Tonight is the first Fiesta Friday night, and to celebrate, the Marlins are sporting new home jerseys as seen at left (photo courtesy of Majestic).
This is the first Friday home game for the Fish since Opening Night.
The Marlins didn't wear the Los Marlins jerseys that night against the Dodgers, but will in all other Friday night home games this season.
Tonight is also Bark at the Park night, with plenty of pups expected in the upper deck. If you have a dog and like baseball, well, tonight's your night.
-- Cody Ross, who had a base hit as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of Wednesday's afternoon loss to the Padres, is back in the lineup against a Washington lineup that is 33.3 percent made up of former Marlins.
"His color is back,'' Fredi Gonzalez joked about his formerly sick outfielder.
-- Here are your lineups for tonight's tilt (7:10 p.m., FSNF)
Washington (12-10): CF Nyjer Morgan; 2B Adam Kennedy; 3B Ryan Zimmerman; 1B Adam Dunn; LF Josh Willingham; C Ivan Rodriguez; RF Roger Bernadina; SS Ian Desmond; LHP Scott Olsen (1-1, 6.14).
Marlins (11-11): CF Cameron Maybin; LF Chris Coghlan; SS Hanley Ramirez; 3B Jorge Cantu; 2B Dan Uggla; C Ronny Paulino; RF Cody Ross; 1B Gaby Sanchez; RHP Ricky Nolasco (2-0, 3.03).
-- More updates later.
One of the interesting story lines we haven't seen play out very often during this series is the pinch hit work of the Marlins' Wes Helms and Padres' Matt Stairs, clearly two of the best at their craft in this game.
Among active pinch hitters, the pair rank first or second in nearly every important offensive category. Stairs leads with 88 overall pinch hits in his career; Helms ranks second with 79. Stairs leads in home runs with 19; Helms is second with seven. Helms leads with 20 doubles; Stairs is second with 18. Stairs leads in RBI with 78; Helms is second with 51.
Stairs, 42, has been doing it a little longer. The Padres are the 12th team he's played for in 18 seasons. Helms, who will turn 34 on May 12th, is in his 12th major league season and with his fourth team.
"I think we're both kind of different in our own way," Helms said. "He comes off the bench more with what I call a softball approach. He's trying to jack the ball until he gets two strikes. Then, when he gets two strikes, you see him go into that approach of putting the ball in play, just like that at-bat the other night. He got two strikes against [Josh Johnson] then hit the sacrifice fly to drive in the run. He's a professional hitter.
"I'm more the guy when I get in there, I like to see a pitch here and there. I like to work the count, but also in a situation with a runner or second and third and less than two outs, I'm up there to try and get them in. I'm not up there trying to hit a homer. I'm up in there to get him in with a hit or a double in the gap. So, we're different in our way. But we've both had success."
Helms said he actually spent a season playing with Stairs during winter ball in Mexico. He said they've become friends over the years and doesn't expect Stairs to hang it up anytime soon.
"From playing against him and with him, he's a baseball guru," Helms said. "He's one of those guys that you're probably going to have to rip the jersey off him. He's going to stick around as long as he can. If you have success off the bench, there's always going to be a team that can use you."
Former Marlin Lenny Harris owns the record with most career pinch hits. Harris had 212 in 804 career pinch-hit at-bats. Former Yankee Cliff Johnson owns the pinch-hit home run record with 20.
SENDING COGHLAN DOWN 'A LAST RESORT': Listened to Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez or Jorge Sedano's radio show this morning as I was driving into the stadium and heard Gonzalez say he still hasn't seen Chris Coghlan struggle enough to consider sending him to Triple A.
Gonzalez said Coghlan hasn't show him "signs" of being defeated at the plate, something that would tell him it was time for the second-year player to head back down and work on his swing. Coghlan produced a hit for the fourth consecutive game Tuesday to raise his average to .162 to on the season.
