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15 posts from February 2010

February 28, 2010

Turnbow's Big Toe Gushes Blood Before Bullpen, Reliever All Better Now

    The big toe on Derrick Turnbow's left foot was a bloody mess shortly before he stepped on the rubber for his bullpen warmup session on Sunday. But, afterward, the reliever was feeling much better because of it. And Marlins hitters were probably a little more relieved, as well.

    Turnbow was wild -- even to the point of frightening some of his teammates -- during his first two throwing sessions against live hitters earlier in the week. The reason: Turnbow said an infection caused the toe on his plant foot to swell, making it hard for him to pitch and throw strikes.

"My toenail jammed up in my shoe about a week ago and it caused it to swell up," Turnbow said. "It got infected and it affected my command a lot the first two times I was out. I didn't say anything (to the coaching staff). Today, it busted open and all the blood came out. It felt better immediately."

  Turnbow's toe exploded just before he stepped onto the bullpen mound. The pitcher removed his left sock to allow a trainer to apply a bandage, then began throwing and feeling better than ever.

    Marlins outfielder Cody Ross described Turnbow's toe as "disgusting" when the pitcher showed it to him recently.

    "I couldn't throw strikes the first couple of times out because there was so much more pressure," Turnbow said.


    Asked to single out one player that has made the strongest, instant impression on him so far in spring training, manager Fredi Gonzalez thought for a moment before coming up with utility infielder Brian Barden.

"He plays above average shortstop," Gonzalez said. "For me, a utility guy can play all four positions, but the main position has got to be shortstop. And he's pretty good. He may be the second best shortstop we have behind Hanley, as far as defending. With the makeup of this team, there's room for those types of guys."

February 26, 2010

Wood hoping to emerge from crowded bullpen

When Tim Wood made a trip out to California this past offseason to visit teammate Ryan Tucker, he returned home with a new and rather large tattoo on his left arm. The artwork, drawn freehand by a close friend of Tucker's, featured three baby angels and a message: Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil.

Tim WoodThe 27-year old reliever is hoping it provides him with a little luck this camp. Wood is going to need it. Basically, the 6-1, 181-pound right-hander who got his first taste of the big leagues a year ago, is in a battle with 13 other guys for four bullpen slots. 

A year ago, he was called up by the Marlins on four different occasions and finished the year on the staff with a 2.82 ERA, 1.43 WHIP in 22 1/3 innings and 18 appearances. Next to Brian Sanches, who is expected to be this year's setup man, Wood turned out to be arguably the best bullpen arm added to the staff after the start of the season. But now, after the Marlins went out and signed Mike MacDougal, Seth McClung and Jose Veras (who finally arrived to camp Friday), Wood finds himself on the outside looking in and having to prove himself once again.

"I feel strong. My arm feels really good, body feels really good -- these games can't come soon enough," said Wood, a 44th round pick who spent 2 1/2 of his first four years in the system out with elbow and shoulder injuries. "[Manager] Fredi [Gonzalez] is going to take the best relievers he has, whether they're right handed, left handed or throw with both hands. He's going to take the best guys he feels he can win with. I strongly support that. It's what you have to do."

Still, that doesn't mean Wood doesn't want to make the team badly. He said he arrived in Jupiter on Jan. 1 and has been working out at the complex daily. The Marlins, he said, asked him to put on more weight (he added seven pounds) and work on his secondary pitches, a changeup and slider. He feels the changeup has gotten a lot better.

"Getting here is the easy part," Wood said. "But I want to stay. I want to do everything I can to make it happen. It's going to be a competitive camp. Now, I just have to go out there and do what I can do, get people out."

WEATHER MAN: Manager Fredi Gonzalez likes to have a little fun with the media every now and then with a little sarcasm. His best line from Thursday involved complimenting camp coordinator Carlos Tosca and his penchant for bringing in "great weather" for the first three days of full squad workouts.

