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48 posts from April 2010

April 24, 2010

Maybin Seeing Stars After Collision with Sanchez

   The very last thing Cameron Maybin saw before he was knocked silly was the bill of Gaby Sanchez's helmet. It struck him square in the face when the two collided at first base in the first inning of Saturday's first game.

   "My equilibrium is still a little off," Maybin said after the doubleheader split with the Rockies.

   Maybin was at first base when Sanchez hit a soft liner to Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. As Maybin was retreating to avoid being doubled off first, Sanchez smashed into him.

    "I didn't see him, I just felt him," Maybin said. "By the time I looked up, all I saw was a black helmet. I just felt all plastic."

    Maybin was knocked off the bag by the impact, then tagged for the odd double play. He remained in the game, but became increasingly dizzy.

"My eyes were fluttering the whole game," the center fielder said. "I told (left fielder Brett Carroll), 'If you catch it early, call it, because I'm a little off right now.' My vision was a little blurry. My headache got a little worse. My eyes were kind of bouncing."

Maybin was replaced in the ninth inning and did not play the second game.

 "We did some kind of little test, and I don't think I have a mild concussion or anything," he said. "I think sitting over there the second game, it kind of subsided a little bit."

Maybin said he hopes to play Sunday when the Marlins complete the road trip.

Sanchez, whose locker is near Maybin's, called out a friendly warning to his teammate for the next time it happens: "Don't stand on the track when the train's coming."    

Marlins/Rockies: Let's Play Two

  The sun's out here at Coors Field, the Marlins are taking batting practice, and it looks like everything's a go for the doubleheader. The Marlins have played 31 doubleheaders all-time. They have swept six. They've been swept six times. And they've split 19.

  "The toughest thing about a doubleheader is you get two headaches," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "That's called a double-headache."

  -- Gonzalez said he would probably not use closer Leo Nunez in both games of the DH, even if the situation arises. "There's guys you can do that with," Gonzalez. "I think we did it with Kevin Gregg. But I don't know about Nuny. I know that I wouldn't put him in that situation. We've kind of taken care of him in the last year."

  -- With Ricky Nolasco's start being pushed back a day due to Friday's rainout, Gonzalez said plans are uncertain who will now start on Wednesday when the Marlins face the San Diego Padres. He said if either Nolasco or Game 2 starter Nate Robertson are knocked out early today, they could come back on Wednesday. "Or we can spot start someone, like Clay Hensley," Gonzalez said.

  -- The Marlins had a free night in Denver on Friday. And how did catcher John Baker spend it? In his hotel room, tackling Plato's Republic.

  Baker's take:Plato

  "It reminds me of college, when people are like hammered and arguing. That's what the whole first book is. Plato is pretending to be Socrates, who is his teacher. And he's talking with Plato's brother in real life. They go down to some city, and they're debating whether it's better to be just or unjust. So they're arguing over who's right and who's wrong, and they present both their arguments. It's amazing that this is written in the fourth century B.C., because it just sounds normal, like normal arguments. Is it better to be selfish and look out for yourself, and make sure all your stuff is taken care of? Or is it better to do right by your fellow human beings? And that's what the first book is about. Plato, via Socrates, argues that it's better to be just than unjust. And the other guy argues that it doesn't matter. Unjust is stronger than the just, that just people are weaker."

  At this point in the conversation, Wes Helms walks past, gives Baker the look, and wants to know "what the heck" Baker is talking about.

  Helms: "I don't read books."

  Baker: "I'm reading Plato."

  Helms (thinking Baker said Play Doh): "I played with that when I was a kid."

  Baker: "He's a Greek philosopher. I personally think you would find his arguments interesting."

  Helms: "I don't care about that kind of stuff."

  And, now, on to the doubleheader.......


Marlins: 1. Cameron Maybin, cf; 2. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Ronny Paulino, c; 7. Cody Ross, rf; 8. Brett Carroll, lf; 9. Ricky Nolasco, p.

