Not making this one up. A moment ago, during batting practice, Marlins president David Samson took a pinch out of Hanley Ramirez's can of Skoal and placed between lip and gum. Samson said he had never dipped in his life but was doing so to show his solidarity before a big series against the Braves.
Despite predictions by some Marlins players that he would either become violently ill or pass out within a matter of minutes, Samson managed to remain upright for a good 10 or 15 minutes before deciding enough was enough and spitting out the small wad of tobacco.
"If I ever had occasion to taste animal feces, I would assume that would be the taste," Samson said afterward. "I did not get sick, but I was on the cusp of getting sick. I wasn't going to drop on the field. No warrior goes down on the field. But I will never chew again. I will never dip again."
-- Nick Johnson hit, ran and took ground balls on Monday and was given the green light to play for Single A Jupiter on Tuesday. If all goes well, the Marlins think Johnson -- on the disabled list since Aug. 16 with a hamstring injury -- could rejoin the club on Friday when it opens a road series against the Nats.
-- Pitcher Burke Badenhop and catcher Brett Hayes are expected to be among the first reinforcements when rosters expand on Tuesday for the first time. It'll likely be another week -- after the end of the minor-league season -- when the rest of the September call-ups join the club. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Badenhop would be used out of hte bullpen.
-- Andrew Miller will make one more rehab start for Triple A New Orleans before he ireturns to the team.
-- With Brad Penny going to the Giants, the Marlins will need to name a starter for Wednesday's game against the Braves. The likely choice: Rick VandenHurk.
-- Chris Coghlan and Ramirez are the first tandem to each collect at least 45 hits in one month since Dante Bichette and Eric Young did it 1996 with the Rockies.
Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Brad Penny, according to his sources, is headed to the San Francisco Giants. If so, he would become the second discarded player to reject the Marlins within the past 10 days. John Smoltz also kissed em' off in favor of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Penny might have decided to go with the team he felt had the best chance of reaching the playoffs, and after the Giants swept the Colorado Rockies over the weekend while the Marlins were flailing against the Mets and Padres, the decision probably got a lot easier for him.
So that leaves the Marlins in need of starter for Wednesday. Rick VandenHurk, anyone?
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Ross Gload, 1b; Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. John Baker, c; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. Jeremy Hermida, rf; 9. Josh Johnson, rhp.
Chris Volstad was sent to the minors -- specifically, Triple A New Orleans -- after tonight's game, and it was not a big surprise. Volstad has gone completely sour in August, and his dismal outing against the Padres was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Volstad was knocked out in the second inning, making it the briefest outing of his career and the fourth start over his past five games in which he failed to provide the Marlins even five innings of work.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was quite blunt in his assessment, saying Volstad is not displaying the moxie he showed earlier this season and as a rookie last season.
"We always talk about mound presence with him, and composure, and we haven't seen that," Gonzalez said. "He needs to go down there and clear his head a little bit."
Gonzalez said Volstad was unable to throw any of his secondary pitches for strikes, making it a much easier task for the Padres to sit on his fastball.
Volstad took questions from reporters and attributed his struggles to "a little bit of everything."
"I wasn't doing my job, and I haven't been doing it for a couple of weeks now," he said.
Actually, it's been the entire month of August. Volstad has given up 21 earned runs in 19 2/3 inning this month. On Friday, he gave up six runs in the second inning alone to the poorest hitting and scoring club in the majors.
The bullpen is so shot that not only was Volstad optioned to Triple A, but so was infielder Gaby Sanchez. The Marlins plan to call up a couple of pitchers, one of which is expected to be reliever Luis Ayala.
The Marlins are among a handful of teams interested in Brad Penny, who has been granted his release by the Boston Red Sox. But they will be facing competition, just as they were when they lost out in the bidding for John Smoltz. Besides the Marlins, other teams thought to have interest in Penny include the Rockies, White Sox, Rays and Rangers.
Penny played for Rockies manager Jim Tracy when they were with the Dodgers.
Penny won 48 games for the Marlins from 2000-04 and also won both of his starts for them in the 2003 World Series.
Penny struggled with the Red Sox, especially after the All-Star break.
But he told the Boston Herald that he is healthy and eager to join a contending team.
"I had some bad breaks and made some bad pitches," Penny told the Herald. "But I'm healthy, and that's what I'm happy about. This isn't last year, when I was hurt. If that had been the case, I'd be upset. All in all I had a great time here. My shoulder is healthy and I'm glad I came here. It was a blessing."
Penny would become available to any team once he clears waivers on Monday, and he would come cheap, costing only the pro-rated minimum, or about $80,000.
They tried and failed to get John Smoltz. Should the Marlins now make a run at Brad Penny, the latest Red Sox pitching castoff?
According to the Boston Herald, Penny requested and received his release from the Sox after losing his spot in the rotation. A 1-5 record and 7.82 ERA since the All-Star break will do that sort of thing.