He also struck out three times and now has 21 strikeouts in 74 at-bats this season. Last year, he didn't have that many K's until 109th at-bat, 33 games in.
CARROLL'S BIG THROW... The only reason Brett Carroll started Tuesday's game was because Cody Ross came down with a bad case of the flu. In the end, the Marlins kind of caught a break as Carroll was able to use his strong arm in right field to throw out the Padres Nick Hundley at the plate in the second inning.
It was Carroll's first assist of the season and ninth of his career. But the way the ball was hit to him by Tony Gwynn Jr., Carroll thought he had no chance -- especially since he said he wasn't able to "get much behind it."
Catcher John Baker caught the throw on the right side of the plate and did a good job sweeping his glove to left to tag Hundley for the third out.
"When it was initially hit, I knew it was hit hard. But I was moving to my left and I was deep," Carroll said. "I felt good when I let it go. I knew it had the right trajectory, but it was hit or miss. Usually when I just grab it and throw it is when things happen, not when I try to manipulate it."
> Ross by the way said he's feeling better even though he's not in the lineup.
> Helms won't get an opportunity to pinch hit Wednesday because he's starting for the Marlins at third. Brian Barden is getting his first start at shortstop with Hanley Ramirez getting his first day off this season.
MARLINS LINEUP VS. PADRES: 1. Cameron Maybin, CF; 2. Chris Coghlan LF; 3. Wes Helms 3B; 4. Jorge Cantu 1B; 5. Dan Uggla 2B; 6. Ronny Paulino C; 7. Brett Carroll RF; 8. Brian Barden SS; 9. Nate Robertson P.
It's not getting better.
Here we are, closing in on the end of April, and Chris Coghlan continues to clog the chain in the Marlins lineup. We're not talking a one-week slump. We're not talking a two-week slump. Strictly looking at batting average, we're talking perhaps the worst month-long slump in Marlins HISTORY, which I know is not as long as Boston's or Chicago's. But when you've won as many World Series titles in the past 15 years as the Cubs and Red Sox have won in the past bazillion, hey, you're entitled to mention history. The all-time worst batting average month by any Marlin belongs to Alex Gonzalez and his .150 April in 2000. Difference is, Gonzalez was out there for his glove and tended to bat seventh. Nobody noticed if he wasn't hitting -- and nobody really much cared until he hit THE home run.
Coghlan they notice. Forget that he's the reigning NL Rookie of the Year. It goes far beyond that. While the Marlins probably weren't counting on Coghlan to duplicate his lofty .321 average from last year, neither were they counting on a buck sixty two, an on-base percentage a smidge above. .200, no extra-base hits and a growing propensity to whiff. He had a hit -- a single, of course -- in four at bats tonight. He struck out the other three times. He's struck out seven times over the past three games. The guy looks lost.
He's already lost the leadoff spot. Is it time to lose Coghlan? To Triple A? Look, it's doubtful the Marlins call up Mike Stanton, not at the moment. June maybe. May? No. But it could be prime time to send Coghlan back to the minors to get his act together. Outfielder Bryan Petersen is hitting .314 with an on-base percentage of .415 at New Orleans. He could be a stop-gap until 1) Coghlan proves to the Marlins he's worked out the kinks; or 2) Stanton forces the Marlins' hand the way Miguel Cabrera did in 2003.
If you're the Marlins, do you continue to show patience with Coghlan? Or is it time to move on? Your thoughts?
Brian Barden hasn't had many opportunities to swing a bat this season. Then again, it wasn't his offense that earned him a spot on the Marlins roster this season.
It's his defense manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca have long admired. And it's what was Gonzalez was praising yet again Tuesday, a day after the 29-year old defensive specialist helped Josh Johnson finish off the fourth complete game of his career.
If not for Barden's diving catch down the third base line and powerful throw to first to get Oscar Salazar for the second out in the ninth, Gonzalez said he likely would have pulled Johnson who finished Monday's game with 117 pitches. Instead, Johnson remained in and struck out Chase Headley looking to set a new career-high for strikeouts (12) in a game.