"I don't know if you guys are baseball people or not, but Carlos Tosca -- this guy is good," Gonzalez said. "He goes out there [Wednesday], brings in the rain. We're going to play in the rain during the year. So, he brings in the rain just enough to let the guys know we're going to have to work through the rain through the course of the year. And then [Thursday] we have fly ball priority. So, he brings in the wind, the sun and no clouds. Perfect conditions for flyballs. [Friday] its going to get a little colder. We open in New York in April, so I mean this guy is unbelievable. He's got some pull."

WEDDING BELLS: Turns out there were at least three Marlins who said "I do" this offseason. Pitcher Andrew Miller, 24, said he tied the knot with his high school sweetheart, a Duke graduate, in a small ceremony on Amelia Island near Jacksonville. Miller, who went to North Carolina, joined first baseman Gaby Sanchez, 26, and reliever Dan Meyer, 28, as the recently married Marlins.

February 25, 2010

Josh Johnson impressive in first BP session

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez made his way camp Thursday watching several pitchers toss batting practice for the first time this spring. He saw reliever Tim Wood throw, closer Leo Nunez, Andrew Miller and right-handers Hayden Penn and Rick VandenHurk. 

Josh Johnson  "When I go around, the only thing I want to see is guys throw the ball over the plate," Gonzalez said. "Penn and Vandy threw the ball well. Andrew Miller threw the ball fine."

Gonzalez didn't bother to stop and watch All-Star Josh Johnson throw. But if he needs a quick scouting report on his Opening Day starter, he needs to only ask Wes Helms or catcher John Baker. Both were more than impressed with Johnson, who signed a four-year, $39 million extension this offseason.

"It was JJ's first live BP and I can tell you he is at where most normal pitchers are at midseason," Helms said. "He's just one of those guys who has a gift. He's a freak of nature. He's the Hanley [Ramirez] of pitchers. He looked really good today. His ball was moving really good, exploding. His change up did too. He's keeping it down."

Johnson threw only a combined 30 pitches to Helms, Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan and first baseman Logan Morrison, but was able to mix in several changeups, a pitch he began tweaking last year after meeting with Giants starter and friend Matt Cain.

Baker, who caught JJ's session, said the biggest challenge Johnson faces is bring the speed of his changeup down. He said the plan is for Johnson to work on that plenty in spring training. " When you throw 97 miles per hour, you're in a scary spot when it come to the changeup," Baker said. "If you throw it 88, 89, they may hit it and think its a fastball. If he throws his changeup 84-85, I'll be happy."

> STIRRING SPEECH: New first base coach Dave Collins gave such an uplifting speech before the Marlins first full-team workout Wednesday it left Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria raving. So what did Collins say? Apparently enough to give 23-year old right hander Ryan Tucker chills.

"It was a good speech, motivating," said Tucker, who is trying to rebound from a tough season in which had quad tendon surgery and an oblique tear. 

"It was basically about just to go out there and give it your best because you don't know how long you opportunity is going to last. For me, after having a pretty long off season (his wife gave birth to twins) just hearing that solidified it for me. You really don't know how long you can be out here for. You have to take advantage of it. [My kids are] why I pretty much changed my attitude around. I'll admit, I really wasn't as dedicated at times as I needed to be. Now, I'm ready to give that effort. You don't know how long your going to be here as a person. How long this game is going to be around. I'm appreciative."

> Gonzalez said Ricky Nolasco will start in the Marlins first exhibition game next Wednesday against the University of Miami. 

February 24, 2010

Jeffrey Loria: Marlins Are a Playoff Team

   Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria just gave his annual state of the union address on the first full workout day of spring training, and the message was pretty clear: Loria expects the Marlins to make the playoffs.

    "I expect us to make the playoffs," Loria said. "We've got all the ammunition we need."Loria

    In addition to the players, that ammunition includes manager Fredi Gonzalez and his coaching staff, according to Loria.

   Asked if the onus was on Gonzalez to win, Loria replied tersely: "Fredi is the manager. Fredi is here in his fourth season. Fredi is here to bring the the team to the next level.That's what we're hoping happens  I was very excited to see Fredi today. I gave him the biggest hug. He's been here. There's been a lot of continuity with that, as you well know, and continuity is important. It's not only with the managers and coaches, but also with players."

