Marlins utility player Alfredo Amezaga said he will travel Wednesday to Vail, Colo., to receive a second medical opinion on his injured left knee. Amezaga has been out since May 17 with a deep bone bruise. He said he will be examined by Dr. Richard Steadman, who checked out Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran on Tuesday. Beltran is dealing with a bone bruise in his right knee, but will not require surgery.
Steadman is known for his work with basketball players and performing microfracture knee surgery. Amezaga said he is concerned because the injury has not shown significant improvement.
"It's been a long time," Amezaga said of the injury.
The past two weeks have been difficult for outfielder Jeremy Hermida, whose hitting slump has nearly coincided with manager Fredi Gonzalez's decision to have Brett Carroll replace him in right -- at least most of the time -- against left-handed starters. Hermida said he understands that decision, but had also "approached" Gonzalez to clarify his role.
."It's just typical manager/player relationship," Hermida said. "I just want to make sure we're on the same page and we both know what's going on -- and I know what he's thinking and he knows what I'm thinking."
Hermida said there is absolutely no rift.
"My job isn't to make the lineup," Hermida said. "My job is to go out there and play when I'm in it and try to help this team win. I talked to him a little about it. It's tough when you struggle a little bit, and then have to sit a little bit. (I want to) do what's best for the team, and I'm all for that. It's not that I'm selfish or anything "
Hermida was 2 for his last 30 at the plate going into Tuesday. One of those hits was a squib single on Friday against the Rays. Meanwhile, Carroll has been starting in right most of the time (exception: the New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte) when the Marlins have faced a left-hander, something that has happened four times in the Marlins' past five games. Hermida was used as a designated hitter against left-handers on occasion during interleague play.
Carroll has hit .333 against lefties compared to Hermida's .197 average.
"We have run into a lot of lefties, and B.C. (Carroll) has been swinging the bat great, and I wasn't," Hermida said. "It's a good move to put B.C. in there. B.C.'s stepped in and done an unbelievable job for us. So you just go with it."
With Hermida not hitting even right-handers, though, it raises the question as to whether the Marlins would consider playing Carroll full time. It's not like Carroll can't hit right-handers, and he is both an upgrade defensively and a better base runner than Hermida.
Take a look at Carroll's minor-league splits from 2005:
AB H 2B 3B HR W K Avg. OBP SLG OPS
vs. LH 398 114 23 4 11 41 76 .286 ..359 .447 .806
vs. RH 1052 266 74 7 56 59 274 ,253 .313 .496 .809
Hermida was in the starting lineup Tuesday against Nationals right-hander Craig Stammen. But it should be interesting to see if Gonzalez sticks with the lefty-righty platoon if Hermida continues to slump. And don't be surprised to hear Hermida's name mentioned often in trade rumors before the July 31 deadline. Even if the Marlins see Carroll more as a back-up/platoon-type figure than an everyday player, they have Cameron Maybin knocking on the door. Maybin is tearing it up at Triple A New Orleans.
Nationals: 1. Cristian Guzman, ss; 2. Nick Johnson, 1b; 3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3b; 4. Adam Dunn, lf; 5. Josh Willingham, rf; 6. Elijah Dukes, cf; 7. Alberto Gonzalez, 2b; 8. Wil Nieves, c; 9. Craig Stammen, rhp.
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 1b; 5. Jeremy Hermida, rf; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. John Baker, c; 9. Sean West, lhp.
When Hanley Ramirez came to bat with runners in scoring position last season, there wasn’t a player hitting better than .300 in baseball that had less success than him. Ramirez was putrid when the pressure was on, hitting just .239 (26 for 109) when the Marlins needed a big hit.
Now, there isn’t a hitter in baseball having more success than the 25-year old shortstop when teammates are standing on second or third. Entering Monday night’s series opener against the Nationals, Ramirez was hitting .433 with runners in scoring position (29 for 67) and 39 RBI.
