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39 posts from March 2010

March 24, 2010

Stanton heads down, but leaves impression

FORT MYERS -- The Marlins sent ultra-talented 20-year old outfielder Mike Stanton back down to Double A Jacksonville Wednesday. But the question isn't why the organization's top prospect is heading back to the minors. Rather, it's how long will Marlins fans have to wait to see him in the bigs.

If you go off manager Fredi Gonzalez's remarks from this morning, it might not be very long at all. 

Mike Stanton "We sent him down, but he'll let us know when he's ready," Gonzalez said Wednesday before his team began warming up to take on the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium. "It's just a matter of him getting some at-bats and putting up some numbers or decapitating somebody down there. Maybe the league president will say get this guy out of here before he hurts somebody."

Stanton hurt a few big league pitchers in his second spring with the big league club. In 24 at-bats, he showed the raw power that made him Baseball American's third best prospect in the game, slugging three home runs and driving in eight RBI while hitting .333 in seven games played. He also made an impression on Gonzalez with his defense and his work ethic.

"Big strides," Gonzalez said comparing Stanton's first spring to this spring performance. "This guy has great recognition of the strike zone. He's gotten so much better in the outfield from last year. It's just a matter now of getting some at-bats, more game time, more experience because he is close to being a major leaguer, real close."

> BAKER IN NEED OF AT-BATS: Catcher John Baker will get four much-needed at-bats this afternoon against the Twins as a designated hitter before getting a start at catcher up the road Thursday against the Red Sox. Baker, hampered by a right forearm strain for most of the spring, has only caught two games to date -- the exhibition opener against the University of Miami and a game against the Washington Nationals Saturday. A few hours after his return, he came down with a strong stomach virus late Saturday night that caused him to drop between 10 to 15 pounds and left him weak when he returned to camp Tuesday.

John Baker "My stomach feels much better today than yesterday," Baker said Wednesday. "Yesterday I was having a tough time just sitting on the bench, my stomach was bothering me.

"I'm definitely ready to feel healthy and play baseball. This spring training has sucked for me... I've been really frustrated. This is what I love to do and I haven't been able to play."

Baker estimates between simulated games and a few in the minors he's been able to put together 17 at-bats. According to his Grapefruit League stats, he's two for four. He said he'd like to play in six to seven of the Marlins final spring games so he can get to about 50 at-bats, the same number he had a year ago.

"It's more about getting your timing down," Baker said. "I spent three days a week in the offseason catching with Tim Cousins. It's not like I showed up not having played since the season ended. I feel comfortable behind the plate... And it's just all about making sure I'm ready to play nine innings. That's where I want to be, not frustrated, out on the field, playing pain free baseball that's my goal."

March 23, 2010

Marlins make moves in bullpen

JUPITER -- The battle for jobs in the Marlins bullpen just got less crowded.

Mike MacDougal Reliever Mike MacDougal, who converted 20 of his 21 save opportunities last season for the Nationals and was brought in as a fall back plan at closer for Leo Nunez, was released by the Marlins Tuesday morning. Left-handed reliever Hunter Jones was optioned to Triple A New Orleans.

Last Friday, Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters of the seven available jobs in his bullpen, six had pretty much been locked up.  That group included Nunez, Brian Sanches, Burke Badenhop, Jose Veras and left-handers Dan Meyer and Renyel Pinto.

MacDougal, signed to a minor league contract in the offseason, was considered a serious contender for the final vacant spot along with Seth McClung. Gonzalez said Friday Rick VandenHurk, Hayden Penn and Clay Hensley also would be candidates if they don't make the rotation. Other releivers still in the mix include Scott Strickland, Chris Leroux and Tim Wood.

MacDougal had struggled in five appearances this spring. He had a 9.64 ERA with seven walks and two strikeouts in just 4 2/3 innings. 

Jones actually was pretty effective, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings and retiring 12 of the 15 batters he faced. But with Pinto and Meyer locked in to roles as left-handed relievers, he was sent down to Triple A where he'll get more work.

March 22, 2010

Rainy Day Results for Miller/Hensley Sim Games

  Mother Nature got in the way of Monday's scheduled intrasquad game, which was to have featured Andrew Miller and Clay Hensley but was called off due to wet conditions. Instead, the two candidates for the Marlins rotation threw simulation games under soggy conditions. The mound appeared quite slippery, creating traction problems for the two pitchers.