  Loria said "people blew things out of proportion" at the end of last season when Bobby Valentine was mentioned as a possible replacement for Gonzalez, and Gonzalez's future with the club remained in limbo for a few days.

   "Fredi's the manager and we're moving forward, period," Loria said.

    Loria said it was his decision to offer pitching ace Josh Johnson a four-year deal after the baseball office advocated a three-year contract.

    Loria was adament in his comments that he feels the Marlins are a playoff team.

    "The core of this team is back," Loria said. "And they're well positioned to make the playoffs. I think you know my history long enough to know that I'm in this game because I want to win, and we'll do whatever it takes."

    Loria said the Marlins are "about ready to break out now."

    "I'm hungry to win," Loria said. "We're heading toward our new ballpark, and I wanted to see us be more successful than we were the last two years. I felt we should have been one of eight (playoff teams) last year, and I was disappointed at the end of the season, and that's all I'll say about that. But we have the ability to do it now and we certainly have the manager in place to do it. We have the coaches in place."

February 23, 2010

Hanely Ramirez Works on Building Ranch, Lower Body Strength During Winter Offseason

   Hanley Ramirez showed off pictures of his new spread in the Dominican Republic -- a working ranch -- to a group of sportswriters this morning. Ramirez spent the winter building the 5-bedroom pad, located about 35 miles outside of Santo Domingo. The place comes with all the usual farm animals -- cows, chickens, horses and the like -- and Ramirez said he looks the part by wearing a cowboy hat. He said an aunt oversees a staff of seven to keep the place running while he's away. The place even has a name: H2R Ranch, a combination of his initials and uniform number.

   But Ramirez was even prouder of his other offseason project: working on lower body strength. The NL batting champ said he noticed he started "running out of gas" toward the end of last season and wanted to keep it from happening again.

   "I told myself I got to do something to help my lower body," Ramirez said. "I feel like I didn' t have enough power, because your power comes from your lower body. I was feeling like that at the end of the season, with no power."

    Ramirez is hoping the improvement in strength will help him in all facets: base running, hitting and fielding.

    "As a player you need your lower body to do everything, to pitch, to play defense, run -- everything," he said. "I've got more energy."

   While Ramirez won the batting title with a .342 average, he battled a hamstring injury and struggled in September, hitting just. 268 the final month. Ramirez will be bidding to become the first NL player to win back-to-back batting titles since Larry Walker did it with the Rockies in 1998-99.

    Over the winter, Ramirez said he worked on getting in shape from Monday through Friday and building his ranch on Saturday and Sunday. He said he posed atop a horse but was too "scared" to ride the steed.

    "Like I told my teammates," Ramirez said, smiling, "It's not easy being one of the best players in baseball. It's a commitment."

    -- Credit veteran Wes Helms with playing the first practical joke of the spring. The victim: Chris Coghlan. Helms hung two pairs of Coghlan's cleats from the clubhouse ceiling. The reason: Helms said the Nike-brand cleats were adorned with Coghlan's initials and number -- something Helms said Nike only does when a player makes two All-Star teams. Coghlan, the NL Rookie of the Year, has never been an All-Star. But Helms said Coghlan beat the system, going online to order the shoes.

   "He's trying to be like a two-time All-Star," Helms said. "We've got to let him know. We've got to keep him humble."

    -- The Marlins continue to await on the arrival of reliever Jose Veras, who remains in the D.R. with visa issues.

February 22, 2010

"Baseball Tonight" Team at Marlins Camp; John Baker a Hit with ESPN Crew

  Tune in to ESPN today (Monday) at 3:30 p.m.when Baseball Tonight airs its half-hour report on the Marlins. The BT tonight team is traveling around the state in a tour bus, hitting all the spring training sites. Featured on today's show will be a question and answer session between Marlins ace Josh Johnson and ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian.

  "It's our day with the Marlins," Kurkjian said.

  Kurkjian said Marlins catcher John Baker provided a sensational interview, which he hopes will air.