His new knack for coming up with clutch hits is part of the reason why he earned NL Co-Player of the Week honors Monday. Last week, he hit two grand slams and drove in 17 runs in six games versus the Orioles and Rays. He also led the majors with 24 RBI and the NL with 25 hits in interleague play.
Not bad for a guy who had mainly hit leadoff until this season when the Marlins moved him into the cleanup role and then the No. 3 spot. So, what's been the key to the new and improved Hanley?
“His approach at the plate is a lot better hitting in that spot,” Cantu said. “Last year, he got into a little bit of trouble when he was hitting in that spot. Experience is all it is. Everyday is a learning experience. He’s learned how to work the count in those situations with runners in scoring position. It’s all about looking at more pitches when you have that runner over there.”
Said Gonzalez: “I’ve always said since the first day I was here he could be that type of player. This year from the very first day I’ve see him get better and better and better with it.”
Ramirez credits Hall of Famer Tony Perez, who usually watches the Marlins during batting practice, for some of the change in his approach.
“We always talk,” Ramirez said. “He’s helped me understand game situations better, what you have to do when you have runners on base. I’d tell you, but I can’t give away all the tricks.
“I appreciate it. Not everyone in baseball likes to help out others. He’s been doing that since the first day I got here.”
CALERO EYES D-BACKS RETURN: Right-hander Kiko Calero, one of two bullpen arms on the disabled list, thinks he will be able to rejoin the Marlins on their road trip next week.
Calero threw 20 pitches – all fastballs – from the mound Monday, his first pitching session since he went on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation June 18.
He will pitch two more bullpen sessions (Wednesday and Friday) before going on a pair of rehab assignments according to Gonzalez. “I would like to make sure I feel fine,” Calero said. “I don’t want to come back for three weeks and go back to the DL. I want to make sure I feel fine and I can pitch the whole year. I told them I would like to pitch in the last series [versus the Diamondbacks] and face big league guys before the break.”
Remember the Kevin Gregg trade, the one in which the Marlins dumped salary by dealing the closer to the Chicago Cubs for 280-lb. reliever Jose Ceda? Turns out that one isn't working out so hot for the Fish. While Gregg is closing for the Cubs, Ceda is on the mend from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
The idea was for Ceda to start the season at Double A Jacksonville and, if all went well, receive a mid- or late-season promotion to supply bullpen help. Well, that's not happening now. Ceda never threw a pitch in the minors before going under the knife. For that matter, the Marlins shut him down one or two days into spring training. So that makes two relievers obtained by the Marlins over the winter -- with Scott Proctor being the other -- who have provided zero return and a couple of surgery bills.
Andrew Miller vs. David Price
Kind of an interesting side note to this afternoon's matchup between the Marlins' Andrew Miller and the Rays' David Price. Both are former winners of the Roger Clemens Award given to the best college pitcher. Miller won in 2006 while Price picked up his hardware in '07. Here are the two happy collegians posing with the Rocket:
ST. PETERSBURG -- Leo Nunez is now able to pitch. He's just not ready to close. Not initially.
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said Nunez, who hasn't pitched since Tuesday due to a sore right ankle, will be available tonight. But Gonzalez said he doesn't want to hand the 9th inning role over to Nunez until he shows the ankle isn't a factor.
"I'm not going to put a guy out there who we don't know how he's going to react in a game to close out a game," Gonzalez said. "It's hard for me to say 'You're healthy,' and then throw him out there. So if we're going to use him, we're going to use him early on in a game and back him up with Dan Meyer, or somebody else."
Once Nunez shows the ankle is no longer a concern, Gonzalez said he would give him an opportunity to close. But Gonzalez also said that, with Matt Lindstrom on the disabled list until late July, he doesn't have a definitive closer.
"I said he (Nunez) would get an opportunity," Gonzalez said. "When he shows he's healthy, and he's ready to go and when Meyer can't go. We could go back and forth (between Nunez and Meyer)."