  Hensley looked the best of the two, throwing 18 of his 32 pitches for strikes and inducing nine ground balls (along with two strikeouts) from the 11 batters he faced. Scouts clocked Hensley's fastball in the mid-80s, topping out at 88.

  "He's got command of all the plate," said manager Fredi Gonzalez, who observed from the outfield. "He's always around the plate and he's not afraid of contact. He's putting himself in that position where he could fill a role (rotation) easy."

  Miller threw 23 of his 43 pitches for strikes, struck out four, walked two and gave up a pair of hits. Scouts clocked him at 92-93 mph.

  -- On an unrelated note, Gonzalez said that Josh Johnson will start Friday against the Mets in Jupiter but will not go March 31 against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Johnson will be the Opening Day starter against the Mets in New York on April 5, and the Marlins don't want the Mets to get two looks at Johnson before the opener.  

No "Off Day" for Miller, Hensley

  The schedule says this is the Marlins' only off day of spring training, and for most players it is. But for Andrew Miller and Clay Hensley, this day will be another crucial one in helping the Marlins decide how they'll shape their five-man rotation. Miller and Hensley are pitching in an intrasquad game at 11 a.m. on one of the back diamonds, and you can bet that the Marlins' brass will be there to watch.

  Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco were always in the rotation. Anibal Sanchez is now in. That leaves two openings.  Based on everything I've seen and heard, Hensley and Chris Volstad are the frontrunners for the other two spots, with Miller, Rick VandenHurk and Hayden Penn looking like the odd men out at the moment. Penn, who is out of options, hurt his chances with Sunday's rough outing when he gave up four runs on five hits and a pair of walks in just 1 2/3 innings. VandenHurk threw four scoreless innings on Sunday. But it was done in near anonymity, in a minor league game on one of the back fields as the Marlins were playing the Nationals inside the stadium. That manager Fredi Gonzalez and front office wizards Larry Beinfest and Mike Hill watched Penn and Johnson pitch in the regular game against Washington probably doesn't bode well for VandenHurk (0-1, 6.23). Miller (1-0, 10.80) has not exactly had a great spring and looks likely for New Orleans.

  Hensley, who has has been the biggest surprise of the spring for the Marlins, has pitched 10 1/3 innings without allowing a run. Hensley has given up just four hits and, while other members of the staff have battled control issues, he has not issued any walks. Contrast that with Miller (eight walks in 7 2/3 innings) and VandenHurk (four walks in 8 2/3 innings). Even Volstad (7BB/12 1/3), Sanchez (8BB/13 1/3) and Johnson (6BB/12 1/3) have had their problems. Hensley and Nolasco (0 BB/12 IP) have not.

  I'll be heading out to the back field to check it all out. Look for live updates on my Twitter account @clarkspencer.

  -- Rule 5 pick Jorge Jimenez didn't work out for the Marlins, who returned him to the Red Sox. But the player the Marlins lost in the Rule 5 draft, outfielder John Raynor, is having a nice spring with the Pirates. Raynor, who was the second player taken in the December draft during the winter meetings, has gone 10 for 26 with a double, home run and two triples. He is battling for the fourth outfield spot with Pittsburgh.

March 21, 2010

Dolphins Honcho Bill Parcells Checking Out the Marlins

    Dolphins bigwig Bill Parcells is in the Marlins house this morning. Parcells, an occasional visitor to spring camp, is hanging out with manager Fredi Gonzalez.

    As the two were chatting, Gonzalez yelled out to outfielder Mike Stanton: "Hey Wormy, Parcells wants to know why he hasn't seen your name in the boxscore."

    Parcells gave Stanton the nickname "Wormy" after meeting the Marlins' big-time prospect a couple of weeks ago. Stanton hasn't been playing due to a hyperextended left elbow.



#Marlins Offer Rule 5 Pick Jorge Jimenez Back to Red Sox

  Looks like the Marlins will have little to show for the Matt Lindstrom trade with Houston. The Marlins on Sunday offered Rule 5 pick Jorge Jimenez -- the key acquisition in that winter meetings deal -- back to his original team, the Boston Red Sox. The Marlins also must pay $25,000 to the Red Sox

  Jimenez, a third baseman, went 3 for 18 this spring for the Marlins and, obviously, didn't charm the front office, at least enough to keep him on the roster all season. The only other players the Marlins obtained from the Astros in exchange for Lindstrom were a couple of A ball players, right-handed pitcher Robert Bono and shortstop Luis Bryan.

   Lindstrom would have cost the Marlins a bit for a setup bullpen arm. The Astros are paying him $1.625 million.