   "John Baker, we showed him the ESPN bus, and he was hysterical beyond words describing what the bus looks like," Kurkjian said. "If they don't run that little segment, I'm going to quit at ESPN. He was that good. And then we asked him about Iraq five minutes later, and he went from being really funny to being really serious. He described his trip to Iraq better than I could have done it if I had gone. Our life is built around sound bites, and he had two sound bites about his trip to Iraq that just brings chills to you, because he gets it and he is able to convey it so well. Hopefully, we get all of that on our show today."

    As for Kurkjian's assessment of the Marlins, the ESPN analyst had this to say:

    "At least they've got the ace (Johnson) signed for four years. At least they've got the second baseman (Uggla) back in camp, and he's not going to be traded from what it appears. They've got Chris Coghlan for the entire season. And I think they just have a few more questions answered than they had at this time last year. Even with unanswered questions, they had a pretty good year. You would think with more questions answered at this point, they might have an even better year than last year.

    "To me, they're not going to win the division. The Phillies are better, clearly. But to rule them out of a playoff spot, I think we've all learned our lesson on that. We shouldn't do that with the Marlins. At least I've learned my lesson. Every year I say they can't win, and they're always right in it all year.".

February 20, 2010

New Marlins Coach Dave Collins: On Bunting, Bonifacio and Small Ball

    New Marlins coach Dave Collins said he expects to see a shift back to fundamental baseball, with a greater emphasis on speed and bunting. That suits Collins just fine. He'll be in charge of teaching bunting and base running, along with outfield defense, in his new role.

    "I think you're going to see the short game more," Collins said. "I think you're going to see stolen bases. I think you're going to see those numbers elevate back to where they were before we got into this power game. I think you're going to see execution of the fundamentals of the short game come into play. Speed is going to be a factor again."

    Collins said he'll be spending a lot of time this spring working with Emilio Bonifacio and Cameron Maybin on their bunting. Collins believes Bonifacio, in particular, can become a premier bunter. Collins said Bonifacio has a tendency to put his feet in motion toward first before he's actually made contact with the bat -- a flaw that can be overcome.

 "Slow down, execute a perfect bunt, and then run," is what Collins said he'll instruct Bonifacio. "If you execute a perfect bunt, there's not going to be a play. When you have a tendency to hurry, that's when you're going to make mistakes. It's like when you hunt, and you put your eyes through the scope. You're still so you can see the target. It's the same thing when you're bunting. You're still, and you're using your top hand as the sight of the gun."


   Last we left off with the Marlins, they were celebrating -- well, perhaps celebrating is too strong a word -- their second-place finish in the National League East. Part of the reason for the excitement in the visitor's clubhouse in Philadelphia: Marlins players knew they were entitled to a sliver of the postseason receipts. For Marlins players, a full share was worth about $7,000 after taxes. And how did some of those players spend their windfall?

    BURKE BADENHOP -- "I needed a new laptop, so I said if we finish second, I'm going to get myself a MacBook. So when we clinched second, I was pretty happy. I also got some clothes for my girlfriend."

    BRIAN SANCHES -- "In the backyard, I put up  a building that has a stone fireplace and a porch. We have a pretty good sized backyard. It's got like a TV built over the fireplace, so we go out there and watch games."

    SEAN WEST -- "I got a DW drum set. It's all black and has five pieces. It's pretty much the most preferred drum set among all professional drummers."

BRETT CARROLL -- "I reinvested it into my offseason training. I bought a mountain bike, a Giant. It's full suspension. I just had some trails my trainer and I would do near my house."

    CAMERON MAYBIN -- "My sister is going to college next fall and I put the money into her college account."

    ANIBAL SANCHEZ -- "I used it to hire a nutritionist and ended up losing 30 pounds."


    The Winter Olympics aren't a hot topic inside the Marlins clubhouse, but a couple of pitchers on the club have a strong rooting interest. Rick VandenHurk enjoys discussing the success of the Dutch speed skaters while Chris Leroux cheers for anything Canadian. After all, VandenHurk is from The Netherlands while Leroux is from north of the border.

Leroux said he even tried his hand at curling in his grade school gym class, but said he was especially gifted at the game.

