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56 posts from June 2009

June 17, 2009

Day After Red Sox Take Volstad to School, Pitcher Visits Harvard

                BOSTON -- Another gorgeous day in New England, where Fenway Park will welcome its 500th consecutive sellout crowd tonight when the Red Sox host the Marlins. One of the things that always amazes me about this place is the huge number of fans who pay $12 to take the Fenway tour each day.

               One day after being spanked around by the Red Sox, Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad toured Harvard's campus in nearby Cambridge with his family on Wednesday. Volstad said he was contacted by the Ivy League school when he was a high school junior to assess his interest in attending Harvard and playing baseball for the Crimson. Volstad had the grades -- a 3.8 GPA and 1290 SAT -- but signed with the University of Miami as a fallback in case he didn't sign a pro contract.

               Asked what he would have majored in had he gone to Harvard, Volstad replied: "Something I could pass. I would have taken the easiest thing they had."

               Wes Helms: No Hall of Fame for PED Users

              Wes Helms, a steady but unspectacular performer over 11 major league seasons, doesn't envision himself landing in baseball's Hall of Fame once his playing days are over. But neither does he want to see those who used performance-enhancing drugs get in, either.

              "My opinion is I don't think a guy should be allowed in the Hall of Fame if he did it (used performance-enhancing drugs)," Helms said. "The Hall of Fame is baseball, and if you let guys like that in the Hall of Fame, it makes our kids think that 'If they did it, I should.' And that's the last thing we want."

              Helms, a backup infielder for the Marlins, said the Hall of Fame ban should apply only when there is "100 percent proof" that a player used steroids.

             "It's sad," Helms said Wednesday, one day following a newspaper report that Sammy Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003. "It's one of those things to where you can't judge until you know it's true. But these guys who have come out and said they did it, or have been caught and admitted it, yeah. Everybody makes mistakes. But when it comes to an award like the Hall of Fame, you've got to count them out."

.             Tonight's lineups:

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

               Red Sox: 1. Dustin Pedroia, 2b; 2. Jacoby Ellsbury, cf; 3. Kevin Youkilis, 1b; 4. Jason Bay, lf; 5. Mike Lowell, 3b; 6. David Ortiz, dh; 7. Rocco Baldelli, rf; 8. Jason Varitek, c; 9. Nick Green, ss. ON THE MOUND: RHP Brad Penny. 

June 16, 2009

Fredi Gonzalez Apologizes to Reporters, Says Retaliation Issue "Taken Care of Internally"

               BOSTON -- Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez apologized to reporters for kicking them out of the clubhouse following Sunday's game in Toronto. Gonzalez also said he addressed the retaliation issue that prompted his tirade "with all parties involved."

               "I want to apologize for my tirade (Sunday)," Gonzalez told the reporters during his normal pre-game session with them. "I know you guys are trying to do your jobs and everything. I try to protect my team. I'm like a big bear with the baby cubs, I guess."

             Gonzalez became angry Sunday when asked to address remarks made by Hanley Ramirez, who complained that the Marlins didn't retaliate after he was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning. Ramirez thought he was hit intentionally.

             The manager said he addressed the matter internally.

             "I have spoken to all parties involved, and that's it," Gonzalez said. "We took care of it internally, and that's it."

            Gonzalez refused to be more specific or answer further questions about the incident.

            Could it be possible that Josh Johnson tried to retaliate for the Ramirez plunking by taking aim at a Toronto Blue Jays batter -- only to miss? Whether he did or he didn't, nobody's saying..

            After Ramirez was struck by a Dirk Hayhurst pitch in the top of the sixth, Johnson's first pitch to Alex Rios in the bottom of the inning was thrown so far inside that it caused Rios to back out of the way to avoid being hit. Rios had homered in his previous at bat.

            Rios ended up grounding out in the at bat.

            Here's are tonight's lineups:

            Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Ross Gload, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, DH; 5. Jeremy Hermida, rf; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. John Baker, c; 9. Emilio Bonifacio: ON THE MOUND: RHP Chris Volstad.

            Red Sox: 1. Dustin Pedroia, 2b; 2. J.D. Drew, rf; 3. Kevin Youkilis, 1b: 4. Jason Bay, lf; 5. David Ortiz, dh; 6. Mike Lowell, 3b; 7. Jacoby Ellsbury, cf; 8. Nick Green, ss; 9. George Kottaras, c. ON THE MOUND: RHP Tim Wakefield.



June 14, 2009

Media Gets Clubhouse Boot Over Questions About Ramirez Beaning

           TORONTO -- A visibly angry Fredi Gonzalez kicked reporters out of the clubhouse following Sunday's victory over questions concerning remarks made by Hanley Ramirez suggesting he was hit intentionally with a pitch and implying the Marlins should have retaliated, but didn't.

