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17 posts from September 2009

September 10, 2009

Good, But Not Good Enough


   It's looking more and more like the Marlins will finish with a winning record but fail to reach the playoffs, which is becoming the norm for them. The need only go 8-15 or better the rest of the way to wind up above .500, but have only about a 1 in 20 chance of making the playoffs based on the latest projections.

   Since 2004, when the Marlins went 83-79 but fell short of the postseason, no team has had more winning seasons than the Marlins have had without any playoff appearances to show for them. Assuming there are no miracles in store, this will mark the fourth time since '04 that the Marlins could consider themselves good, but not good enough.

    They also fell short with winning teams in 2004, '05 and '08.

    About half of all winning teams end up in the playoffs, which makes the Marlins' streak of close-but-no-cigar finishes difficult to accomplish.

    OPENING DAY 2010?

Major League Baseball is being hush-hush about the 2010 regular-season schedule, which it plans to unveil on Sept. 15. But I'm hearing the Marlins will open their season against the Mets at Citi Field, most likely on April 5. If so, it would mark only the 5th time in 18 seasons that the Marlins would open up on the road.

CHRIS VOLSTAD IS LIKELY SUNDAY STARTER

  Rick VandenHurk is listed to start Sunday, but that is very likely to change. VandenHurk, who left Tuesday's game early due to back soreness, threw his normal between-starts bullpen session Thursday and continued to feel some discomfort.

  Manager Fredi Gonzalez said VandenHurk is improving, and a decision on Sunday's starter would not be made until Friday. But there are growing indications the Marlins will go with Volstad rather than risk further injury to VandenHurk.

LINEUPS:

Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Nick Johnson, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. John Baker, c; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Cody Ross, rf; 8. Cameron Maybin, cf; 9. Sean West, lhp.

 Mets: 1. Angel Pagan, cf; 2. Luis Castillo, 2b; 3. David Wright, 3b; 4. Jeff Francoeur, rf; 5. Fernando Tatis, 1b; 6. Nick Evans; lf; 7. Omir Santos, c; 8. Anderson Hernandez, ss; 9. Bobby Parnell, rhp.

  

September 08, 2009

Do The Marlins Have to Sweep the Mets?


   With only 25 games remaining in the season, the Marlins just about have to go on some ridiculous winning tear to pull out a miracle and reach the playoffs. They begin the day six behind the Phils in the NL East and 5 1/2 in back of Colorado -- with San Francisco sandwiched in between -- in the wild card.So you gotta figure 2 out of 3 isn't good enough anymore, especially when the opposition is the Mets.

    Spoke a moment ago with reliever Brendan Donnelly, who was activated from the disabled list today, and he seems to think the path of least resistence is the wild card. "That's a pretty big mountain to climb right now," Donnelly said of the gaps the Marlins have to make up. "I think right now we need to concentrate on the smaller hill, which is the wild card. And I think it's very, very reachable. You know the NL West, the rest of the way is going to beat up on each other. And if we handle our business here, we can climb that hill pretty quick. We have to because there's not a lot of time left. The door's open for us. If we do our thing....the door is open for us. We just got to go through it."

I'm not sure I agree with Donnelly on thinking the wild card is the easier path, especialy since the Marlins have six games remaining with the Phillies and don't play any of the wild card contenders again this season.

Lineups (Carlos Beltran returns to the Mets lineup):

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

Mets 1. Angel Pagan, lf; 2. Luis Castillo, 2b; 3. David Wright, 3b; 4. Carlos Beltran, cf; 5. Daniel Murphy, 1b; 6. Jeff Francoeur, rf; 7. Josh Thole, c; 8. Anderson Hernandez, ss; 9. Tim Redding, p.

MORE CALLUPS -- AND NO MORE TO COME

The Marlins called up RHP Chris Volstad and INF Gaby Sanchez from Triple A New Orleans on Tuesday, and that should take care of the September promotions. Manager Fredi Gonzalez now has 33 players at his disposal, and a surplus of long relievers ("One for each starter," Marlins radio man Glenn Gefner joked in the dugout). Volstad and Andrew Miller, original members of the starting rotation, are now stationed in the pen, along with Burke Badenhop and Cristhian Martinez.

