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37 posts from August 2009

August 14, 2009

The Guns of August -- Marlins vs. Rockies

          Remarkable what the Marlins have accomplished at the plate this month. They're the hottest-hitting, highest-scoring team in the majors for August. Their current 10-game streak of having at least 10  hits is not only the longest such run in the majors this season, but is an all-time club record -- by a LOT. The previous record for collecting 10 or more hits by a Marlins team was only six straight games. And while the acquisition of Nick Johnson has certainly been a boon to the lineup, keep in mind that he didn't start two of the games during the streak, including last night's 9-2 win over the Astros.

          Take a look at how individual Marlins have hit this month:

          John Baker (.353), Emilio Bonifacio (.364), Jorge Cantu (.196), Chris Coghlan (.436); Ross Gload (.167); Wes Helms (.214); Jeremy Hermida (.273); Nick Johnson (.306); Ronny Paulino (.353); Hanley Ramirez (.412); Cody Ross (.286); Dan Uggla (.350).

          The Marlins are hitting .315 as a team this month, which is a far cry from the .235 figure they put up last August when they dropped out of the race by going 11-17. The best hitting month ever by a Marlins team was in July, 2005, when that bunch hit .297.

          Alas, the Marlins are only 7-5 for the month. The problem, of course, has been their pitching. The starters aren't going deep into games, the bullpen has been overused, and there are major question marks revolving around the back end of the rotation, specifically whether a 4-5 tandem of Sean West and Rick VandenHurk can get it done in a heated stretch run.

         Now come the Rockies, who lead the wild card race. The Rockies represent a major challenge for the Marlins' shaky staff. While the Marlins have been lights out at the plate this month, the Rockies are at their hip with an identical .315 average for August.

          Keep those scorecard pencils sharp this weekend.

          -- Cody Ross left last night's game with back spasms but I didn't detect any great concern and, assuming the tremors subside, expect to see him in the lineup tonight.

          -- Kind of thought when they optioned Chris Leroux back to Double A after last night's game they would try to balance the roster by replacing him with a position player. That isn't going to be the case, apparently. The Marlins remain concerned with their pitching staff and are expected to bring up another hurler (Cristhian Martinez?) to provide long relief protection.

          -- Hearing that Cameron Maybin is about ready to return to the New Orleans lineup, perhaps tonight. But you can pretty much figure at this point that the Marlins don't intend to bring him up until Sept. 1 when rosters can be expanded.

           By the way, which players would you like to see added in September, now that we're getting a little closer? Keep in mind, the Marlins usually don't call up more than five or six players. My guess is you'll see (if one or more isn't here already) Maybin, Brett Carroll, Gaby Sanchez and Tim Wood. Anyone else, such as Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison?  





're the two hottest hitting teams in the majors -- and highest-scoring in the NL -- this month. --- .315 averages....marlins have scored 80 runs, the rockies 75....

August 13, 2009

Anibal Sanchez: "I'm Ready"

Anibal Sanchez is telling the Knoxville News that his shoulder feels fine and he's ready to join the Marlins now. Sanchez was up in Tennessee on Wednesday, turning in seven strong innings (one run on four hits) for Double A Jacksonville. The Marlins have said they'd like for Sanchez to make one more rehab start before bringing him back from the DL, but it sounds like Sanchez wants to return now. 

             You can read what Sanchez has to say by checking out the  Knoxville story here.

              Should the Marlins bring Sanchez back now and insert him into the rotation? Is he a better option than a struggling John Smoltz or some other hurler in the retread bin? Should they require Sanchez to make at least one more start before bringing him off the DL? Who gets replaced in the current rotation?


Hot Pen, Odds and Ends

             The Marlins begin the day tied with Atlanta, 4 1/2 games behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East and three in back of the Colorado Rockies in the wild-card race. The Rockies hit town Friday for a weekend series.

