So much for Randy St. Claire's long, lonely winter hunting and ice fishing near his home in upstate New York. St. Claire landed a big one -- a position as the Marlins new pitching coach -- that should keep him occupied the rest of the winter.
"I'm very excited -- what a great staff to be able to work with," said St. Claire, who was offered the job late Monday night. "I've seen them pitch a whole lot, and it's a very talented group, and I'm looking forward to working with them. I'm not going to come in and start making wholesale changes on guys. I think some of the guys have pretty solid mechanics, and their deliveries are good. It's more watching them and getting familiar with them and seeing if there are some minor things that can lead to major changes."
The process for St. Claire will start immediately. The former pitching coach for the Washington Nationals, who was fired on June 1 while in his seventh season, said he plans to contact every Marlins pitcher -- including those likely to enter free agency -- just to introduce himself. He said he'll also begin studying video footage from the past season and will likely head out to the Arizona Fall League to have a look at Andrew Miller.
The Marlins think highly of St. Claire and believe he can help a young staff that finished ninth in the National League in earned run average (4.29). He replaces Mark Wiley, who was offered another job by the Marlins.
The Marlins had interest in hiring former Diamondbacks and Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price, but he opted to become pitching coach of the Cincinnati Reds.
St. Claire was a coach in the Montreal Expos minor league system in 2002 when owner Jeffrey Loria essentially traded in the Expos for the Marlins. St. Claire could have joined the Marlins organization at that time but decided to stay with the Expos for family reasons.
St. Claire pitched for five teams in a nine-year major league career, finishing with a 12-6 record, nine saves and a 4.14 ERA.
So why should anyone care what Marlins starter Chris Volstad thinks about the upcoming World Series battle between the Yankees and Phillies? Here's why: Volstad was one of only four pitchers to post wins over both teams this season.
The others: teammate Josh Johnson, Toronto's Ricky Romero and Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie.
Okay, so not that many pitchers had the chance The point is, Volstad is in a unique position to assess the Fall Classic from a pitcher's perspective. And, for obvious reasons, Volstad said he would prefer to face the Yankees lineup rather than the one belonging to the division-rival Phils -- not that either is a walk in the park
"Just because of those left-handed hitters," Volstad said of facing the Phillies lineup, which for a right-hander is like trying to walk barefoot over hot coals.
The Phillies line up Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez from the left side, and switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino can also swing left-handed. Which may not be a whole lot of fun for ex-Marlin A.J. Burnett when it comes his turn to start for the Bombers.
"They both have power throughout the lineup,' Volstad said. "And I think there will be a lot of scoring becuase of the parks they're playing in."
Volstad said mixing it up is the key to pitching successfully against either club.
"You've got to vary it, at bat to at bat," Volstad said. "You can't repeat things. You can't really get a guy out one particular way because they make adjustments so well."
So who wins?
"I'll give it to the Yankees in seven, just because of home-field advantage," he said. "It'll be a fun one to watch."
No surprises here. Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan received some love from their peers when it was announced on Thursday they were finalists for Players Choice Awards, which are voted on by fellow big leaguers.
Ramirez is not only a finalist for NL Player of the Year, as determined by his brethren, but also Player of the Year for either league, joining the Twins' Joe Mauer and Cardinals' Albert Pujols. In the NL, Ramirez, Pujols and the Brewers' Prince Fielder are the three finalists.
Coghlan is one of three finalists for Outstanding NL Rookie, along with the Phillies' J.A. Happ and Braves' Tommy Hanson.
Also, first baseman Nick Johnson, who played for both the Marlins and Nationals, is a finalist for NL Comeback Player.
Winners will be announced from Oct. 26 through Oct. 30.
When Jeffrey Loria traded in the Expos to buy the Marlins in 2002, pitching instructor Randy St. Claire could have joined the southward migration with other members of the Montreal organization. But, due to family matters, St. Claire elected to stay behind.
