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37 posts from August 2009

August 06, 2009

Disaster in D.C.

                Did the season just go down the tubes for the Marlins? Were they really swept by the Washington Nationals - yes, the last-place Washington Nationals, who had not swept anyone in a year?

                Believe it.

               In a pair of collapses that have to rank with the worst of them, the Marlins blew a 4-0, eighth-inning lead on Tuesday and lost. On Thursday, they coughed up a 6-0 lead before going down to a 12-8 defeat -- TO THE NATIONALS!

               The biggest meltdown in club history was a 7-0 lead they blew in a 1998 game they ended up losing to the Phillies.

               Give us your take. Are the Marlins cooked?


Jeff Allison Makes Double A Debut; Maybin, Tucker, Tankersley Updates

                Most everyone figured when he was drafted six years ago that Jeff Allison would be in the majors long before now. But that was before anyone found out about his well-publicized battles with drug addiction, which caused repeated setbacks to his once-promising baseball career. The Marlins' top draft pick in 2003 missed two full seasons and has spent his entire pro career at Single A.

                On Wednesday, though, Allison reached another milestone. He made his Double A debut for Jacksonville and got the win, holding Huntsville to a pair of runs over five innings.

                Alas, it was a one-time only, emergency spot start, and Allison won't be staying.

                "He's back in Jupiter today," said Jim Fleming, the Marlins' vice president of player development. "But he threw well, so there's a chance he could go back."

                 Fleming said Allison, 24, has been "both good and bad, but I would say more good than bad. He doesn't quite have the stuff he used to have, but he's learning to pitch, and he's always been a battler and a competitive guy."

                .-- Outfielder Cameron Maybin has missed the past four games with Triple A New Orleans due to a sore back and is listed as day-to-day. "It's not a DL thing," Fleming said.....Right-handed pitcher Ryan Tucker, who has made two starts for the Zephyrs since returning from the disabled list following knee surgery, is also dealing with a sore back and likely will skip a start.....Left-handed reliever Taylor Tankersley (elbow fracture) has resumed throwing. "But I don't know if he'll be up on the mound yet by the end of the season," Fleming said. "I would say doubtful."

                -- Jeremy Hermida drops to eighth in the order as the Marlins try to avoid the sweep at Nationals Park today. Drizzling here now, tarp is out, and there's a 90 percent chance of rain.

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

August 05, 2009

Taking Care of Business -- A Star for a Star

                There's still some uncertainty among the Marlins about why Dodgers reliever Jeff Weaver drilled Hanley Ramirez with a pitch recently. Was it because the Marlins were pounding the Dodgers that day, and doing it in a way the Dodgers considered to be disrespectful? Was it because Ramirez, as he suspects, singled off Weaver in the previous at bat to make it an 8-0 game? ("He couldn't get me out, so he hit me," Ramirez said.) Or was it payback for two nights before when Josh Johnson plunked Dodgers star Manny Ramirez?

                The latter theory gained steam on Tuesday when the Brewers' Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch two innings after Manny Ramirez was hit by one. Fielder, angry, tried to storm into the Dodgers  clubhouse after the game but was stopped before he could get inside. Dodgers catcher Russell Martin all but admitted retaliation was the reason when he said: "It's part of the game. Our premier hitter gets hit and he's been hit around quite a bit this year. It's just kind of protection."

               Putting two and two together, veteran Marlins reliever Brendan Donnelly told me Wednesday that "Apparently, it seems like the Dodgers have an unwritten rule in place."

               And that rule would be that if Manny Ramirez is hit for any reason, intentionally or unintentionally, expect there to be retaliation. In other words, mess with Manny Ramirez at your own risk. Remember, shortly before the Marlins arrived in Los Angeles, the Reds' Homer Bailey hit Manny Ramirez in the wrist, which knocked him out of that game and kept him from starting the next one. Did the word go out then to the Dodgers' pitching staff?

              "That's their 'guy'," Donnelly said of the Dodgers star.