             THROWING ON FUMES -- Since Aug. 5, when Rick VandenHurk managed to go just four innings against the Nationals, the bullpen might as well be wearing an oxen's yoke. At least four relievers have been used in each of the past five Marlins games, and seven of the past eight. Brendan Donnelly, Brian Sanches and Renyel Pinto have appeared in five of the eight games since VandenHurk's quickie while Matt Lindstrom, Leo Nunez and Tim Wood (who was optioned after Wednesday night's outing) pitched in four. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said after Ricky Nolasco's short (3 1/3 innings) outing on Wednesday that the Marlins could make it through tonight, but was hoping to get six or seven innings from Sean West to give the weary pen a break. I would have to think he'll try to stay away from Pinto, Lindstrom and Kiko Calero. But how much longer can the bullpen hang on at this exhausting rate? They've already logged 377 innings this season, the six-highest figure in the majors.

             NO-SHOW NOLASCO -- One of baseball's unwritten rules requires the starting pitcher to hang around after the game -- win, lose or draw -- to take questions from reporters. The same unwritten policy doesn't exist for closers, but Kevin Gregg, Joe Borowski, Braden Looper and Todd Jones were stand-up guys who always waited at their lockers for questions, even after their ninth-inning meltdowns. The trade-off for this courtesy is that we agree to leave starters alone before each day's outing. No questions, period. This is my 11th year doing this and I can think of only a handful of instances when a starter  failed to stick around after a game. A.J. Burnett not only kissed us off after a rotten start in Philadelphia toward the end of the 2005 season, but swore at us as he walked past us on his way out of the clubhouse. I'm not about to lump the normally cooperative Ricky Nolasco in with Burnett, who was unpredictable and often difficult to deal with (thus, it was no surprise to us when he was sent home with a week to go in the '05 season because of his attitude). But Nolasco did a disappearing act  before we had a chance to talk to him after his 10-run performance last night against the Astros, which was why you didn't see a single quote from him explaining what happened.

             STREAKS -- Last night was the first time since joining the Marlins that Nick Johnson failed to reach base (and, no, reaching via fielder's choice does not count) as a starter. Still, he ranks second in the NL with a .418 on-base percentage -- though a good distance behind Albert Pujols (.446).....With his eighth-inning single, Chris Coghlan extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games. Coghlan is hitting .460 in August, which ranks second to Washington's Ryan Zimmerman (.514) among players with at least 25 at bats this month.

            CLOSE TO COMPLETION -- Anibal Sanchez turned in another strong rehab outing last night when he went seven innings for Double A Jacksonville, allowing a run on four hits. Sanchez didn't allow a hit in his previous start, which was with Single A Jupiter. Plans call for Sanchez to make one more rehab start before the Marlins consider bringing him off the DL and adding him to the rotation.

            JOHN SMOLTZ -- I'm told the chances of Smoltz winding up with the Marlins are remote.

August 12, 2009

Is It Too Little, Too Late for Dan Uggla?


  Dan Uggla’s .240 average isn’t going to win him any batting titles.

But his single in the bottom of the 11th inning on Tuesday won the game for the Marlins – 9-8 over the Houston Astros -- and raised his average to its highest point since April 19.

It’s been that kind of year for Uggla.

“This season has been a struggle,” Uggla said.

>Going into Wednesday, Uggla had gone 12 for his past 26 with seven walks since belting a game-tying home run against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 2.

“Everyone knows I’m not going to hit. 300,” said Uggla, who brought a career .262 average into the season. “But I can get it to something respectable, like .250 or .260, that’ll mean I’ve had a really good second half.”

Uggla had three hits, including a double and two RBI, in Tuesday’s extra-inning victory over the Astros.

“I don’t look at the numbers,” Uggla said. “That’s how I work, not knowing and not worrying about all that stuff. I’m not one of those hitting gurus that studies film and all that stuff. All I know is more balls I’m hitting the last how-many-ever days have found holes.”

Uggla, who averaged 30 home runs in his first three big-league seasons, is on pace to finish with close to that number again. But he’s hit just .235 since last year’s All-Star Game, when he made three errors, struck out three times and grounded into a double play.

