Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader. Game 2 is a TBA, with Hayden Penn expected to receive the assignment. Andrew Miller is due to start Thursday Friday is also a TBA, though manager Fredi Gonzalez said Ricky Nolasco could get the start ("We're kicking it around"),even on short rest. Nolasco threw 76 pitches Monday before rain cut short his outing.

              If Nolasco goes Friday -- or even Saturday -- there's a very strong possibility the Marlins will have to dip into their minor-league ranks for a starter. And this might be the time they pull the trigger on Sean West, who pitched Monday for Double A Jacksonville and would be lined up for a Saturday start. West, who is one of the organization's top prospects, is 4-2 with a 4.85 ERA. The problem with West is that his arbitration clock would start ticking if he was promoted now.

             --Rick VandenHurk (DL, elbow) threw a 60-pitch simulation game on Tuesday and will make a rehab start (60-70 pitches) for Single A Jupiter on Sunday. The Marlins are penciling VandenHurk in for an early June return. Same with Anibal Sanchez, who threw a bullpen session Tuesday and is set to do it again on Thursday.