"As soon as JJ went out in the ninth, [Brian Sanches] got up [in the bullpen. We weren't going to extend [Johnson] anything," Gonzalez said. "I hope JJ takes him out to dinner, buy him a burger, something."
Barden earned the No. 1 WebGem on ESPN's Baseball Tonight show for his defensive play. "
"I remember the ball being halfway to me and then it was in my glove," said Barden, who extended his body fully to his right to glove the ball on a hard, quick hop. "I was just glad I could help JJ, be a part of his complete game."
Barden said Johnson gave him a smile after the out. He's not expecting anything more from the Marlins ace, who also produced three hits and three RBI in Monday's 10-1 win.
"I'm jealous," Barden said. "He has three more hits than I do."
ROBERTSON READY TO GO ON THREE DAYS REST: Nate Robertson doesn't have a ton of experience pitching on three days rest. But he has more than Ricky Nolasco does.
That's why the 32-year old left-hander -- who along with Nolasco pitched in Saturday's double-header in Colorado -- will get the ball Wednesday when the Marlins close out their three-game series against the Padres. Robertson has done it once in his career. Nolasco still hasn't.
The good news for the Marlins? Robertson won. He pitched five innings, scattering three hits and giving up two earned runs with three walks and seven strikeouts in a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays for the Detroit Tigers on April 14, 2004.
"I'm not looking for him to go out, give me nine innings," Gonzalez said. "He's gives us 6 or 7 [innings], that's good. He'll get an extra day the following time around like everybody else. "
Robertson only threw 84 pitches and four innings in Saturday's 8-1, Game 2 loss to the Rockies. He gave up five hits, five earned runs and walked four in the loss.
MORRISON HAS MRI ON SHOULDER: Highly-touted prospect and Triple A first baseman Logan Morrison had an MRI Tuesday on his injured left shoulder. Jim Fleming, the Marlins Vice President for Player Development and Scouting, said the results would likely not be known until Wednesday.
Morrison, who struggled this spring and lost the battle for the starting first base job to Gaby Sanchez, suffered the injury during a collision at first base on April 19th and is one the seven-day disabled list. He is hitting .300 with 10 RBI in 12 games.
ROSS SCRATCHED: Outfielder Cody Ross was scratched from Tuesday's lineup with flu-like symptoms. He was replaced in right field by Brett Carroll, who moved into the eighth slot in the batting order. First baseman Gaby Sanchez moved up from eighth to seventh. Ross went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI Monday night.
He hasn't created the kind of buzz Jason Heyward has in Atlanta. But when you stack Gaby Sanchez's numbers against the rest of the rookies in baseball after three weeks, the Marlins young first baseman is definitely worthy of recognition.
Sanchez, among a dozen everyday playing rookies in the game early on this season, ranks fourth in batting average (.281) and runs (8), second to Heyward in RBI (9) and leads all first-year players in doubles (7). Not bad for a guy who hit third or fourth nearly his entire life and has had to bat in the eighth hole for the Marlins in 40 of his 57 at-bats this season.
"It has been an adjustment, but only because you have the pitcher hitting behind you," Sanchez said. "When you're up there with one out, two outs, you're the guy they want to swing the bat, to try and create a run or something."
Sanchez, who had 29 major league career at-bats between 2008 and 2009, said he's been extra patient at the plate trying to study pitchers he's never faced before. It's resulted in him taking nine walks (2nd most on the team) and accumulating a .388 on base percentage (third highest on the team).
"Every single outing, I'm seeing a new pitcher for the first time," Sanchez said. "I'm having to take pitches, sliders, change ups to see their movement, depth. I feel like once I get back to facing them again and again it will be a little bit different."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's been impressed with how Sanchez has not only hit, but the way he's played defense. Sanchez has only been credited with one error this season and has done a good job handling throws that often pull him off the bag.