 “I’ve had a worse first half than I’ve ever had before, so I’m trying to make the second half better,” he said. “The biggest thing for me this year was just being able to recognize a pitch and not trying to guess so much. Lately, I’ve been able to do that.”

       ANIBAL SANCHEZ ON THE MOUND TONIGHT: Anibal Sanchez gets the ball tonight for Double A Jacksonville when they take on Tennessee at 7:15. Sanchez didn't allow a hit in his most recent rehab outing for Single A Jupiter, going 6 2/3 innings in that one. The Marlins plan to give Sanchez one more rehab start after this one. Hard to believe that Sanchez has gone just 8-11 since throwing his no-hitter on Sept. 6, 2006.

      THIS DATE IN HISTORY: The Marlins began the day 3 1/2 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. That's the second-closest they've been to first place on this date. Last year's team was 1 1/2 games behind.


August 11, 2009

Did Lindstrom blow his shot at closing again?

Did Matt Lindstrom's rough outing Monday night dash his hopes of regaining the closer's role? Maybe. Maybe not.

Matt Lindstrom His first three outings since coming back from the disabled list Aug. 1 had been pretty clean. His fourth, Monday night in the ninth, was just ugly. It lasted just a third of an inning and ended right after the Astros Carlos Lee doubled home two runs with line drive to center field. The Marlins defense didn't help him either. Dan Uggla made an error before Miguel Tejada singled an 0-2 pitch off him to bring Lee to the plate.

"Making a couple different pitches last night could have changed the whole thing," Lindstrom said. "Facing Tejada without a runner on base could have changed things too."

"I faced Carlos Lee in '07 and he hit a three-run homer off me. Same situation. I threw a fastball and he fouled it off. The next one, he hit it. [Monday] he knew [the fastball] was coming. He was cheating. I had a good slider yesterday. That's all I'm going to say."

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said he likes what he's seen from Lindstrom since coming back -- including velocity -- and said "for me, it's good progress." Lindstrom said he's not taking the rough outing as a setback.

"I had Tejada 0-2 and three pitches later I was sitting in the dugout," Lindstrom said. "It’s really not much I can do. I hit my spot. They came out and gave me the mound visit and told me how I should face Lee. He fouled off the first one, hit the other one and lined it in the gap. That was it. Not really much I can do. I was throwing the ball where I needed to throw it. My slider was good. It was one of those innings I guess.

"If I take it as a setback, it will be a setback. But if I go forward and just forget about it, then I don't think it will be a big deal. It shouldn't be. My stuff is there."

August 10, 2009

Marlins want to end inconsistency

They started the season winning 11 in a row before dropping the next seven. In June, they swept two series (Toronto, Baltimore) and were swept once (Rays). We all know what happened last week.

Fredi Gonzalez If this Marlins season has felt like a line from a Paula Abdul song to you, you aren't alone. The Marlins know inconsistency kills playoff dreams. Entering Monday night's first of four games against visiting Houston, that was the talk in the clubhouse.

“We know we’ve been a little inconsistent,” Cody Ross said. “We win 11 in a row and then lose 8. As a team we know that. Whenever we’re riding that wave we have to ride it as long as we can. When we have those losing streaks, we have to end them quickly, pick it up and get a victory and not fall in those holes. We’ll be one or two games back and the next thing you know, we’re seven games back. We’re four [games out] now and if we can pick up a couple wins in the next couple games, the last month of this season will be really fun.”

Fun is what the Marlins have been having with their bats since the most of August began. The entered Monday's game with eight consecutive games with double-digit hits and a .311 average, 13 homers and 48 runs scored. Newly acquired first baseman Nick Johnson, second only to Albert Pujols in OBP in the NL, has helped sure up the top of the order. Sandwiched between Chris Coghlan and Hanley Ramirez, Johnson has hit .333 (8 for 24) since arriving. But where he's helped most is getting on base. He's racked up 10 walks.