 For now, Gonzalez said he is sticking with his current 5-man rotation of VandenHurk, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Sean West, but that could always change. Gonzalez said there are "a lot of possibilities" at the moment in terms of his rotation.

LEO NUNEZ

    Leo Nunez received his initiation into the closer's fraternity on Sunday when he suffered the first walk-off loss of his relief career. And it came about fast, too. The Nationals turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 victory in a matter of five Nunez pitches, two of which left the yard for home runs.

"I felt bad because I want to help our team get to the playoffs and possibly play in the World Series," Nunez said Tuesday through a translator. "But I've already forgotten about it. It's important to just move on and prepare for the next day."

    Nunez said he might need to stay away from throwing first-pitch fastballs to set up his change-up. Home runs have resulted from each of the first pitches Nunez has thrown in his two most recent outings.

"The last few games I feel llike they'vge been timing up that first fastball I throw," Nunez said. "But the next game I have in my mind to vary the pitches a little more."

HERMIDA UPDATE

It doesn't appear that outfielder Jeremy Hermida will be seeing action anytime soon. Hermida has been out with a strained oblique muscle and Gonzalez said it hurts for Hermida to laugh or sneeze.

 -- Marlins big-wigs Jeffrey Loria, David Samson and Larry Beinfest are on the New York trip.

September 06, 2009

Donnelly on Clubhouse Friction: Been There, Done That


    The Marlins have not lost since Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla jawed Wednesday, taking four in a row to remain an outside presence in the division and wild-card races. None of it surprises Brendan Donnelly, a veteran reliever for the Marlins who has seen it happen before.

Donnelly wasn't around othe day Ramirez and Uggla got into it inside the Marlins clubhouse. The injured pitcher was up in Jupiter on rehab assignment. But Donnelly was filled in on all the details when he rejoined the club, and it made him think back to a few years ago when he was involved in a similar internal flare-up on the Anaheim Angels.

    Donnelly recounted how in May of the 2006 season the Angels' Adam Kennedy became openly critical of a baserunning decision by teammate Chone Figgins. That set off a verbal exchange in the Angels dugout. But the bad feelings lingered even after Kennedy apologized to Figgins during a closed-door clubhouse meeting following the game. Donnelly said Figgins refused to acknowledge Kennedy's apology.

That angered Donnelly, who inserted himself into the fray.

"I felt the need to let Figgins know that, hey, it's good to acknowledge something like that," Donnelly said. "Things got a little heated. He felt like he didn't do anything wrong. I said 'That's not the point. In order to move on and make this a positive, you need to acknowledge it.'"

Tempers cooled eventually. At the same time, the Angels awakened on the field. They were 17-24 at the time of the verbal spar. They played close to .600 baseball the rest of the season and nearly won their division. Donnelly said the Kennedy-Figgins dust-up brought the Angels closer together as a team. He said the Uggla-Ramirez incident could have the same, unifying effect.

  "Depending on the character of the team, it could easily drive a wedge into the team," Donnelly said of internal confrontations in general. "But it was a positive for (the Angels), and I think it could be a positive for us."

   

September 03, 2009

Coghlan caps record month with rookie award

For Chris Coghlan winning the National League Rookie of the Month award for August on Thursday was "cool." But getting to slam a shaving cream pie in the face of teammate Wes Helms after Wednesday night's walk-off home run to beat the Braves was "priceless."

Chris Coghlan "That was one of the coolest moments I've had in professional baseball," said Coghlan, who tag-teammed with outfield Brett Carroll to ambush Helms after his solo blast in the ninth lifted the Marlins to an 8-7 win. "I would rather him hit a home run and me hit him with shaving cream than me hitting a walkoff home run. Dead honest. Uncle Wes gives us such a hard time all the time... I don't know if we could do it again [because I'm a rookie]. But the one time -- it was special and it was great."