"I feel like defense has been going very well for me," Sanchez said. "I've been learning the guys throws, what their ball typically does when they throw it and what side they like to throw to. Once it becomes second nature, it will be easier for me on backhand plays."
SANCHES RETURNS, MEYER HEADS TO DL: Brian Sanches provided a huge lift to the Marlins bullpen last season when he was called up from Triple A New Orleans. Now that he's finally over a strained right hamstring injury, the 31-year old right-hander is hoping he can do the same soon.
Sanches was activated from the disabled list Monday and inserted into a pen which ranks 22nd in ERA (4.91) and has struggled at times to defend leads late in games. The Marlins have given up 36 of their 92 runs from the seventh inning on and blown four save opportunities in 10 tries.
Sanches, who spent 11 seasons in the minors before finally breaking through last season, began 2009 with 25 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings at home, the third longest streak in club history. He was 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA and threw two more innings 10 times in 47 appearances.
"I definitely missed being with the guys, competing with them, the camaraderie," said Sanches, who strained his hamstring in the next-to-last exhibition game of the spring. "I'm not looking at myself as a savior. I just want to be a piece of the puzzle. That's what I'm going to go in there and do, fill my spot. Hopefully, everything kind of molds around me."
The Marlins placed left-handed reliever Dan Meyer (0-1, 16.20 ERA, 6 games) on the disabled list with a strained left calf, retroactive to Sunday. Meyer said he strained his calf against the Reds on April 13th, before the Marlins went on a nine-game road trip. He said the injury had nothing to do with his struggles, though. He's given up six earned runs and 10 hits with three walks over two innings in his last three appearances.
"I'm not heloing the team out there trying to fight through it," Meyer said. "I wouldn't say anything is too serious. I just have to do what's good for the team, try and stay healthy and not try to work it too much."
COGHLAN FEELING BETTER AT THE PLATE: Chris Coghlan's struggles this season have been well documented. But the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year said he feels like he's close to breaking out of his 10-for-65 slump (.154) to start the season.
In his last two games, Coghlan has gone 3 for 8 and hit several balls hard enough to convince manager Fredi Gonzalez that the end is near. "When you only have 60 plate apperances, all you need is a 5 for 12 week and you're back up to .290 or .300," Gonzalez said. "I'm seeing signs."
"I feel great," Coghlan said. "I couldn't have said that when we played L.A. here," Coghlan said. "I was just missing pitches, striking out more, swinging at pitches out of the zone. I don't feel like that now at all. I feel normal."
Coghlan lost his job as the Marlins leadoff hitter in part because of his struggles, but also the consistent play and speed of Cameron Maybin. Coghlan said it doesn't matter in his eyes if he is batting first or second.
"When you're at the top of the lineup, you're a table setter," Coghlan said. "That's our job. Whether Cameron Is hitting first or I'm hitting first, our job is to be table setters, get on base for Hanley [Ramirez], Jorge [Cantu] or [Dan Uggla], score runs. It doesn't matter if it's leadoff or two hole. Whatever helps the team, that's what I want to do."
> Marlins top prospect Mike Stanton had yet another breakout performance for Double A Jacksonville on Monday. The 20-year old outfielder slugged three home runs and drove in seven runs in a win over the Carolina Mudcats.
Over his last two games, Stanton has hit five home runs and driven in 11 runs, raising his batting average from .263 to .338. He now has a minor-league leading nine homers and 20 RBI, tied for third-most. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez was well aware of those stats. He informed reporters of Stanton's two-day totals as they walked into the clubhouse.
"Five homers, 11 RBI in two games," Ramirez said. "Amazing."
Here are a few tidbits to get things going for the road trip finale:
-- Manager Fredi Gonzalez said that Nate Robertson will start Wednesday against the San Diego Padres on three days' rest. The reason: Robertson wasn't extended in Saturday's start, one in which he was lifted after four innings and 85 pitches.