            With the Marlins leading 8-3 in the sixth inning, a man at second and first base open, Ramirez was hit in the left elbow by a Dirk Hayhurst pitch.

           When asked after the game whether he thought he was hit intentionally, Ramirez indicated that was the case, replying "Everybody knows."

           He went on to suggest that the Marlins didn't retaliate.

           "I think Fredi knows it," Ramirez said. "J.J. (pitcher Josh Johnson) knows it. (Hayhurst) was throwing strikes."

          Following that conversation, Gonzalez was approached and asked if he thought Ramirez had been hit on purpose.

          Gonzalez replied tersely: "Hit by pitch."

          When questioned further about it, Gonzalez refused to speak.

          When another reporter told Gonzalez that Ramirez had indicated he thought there should have been retaliation, the manager met privately with Ramirez.

           After that, the manager ordered two reporters out of the clubhouse. Moments later, two other reporters were kicked out.               

Coghlan Swinging a Dodgers Bat, Among Others

                Memo to Louisville Slugger: Chris Coghlan plays for the Marlins, not the Los Angeles Dodgers. Seems the bat company messed up Coghlan's order, shipping him a half-dozen bats that were engraved with "Los Angeles Dodgers" below his name instead of "Florida Marlins."

                Coghlan doesn't seem to care. He's been using the Dodgers bats and, in fact, hit a home run off the Giant's Tim Lincecum with one. But the rookie is down to his last one. He broke the other five, but kept one on the advice of a friend who suggested it could be worth something someday. Just think what a Coghlan "Dodgers" bat would fetch at auction if he ends up in the Hall of Fame and never plays for the team.

                Coghlan is kind of finicky about his bats. He picks from an assortment of four models, choosing one that feels the best during batting practice. Wes Helms, on the other hand, says he's been swinging the same model for 10 years.

                Take a look at Coghlan's bat when he leads off this afternoon. If it's an all-black bat, it's the Dodgers model. If the wood is two-tone, it's one of his three maple models.

Cantu Sits; Hermida DHing, Batting Cleanup

            It's a wonder the Marlins have done as well as they have in interleague play over the years considering they've never received much production out of the DH spot when playing in American League parks. The Marlins have gone 53-49 in AL parks since the start of interleague play. Meanwhile, their overall interleague winning percentage of .549 (113-93) is the best of all NL clubs.

           And yet, they're hitting .226 with just 11 home runs from the DH spot.

           In keeping with that trend, Jorge Cantu went 0 for 9 while serving as the Marlins' DH the first two games in Toronto. He's on the bench today as Hermida takes a turn in the DH role for the first time in his career. This will mark only his third start in the cleanup position.

           Lineup: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Emilio Bonifacio, 3b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jeremy Hermida, DH; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Cody Ross, cf; 7. Wes Helms, 1b; 8. Ronny Paulino, c; Brett Carroll, rf. On the mound, RHP Josh Johnson.

Cody Ross for Jeff Francoeur? + Cameron Maybin Ump Bumping Suspension

              According to a report by my colleague, Barry Jackson, in today's Herald, the Marlins rejected Atlanta's offer of Jeff Francoeur for Cody Ross a couple of weeks ago before the Braves traded prospects to the Pirates for Nate McLouth. Can't disagree with the Marlins on that decision.

              The Braves also asked about Jeremy Hermida.

              Francoeur's numbers have been riding the down escalator and compare unfavorably to Ross's. Just looking at career OPS figures for a quick gauge, it's .807 for Ross compared to .734 for Francoeur, a free-swinger who hasn't met many pitches he doesn't like. Contractually, both are in their second years of arbitration eligibility, with Francoeur raking in about $1 million more than Ross this season.Francoeur

             Anyone else like to weigh in on that trade proposal? My guess is spur-of-the-moment opinions probably changed between Thursday (when Ross committed a game-changing error) and now (after a couple of big days at the plate).

             -- It's been a frustrating first half for Cameron Maybin There was his demotion after hitting .202 for the Marlins and striking out in more than a third of his at bats. Then came a bumping incident with an umpire on June 5, followed by a sliding injury (dislocated pinky) two days later.

             Maybin returned from the injury to play Thursday for Triple A New Olreans, then served a 2-game suspension for the ump bumping incident on Friday and Saturday. He's expected to return to the Zephyrs lineup today. Maybin is doing better at the plate. His average is up (.284) and his strikeouts are down (15 in 88 at bats).

          -- Pitching matchups for the upcoming series with the Red Sox are shaping up. It'll be Tim Wakefield vs. Chris Volstad on Tuesday at Fenway Park, Brad Penny vs. Andrew Miller on Wednesday, and possibly John Smoltz vs. Ricky Nolasco on Thursday. The Red Sox haven't decided whether to roll out Smoltz against the Marlins or have him make a rehab start in the minors.