The problem is, the Marlins are just 4-4 this month. The reason? Coghlan (19-for-38 since Johnson arrived) and Johnson aren't being brought in regularly. In eight August games, they've left 77 runners on base. Before his 2-for-3 Sunday in Philly, Jorge Cantu was 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position during the stretch.

NL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chris Coghlan didn't win NL National League Player of the Week honors Monday. Arizona's Mark Reynolds made a stronger case, hitting .448 with a major-league-leading six homers. But he's not sweating it.

‘‘That's stuff if you get it, it's cool. But it doesn't mean anything in the long run," Coghlan said. "My goal is to get into the playoffs. So, that's what I'm concentrating on. My job is to get on base and help the team win."

Coghlan didn't win this week. But he deserves consideration for the NL ROY. Right now, though, he's probably fourth in the running. The Phillies' J.A. Happ (8-2, 2.74 ERA), the Brewers' Casey McGehee (.308, 35 RBI) and the Rockies' Dexter Fowler (.265, 26 SBssteals, 51 runs) all have better résumés now than Coghlan, who ranks fifth in average (.285), second in walks (35) and third in hits (81) and on base-percentage (.363) among rookies.

‘‘I've seen guys get hot, but to see a young guy do it is pretty remarkable," Wes Helms said. "He's the type of guy you hope sticks to the game plan because if he does he's going to have a long career. I'm proud of what he's done because he's helped us stay in this playoff race."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said it's more than Coghlan's bat that should earn him rookie of the year consideration.

‘‘The stuff people don't see is how well he's played defensively," Gonzalez said. "He made a catch two nights ago that kind of saved us against the Phillies. [Jason] Werth hit it and Chris went up against the fence and caught it. He's doing it all right now."

> Reliever Kiko Calero said the reason he was pulled from Sunday's win in Philadelphia was because of a tight right quadriceps. "I think it was from when I got hit by [Kosuke] Fukodome when the Cubs were here," Calero said.

Calero said his muscle had been feeling weak and was removed so he wouldn't hurt injure his shoulder. He expects to rest a couple of days.

> Anibal Sanchez, who pitched 6-2/3 strong innings in his last minor-league rehab outing, will get two more minor-league starts with Double A Jacksonville. Gonzalez said Sanchez will try to throw 90 pitches Wednesday and 100 pitches in his following start next Monday.

"We'll see how these next two go," Gonzalez said. "This is his next target. If and when we make that decision that he's good to go, we'll know he's thrown at least 90 to 100 pitches a couple times."

> Gonzalez said he wants to see Matt Lindstrom throw on consecutive nights before entertaining the idea of moving him into the closer's role. He said Lindstrom, who has had three scoreless appearances since returning from the disabled list Aug. 1, could get his first opportunity to close if current closer Leo Nuñez pitches on consecutive nights.

August 09, 2009

"God Bless America" Singer, Home Plate Ump Booed in Philly

                 They once booed Santa Claus in Philadelphia. Why not the singer of "God Bless America?"

                 Yep, it happened. Fans at Citizens Bank Park, angry over the ejection of Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino in the seventh inning on Sunday, went into boo mode, starting with home plate ump Ed Rapuano and continuing with the guy who sang "God Bless America" during the 7th inning stretch.

                 And they call Philadelphia the "City of Brotherly Love." Yeah, right.

                 The unhappiness started in the bottom of the sixth when Rapuano called out Ryan Howard on strikes to end the inning. At the time, the Marlins were clinging to a 3-1 lead. Howard didn't care for the call on the third strike, which appeared to be a touch low.

                 When Wes Helms stepped up to start the seventh, Rapuano called a ball on a low pitch from Phillies reliever Rodrigo Lopez. Victorino threw his arms up in center, and Rapuano -- spotting it -- walked onto the diamond and threw his thump up in the air, signaling an ejection.