Rockies: 1. Carlos Gonzalez, cf; 2. Seth Smith, lf; 3. Todd Helton, 1b; 4. Troy Tulowitzski, ss; 5. Brad Hawpe, rf; 6. Chris Iannetta, c; 7. Ian Stewart, 3b; 8. Clint Barmes, 2b; 9. Greg Smith, p.

 Umps: HP -- Rob Drake, 1B -- Cory Blaser; 2B -- Angel Hernandez; 3B -- Paul Schrieber.

The "P" Word

  Good morning from Denver, where the weather isn't exactly postcard perfect, but looks better than it did yesterday when it snowed, sleeted, rained -- you name it -- and washed out Friday's game with the Rockies. They'll hook up later this afternoon (5 p.m. back east) for a twinbill. My understanding is that FSN, due to contractual obligations with MLB, will join in progress the first game at 7 p.m. They'll televise the second game in its entirety. Of course, Dave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner will be on the radio airwaves for both games.

    Long day Friday for us scribes, one that started in balmy Houston and ended in snowy Denver. Once the Broncos drafted Tim Tebow late Thursday night, our newspaper leaders issued directives to cover his first press conference in Denver since we were going to be here anyway. That wouldn't have been any big deal, except what was supposed to be a noon press conference didn't get going until 4 p.m. -- Mountain Time! Broncos headquarters is about 30 minutes from Coors Field. So by the time we finished with Tebow and got back to Coors, it was already 5 p.m. and we didn't get to spend a lot of time with manager Fredi Gonzalez and the players.

    The only significant development was yet another lineup demotion for Chris Coghlan, who would own the lowest batting average in the majors among full-time players if not for Mark Teixeira. Well, after seeing that Coghlan wasn't in Friday's lineup, it appears that the "full-time" status might no longer apply to him. Gonzalez said, with a left-hander going for the Rockies, he sat Coghlan. He planned to start the left fielder against right-hander Aaron Cook today. But we received a "we'll see" about his plans for Coghlan when they face another lefty, Jorge De La Rosa, on Sunday.

   Could be what we're really about to see is a platoon -- there's that P word --  with Brett Carroll. Gonzalez keeps saying that Coghlan is "close" to breaking out of his slump, but his swings the last night in Houston looked way out of whack. The Marlins are trying to figure out some way to get him going. They've already removed him from the leadoff spot. Now this. I found this article, which examines the issue of "Sophomore Slumps." Though written in 2004, much of the material is still relevent. But, unless Coghlan gets his act together at the plate, I think we're witnessing one now.

As it stands, look for Gonzalez to stick with Friday's same lineup for the first game of today's DH. That means Carroll taking Coghlan's place in left and Gaby Sanchez sliding up to the two hole in the lineup. In the second, you'll probably see Coghlan return to his spot in left.

 -- Brian Sanches pitched another clean inning in his second rehab outing in as many nights for Single A Jupiter on Friday and appears good to go for a Monday activation from the DL.

April 23, 2010

Marlins/Rockies Postponed

  Tonight's game between the Marlins and Rockies has been postponed due to nasty weather in the Denver area. The two teams will meet Saturday in a doubleheader, with the first game scheduled to start at 5:10 p.m. (eastern).

   There will be no changes to the Marlins pitching plans. Ricky Nolasco, who was scheduled to start Friday, will pitch the first game of the doubleheader. Nate Robertson will start the second game.

The weather is expected to improve Saturday. It couldn't be much worse than it was Friday, when it snowed and sleeted.

The game was the first one postponed this season in the majors, the deepest into a season without a postponement since 1985.

  "For all the negatives that poeple talk about with global warming, there are a lot of positives, and this is one of them," Marlins catcher John Baker said of the length of time without a postponement.

April 22, 2010

Sluggish Opening Act for Josh Johnson

    HOUSTON -- Should the Marlins be concerned with Josh Johnson, who hasn't given them the kind of dominating, ace-quality starts projected of him when he signed his multi-year contract in January? Johnson is a rather pedestrian 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA after four outings, hardly eye-popping figures.