         -- A victory this afternoon at the Rogers Centre will give the Marlins something they haven't experienced since the end of April -- a 3-game winning streak. The Marlins haven't won three in a row since April 30 when they followed two victories against the Mets with another against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.


June 12, 2009

Nolasco Gets Testy

         Ricky Nolasco took exception to more than one ball-and-strike call on Friday by home plate umpire Mike Winters and was apologetic about his body language, which brought a rebuke by the ump. But perhaps an angry Nolasco is good thing for the Marlins, who have been waiting since Day 1 this season for him to start pitching like last year's 15-game winner. Maybe Nolasco pitches better when he's wearing a chip on his shoulder.

        Replays seemed to show that Winters missed more than one call, squeezing the strike zone to the point where Nolasco was clearly unhappy. After one such expression of displeasure, Winters reacted in a way that strongly suggested he didn't care for Nolasco's protests.

       "That was a big mistake by me to do something like that," Nolasco said. "But when you have that competitive nature, you have to compete, and sometimes you make mistakes, and I definitely made a mistake there by showing him up  It's something I'll try not to let happen again."

       -- Lost in Nolasco's pitching performance and Cody Ross' grand slam was Chris Coghlan's 4 for 5 night, Ross Gload's 3-hit outing and Hanley Ramirez's 3 RBI. Jeremy Hermida also added two hits.

       -- Ross already has three grand slams this season, or at least as many as 25 major league teams.

       -- With the victory, the Marlins are now 15-4 all-time against the Blue Jays, 8-2 at Rogers Centre.




June 11, 2009

Stan Meek breaks down Marlins draft

Stan Meek, Director of Scouting for the Marlins, spoke on a teleconference with us after Thursday's game to wrap up the draft. Here's what he said.

Q: What were the needs and did you feel you met them?
We thought we needed to add some pitching to the organization. We've had some young guys graduate to the major leagues and we felt like we were starting to thin out a little bit with the pitching. We focused on some pitching, although our philosophy has always been to try to take the best player as we go. But if it's close, we worked on some pitching. And we felt like we added some high school pitching in the top 10 rounds and we added some college pitching from 10 on."

Q: Can you talk about each of the top picks and how you think they could help the organization?
On first round pick, left-hander Chad James: "Is a power left-hander, great body kid. He's 6-4, 205 and three-pitch guy. We think he has a chance to be at the least a middle of the rotation starter. He's got a good arm, he's a young kid. We like everything about him."

On second round pick, right-hander Bryan Bergland: "Is a kid that is a projection right-hander. But he can still go up to 94 [miles per hour] at times. Really good solid slider, three pitch guy. Athletic. Intelligent. A real good strike thrower now which is a plus for a high school kid. We liked everything about him."

On third round pick, outfielder Marquis Cooper: "Cooper is a speed player, center fielder. An 80 runner, a top of the scale type runner. An athlete at a premium position. We felt he was a good fit."

On fourth round pick, right-hander Daniel Mahoney: "Mahoney, a right-hander, pitched out of the bullpen at the University of Connecticut. We think he might be able to start. He's a big power guy, but he does have three pitches. He did not throw a ton of innings for them. But we like everything about his upside. We like his makeup."

On fifth round pick, infielder Chase Austin: "Austin is an athlete that has actually played all three spots in the infield -- second, short and third. He hit 23 home runs. He's a solid athletic player that can fit in the middle of your field. And we felt that was a good fit for us to."

Q: How many players do you think you will sign?
‘‘I'd say your looking at half maybe. We take a lot of guys that we think are summer-type follows. The way the draft is setup now, with not being able to control the rights, we'll take guys down in the draft that we want to watch more in the summer, that maybe weren't quite ready to go out. We have their rights until August 15th. Maybe we'll sign two or three of those guys."

Q: Are there any players we could see this season?
‘‘No. I don't think so. Especially with the top two guys being high school guys. Both of them should follow that type of path like [Sean] West where they get there in that type of time frame. I think the upside is what we'd like to have happen. The college guys, I don't see any guys that would be up to that.

Q: Do you feel you could sign James soon?
‘‘No. But we're working on it. We've talked to their advisor and we think everything is going ok. It takes a little time. We know there are a lot of good relationships, being from Oklahoma and knowing them. Hopefully we'll get it done in a relatively short time."

Marlins bracing for Halladay & more

Another day, another Cy Young winner to try and take down.

Roy Halladay That’s the way the Marlins are approaching the task of facing Roy Halladay in Toronto Friday night, the fifth Cy Young winner Florida will try and beat in a week.