              There is no possible way anyone on the Dodgers could have construed that Johnson hit Manny Ramirez on purpose. There is no recent history of animosity involving the two players or their teams. It was the first game of the series. There were two outs in the first with the bases empty. And the count was 1-2. Johnson was one strike away from ending the inning. He had no reason to hit Manny Ramirez. None.

              Is it considered crossing the line if the Dodgers are seeking retaliation every time Manny Ramirez is hit by a pitch, for whatever reason? It's a hard question to answer. But Donnelly did say this:

              "Crossing the line is thrwoing at a guy's head," he said. "And crossing the line is throwing at a guy two days later. The wrong time to handle it is two days later. Do we have a rule? No. Do the Dodgers? I don't know. You'll have to ask them."


             With a left-hander going for the Nationals (John Lannan), manager Fredi Gonzalez is trying something new with his lineup, starting Emilio Bonifacio in center and shifting Cody Ross to right. Jeremy Hermida gets the night off. Gonzalez said he prefers to have Bonifacio in center instead of right, which he said is a harder position to handle for an inexperienced outfielder like Bonifacio. It wil be the first start of Bonifacio's major-league career in center:

             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. Rick VandenHurk, p.

             Nationals: 1. Nyjer Morgan, cf; 2. Cristian Guzman, ss; 3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3b; 4. Adam Dunn, 1b; 5. Josh Willingham, lf; 6. Elijah Dukes, rf; 7. Ronnie Belliard, 2b; 8. Wil Nieves, c; 9. John Lannan, p.


The Blame Game

               Sure, Josh Johnson spilled paint on his own masterpiece, and Kiko Calero gave up the tying hit, and Dan Meyer served up the go-head home run to Adam Dunn, becoming the last domino to fall in a painful eighth-inning sequence for the Marlins on Tuesday.

               But did anyone have a lousier night than Jeremy Hermida?

               Hermida's line (5-0-1`-1) is going to look only marginally better than Hanley Ramirez's (3-0-0-0) in the box score, but it was worse. Far worse.

               How bad was it? The Marlins had a runner -- or runners, plural -- standing in scoring position all five times Hermida stepped into the batters box. And only once did he deliver, driving in a run with a single in the seventh.

               Here's what he did the other four times:

               -- Struck out swinging with the bases loaded in the first.

               -- Grounded out to short with runners at first and second in the third.

               -- Struck out looking with runners at first and second in the fifth.

               -- Grounded into a game-ending double play with runners at first and second in the ninth.

               The Marlins stranded 11 runners (compared to the Nationals' 2) and lost 6-4 after blowing a 4-0 lead in the eighth. They went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Hermida, alone, was half the problem statistically, going 1 for 5. Do the math. A total of 11 runners -- yes, 11 -- were standing on base during Hermida's at bats, and only one of them scored.

                I'm open to disagreement, but did anyone do more to hurt the Marlins on Tuesday?




August 04, 2009

Hanley Ramirez Returns to Lineup

            Hanley Ramirez says he's still not 100 percent, but he's back in the starting lineup. On Saturday, the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano hit Ramirez with a pitch just above his left knee, causing him to leave the game. Ramirez said he notices it most in the field, especially when moving to his left.

            -- "It's different," Nick Johnson said of his return to D.C., just days after being traded by the Nationals. Johnson showed up in the visitors' clubhouse, at least, and didn't head out to the field with his former teammates when they posed for the team photo.

            -- Ricky Nolasco will start Friday for the Marlins, and it looks like Sean West will have honors on Saturday, though nothing's been announced with him. West would be in line to start Saturday, having pitched Monday for Double A Jacksonville and picking up the win. Since being sent back to Double A in July, West has gone 3-1 in his four starts while giving up 11 earned runs over 21 1/3 innings.4.63 ERA.

            -- A victory tonight will be the Marlins' 11th straight over the Nationals. That would represent a club record for most consecutive wins against one team.

            The lineups:

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

             Nats: 1. Nyjer Morgan, cf; 2. Cristian Guzman, ss; 3. Josh Willingham, lf; 4. Adam Dunn, 1b; 5. Elijah Dukas, rf; 6. Willie Harris, 3b; 7. Alberto Gonzalez, 2b; 8. Wil Nieves, c; 9. J.D. Martin, rhp.