                 Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins thought he was the one being tossed and began to walk off the field. Once Rapuano made it clear he was ejecting Victorino, the center fielder charged toward the plate to confront the umpire and had to be separated by players and coaches.

                The fans became vocal, at that point, and booed every strike and ball call that went against the Phillies. Lopez fell completely apart, and the Marlins exploded for six runs in the inning, which upset fans even more. But they saved their best for the singer, who grabbed the microphone and tried to calm the crowd by announcing "It's going to be all right" before he began singing.

                During a pause in the song, one fan could be clearly heard to yell "You (stink)" to the singer. And everyone joined in a chorus of booing right after the ending lyrics, "My home sweet home."

Marlins Ducks on the Pond

                    Messing around with numbers this morning and came up with this nugget: since Nick Johnson joined the club a week ago, he and leadoff hitter Chris Coghlan have reached base a staggering 56 percent of the time they've been to the plate. They've succeeded to get on base in 38 of their 68 combined chances.

                    Coghlan, of course, is on a hitting tear. The rookie has had at least two hits in each of his past seven games and will set a Marlins club record this afternoon if he has another multiple-hit game against the Phillies. Johnson is doing exactly what the Marlins were hoping he would, occupying bases as if he is stapled to them. He has reached in 20 of his 34 opportunities.Coghlan

                    So what's the knock? This is: despite their high on-base percentages, Coghlan and Johnson have scored just 10 runs, and two of those are the result of their own home runs. The Marlins' 3 and 4 hitters (and to some extent, their 5th) are not driving in runs. Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu have driven in just one run each since Johnson landed in the trade with Washington.

                   "Believe me, we're trying to get the runners home,":said Cantu, who has gone 3 for 28 over the past week. "Individually, I'm lacking and I need to get better. I need to get better and I guess the rest of the guys are thinking the same way."

                   Cantu described his slump as a hard-to-solve "riddle."

                   "You try to look for that one pitch, and sometimes you don't get it," Cantu said. "And then you have to look for some other pitches. Sometimes I'm jumpy. Sometimes I'm anxious. It's just been bumps in the road, and we have to get over them. We have two months left to get ourselves together and drive in more runs."


                  With Marlins killer Jamie Moyer on the mound for the Phils, Emilio Bonifacio is starting at second, Wes Helms will be at third, Cantu goes back to first, and Jeremy Hermida returns to the lineup and goes to right.

                   Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's not sure on Leo Nunez's availability. Nunez closed out Friday's and Saturday's victories, but needed only five pitches to get the job done on Friday.

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

                   Phillies: 1. Jimmy Rollins, ss; 2. Shane Victorino, cf; 3. Chase Utley, 2b; 3. Ryan Howard, 1b; 4. Raul Ibanez, lf; 6. Greg Dobbs, rf; 7. Pedro Feliz, 3b; 8. Paul Bako, c.; 9. Jamie Moyer, p.



August 08, 2009

Jamie Moyer: "I Don't Have An Explanation"

                Sunday could be the last time this season the Marlins see Jamie Moyer, whose spot in the Phillies rotation is tenuous. If Pedro Martinez replaces Moyer, you will hear no complaining from the Marlins, who are to Moyer what a mosquito is to a flyswatter.

                The 46-year-old lefty, the oldest guy in the majors, is now in his fourth season embarassing the Marlins with stuff so soft that grandpa at home probably sits in his rocker thinking he can do a better job than the likes of Dan Uggla and Cody Ross. Moyer has won 13 of 15 decisions against the Marlins since 2006 whole holding their hitters to a .219 average.

                Don't expect newcomer Nick Johnson to turn the tide, either. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said that Johnson, who has gone 1 for 18 against Moyer over his career, will be on the bench to start Sunday's game, with Jorge Cantu sliding back to first and Wes Helms filling in at third.

               How does Moyer do it? I strolled by his locker this afternoon searching for answers, and this is all I got from him:

               "I don't have an explanation for you -- sorry," Moyer said. "I really don't have any reasons for it, because I think if I had reasons for that, then I would be able to do that against other teams. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Why should I delve into it and try to figure it out?I don't have an answer."