   But perhaps the most troubling trend has been his repeated failures to pitch deep into games. Johnson has not made it past the sixth inning in any of his four starts so far this season and, counting last season, has taken the ball into the seventh inning just once over his past 13 starts. During that stretch, he is 4-4 with a 4.39 ERA. Compare that to his first 24 starts last season when he went 12-2 with a 2.85 ERA and made it into the seventh 17 times.

Johnson   After Wednesday's no-decision against the Astros, manager Fredi Gonzalez conceded that Johnson hasn't pitched to his full potential.

   "It's not the J.J. that we've seen, that we had last year," Gonzalez said. "He wasn't as sharp as we've seen him before, or want him to be."

   Gonzalez, in fact, said he spoke with Johnson and pitching coach Randy St. Claire following Wednesday's game and instructed the pitcher to "just attack, attack, attack and stay on the attack."

  Gonzalez said Johnson's fastball velocity has been strong. But high pitch counts have harmed Johnson, or at least prevented him from pitching deep into games. Gonzalez and Johnson each felt there were a number of borderline pitches that were called for strikes on Wednesday. But, as Johnson said afterward, "it's not a strike unless it's called a strike."

   Catcher John Baker said that he sees nothing to be concerned about with Johnson and, specifically, his recent inability to deliver innings.

"I think there are two factors you find in the end and the beginning of a season," Baker said. "At the end of the season he was up to a number of innings he had never reached before until last year, and so I think the trigger was a little bit quicker in taking him out. And then, at the beginning of a season, guys have to build themselves up to get later into the game. I think the one thing about J.J. is no matter what game he pitches in, we always have a chance to win."

Baker said the one area where he thinks Johnson could improve is by decreasing the velocity of his slider and change-up.

"I think if you start to see more of a disparity in velocity between his fastball and offspeed pitches, you'll start to see more balls put into play instead of being fouled off," Baker said. "Right now his slider is 90. When his slider is 86, you'll start seeing more swings and misses, more ground balls. Sometimes, when you're all one speed, guys can put the ball in play, or foul balls off a little easier than if you have a greater difference, 10 or 15 mph difference between two pitches.

Sunday Start Time Pushed Back

  The start time for Sunday's game in Denver against Colorado has been pushed back to 3:05 p.m. due to a memorial service earlier in the day for the Rockies' late president, Keli McGregor. McGregor died of natural causes on Tuesday in Salt Lake City.


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

  Astros: 1. Michael Bourn, cf; 2. Kaz Matsui, 2b; 3. Lance Berkman, 1b; 4. Carlos Lee, lf; 5. Hunter Pence, rf; 6. Geoff Blum, 3b; 7. Humberto Quintero, c; 8. Tommy Manzella, ss; 9. Felipe Paulino, p.

April 21, 2010

Cantu Reveals a Secret -- Who Knew?

   Turns out that Jorge Cantu is a huge fan of the Oakland Raiders, so huge that he attends one Raiders home game each year, sits in the "Black Hole" section at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, and -- I kid you not -- wears a skeleton mask. Yes, you read that right. Cool, calm, collected Jorge Cantu -- one of the most reserved members of the Marlins -- wears a SKELETON MASK and sits with the Raiders' craziest fans in the rowdiest section.Skeleton 

     "In the offseason, I don't watch baseball. I don't watch the playoffs," said Cantu, who spends his winters in Texas and Mexico. "I'm a big Raiders fan, even though they're not that good. But I'm a big, big loyal fan. I sit in the Black Hole every single year to watch them play. I wear my skeleton mask and everything. I put a mask on when I go to watch them play in Oakland."

    Cantu is expecting a huge contingent of friends and family members for tonight's game at Minute Maid Park. His father, a cattleman from Mexico, drove up a couple of days ago. Cantu said about 25 of his friends and family will be in the seats tonight when he tries to extend his 18-game hitting streak.

Rest Easy, Joe DiMaggio

   HOUSTON -- Jorge "The Streak" Cantu will be putting his 18-game hitting streak on the line tonight against the Houston Astros and right-hander Bud Norris. Cantu has a pair of hits, including a home run, in six career at bats against Norris.

