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48 posts from April 2010

April 11, 2010

New out-of-town scoreboard up at Sun Life

It isn't as easy to find as it once was on the Teal Monster, but baseball fans have a full out-of-town scoreboard they can follow along again at Sun Life Stadium. 

The black, medium-sized electronic scoreboard is located high above the left field wall and just below the 400 section, in between the names of Joe Robbie and Don Shula in the Dolphins' Ring of Honor. The scoreboard alternates American League and National League scores every 30 seconds.

For 17 seasons, fans used to be able to follow every out-of-town game (including line scores) on two large left field wall scoreboards. But they were replaced with advertising this season, according to Marlins spokesman PJ Loyello, because the company which used to produce replacement parts no longer manufactured the parts needed to repair the board to keep it operating properly. Plus, the Marlins nor the Dolphins, who own the stadium, wanted to foot the bill.

> Former Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell, who is spending his time on the bench with the Red Sox these days, talked with ESPN's Gordon Edes about retirement and possibly becoming a Marlins broadcaster one day. Interesting read.

Short Hops with Burke Badenhop

The first thing Marlins relief pitcher Burke Badenhop told me when he agreed to talk about his life outside of baseball during spring training was, "You're going to find out that I'm not really that interesting."

Burke Badenhop The 6-5, 220-pound, 27-year old right-hander might be more of a dork than Joe Cool, but he's proving to be invaluable again in a struggling Marlins bullpen -- at least early on. In the 17 innings Marlins relievers have been serviced out of the pen, Badenhop has provided five scoreless innings. His teammates have combined to give up 13 runs in the other 12 innings.

But talking baseball isn't what this blog is about. It's about getting you closer to the The Hopper, who has agreed to provide his thoughts on off beat stuff throughout the season. Although his bio says he was born in Atlanta, Badenhop said he considers himself from Perrysburg, Ohio, which also produced former Marlins World Series winning manager Jim Leyland

"It's right outside of Toledo, which of course is the glass city and an hour south of Detroit," explains Badenhop, who graduated from Bowling Green with a degree in economics and is smarter than your average baseball player. "The thing is, though, I didn't really grow up in Perrysburg. I grew up in Greensboro, N.C. and my favorite thing to do growing up was playing Little League Baseball. I played basketball all the way through high school. I could have played for D-2 or D-3 schools, but I was already signed to play baseball."

Badenhop can ramble a bit. And, take ribbing from his teammates in stride. During this interview, catcher John Baker takes a shot at Badenhop when he rambles on about what he used to do as a kid. "What about playing with Barbies?" Baker shouts.

McLovin The Hopper informs his catcher he never played with Barbies, but admits to me he does look a little little like Superbad's McLovin. Last year, a photo of the famed movie character dancing with a girl at a party (THE ONE TO THE LEFT) was placed on Badenhop's locker in the Marlins clubhouse, a gift from Marlins video man Cullen McRae.

"I don't know if I look like him as much as maybe I'm an unassuming guy who can't find his rhythm," Badenhop said. "But I'd say I'm one of the geekier personas on the team. So, that's why."

Any McLovin moments growing up? "Stealing beer and things like that?," Badenhop asks. "I don't know if this is good enough. I kind of move at a slow pace in terms of getting ready. I'm usually the last one out the door-type thing. I'm not good when I'm rushed. I was at a basketball camp when I was younger and one of the days they let us swim. Well, when my mom came to pick me up my shoes were on the wrong feet and my pants were on backwards. I didn't even know it. I was like seven."

Badenhop, by the way, loves Superbad. He's alternative music fan who listens to XM Radio Channel 46 for the Counting Crows and Blink 182. He's also a huge Duke basketball fan and was thrilled to watch them win the national title last week.

"A lot of people dog me for this, but I could watch Superbad anytime," Badenhop said "I really could. In terms of serious movies, I like a Shawshank Redemption. Baseball movies, you can't go wrong with Major League over Bull Durham. Just because the one-liners in it are unbelievable.

Any Major League movie characters in this clubhouse? "I might be one," he said. "[Renyel] Pinto would absolutely be. He'd be himself. There's no Rick Vaughn here. [Former closer] Matt Lindstrom could have been him. There's no Roger Dorn either. I could be Nuke Laloosh [from Bull Durham]. Yeah, I'm still trying to find it."

Badenhop, by the way, will not be available to pitch Sunday. But he will be on Monday.

Ronny Paulino Rescues the Bullpen Again; More on the Scoreboard

   Ronny Paulino added a few more gray hairs to us sportswriters on deadline tonight, denting the wall in center with a bases-loaded double in the ninth that brought the Marlins back from the dead. Jorge Cantu drove in the winning run with his sacrifice fly. But it was Paulino, for the second time this week, who landed the biggest blow.