"There were only a small handful who stayed back," St. Claire said.
Now, more than seven years later, St. Claire could receive a second shot to join the Marlins, who are in the process of interviewing him for the open pitching coach position. The Marlins also plan to talk to veteran pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. Like St. Claire, Hernandez has ties to current members of the Marlins front office. He was a minor-league pitching coordinator for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when Dan Jennings and Mike Hill were in the Rays organization. Hernandez later served as the pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers and, more recently, bullpen coach for the Cleveland Indians.
"I'd love the opportunity," St. Claire said of the Marlins. "They've got a lot of good young arms with a lot of potential."
St. Claire was working in the Expos' minor league system when Loria and his gang pulled up stakes and took over the Marlins.
"They told everybody they were invited to go with them, and most guys went with the group to Florida," St. Claire said. "But I had kids at the time and it was a really tough choice for me. At that point in time, it was more a family decision."
St. Claire was in his seventh season as pitching coach for the Expos/Nationals when he was fired in June.
"I'd love the opportunity to work with them," St. Claire said of the Marlins pitchers. "I'd like to try to get them to where they need to be to be successful."
"I love you Miami?"
For Livan Hernandez, maybe not so much anymore.
According to a Detroit News blogger's report, Hernandez -- the Marlins' 97 World Series MVP -- is facing foreclosure on his $1.3 million Miami home. The report also details other lawsuits directed at Hernandez and his financial issues. Hard to believe that Hernandez could be in this much trouble, considering he's made $50 million in baseball salary since he broke onto the scene in '97.
Hernandez, now in the twilight of his career, spent the latter part of last season with the Nationals.
Here's the report: http://apps.detnews.com/apps/blogs/taxingdetroitblog/index.php
Jack McKeon was out walking his dog at his home in North Carolina when I phoned him this morning, asking him what he thought about the Yankees sending C.C. Sabathia to the mound on three days rest in Tuesday's Game 4 of the ALCS.
Know what McKeon did? He laughed.
"There ain't nothing wrong with that, shoot," McKeon said. "I think nothing of it."
Six years ago McKeon raised eyebrows when he announced that Josh Beckett would start Game 6 of the World Series for the Marlins on short rest, against the very same Yankees. Some media pundits felt that McKeon was off his rocker and took him to task.
So, of course, Beckett delivers a Series clinching gem, going nine and prompting McKeon to draw laughter by opening his post-game press conference by asking reporters, "Who's going to ask me about three days rest?"
McKeon said a lot of people forgot that the Yankees' Andy Pettitte was starting on three days' rest when he faced the Marlins in Game 2 of the '03 Series. Pettitte went 8 2/3 innings and got the win..
McKeon sees nothing wrong with the strategy even though, statistically, starters going on short rest in the playoffs have only won about 20 percent of the time. Sabathia made three starts on short rest for the Brewers last September in the pennant race, and those turned out successfully. However, he was hit hard in his lone playoff outing, also on short rest, for Milwaukee last October. Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who had a hand in his team's Game 3 loss last night by reaching into the bullpen once too often, is using Sabathia on short rest in order to make him available for a potential Game 7.
McKeon says he's all for it.
"Yeah, I took heat for it," McKeon said of his Beckett decision in 2003. "But I enjoyed it, and I loved the results."
If you've never checked out the Boston Dirt Dogs website, do yourself a favor and give it a click. While it's primarily Red Sox related, it contains plenty of clever material, some of it even poking fun at the hometown team. (Though I find humorous and hugely hypocritical the dig at the "store-bought" Yankees at the same time they're bemoaning the failure of Sox leadership to win the bidding war for Mark Teixeira. Now if that ain't calling the kettle black.).
Scroll down to the bottom of the link to the item titled "Blame Cake Is Done," and read the item about Josh Beckett, which takes a jab at his stock "executing pitches" line, questions whether he can still be classified as "ace" quality, and asks "Can we re-do the Hanley Ramirez trade now?" If you haven't noticed, they've been having a few shortstop issues up in Beantown.