    Cantu's hitting streak is the longest by a Marlin since 2002 when Kevin Millar put together a 25-game streak. Luis Castillo's 35-game hitting streak, also in 2002, represents the club record.

    Here are the longest Marlins hitting streaks:

   35    Luis Castillo 2002

   25 Kevin Millar   2002

   22  Luis Castillo 1999

   22 Edgar Renteria 1996

   21 Greg Colbrunn   1996

   19  Luis Castillo 2000

    Cool to see that Millar has landed an analyst's gig at MLB Network. Probably one of the greatest clubhouse cut-ups I've ever encountered. This is the same guy who had the gaul to have McDonald's cheeseburgers and french fries catered to the Marlins spring training clubhouse in Viera when it was his day to provide the lunch spread. Teammates repaid the prank by placing some of the cheesebugers in right field, which Millar discovered when he took his position. And only Millar could dare bring a smile to Alex "Sea Bass" Gonzalez by attaching a mechanized, singing trophy bass fish to the shortstop's locker, as Millar did several years back when he was still with the Marlins. The Red Sox are going to claim the guy for the three years he spent in Boston, one of which culminated in a World Series title. But Millar spent more time in the Marlins organization, which dredged him out of the independent league St. Paul Saints in 1993. He's must-see TV in my book.


  MARLINS: 1. Cameron Maybin, cf; 2. Chris Coghlan, lf; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. John Baker, c; 7. Cody Ross, rf; 8. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 9. Josh Johnson, p.

   ASTROS: 1. Michael Bourn, cf; 2. Jeff Keppinger, ss; Lance Berkman, 1b; 4. Carlos Lee, lf; 5. Hunter Pence, rf; 6. Pedro Feliz, 3b; 7. Kaz Matsui, 2b; 8. Humberto Quintero, c; 9. Bud Norris, p.

April 20, 2010

Two Hits for Coghlan Doesn't Alter Mood

    HOUSTON -- With a pair of singles in his first two at bats, Chris Coghlan enjoyed his first multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday. But did that brighten his mood any?

Not from the sounds of it.

 "All that matters is we lost," Coghlan said after the 7-5 defeat to the Astros. "I'm not feeling any differently because I got two hits today."

But manager Fredi Gonzalez think it could help get Coghlan going at the plate.

"He swung at strikes, he did a nice job of laying off some of the bad pitches, and he got two hits," Gonzalez said. "Today it was nice to see him get a couple of hits, for his own psyche, obviously. And maybe we can see him get on a tear."

Coghlan raised his average from .109 to .140 with Tuesday's 2-for-4 performance.


Question: Why did Gonzalez stay with reliever Tim Wood in the eighth inning after Wood had given up the tying run in the seventh and gave up leadoff hits to the first two batters in the eighth?

Answer: "We were trying to go Wood in the seventh, and if we had the lead, go with the Hopper (Burke Badenhop) in the eighth and Leo in the ninth," Gonzalez said. "We just can't keep using the Hopper every other day. You're going to run him into the ground. That was the plan, to get through the seventh with Woody and have the lead, and go with the Hopper and then Leo."


Chris Coghlan and Carlos Lee Running Neck and Neck, Brian Sanches Loses, Aaron Thompson (Finally) Wins -- And More

   Chris Coghlan will catch a reflection of himself when he peers into the Astros dugout tonight. Not that Carlos Lee bears any physical resemblance to Coghlan. But Lee's .104 batting average is about as close as it gets to Coghlan's equally miniscule .109. And that should give Coghlan some hope that his slump won't last forever. Historically, Lee has never been a good April hitter. April, in fact, has been Lee's worst month at the plate.

   Coghlan and Lee aren't the only marquee names off to poor starts. Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira (.114) and Toronto's Lyle Overbay (.115) are also struggling.