August 02, 2009

Ramirez Not in Lineup; Badenhop on DL

               Hanley Ramirez was still sore after being hit by a pitch near his left knee on Saturday and wasn't in Sunday's lineup for the Marlins. Emilio Bonifacio is starting in his place at shortstop and batting second. Nick Johnson is batting in the third spot. Look for Ramirez to return to the lineup on Tuesday when the Marlins open a six-game road trip in Washington.

               Pitcher Burke Badenhop was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore neck. The Marlins recalled right-handed pitcher Tim Wood from Triple A New Orleans. Sean West is the leading candidate to move into the fifth spot in the rotation. West could be called up from Double A Jacksonville later in the week and face Philadelphia on Saturday.

              Manager Fredi Gonzalez said that, with the season winding down and innings piling up, he would prefer to keep his five starters on a normal sequence rather than using the off days to skip one now and then. If he sticks with that plan, it would mean the Marlins would need 10 more starts from the fifth man in the rotation.

             Gonzalez said that with Badenhop on the shelf, Brian Sanches would likely take over the long relief duties. Sanches delivered 3 1/3 scoreless innings on Saturday.


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

              Cubs: 1. Sam Fuld, cf; 2. Ryan Theriot, ss; 3. Derrek Lee, 1b; 4. Jake Fox, 3b; 5. Micah Hoffpauir, rf; 6. Alfonso Soriano, lf; 7. Mike Fontenot, 2b; 8. Koyie Hill, c; 9. Ryan Dempster, p.

The Bad With the Good

         By reaching base five times in six trips to the plate on Saturday, Nick Johnson lived up to his billing. His high on-base percentage was precisely the reason the Marlins traded for him, and he impressed in that area right from the get-go. But his debut was not without blemishes. He failed to cover first on a bunt and was thrown out at third for the final out of the fourth inning when trying to stretch a double into a triple. He was also thrown out on an attempted steal of second on what was likely a missed hit-and-run sign by Emilio Bonifacio.

         But Saturday's loss to the Cubs raises more serious concerns for the Marlins. They are:

         1) Their fifth starter. Who exactly is he? Burke Badenhop? Not after Saturday. He gave up six runs and failed to make it out of the second inning. Badenhop has done well in the long relief role, and he endeared himself to teammates when he drilled the Dodgers' Orlando Hudson last weekend. But it's hard to make a case for him as a starter, and he'll likely return to the bullpen. As the Marlins failed to reel in a starter -- too expensive, they said -- at the trading deadline, they're now forced to reach into the minors to find their fifth guy. Look for Sean West to make a return even though the rookie was sent back to Double A Jacksonville because he lacked command of his secondary pitches.

          2) Their third baseman. Jorge Cantu's return to the hot corner did not go well. Displaced by Johnson at third base, Cantu returned to the other side of the diamond and was charged with a pair of throwing errors on Saturday. Both throws were wide left, and the second of the two ended up costing the Marlins two huge runs in the ninth. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said it's going to be a simple matter of time before Cantu gets it together, and Cantu said he'll start lining up his throws with more practice. But Cantu was no Brooks Robinson at third last season, either, so it'll be interesting to see how the position switch works out in the end.

          3) Their closer. I know Leo Nunez wasn't in a save situation when he entered in the 10th on Saturday. But giving up a leadoff home run to Derrek Lee, then hammering Aramis Ramirez near the elbow with a pitch, wasn't exactly a confidence builder if you're a Marlins fan. Matt Lindstrom is back in the bullpen (he remained there Saturday), but he's being eased back and the ninth inning will belong to Nunez for now. The Marlins engaged the Padres in trade discussions for Heath Bell, but the asking price was too high and they backed out.

         I ran a poll after Friday's trade, one in which about 84 percent of nearly 400 respondents thought that the Marlins made the right move by acquiring Johnson. By far, it was a more popular verdict than the Marlins erring in not trading for a starting pitcher (5.2 percent) or a closer (4.9). Now I wonder if, after analyzing Saturday's loss, opinions have changed any.

        The phone lines are open.....