Question: Never mind Mike Lowell, Anibal Sanchez, Guillermo Mota and all the others involved in the Nov. 24, 2005, blockbuster. If you could do a Ramirez for Beckett trade straight up, right this second, would you do it?
Not sure that Paris and baseball have much in common, but that's where Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria summoned his top troops for a few days earlier in the week to talk business.
Loria brought the team's top front office executives -- as well as manager Fredi Gonzalez -- to the "City of Love" from Monday to Wednesday on an all-expense paid trip to discuss Marlins baseball. Gonzalez said they were in Paris for probably no more than 40 hours.
"We talked about the team and we also talked about the coaching staff," Gonzalez said.
Joining Gonzalez in Paris were team president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, general manager Mike Hill, assistant G.M. Dan Jennings, and vice president of baseball operations Jim Fleming.
"We went out for dinner and saw whatever we could see," said Gonzalez, who also brought his wife along for the trip. "But we weren't there to sightsee."
Apparently, everything with Gonzalez and Loria is hunky dory after a few days of uncertainty following the end of the season, ones in which it was rumored Bobby Valentine could end up replacing Gonzalez.
"Everything's good," Gonzalez said.
When I spoke this morning with Andrew Miller, the Marlins lefty told me he had no desire to check out Stephen Strasburg when the hot shot prospect for the Nationals make his Arizona Fall League debut in Phoenix tonight.
"I'm not going out of my way to watch him pitch, let's put it that way," Miller said.
Not that Phoenix is that far out of the way for Miller, who also finds himself in the AFL with Mesa. But Miller is dealing with more pressing issues, such as trying to get his own career on track. He'll resume the process on Saturday when he takes the mound for Mesa.
"I think the plan is just to throw and get some innings," Miller said. "I'm working on the same stuff that I was working on at Triple A and throwing bullpens in September -- mechanical stuff to stay back -- and trying to throw as many strikes as I can. Same thing as always."
The Marlins sent Miller to New Orleans in July for an overhaul. But an ankle injury early on nixed those plans. And when Miller was called back up in September, he was used sparingly, and only out of the bullpen. He has won nine games and lost 15 since arriving in the trade with Detroit, disappointing to say the least for the Marlins.
Jim Fleming, the Marlins' vice president of player development, said Miller's AFL experience would likely consist of making five or six starts totaling 25 to 35 innings. The goal is to have a new and improved Miller ready to go for spring training
"It's really a two-headed goal," Fleming said. "One is to get him some more innings because he didn't have enough (just 80 for the Marlins last season). And two is to get him some more innings to work on those (mechanical) things and establish some consistency with his delivery. He's always been a little bit across his body. We're not taking that totally away. But we're making it a little straighter line to help take some pressure off his knee and help him throw strikes."
Miller had a strikeout/walk ratio of 1.37 last season, which ranked 81st out of 90 National League pitchers with at least 80 innings. Fleming said roving pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal would head out to Arizona to monitor Miller. Mesa manager Brandon Hyde, who managed the Marlins'' Double A club in Jacksonville, will also be sending reports back to South Florida.
"Rosy's going out sometime this week and kind of re-establish we're headed in the right direction," Fleming said.
The Marlins have announced outfielder Michael Stanton as the organization's Minor League Player of the Year and right-hander Cristhian Martinez as its Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Stanton, who is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, hit .255 with 28 home runs and 92 RBI while splitting time at Single A Jupiter and Double A Jacksonville. Stanton, 19, was a second-round draft pick for the Marlins in 2007.
Martinez, 27, went 9-3 with a 2.94 ERA at Jacksonville. He made four stints with the Marlins last season, appearing in 15 games..The Marlins obtained Martinez in the Triple A phase of the 2006 Rule V Draft from the Detroit Tigers.