   "I don't look other people's (averages) and say, 'OK, I'm going to be OK now,'" Coghlan said. "They have histories. I have a history, but not in the major leagues. I'm not worried. At the end of the year, it'll be fine and it'll be something you look back on and laugh, and say that was a crazy first month."

    Marlins hitting coach Jim Presley isn't the least bit concerned with Coghlan's slump.

    "All that's going to change," Presley said. "He's the last guy you worry about. He's got too good of a swing and too good of an approach. It might take him another week or so to get going. The thing about him is he does two really good things that good hitters do. He doesn't take it to the field and his attitude is always good."

  The worst opening month on record by any Marlin belongs to former shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who batted .153 in 98 at bats in April of 2000. Gonzalez finished the season with a .200 average, so it didn't improve greatly for him the rest of the way.

   1) Ronny Paulino (sore quad) is available to pinch-hit and could be used behind the plate in an emergency. But manager Fredi Gonzalez said that if Paulino was to reach base, he would replace him with a pinch-runner. As a result, Gonzalez ordered emergency back-ups Gaby Sanchez and Mike Lamb to catch bullpen sessions on Tuesday for Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez, respectively. Based on eyewitness accounts, Sanchez got the worst of it even though he is regarded as the better catcher.

  Said Gaby Sanchez: "He (Nolasco) was using his curveball, slider, cutter, splitty, fastball, two-seamer...."

  Said Lamb: "I was standing behind Gaby, laughing at him, because all I caught were fastballs. So he had to work harder than I did."

    Gonzalez said Gaby Sanchez would be his first option, over Lamb, if the situation ever reached that point.

   2) Reliever Brian Sanches (DL-groin) made his first rehab appearance on Monday in Clearwater for Single A Jupiter, and the results were so-so: he gave up a run on a pair of hits, but also struck out two. As he received the start, he also took the loss. The Marlins plan for Sanches to make at least two more rehab appearances -- one Thursday, the other Friday -- before rejoining the club on April 26.

   3) Remember Aaron Thompson, the minor-league pitcher the Marlins dealt to the Nationals at last year's trading deadline to obtain Nick Johnson? Well, according to this report, the lefty notched his first win with his new organization the other night. Actually, the numbers show Thompson has pitched quite well for Double A Harrisburg. He has a not-shabby-at-all 3.17 ERA in his nine starts for H-Burg.

    4) Marlins executives were saddened by the death of Colorado Rockies president Keli McGregor. McGregor was found dead in a Salt Lake City hotel room on Tuesday.

   "I was absolutely shocked," said Marlins president David Samson. "He and I worked out together at owners' meetings. Our organization feels terribly for his wife and his kids."

   INJURY UPDATES: Andrew Miller (sprained ankle) threw three innings in an extended spring game over the weekend and could be ready to join the Triple A New Orleans rotation within the next 10 days to two weeks.....Sean West (sore back) is coming along slower and continues to throw bullpen sessions in Jupiter.

   Tonight's Lineups:

   Marlins: 1. Cameron Maybin, cf; 2. Chris Coghlan, lf; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6.John Baker, c; 7. Cody Ross, rf; 8. Wes Helms, 3b; 9. Chris Volstad, rhp.

   Astros: 1. Michael Bourn, cf; 2. Jeff Keppinger, 2b; 3. Lance Berkman, 1b; 4. Carlos Lee, lf; 5. Hunter Pence, rf; 6. Pedro Feliz, 3b; 7. J.R. Towles, c; 8. Tommy Manzella, ss; 9. Brett Myers, rhp.

April 18, 2010

Phillies believe Marlins "can be a threat"

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies might be everybody's pick to repeat as National League Champions. But after losing two of three to the Marlins and five straight series to the Fish at Citizens Bank Park, the Marlins can move onto Houston knowing they've gotten the Phillies attention.

Burke Badenhop I didn't get a chance to head into the Phillies' locker room after Sunday's game, but came across some interesting quotes courtesy of the Philadelphia Daily News tonight.

"I think the team that you saw out here today is young, and the last two years they started to get a lot of confidence and experience," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "If they're pitching holds up, they definitely can be a threat."