   -- Brian Barden is starting in left field today for the Marlins, which could be an ominous sign for Brett Carroll. The Marlins think highly of the multi-dimensional Barden, enough so that there's a good chance he'll be on the Opening Day roster. By having Barden and Emilio Bonifacio as potential backup outfielders, there's less need to keep Carroll on the roster as a fourth outfielder. Though he is primarily an infielder, not to mention a gifted shortstop defensively, Barden played 13 games in the outfield last season for Memphis, the Cardinals' Triple A affiliate.

   -- Catcher John Baker and third base coach Joe Espada are sick and stayed home today.

   -- Gaby Sanchez continues to impress with the bat and make a strong case for the first baseman's job. Sanchez went 2 for 4 on Saturday to raise his average to .387, and also hit his first home run this spring.

  Manager Fredi Gonzalez said that, given enough at bats, Sanchez could hit 15 to 20 home runs.

   -- Andrew Miller and Clay Hensley will pitch in an intrasquad game Monday morning. The rest of the Marlins have the day off.


March 17, 2010

Turnbow Released; Maybin Resurfaces

    Derrick Turnbow stopped to sign autographs for fans this morning before hopping in his car and driving away from the Marlins' spring training complex -- for good. Turnbow was released on Wednesday a day after his shoulder screamed, forcing him to exit his relief outing in Viera after facing just two batters. Turnbow, who was hoping to make a comeback with the Marlins, will now see a doctor to determine the full extent of his injury.

    He does not want to call it quits.

    "I'm not ever going to call it quits until my body just can't do it anymore or other teams don't want to give me a shot," he said. "I'm going to keep going."

But Turnbow's next step, as long as surgery isn't necessary, will be in the minors somewhere. He said the Marlins told him they would "keep the door open" as far as a minor-league assignment, as long as he's healthy.

    -- Turnbow's name wasn't the only one scratched off the spring training roster. The Marlins optioned pitchers Jay Buente and Brett Sinkbeil to Triple A New Orleans, optioned pitcher Kris Harvey to Double A Jacksonville, and reassigned Dan Jennings, Matt Peterson, Chris Schroder, Chris Hatcher, Matt Dominguez and Ozzie Martinez to minor-league camp.

  -- Cameron Maybin, who has been out since March 7 with a groin injury, is back in the lineup for today's game against the Braves. He'll bat second and play center. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Maybin would also play Thursday as he works himself back into shape. Also, Jorge Cantu, who has been out with the flu, is in the lineup:

 Today's lineup:

1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Cameron Maybin, cf; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Logan Morrison, 1b; 6. Hector Luna, 2b; 7. Bryan Petersen, rf; 8. Brad Davis, c; 9. Andrew Miller.



March 16, 2010

Turnbow's comeback bid likely over

VIERA -- Derrick Turnbow's comeback bid with the Marlins looks like it is probably over.

Derrick TurnbowThe shaggy-haired former All-Star closer, who was hoping to revive his career with the Marlins after a 2008 tear in his right labrum, left Tuesday afternoon's game against the Nationals with severe pain in his throwing shoulder. An MRI is expected to be performed Wednesday, but based on pain alone Turnbow doesn't expect the results to be good. 

"I've pitched with pain plenty of times, aches, like every other pitcher," said Turnbow, who saved 39 games for the Brewers and made the All-Star team in 2006. "But this was something I felt different. I've broken my [elbow] before, this is 10 times worse than a broken elbow."

Turnbow came into Tuesday's game in the eighth inning and  promptly threw his first two warm-up pitches off the back screen. After giving up a walk, Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire came out with a trainer to check on Turnbow. But he quickly waved him off. Turnbow then hit the following batter and slouched over on the mound in pain before manager Fredi Gonzalez came out with trainers and removed him from the game. Turnbow threw 10 pitches, just two for strikes. 

"For a guy that competitive to walk off the mound in that type of pain has to be tough," Gonzalez said. "We'll see. Hopefully, it's not as bad as we think it is."

Turbow said he felt great coming into the spring despite still having a small tear in his labrum. Up until a live batting practice he pitched a few weeks ago, he said he hadn't felt any discomfort. Tuesday, though, he did -- from the moment he started playing catch.

"It just didn't feel good working in the pen -- it was hurting," Turnbow said. "I thought I could go out there and get loose, hoping it would get better. I just felt awful, pain, tightness, it hurt to throw."