               Could it be the Marlins' swing-from-the-heels approach to hitting?

            "There's a lot of clubs that do that," Moyer said.Moyer

               Could it be that Moyer has gotten into their heads, has done a psyche job on them?

               "You'd have to ask them," he said. "I'm not that smart."

               Does he pitch them any differently than he does other teams?

               "No, my approach to them is with caution, just like it is with any other team," he said. "I try to be aggressive and be me, and they probably go out and try to be themselves."

               There's talk in Philly that Moyer could soon move to the bullpen and give up his spot to Martinez. Then again, the Marlins and Phillies have seven more games remaining, Why wouldn't the Phillies keep him around to antagonize the Fish?

               "I guess it's good I've been having success against one team or a couple of teams, otherwise I might not have a job," he said.

               -- Jeremy Hermida isn't in Saturday's lineup, the second straight game he'll be sitting on the bench. Emilio Bonifacio goes to center, with Ross moving over to right:

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

              -- Anibal Sanchez might be only a rehab start or two from rejoining the Marlins. Sanchez delivered 6 2/3 hitless innings in his start Friday for Single A Jupiter. Gonzalez said the reports on him were strong, including an increase in velocity. Gonzalez said Sanchez would make at least one more rehab start -- Wednesday for Double A Jacksonville -- before a decision is made.

                 Sanchez now appears to be ahead of Andrew Miller on the progression scale. Miller remains on idle at Triple A New Orleans with a sprained ankle. And since his first two starts for the Zephyrs were duds, it would probably require at least two good ones -- one he is finally able to get back on the mound -- to convince the Marlins to bring him back.

              -- The Marlins haven't been scoring runs late so far on the road trip. Going into Saturday, they had scored only three runs total after the fifth inning through the first four games of the trip.

              -- Chris Coghlan has had at least two hits in each of his past six games. The club record for multiple-hit games is seven, done twice by Juan Pierre during the 2004 season and once by Miguel Cabrera in 2006. 



August 07, 2009

Hermida Not in Friday's Lineup, Rest of Weekend Up in Air

                 Manager Fredi Gonzalez has Ross Gload starting in right field for Friday's game against Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton, a signal that regular right fielder Jeremy Hermida might be looking at diminished playing time -- at least in the short term.

                 Gonzalez said that with Nick Johnson taking over at first base on a permanent basis, he wanted to get Gload at bats somehow and also noted that Gload has better numbers (2 for 3) against Blanton than Hermida (0 for 6) does.

                 But, considering the Phillies are sending out left-handers Cole Hamels and Marlins killer Jamie Moyer the final two games of the series, Hermida might not see the light of day in right. Gonzalez used Emilio Bonifacio in center and Cody Ross in right against Nationals left-hander John Lannon on Wednesday.

                 Gonzalez wouldn't commit one way or the other how he intended to use Hermida, who is coming off a tough series in Washington, one in which he went 2 for 10 in his two starts and drove in a run, but was also 0 for 6 in his other at bats with runners in scoring position. Hermida batted eighth on Thursday.

                 Asked if Hermida was still his regular right fielder or if he intended to use matchup numbers to dictate his decision, Gonzalez replied, "Maybe use numbers. We'll see. I think Herm is an integral part of this ballclub. But we need to get him going a little bit."

                  Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Nick Johnson, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Ross Gload, rf; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. John Baker, c; 9. Ricky Nolasco, rhp.

                 -- Gonzalez said he would likely announce Saturday's starter, expected to be Sean West, after tonight's game at Citizens Bank Park.

                 -- The Marlins manager also said that Leo Nunez, who has not pitched since Saturday, would be used tonight somehow, regardless of the situation, to get him some work.

                 -- Gonzalez said he likes the way Matt LIndstrom has looked so far, but noted that he hasn't been tested in a pressure situation. Lindstrom has made two relief outings since returning from the disabled list.