But Penny has a history with the Marlins. He -- not Josh Beckett -- won two games in the '03 World Series. And, as he used to like to joke, he has more career World Series RBI (2) than Don Mattingly (0). Penny ranks third on the Marlins' career leaders list with 48 wins.
Penny is still young (31) and is two years removed from a career season with the Dodgers when he went 16-4 with a 3.03 ERA and finished third in the Cy Young balloting. A return to the National League might do him some good.
Penny, a free agent after the season, would only cost the Marlins the pro-rated minimum, or about $80,000. The Rockies might have interest in him. Penny played for Colorado manager Jim Tracy when they were with the Dodgers.
It hasn't been a pretty season in Boston for Penny, and he apprently fell into the habit of throwing a steady diet of very hittable fastballs without a lot of movement on them. But would you prefer him over Sean West for what would amount to 6 or 7 more starts?
While the Marlins are facing a steep uphill climb in both the division and wild-card races in order to make the playoffs, Larry Beinfest isn't waving a white flag.
"I think we learned about four months ago not to write this team off," Beinfest said reporters after posing for the annual team photo. "I think that continues today. They have great heart, this team. I don't think we've counted ourselves out of the division, but we've made it a lot tougher on ourselves."
The Marlins began the day seven games behind the Phils in the NL East and 5 1/2 games in back of the streaking Colorado Rockies in the wild card.
Beinfest, the Marlins president of baseball operations, also touched on a couple of other topics. Among them:
1) Asked if he was exploring any possible trades before Monday's midnight deadline in order for acquired players to be on a postseason roster, Beinfest replied:
"It's tight out there. The waivers are winding down. If you're going to get somebody, you're going to need to do it this weekend, basically. We're always looking. If there's something out there interesting in terms of adding depth, or adding experience, or an upgrade, then of course we'll look at it. But it's pretty tight out there this time of year, just in terms of maneuverability -- players that are eligible, willingness of other teams to give up their players, and also whether the player fits financially. It's not as easy as it was a month ago when you didn't need waivers.
2) On the organization's position on offering long-term contracts to pitchers, with Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco looming as logical candidates for multi-year deals:
"I don't think anything has really changed as far as long term (contracts to pitchers)," Beinfest said. "We've always been open. It's not something we've ever ruled out, and we'll go case by case. I think there is some recongition by the organization that pitchers can be risky because they do get hurt, maybe at a higher rate than a position player. But that doesn't mean necessarily we would rule out."
-- Catcher John Baker is out of tonight's lineup with a sore lower back but said it's nothing serious and said he could probably play Wednesday...
Tonight's Marlins Lineup: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Ross Gload, 1b; 3: Hanley Ramirez; ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Cody Ross, cf; 7. Jeremy Hermida, rf; 8. Ronny Paulino, c; 9. Josh Johnson, rhp.
There's a good chance the Marlins will place first baseman Nick Johnson on the disabled list as early as late tonight as he continues to battle an injured right hamstring. Johnson said he "still can't ramp it up" and was unable to finish a jogging exercise on Tuesday.
The Marlins have scheduled an appointment for Johnson to see a doctor later this afternoon, and the club will then make a decisoin on whether to DL him. All signs are pointing in that direction. Johnson has not played since Aug. 16, and the Marlins must place him on the 15-day disabled list no later than Wednesday in order to make his DL time retroactive to that day.
"There is some improvement, but it's not the (significant) improvement you want," said manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Look for the Marlins to place Johnson on the DL and bring up a position player, more than likely an outfielder such as Brett Carroll, Alejandro de Aza or Cameron Maybin.
-- Don't look for the Marlins to make any big surprises when they start to expand their roster on Sept. 1. Gonzalez said they'll probably add players from the mionrs that have already been up at some point during the season -- in other words, players like Carroll, De Aza, Maybin, Brett Hayes, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Luis Ayala and Tim Wood. And top prospects Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison, both at Double A Jacksonville, probably won't be called up next month.
Tonight's lineup: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Ross Gload, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. John Baker, c; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. Jeremy Hermida, rf; 9. Sean West, lhp.
Jack McKeon stayed up late at his home in North Carolina on Monday, and sometime around 1:30 in the morning, thought he saw a ghost staring directly at him through his television set. No, not that kind of a ghost. Not the generic Casper variety that goes boo. What McKeon saw was the ghost of the '03 Marlins -- only it was now wearing a Colorado Rockies uniform.
Down three runs in the bottom of the 14th inning, the Rockies won in walk-off style on a grand slam by Ryan Spilborghs. It was pure magic, like the kind McKeon remembers from '03.
"When I saw that happen, it reminded me of us," McKeon said. "Like those times I put in Mike Mordecai for Mike Lowell, and we'd end up winning. Now it looks like the same thing is happening to those guys."
The '09 Rockies sure bear a striking resemblance to the '03 Marlins.