The Marlins showed the Phillies they could pitch this weekend. If not for Jayson Werth's two-out, solo home run in the ninth Saturday, Ricky Nolasco and his Sunday cohorts (Nate Robertson, Burke Badenhop and Leo Nunez) would have combined to shutout the best hitting team in baseball twice in a span of 24 hours. Instead, they left having allowed just one run in 18 innings to a club that came into Saturday leading baseball in batting average (.315), runs (77), RBI (76) and slugging percentage.

The Marlins used to be an organization rich with pitching and defense. But the last couple years have been rough to say the least. Even after these last two games, the Marlins team ERA (4.16) ranks 16th in baseball, the 52 walks allowed rank 9th and the 15 errors (Hanley Ramirez had one Sunday) rank No. 1 in the game. If the Marlins can get Nolasco and Josh Johnson to pitch to their abilities consistently and have Chris Volstad, Robertson and Anibal Sanchez provide adequate starts, the Fish definitely have the offense to be a legitimate contender.

As it stands after two weeks, they're hitting .275 (8th in baseball) as a team. They've produced 68 runs (6th best) and produced 67 RBI (2nd to the Phillies) despite striking out 102 times (4th most). With a little bit of improvement on defense and pitching, who knows how good this team could really be.

Dan Uggla HIS NAME IS DAN UGGLA!: I'm pretty sure nobody in Las Vegas put money on Dan Uggla being the team's leader in batting average among starters after two weeks. But that's exactly where the second baseman is after today.

His third three-plus hit game of the season raised his average to .346. He's also tied with Jorge Cantu for the team lead in homers (3) and ranks second to Cantu on the team with 9 RBI. Uggla is a career .259 hitter, who hit a career-low .243 last season. His career average in April was is .236. But if he can keep it up and finish above .300 for the month, it will be the first time that's happened for him since May 2008 when he hit .347.

"I'm definitely not going to complain," Uggla said after he homered and drove in both runs in Sunday's win ""I'm not going to get too high or think about it and or get too happy about it because I know this game is a crazy game. I'm just gonna try to keep it simple and battle."

IS THE HOPPER THE NEW GO-TO GUY IN THE PEN?: Leo Nunez is the closer. But Burke Badenhop is the Marlins new Mr. Reliable. 

Sunday, when manager Fredi Gonzalez took Robertson out of the game with runners on first and second and only one out in the seventh, he handed the ball to a guy who used to be just the long relief pitcher last year. Badenhop didn't disappoint. He retired Placido Polanco and then got Chase Utley, a player with a .333 average against him, to fly out to the warning track in right to end the seventh inning.

With Renyel Pinto warming up in the pen, even Badenhop thought Gonzalez was going to replace him with the lefty after he got Polanco out. But to Gonzalez's credit, he stayed with Badenhop, who later retired Ryan Howard (who was 3 for 5 against him), Jayson Werth and Ben Francisco without a hiccup in the eighth. 

Badenhop was Gonzalez's man on Wednesday too if you remember. He picked up his first save with two scoreless innings against the Reds. Although he was the losing pitcher in Monday's game, Badenhop's numbers have been wicked good this season. His ERA is 0.93 (1 ER in 9 2/3 innings) and opponents are only 3 for 29 against him (.103).

"You expect good things and you go out there and you want to pitch," Badenhop said. "This is the first time I've really experienced that in terms of coming out of the pen. In the minor leagues [when I was] starting, I built confidence from start to start. This is the first time in the bullpen, I've felt like that."

COGHLAN PLAYING GREAT DEFENSE: Chris Coghlan's slump is not over and neither is his desire to keep making amazing catches. Sunday, he made two. First, he made a running catch against the railing in left field to end the second with the bases loaded. Then, he tumbled to the ground making another catch in foul ground later in the game.

"I know he ain't swinging the bat," Gonzalez said. But he has the mentality right now that if he's not going to get a hit, nobody is going to get one either. Good for him. He's plugging away."