Coghlan was pretty special in August. He established a team record with 47 hits in 28 games and became only the second rookie in the last 60 years to record at least 47 hits in a month. He it .385 with 21 runs scored, four homers, 18 RBI, six doubles, three triples, became the sixth Marlin to earn Rookie of the Month honors and first since Anibal Sanchez won it in September 2006, the same month he tossed his no-hitter.

"It's cool to know you're able to help the team out -- that's what it's all about," the 24-year old former 36th overall pick in the 2006 draft said. "It's an individual accomplishment. Those are things at the end of the year you can look at and realize what you've done well."

Coghlan entered Thursday's game leading all major league rookies in batting average (.302), hits (114) and multi-hit games (33). While Philadelphia's J.A. Happ and Atlanta's Tommy Hanson are considered front-runners to win the NL Rookie of the Year award, manager Fredi Gonzalez believes Coghlan has played his way into the argument.

As a leadoff hitter, Coghlan's .318 average ranks third only to Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (.361) and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (.333) in all of baseball.

"The month he had in August was for the record books," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully, he has a good month like August in September and he can pass those guys."

UGGLA REACHES HISTORIC HR MARK: Lost amid the drama of his pregame spat with infield partner Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla became the first second baseman to begin his career with four consecutive 25-home run seasons Wednesday. Only Ryan Sandberg (1989-92) and Alfonso Soriano (2002-2005) have ever hit at least 25 home runs in four consecutive seasons.

"I just noticed it when I was at home watching ESPN," Uggla said. "It's crazy. Anytime something like that happens with my name in it, it's kind of surreal a little bit, but definitely cool. "I look at all the guys that have played the position over the years -- Ryan Sandberg, Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent and Joe Morgan. It's surreal."

As for his riff with Ramirez, Uggla said it ended Wednesday in the clubhouse. "Ever since we got everything out in the open, we're fine," Uggla said. "I'm fine. Whatever."

Ramirez declined interview requests and remained alone at his locker watching Scarface with a set of headphones on while reporters were in the Marlins clubhouse.

• Gonzalez said Ramirez told him Thursday his tight left hamstring "feels better." Ramirez was unable to take ground balls at Land Shark Stadium with a steady rain Thursday afternoon.

DINGS AND DENTS: The Marlins recalled first baseman Nick Johnson and selected the contract of shortstop Andy Gonzalez from Triple A New Orleans and immediately placed them in the lineup.

Fredi Gonzalez said Johnson, who has not played since suffering a right hamstring injury in the first game of a double-header against Colorado Aug. 16, will be monitored closely.

"Late in games we'll pinch run for him if we need to," Gonzalez said. "We'll see how long we can go with him. Maybe after two or three days we'll give him a breather and let him work himself back into feeling good about that leg."

Johnson, who played in two games at Single A Jupiter and went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts, said he was able to turn a double play Wednesday night -- enough to give him the confidence he could return to the Marlins.

"I'll have to deal with it," Johnson said. "It's not 100 percent. But they told me it wasn't going to be for awhile. I think I'm at a point where I'm able to go and I just have to be smart when I'm out there and not push it and stick to the speed to the have and go from there."

• Gonzalez said the Marlins decided to add more help at shortstop after Emilio Bonifacio was hit by a pitch in his right shin Wednesday night.

• Left-hander Andrew Miller tossed six scoreless innings for Triple A New Orleans Wednesday in his first minor league start in more than a month. Gonzalez said Miller, who suffered an ankle injury in the minors, could join the Marlins this weekend in Washington.

• Right fielder Jeremy Hermida (right rib strain) will be given a couple days off before being reevaluated.

Nick Johnson to return to lineup Thursday

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez told 790 The Ticket this morning during his daily show that he expects first baseman Nick Johnson to be back in the lineup tonight versus the Braves.

Nick Johnson Gonzalez said Johnson felt good in his two at-bats Wednesday night with the Single A Jupiter Hammerheads and might be given a day or two off between starts until he returns to full health.