   Paulino, you'll recall, drove in the go-ahead run on Wednesday with a pinch-hit single in the 10th to beat the Mets. That was the night the bullpen coughed up a 6-2 lead. Paulino saved their fannies again on Saturday. After the pen transformed a 4-3 lead into a 6-4 deficit when the Dodgers put up three runs on Tim Wood, Dan Meyer and Jose Veras, the Marlins loaded the bases in the ninth for Paulino, who was sent up to face lefty George Sherrill. Paulino

  Paulino is a southpaw slayer, evidenced by his career .334 average against lefties, and he punished a Sherrill fastball. Thinking it to be a walk-off grand slam, Paulino flicked his bat, stood at the plate and watched. But the thing stayed in the park and Paulino had to settle for a two-run double. No problem, as Cantu kept his RBI-a-game clip with a walk-off sac fly. Cantu has had exactly one RBI in each of the Marlins' first five games.

   At any rate, members of the press box had to tear up our bullpen-screws-up-another-one ledes for Marlins escape act in ninth, not an easy task when you have about 90 seconds -- give or take a tick -- to pull it off. Paulino, though, has turned into a front office feather. They nabbed him from the Giants right before the start of last season for minor-league pitcher Hector Correa (no relation to Chick Corea). Correa didn't pitch anywhere in '09, and I'm not sure what happened to him.

   But the Paulino/John Baker platoon has been a strong one offensively.

   Now on to the whole teal monster situation. I share the sentiments of readers/fans who are not happy with the sudden disappearance of the electronic, out-of-town scoreboard in left. There aren't many things that give the Marlins' current home park an identity, but that was one of them. I went to college at Miami of Ohio, and the old football stadium there in the 1970s used a game clock that had two moving hands, like a wall clock. I kid you not. Eventually, they tore it down, donated it to the College Football Hall of Fame, and replaced it with your standard electronic clock. It just wasn't the same.

   Getting back to the Marlins scoreboard.

    Reader Al Sasiadek, a Marlins fan, had this to say:

    If "you were at the game you have to agree that out of town scores on the ribbon boards are a terrible way to follow what is happening in the leagues.  It doesn't matter much this early in the season but later on it will.  It better not be a portent of how they will do it at the new stadium.  It doesn't foster interest in baseball.

   "Everyone around me last night had negative comments.  Would you please start a campaign in print with the other writers and with the Marlin management to come up with a better solution?  I have TWO good suggestions that you might float:

   "1.  Utilize the two big "end zone" scoreboards periodically to show all the information that used to be on the left field scoreboards.  They can easily fit in 15 seconds between changeovers amongst all the other extraneous crap that they show.  This will work well in the new stadium too.

   "2.  If they insist on using the ribbon boards, instead of cycling one game at a time (like ESPN does at the bottom of your TV screen) which is easy to miss amongst stadium action pop up all National League scores with each game showing in the same ribbon location so it is easy to find.  Then do the same for the American League scores."

    Here's an update:

  Marlins spokesperson P.J. Loyello told me tonight that the reason the scoreboard was replaced with advertising was because they no longer manufactured the parts needed to repair the board to keep it operating properly. There have been quite a few problems with it the past couple of years.

  "We are looking at other possible ways to get the out of town scores together and displayed in a way that's better than we have," said team president David Samson when I asked him if the team was looking into alternative plans. "To do a whole new board, it's millions (of dollars)."


April 10, 2010

Helms the Marlins PH King


   With his ninth-inning double on Friday, Wes Helms became the Marlins' all-time leader in pinch hits with 45, moving him one ahead of Alex Arias. By chance, Lenny Harris, the majors' all-time pinch-hit leader, was on hand Friday to see Helms get his hit.Helms

   Helms, with 78 career pinch hits, has a ways to go to catch Harris, who finished his career with 212. Helms is second on the active list, trailing only Matt Stairs, who has 87 pinch hits. Helms takes tremendous pride in his role and puts in a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation, his teammates say.

   Helms says being a good pinch-hitter -- or a good bench player in general -- comes down to hard work and accepting the role. 

   "A big part of it is accepting the role," Helms said. "Don't be bitter because you're not playing everyday. It's hard for some guys to suck that pride up. But I think once the ones do suck the pride up and prepare for it are the ones who are going to succeed for it."

   Helms said his most memorable pinch hit occured during the 2006 season in Baltimore, when Joe Borchard and he hit back-to-back home runs with two outs in the ninth to tie a game the Marlins ended up winning in extra innings.

   "Pinch-hitting to me is like living your last day," Helms said. " Your doctor tells you this is your last day to live. It's kind of like that. You've got one chance, one AB, let it all out. For me personally, I feel when I step up to the plate it's you and me, you got one at bat, you got one chance to get me. It's one on one. That's what gets me going. I get pumped for it."