-- Cameron Maybin should be back in the starting lineup on Monday when the Marlins open their nine-game homestand. Maybin is out today with a light headache, the result of his collision with Gaby Sanchez in Saturday's first game. "We may never see that play again," Gonzalez said of the double play. "It's just a freak play. You can't blame anybody."
-- With two off days scheduled within the upcoming eight, Gonzalez said he could play around with the rotation. "We could do some stuff," Gonzalez said. "It all depends on who you want to bump."
-- Gonzalez said reliever Brian Sanches will likely be activated from the disabled list on Monday. "There's no reason why he needs to show anymore (with more rehab work)," Gonzalez said. The Marlins will have to make a roster move to create room for Sanches.
-- Due to the chilly weather, closer Leo Nunez told catcher Ronny Paulino he couldn't feel the stitches on the baseball when he pitched Saturday. Didn't matter. Nunez closed out the win in game one of the doubleheader for is fourth save. Nunez hasn't given up a run in eight relief outings this season, by the way.
-- Mike Lamb was glad to remove the zero from his stat line, the one below hits, with his infield single in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. Lamb had gone hitless in his first 10 at bats. "I wished it could have been off the wall, but beggars can't be choosers," Lamb said.
-- Gonzalez, who watched the Rockies' tribute to Keli McGregor from the manager's office on the in-house feed, said he was so moved by the memorial service that he immediately called his wife and children. Gonzalez said he was particularly touched by McGregor's four children, each of whom spoke at the service. "I'm a 46-year-old man, and I don't know if I can stand up there and do what they did, talk about their dad like that," Gonzalez said.
-- There's not a lot of separation in the National League East, where the distance from last to first is three games. "I expect that to be like that all year," Gonzalez said of the bunched standings. "I don't expect the Mets to have the injuries they did last year and the Nationals got better."
DENVER -- Pretty day here in Denver, but a somber occasion to start it at Coors Field, where the Rockies conducted a memorial this morning for team president Keli McGregor, who died earlier this week in Salt Lake City. Eulogies delivered by former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle and former Colorado State football coach Sonny Lubick. McGregor's four children gave very touching tributes.
Neither team is taking batting practice due to the on-field ceremony.
The Marlins close out their nine-game road trip this afternoon walking the balance beam. They have gone 4-4. But they'll be without the services of Cameron Maybin, who remains on the bench with a light headache, the result of his collision Saturday with Gaby Sanchez.
Chris Volstad takes the hill for the Marlins. Coors is where Volstad made his major-league debut in 2008 in what remains his one and only relief appearance. He'll take on Jorge De La Rosa, who the Marlins have enjoyed success against in the past.
The Marlins open a nine-game homestand on Monday. First up are the surprising San Diego Padres, followed by the Nationals and Giants.
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Ronny Paulino, c; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. Brett Carroll, rf; Chris Volstad, p.
DENVER -- Jorge Cantu and his 21-game hitting streak hit a wall in the form of Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook on Saturday. But the steady infielder for the Marlins said it was fun while it lasted.
"First of all I want to tip my hat off to Cook," Cantu said. "He pitched a helluva game. He had everything going for him. He moved the ball around for nine innings.
"But the streak has to come to an end sometimes. It was nice. Nothing you can do about it, just go out there tomorrow, start another one. It was a fun ride for sure. Everyone came up to me after the game and told me how great it was, and how they enjoyed it. That was great, to hear from everyone on the team. It motivates you to start another one."
Cantu said he never felt growing pressure as the streak progressed.
"I don't let it get into my head," Cantu said. "It's baseball. It was a lot of fun. I never experienced it in my life, and it was a lot of fun."
Cantu singled in the first game of the doubleheader to stretch his streak, which started late last season, to 21 straight games. But he went 0 for 4 in the second game as Cook went the distance for the Rockies in the victory. Despite his hitless performance, Cantu still drove in the Marlins' only run in the 8-1 loss with a run-scoring ground out.
"It's going to be something to remember the rest of my life," Cantu said.