Johnson doubled in his only Single A at bat Monday and struckout twice Tuesday. He hasn't played since the first game of a double-header against the Rockies Aug. 16 when he tweaked his hamstring running the bases.

> Left-hander Andrew Miller had a strong start in Triple A New Orleans Wednesday night and might be called up soon. Miller tossed six scoreless innings with eight strike outs and gave up three hits to go with two walks. It was Miller's first minor league start since July. 

> Right-handed reliever Brendan Donnelly gave up one hit in one inning down in Jupiter. Donnelly will return from the disabled list on Monday.

Uggla: "I love [Hanley] like a brother."

Fights happen all the time between brothers. And apparently more often than we know in the Marlins clubhouse.

Dan Uggla Wednesday's clubhouse spat between All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dan Uggla became the juiciest Fish story of the year when the two decided to extend jabs in front of a small group of reporters. Uggla reportedly called Ramirez out for not playing through the pain of his tight left hamstring, an injury Ramirez said made him feel "at 10 percent."

The Marlins quickly closed shop after the spat and we don't know whether or not Ramirez and Uggla really hugged it out. But this is what Uggla had to say about it after the Marlins beat the Braves 8-7 in dramatic fashion.

"Whether that fueled emotion for tonight, who knows. It happened. We’re a family. I love him like a brother. We got past it and moved on. Stuff like that happens and emotions are going to fly sometimes. I’m glad it happened. I’m glad its over with. I think we’re stronger, closer and tighter because of it."

The Marlins could certainly use something to light a fire under their butts. With 29 games left, they are 69-64 and need to finish 21-8 to reach that magical 90 win mark, which could be what puts them into the playoffs. But are we to just believe Ramirez and Uggla really buried the hatchet? Are we to believe Ramirez, who was pretty steamed about what Uggla said, is going to be back out leading the charge soon?

Most of the night, TV cameras kept showing Ramirez at the end of the Marlins bench -- by himself. Cody Ross said he didn't notice that, then laughed about the way he dodged the question. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the TV angle was simply focusing on Ramirez. Truth be told as the Marlins were celebrating with Wes Helms at home plate, Ramirez was in the background, not the foreground. When the clubhouse opened after the game, he was long gone.

"Me and Danny, Hermida fight constantly," Ross said. "It’s just the way we are. We’re together for seven straight months. We love each other, we’re going to fight for each other on the field. It doesn’t mean we go and hang out off the field or anything like that. But we’re in here and out on the field, we support each other 100 percent."

We'll have to see tomorrow I guess if Hanley still feels that way too.

September 01, 2009

LIVE! Late Night with the Fish: Braves @ Marlins (Tuesday/Wednesday Morning Edition) ... Game On: 10 p.m. Start

Jrsrain1 I know it's a crummy cellphone pic, but if you look to the left field line, you can see the grounds crew getting ready to put down the tarp at Miami Gardens Stadium.

The Marlins (it's 4:57 p.m.) are taking batting practice right now, but the crew is ready to strike. It looks really, really nasty out west.

Kickoff for tonight's game is set for 7:10.

Stay tuned.

-- The Marlins have now been pulled off the field as the skies have definitely darkened. The tarp is going on now.

-- Cute moments during the pregame today as Fox/Sun reporter Kristen Hewitt brought her infant daughter Lila down to the Marlins dugout. Not only did Lila get her picture on the dugout bench, but she also got lots of love from Fredi Gonzalez, Cody Ross and Hanley Ramirez -- among others. Cute kid, great pics.

-- The lineups for tonight: Game time now set for 10 p.m.

The 'ATL': RF Matt Diaz; 2B Martin Prado; 3B Chipper Jones; C Brian McCann; LF Garret Anderson; SS Yunel Escobar; 1B Adam LaRoche; CF Omar Infante; RHP Tim Hudson.

The 'FLA': LF Chris Coghlan; 3B Wes Helms; SS Hanley Ramirez; 1B Jorge Cantu; C John Baker; 2B Dan Uggla; CF Cody Ross; RF Jeremy Hermida; RHP Anibal Sanchez.