They were floundering in May, canned their manager, and took off on a winning tear. Sound familiar? The Marlins won the NL wild card and the World Series, The Rockies have taken command of the wild card race, much to the dismay of the Marlins, and are putting pressure on the NL West leading Dodgers.
The Marlins were 16-22 and in fourth place on May 11 when they dumped Jeff Torborg and replaced him with McKeon. The Marlins went 75-49 the rest of the way. The Rockies were 18-28 and in last place on May 29 when they fired Clint Hurdle and replaced him with Jim Tracy. They've gone 53-26 since.
McKeon has mixed emotions about the whole thing. After all, he remains employed by the Marlins as a special assistant to owner Jeffrey Loria and would prefer to see the Marlins capture the wild card, especially now that it appears as their best remaining hope of reaching the postseason. The Phillies have an 8-game lead on them in the East. And McKeon counts Hurdle among his friends. But son Kasey works in the Rockies front office, and well....
The Marlins have been patiently waiting for Nick Johnson’s tight right hamstring to loosen up so they could avoid having to put him on the disabled list.
The first baseman, however, still isn’t feeling any better and now he doesn’t think he’ll be back Tuesday when the Marlins open a 10-game homestand starting with the Mets. Sunday morning, Johnson hit off a tee and played catch. But when he tested his hamstring with light running exercises at Turner Field it was not a success.
“It didn’t go well,” Johnson said. “I still feel it. It’s just not 100 percent.’’
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the team still has no plans of putting Johnson on the disabled list. But that could change soon.
Johnson hasn’t played since the first game of a double-header against Colorado Aug. 15. But the longer the Marlins wait, the longer they go short a bench player. Plus, injuries are only retroactive for a maximum of 10 days, meaning after Wednesday, Johnson would still have to wait five days before returning from the disabled list.
> The prognosis for reliever Brendan Donnelly appears to be a little better. Donnelly suffered what Gonzalez described as a mild right calf strain fielding a bunt in the eighth inning Saturday night and was placed on the disabled list.
“I don’t expect it to go past 15 days,” Gonzalez said. “I think when the 15 days are up, he’ll be ready to go.”
If that’s the case, Donnelly could join the team in New York Sept. 8 – a day after he’s eligible to come off the disabled list. Right-hander Cristhian Martinez was recalled for the fifth time this season from Double A Jacksonville to take Donnelly’s spot Sunday morning.
BADENHOP CLOSE TO RETURN
Reliever Burke Badenhop is close to rejoining the team. He threw 44 pitches and 4 2/3 scoreless innings without giving up a hit for Single A Jupiter Saturday.
Gonzalez said if it wasn’t that the right-hander had pitched Saturday, the Marlins could have recalled him. Gonzalez said Badenhop, who went on the disabled list Aug. 2 with a strained right trapezius, is scheduled to pitch again Thursday in Jupiter.
> Andrew Miller (high ankle sprain) was scheduled to pitch Sunday in the Gulf Coast League.
The Marlins lost more than an important 4-3 decision to the Atlanta Braves Saturday night. They lost a valuable member of their bullpen, too.
Brendan Donnelly, who has a 2.04 ERA in 21 appearances since the Marlins signed him July 5th, suffered a right calf strain in the eighth inning and is being placed on the disabled list.
The Marlins will make the announcement of who they are calling up Sunday morning, but it's likely either Tim Wood or Cristhian Martinez, who have done fairly well when they've been up in the big leagues.
Donnelly was the news. Chris Volstad's early troubles and home run woes continue to be the story. He gave up two long balls and four runs on four hits in the first inning, before settling down for the next three innings as the Marlins tried to play catchup.
Volstad said he can't put a finger on why he's given up 26 home runs this year when he was so good at not allowing many a year ago (three Hrs in 84 1/3 innings).
"I don’t know. It’s just the way the year is going I guess," Volstad said. "I don’t know how else to explain it. I don’t feel like anything has changed. Pitch location, I guess, I just haven’t been able to locate as well."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said both of his home run pitches were up in the zone. But Volstad said he saw it on replay and says they weren't. "I watched both of them," Volstad said. "First one he did a good job getting on top of the pitch. It would have been a ball. The second one was a changeup down. Escobar did a good job keeping his hands back. It wasn’t my best changeup. It just kind of floated in there."
Here's an interesting Volstad stat I discovered during the game: He has given up 39 earned runs during within his first 30 pitches in 43.2 innings (8.03 ERA). But once he gets past 30 pitches, he's has been better, giving up 39 earned runs in 103.2 innings (3.40 ERA).
> Jorge Cantu got into Saturday's game and came up with a clutch two-run single during the Marlins rally in the sixth. But he still isn't over his neck pain.
"I’m just trying not to think about it. Even though I’m hurting a little bit, I’m just trying not to think about it and do the job," Cantu said. "I drove him in, but it doesn’t change the fact I’m not 100 percent yet. Hopefully, I’ll come back tomorrow and this thing will be gone. It’s tough to battle."