"Hopefully, it's nothing serious. But in any case, I'm sure I'll be shutdown for awhile. The chances of me making the big league team are over. We'll see what happens with me here, if they keep me here. Being a free agent is not a good situation. But you can only go until your body gives out."

> The Marlins lost both split squad games Tuesday. The Nationals pounded the Marlins 12-3 and the Braves beat the Marlins 6-3 in Lake Buena Vista.

Marlins set for split squad vs. Nats, Braves

VIERA -- The Marlins are playing a pair of split squad games today -- one against the Nationals here in Viera and the other in Lake Buena Vista against the Braves. I'll be in Viera for the game against the Nationals, where manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to closely watch the pitching outings of Rick VandenHurk and Hayden Penn. Ace Josh Johnson will be pitching against the Braves.

"I just want to see good quality pitches, see them get ahead in the count," Gonzalez said. "No walks, pound the strike zone."

A couple notes from Gonzalez this morning...

> Outfielder Cameron Maybin appears to be ahead of schedule in his return from a groin injury. Gonzalez said Maybin, who pulled his groin trying to score from first on March 7th, could play as early as Wednesday "He's doing the full scale running and everything looks good," Gonzalez said. "So maybe tomorrow he'll get a couple at-bats." 

> Right hander Chris Volstad had a rough day Monday and his ERA isn't very pretty, but Gonzalez said he saw things he liked from the 23-year old -- specifically the way his sinker was moving. "I thought yesterday the linescore was worse than he pitched," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes, walks bother you. But yesterday, the four walks didn't bother you quite as much because you saw that ball running. You saw the depth on the sinker, which is a good sign. You saw him getting some ground balls, which was a good sign."

> Outfielder Mike Stanton stayed back in Jupiter Tuesday instead of following the team to Jupiter. Gonzalez said Stanton had a little soreness in his left elbow, but it was nothing serious. "It happened from hitting the ball too hard," Gonzalez joked. "I think this guy works so hard and takes so many swings he probably irritated it a little bit."

> As expected, shortstop Hanley Ramirez made the trip to Lake Buena Vista Tuesday after sitting out of Monday's game with tightness in his groin.

> Catcher John Baker (strained right forearm) made the trip to Viera and will get a pinch hit opportunity. "We won't play him in a game until he throws to the bases," Gonzalez said. "He might do that later this week."

Outfielder Cody Ross, who doubled Monday in his first start since March 4th, will play against the Nationals Tuesday before getting a day off Wednesday. Consider it precautionary for his sore groin. 

> Third baseman Jorge Cantu (stomach virus) worked out in the morning in Jupiter and is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. First baseman Mike Lamb (stomach virus) was scratched from Tuesday's lineup against the Braves and was replaced by Gaby Sanchez.

March 15, 2010

Marlins Check Out Mike Lowell

  Mike Lowell made his Grapefruit League debut on Monday for the Boston Red Sox and the Marlins were among those with a scout on hand in Fort Myers to see the long-time third-sacker try his mitt at first base for the first time.

   Lowell's name has come up in discussions within the Marlins organization, but it's unclear what their interest level is in the former Fish. And there would be a number of issues -- financial and physical being two of the primary ones -- that would need to be resolved before any serious thoughts of a reunion could be put into action.

   However, the corner infield situation for the Marlins is not etched in stone. The only certainty is that Jorge Cantu will man one of the two spots. At the moment, the Marlins have him at third, with unproven candidates Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison vying for the job at first. But the Marlins would not hesitate to move Cantu back to first base if, say, they thought Rule 5 pick Jorge Jimenez could handle the job at third, or if they felt uncomfortable going into the season with either Sanchez or Morrison at first. Lowell could provide another, intriguing option (at first and/or third) IF he shows that he's healthy and only IF the Red Sox, in any kind of trade arrangement, agree to absorb the $12 million he's due to make in this, the final year of his contract.

    Lowell is coming off offseason thumb surgery and is also dealing with an old hip issue. Despite his immense popularity -- within the Red Sox clubhouse and throughout the Boston community -- the Red Sox have moved on by acquiring Adrian Beltre to play third base. Lowell was nearly traded to the Rangers over the winter before the thumb injury threw a wrench in that deal. The only spot the Red Sox have for Lowell is on their bench. He claims he can still perform every day and would covet a trade that would allow him that opportunity.

   Question: Considering the significant issues, which also include Lowell's advancing age (36) and declining range, should the Marlins make a bid to re-acquire their all-time home run leader and return him to his old stomping ground if he proves he's healthy and can still perform?