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, DH; 5. Ross Gload, 1b; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. Ronny Paulino, c; 9. Brett Carroll, rf. ON THE MOUND: RHP Chris Volstad
Rays: 1. B.J. Upton, cf; 2. Carl Crawford, lf; 3. Evan Longoria, 3b; 4. Carlos Pena, 1b: 5. Ben Zobrist, 2b; 6. Pat Burrell, dh; 7. Jason Bartlett, ss; 8. Gabe Gross, rf; 9. Michael Hernandez, c; ON THE MOUND: Scott Kazmir.
Fans will get to vote for the starting position players in next month’s All-Star Game up until 11:59 p.m. on July 2. But Friday, players will help select the backups at each position, plus eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers).
Second baseman Dan Uggla, a two-time All-Star, probably be won’t be joining Hanley Ramirez this year on the NL team in St. Louis. But Uggla hopes ace Josh Johnson, scheduled to pitch Friday against the Rays, finds a spot in the midsummer classic despite what Uggla said hasn’t been enough support or publicity from the organization.
“I don’t know what we’re waiting for,” Uggla said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, if not the best. I’m waiting for these guys to do something to get his name out there – a little publicity, commercial, something.”
According to Marlins PR man Matt Roebuck players are allowed to vote for teammates and themselves.
Johnson is 7-1 this season with a 2.66 ERA, the sixth lowest among starters in the league. Last week, he gave up three hits and one earned run over seven innings in a 2-1 win over the Yankees and drew high praise from both Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter.
“He deserves an opportunity to pitch in the All-Star game,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
“There’s no hiding him anymore. Not that we were hiding him. Guys around the league are figuring out he’s one of the top guys in the league. Ross Gload was playing first base in Toronto two weeks ago when he pitched and guys were coming up saying ‘I’m glad this guy isn’t in our league.’ When guys from other leagues start paying a compliment, you know they’re good."
The Marlins have posters through out Land Shark Stadium that urge fans to vote Ramirez, who is currently the leading vote getter at shortstop. Fans can’t vote for pitchers.
Jorge Cantu had a rough month of May (.211, 1 HR, 15 RBI) in part because of the medication he was prescribed to deal with high cholesterol. It made him lethargic and at times dizzy on the field and at the plate.
Now, that he’s no longer taking the pills and had more than a week to have it cleaned out of his system, Cantu is not only feeling better, but he’s hitting better.
Tuesday night, he connected on his second walk-off hit of the season and third game-ending RBI. Cantu not only leads the Marlins in RBI (45), but is tied with Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder in clutch RBI (27).
While Cantu said his bat speed and timing are returning, he still isn’t completely 100 percent. “If I make mistakes from now on, it is on me, nothing else,” Cantu said. “I wish I felt 100 percent. I’m just not there yet.”
Outfielder Mike Stanton, one of baseball’s top prospects, will represent the Marlins in the All-Star Futures Game in St. Louis next month. The 19-year old Stanton will be the youngest player in the game.
Stanton was recently called up to Double A Jacksonville after hitting .294 with 12 homers and 39 RBI in 50 games for the Class A Jupiter. Although he struggled early in Double A, Stanton is now batting .246 with two homers and 8 RBI in his first 17 games with the Suns.
Closer Matt Lindstrom is expected to miss the next six weeks with an elbow injury. Leo Nunez is limping around on a sprained right ankle. And Kiko Calero is on the disabled list with a bum shoulder. Despite all the havoc to the bullpen, the Marlins have crept back into contention. What should their next step be?
Gotta believe the Marlins are working the phones, searching around for late-inning relief help after being hit with a sudden rash of injuries to the bullpen, the most significant being the one that has put Matt Lindstrom on the shelf for at least the next six weeks.
Lindstrom was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with a sprained right elbow and will not be permitted to throw for the next four weeks. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Lindstrom -- in a "best-case scenario" -- could be available around the end of July.