"I might be Canadian," Leroux said, "but I'm not a curler."


Reliever Derrick Turnbow has always liked to wear his hair long, shaggy and unkempt. But, per club policy, he'll be seeing a barber on Monday. Turnbow said he was unaware of the policy when he signed a minor-league contract with the Marlins and, jokingly, said he might consider looking into a possible breach of contact.

"They just told me today," Turnbow said of the team's hair policy. "I'll have to get my balance back in order."






February 16, 2010

Cody Ross Defeats Marlins in Arbitration

   Nobody should be too terribly surprised -- least of all the Marlins -- that Cody Ross won his salary arbitration case against the club. A panel of arbitrators sided with the outfielder on Tuesday, awarding him a salary of $4.45 million for the upcoming season.

    That makes three straight losses for the Marlins in salary arbitration hearings, following defeats in previous years to Miguel Cabrera and Dan Uggla. The decision on Ross, though, seemingly became all but a slam dunk last week when outfielder Corey Hart won his case against the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Hart, who is comparable to Ross statistically, was awarded $4.8 million -- considerably more than what Ross had requested. With the Marlins countering with a salary request of $4.2 million in the Ross case, it probably didn't take the three-member panel very long to reach their decision.

    Compare the career and 2009 offensive numbers for Ross and Hart, each of whom was in his second year of salary arbitration:

    CAREER BA/OBP/SLG          G      HR     RBI

    Cody Ross     .264/.323/.484   483    72 254

    Corey Hart      .273/.326/.470  521    67 260

     2009         BA/OBP/SLG       G     HR     RBI

     Cody Ross   .270/.321/.469    151    24    90

     Corey Hart     .260/.335/.418      115   12    48

     Considering what Hart received in his arbitration case, the Marlins should consider Ross a bargain at $4.45 million.

February 13, 2010

Fredi Gonzalez Envisions Cameron Maybin as Marlins' No. 2 Hitter

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez won't get to keep everyone guessing in spring training about his Opening Day starter, as Josh Johnson put that issue to rest last month by putting his signature on a four-year contract. Here's one more question that was answered Saturday during FanFest festivities at Sun Life Stadium: barring some unforseen development, Cameron Maybin will be the Marlins' No. 2 hitter, sandwiched between NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan and NL MVP runner-up Hanley Ramirez.

"Awesome," was how Maybin described the news, which Gonzalez revealed during a question and answer period with fans. "I like it. That's where I feel comfortable hitting, near the top of the order."

 Gonzalez used 10 different players in the two hole last season. This year, he's hoping Maybin stays there from day one.

  "Right now, Maybin is the guy you want to do that," Gonzalez said of the second spot in the order. "In a perfect world, I'd like to give him an opportunity to bat in that spot."

  Maybin isn't complaining, and how could he? He'll be situated between the NL batting champion in Ramirez, who hit .342, and Coghlan, who finished sixth with a .321 average.

  "I want to get him in a spot where he'll get more pitches to hit," Gonzalez said.

  Last season, Maybin struggled when Gonzalez put him in the eighth spot, ahead of the pitcher. Maybin hit just .205 when batting eighth. But he did much better in the second spot, batting .316 with a .361 on-base percentage.

  Look for Gonzalez to go with a lineup that looks like this: 1. Coghlan, lf; 2. Maybin, cf; 3. Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Cody Ross, rf; 7. John Baker/Ronny Paulino, c; 8. Gaby Sanchez/Logan Morrison, 1b: 9. Pitcher


February 11, 2010

Marlins Sign Mike Lamb

   Add another candidate to the list of those trying to succeed Ross Gload as the go-to left-handed hitter off the Marlins' bench. The team signed infielder Mike Lamb to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.

   Lamb has played a multitude of positions in nine big league seasons with the Rangers, Astros, Twins and Brewers, but hasn't played in the majors since 2008. He spent last season at Triple A Buffalo (New York Mets).

  Still, he fits the profile the Marlins are seeking: an inexpensive bench player with veteran experience. He's a .250 hitter with six home runs in 208 career pinch at bats.