Halladay, however, might be the toughest of any the Marlins have encountered. The 32-year old right hander is 10-1, leads baseball in wins, is second in complete games (3) and ranks third in the AL in strikeouts with 88.

The Marlins aren’t exactly familiar with Halladay either. Only seven players have faced him before. First baseman Jorge Cantu (2 for 11, .182 vs. Halladay) is the only player with more than three at-bats.

“The way I look at it is he’s got the same scouting report on us that we do on him,” said outfielder Cody Ross, who went 1 for 3 against Halladay in 2006. “His is thin and ours is thin.”

At least the Marlins have history on their side, having beat Halladay the only time they faced him in 2006. The Marlins actually hit him pretty well, scoring four earned runs on eight hits over six innings. Not counting utility man Alfredo Amezaga, who is out with a knee injury, the seven healthy Marlins who have a history against Halladay combined to go 10 for 27 off him (.370).

“What makes him tough is that he throws strikes,” catcher John Baker said.

“He has a lot of different pitches, keeps guys in and out and off balance. He’s probably the best pitcher in baseball. It will be a test for us, but no greater test than I think some of the arms we’ve seen. Lincecum, Randy Johnson. We’ve seen a lot of Cy Young award winners. It’s just another one to try and beat.”

The Marlins have fared well against Cy Young winners this season. After losing to San Francisco’s Barry Zito 2-1 last Friday, they’ve won three straight over Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson and Chris Carpenter.

TALES FROM A BEATUP CATCHER: Baker sat out his second straight game Thursday, the fallout of being struck with a bat over his left temple Tuesday night by St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols.

Baker is hoping to be in the lineup Friday in Toronto. But there’s a good chance he could he miss his third straight game. Thursday, he woke up with more swelling and yet another headache.

Baker said he won’t take any medication for the pain. “I don’t want to mask anything,” Baker said. “I prefer to know what I can and can’t do. With pain medication sometimes you think you can do something and then you go out and do something stupid. I wasn’t raised by my parents taking a lot of medicine for things. If it hurts and you can play with it, then that’s what you do.”

“Hopefully the swelling will start going down. But I took a pretty wicked impact.”

Baker tried catching a few balls in the bullpen with a hockey mask Wednesday but has ordered a different one he hopes to use in Toronto. He said once the stitches are removed (possibly by the time the Marlins in Boston), he’ll go back to using his regular catcher’s mask.

Baker, who was as a pitcher and first baseman in high school, didn’t start catching until he was handed the equipment upon arrival at the University of California. He’s taken his fare share of blows over the years since putting on the gear.

“I took one in the head earlier this year that knocked a nice little golf ball in the side of my head,” Baker said. “In 2005, we were in Omaha and I took an elbow to the artery in my neck. I had trouble swallowing for a while. Another time, we were playing against West Michigan in Single A and I got hit with an elbow in the jaw, got knocked out at home plate cold.

“There’s a reason we wear the catcher’s gear. I’ve deal with it before, but not like this with stitches. This one is the worst residual effect, keeping me out for a few games.”

> Chris Volstad, who had the worst outing of his career Wednesday (6 ER, 10 H), said the reason his sinker was not dipping against the Cardinals was because he wasn’t following through on all his pitches.

“My mechanics were definitely a little off,” Volstad said. “It was just one of those things where I’d do it right one time and then wrong the next. I’ll have it fixed for Boston.”

Volstad’s next scheduled start is Tuesday night against former Marlin Josh Beckett at Fenway Park. Volstad and Andrew Miller are the only Marlins pitchers who will face both the Red Sox and Yankees.

> Manager Fredi Gonzalez gave his No. 3 and No. 4 hitters the day off Thursday – first baseman Jorge Cantu because of dizziness and shortstop Hanley Ramirez because of a sore right groin.

Gonzalez said Ramirez tweaked his back Wednesday night beating out a double play ball. Gonzalez said he entertained the idea of pulling Ramirez, but his shortstop refused to be taken out – much like he has with just about every other injury this season.

“He’s played 11 games in a row [coming back from the groin]. He’s dealt with it pretty good,” Gonzalez said. “There were some days where you thought he wasn’t going to make it. My hats off to him.”

Cantu, Hanley out of lineup

The Marlins will be without their No. 3 and No. 4 hitters when they wrap up their 11-game homestead Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez has given shortstop Hanley Ramirez and first baseman Jorge Cantu the day off. Ramirez is still battling a sore left groin. Cantu left Wednesday's game with dizziness, a result of cholesterol medication he's no longer taking.

Wes Helms will start at third and bat third. Emilio Bonifacio will slide over to short. Here's the lineup:

Marlins lineup: Chris Coghlan, LF; Bonifacio, SS; Helms 3B, Hermida RF; Uggla 2B; Gload 1B; Ross CF; Paulino C; Miller LHP