In addition to Lindstrom, the Marlins are also without the services of right-hander Kiko Calero (DL, shoulder) and top set-up reliever Leo Nunez (sore right ankle). The Marlins expect Calero to be ready to go July 3 when his DL time is up, and Gonzalez said he doesn't think Nunez will be out for more than a day or two. Nunez left Tuesday's game due to ankle pain after facing only two batters
Still, not a single member of the bullpen that is available to pitch tonight's game owns a big-league save. Heck, one reliever -- Tim Wood -- has never appeared in a big-league game, and right-hander Chris Leroux, who was brought up from Double A Jacksonville to replace Lindstrom, has appeared in just one.
Gonzalez said he has someone in mind to close tonight if the opportunity arises, but would not reveal that player's identity, saying only "We'll see when we get there."
Asked if the front office was looking around for relief help, Gonzalez would give only the stock reply that the organization is "always looking."
Lindstrom said he first started noticing discomfort in his forearm, just below his right elbow, within the past few outings. While it has not hindered his ability to throw high 90s fastball, he said he has been unable to throw his breaking pitches -- his slider in particular -- with any authority. As a result, he has suffered meltdowns in each of his past two outings, each of them save situations. On Sunday he nearly blew a 6-3 lead to the New York Yankees. And on Tuesday, he gave up three runs in the ninth to the Baltimore Orioles after inheriting another 6-3 lead.
"It just got to the point where I couldn't finish, couldn't create an angle," Lindstrom said. "I've been looking at my mechanics on tape and it looks like my arm is coming through kind of sideways instead of over the top."
As such, Lindstrom said he has felt "a lot more" discomfort when trying to throw his slider. He threw just two sliders -- the rest fastballs -- of the 16 total pitches he threw Tuesday. One of those sliders was the last pitch he threw, one that Ty Wigginton singled up the middle for the Orioles' fourth straight hit off Lindstrom.
"They're taking precautionary measures because they don't me to blow my arm out," he said. "I want to come back and be who I need to be out there instead of worrying about it hurting each and every pitch."
There won't be any scary ninth innings for the next six weeks with Matt Lindstrom. The Marlins just placed the right-handed closer on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right elbow -- and according to manager Fredi Gonzalez its going to be awhile before we see him again.
Gonzalez said it will be four weeks before Lindstrom throws again and at least another two after that so he can get his arm ready to pitch. So, who replaces him as the team's closer? Not even Gonzalez is sure.
Lindstrom has been replaced on the roster by 6-6, 210 pound right-hander Chris Leroux, who was in Double A Jacksonville. Leroux is 3-2 this season with a 3.67 ERA and one save. Leroux was a seventh round pick in 2005.
Tuesday, Lindstrom allowed four consecutive two-out ninth inning hits to the Orioles, and he was eventually charged with three earned runs. Sunday, he gave up three hits, one walk and two earned runs to the Yankees, picking up the shakiest of saves his 14 saves. Lindstrom's ERA is now 6.52 and his WHIP is 1.90.
As it stands, Leo Nunez is probably the best candidate to close while Lindstrom is out. But he won't be available for a day or two as he comes back from a sore right ankle. Kiko Calero, who was just placed on the DL this past weekend, could also be a candidate once he comes back.
Matt Lindstrom categorized his latest struggles as both "inexplicable" and "unacceptable." The Marlins won despite Lindstrom's ninth-inning meltdown on Tuesday, one in which he fell apart with a seemingly safe 6-3 lead and two outs in the ninth. The Orioles strung together four straight singles, knocked Lindstrom out of the game, and managed to send it into extra innings by scoring the tying run off Brian Sanches.
It was the second straight game that Lindstrom allowed a 6-3 lead slip from his grasp after recording two quick outs. The only difference is that he managed to escape Sunday's near collapse with a 6-5 victory over the New York Yankees after making it close by giving up two runs in the ninth.
Lindstrom did not duck blame after Tuesday's mess.
"I just can't put my finger on anything," he said. "But I've got to do a better job. It's happend two or three times this year, and it's unacceptable."
Still, manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's sticking with Lindstrom as his closer.
-- Leo Nunez left the game with a sprained right ankle but Gonzalez said he doesn't think the injury is serious. He said Nunez recently tweaked the ankle and that Tuesday's problem might have stemmed from the tape job.