Marlins Top 5 Pinch-Hitters

    1. Helms, 45; 2. Arias, 44; 3. Lenny Harris 35; 4. John Cangelosi, 22; 5. Ross Gload.

MINORS: Mike Stanton hit another home run on Friday, his second in three games for Double A Jacksonville....At this point, it's probably worth keeping an eye on the Marlins' minor-league relievers. Taylor Tankersley, Brett Sinkbeil and Scott Strickland each tossed one scoreless inning for Triple A New Orleans on Friday....Outfielder Brett Carroll, who is on the DL with an oblique strain, played in a rehab game on Friday.

Tonight's Lineup:

 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Cameron Maybin, cf; 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.

April 09, 2010

Teal Monster put to rest at Sun Life Stadium

In the 18-years the Marlins have called Miami Gardens home, the stadium they've rented from the Dolphins has had many names. The one constant -- aside from the orange stadium seats -- has been the big teal scoreboard in left field. 

IMG00314 Well, the Teal Monster is no more. Friday as the Marlins took the field for warm-ups at Sun Life Stadium for Opening Night, players paused to take notice that the familiar teal out-of-town scoreboard (once mechanical before it became digital) had been replaced by full color advertisements for the MLB Network. And the teal boards where the starting lineups were once posted (on each side of the Cafe Bustelo clock) were also replaced by Marlins ads -- one featuring Billy The Marlin. 

The explanation from Marlins brass for the change: "The bulbs were constantly malfunctioning and popping," said PJ Loyello, Marlins senior Vice President for Communications and Broadcasting. "It was cost prohibitive to just replace the whole thing."

With the Marlins set to move into their new stadium in 2012, the Marlins don't see it as a big deal. Fans, Loyello said, can turn to the ribbon scoreboards (the electronic ones that wrap around the stadium) for out of town scores and to the large electronic scoreboards for lineup information.

> Hall of Fame inductee and Miami native Andre Dawson is set to throw out the first pitch tonight before the Marlins take on the Dodgers at 7:10 p.m. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Dawson, a special assistant to Marlins President David Samson, has meant a lot to the club over the years. 

"He's like [investment broker] E.F. Hutton -- when he talks, you better listen," Gonzalez said. "He has a lot of good stuff to say. Real quiet. Real reserved. But when he says something you better listen. I think our guys use him a lot. He and [Tony Perez] are also pretty good evaluators. They not only help us up here, but the minor leagues. They help Larry [Beinfest] and David [Samson]. They do a lot of stuff for this organization."

> Relief pitcher Brian Sanches said he threw off flat ground Thursday for the first time since straining his right hamstring warming up in the Marlins next to last exhibition game of the spring. Sanches, who has been on the disabled list since April 3rd, said he's hopeful he can return when he is 15-day stint is up.

"To me when the 15 days are up, I want to be ready to go," Sanches said. "I don't know how realistic that is. It's feeling good right now. I haven't had any problems. Yesterday was pain free. The stuff I'm doing on the bike, treadmill stuff has been pain free. Stretching has been going real good. Hopefully, we can get out there quicker."

Sanches' replacement, Tim Wood, picked up his first career save in the Marlins 7-6 10-inning win Wednesday night. Wood, who was supposed to begin the season at Triple A New Orleans, said he's waiting to see how long Saches will be out before recalling his luggage. At the moment, Wood said, he's surviving with what he has in a little suit case.

"All I have is a few shirts, a few pairs of jeans and some underwear," said Wood, who is staying with teammate Chris Volstad during his stay with the Marlins. "I have one suit of course. For the most part, everything else is in New Orleans -- my X-Box, all that stuff."

LINEUP FOR GAME NO. 4 OF 162 -- Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan LF; 2. Cameron Maybin CF; 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. Chris Volstad P. Dodgers: 

April 08, 2010

Pinto Talks About the Bullpen: Marlins vs. Mets PreGame (No. 3 of 162)

   Renyel Pinto was one unhappy dude following Wedneday's bullpen meltdown -- unhappy with himself. The lefty reliever said he was so upset with the bullpen's dismal performance that he sat in bed -- unable to sleep -- thinking of everything that went wrong.

   "Last night, it was a bad day for me," said Pinto, one of three Marlins relievers who struggled to throw strikes, failed to record outs, and nearly allowed a 6-2 lead to dissolve into an embarassing loss. "It was just a bad day for the bullpen. We're better. Just last night we had a rough night. The seventh inning we walked like nine guys. Unbelievable. I can't even believe that. I go to my room and I was thinking the whole night, I can't believe it."

   Collectively, the trio of Pinto, Jose Veras and Leo Nunez walked six batters -- two with the bases loaded -- hit a batter and balked in a run. The Marlins won the game in the 10th, and Tim Wood, who is on the team only because Brian Sanches is on the disabled list, came out of the pen to preserve the win with a 1-2-3 10th.

   Pinto said home plate umpire Laz Diaz's strike zone was "a little tight, but that's not an excuse."

   Pinto took over for Ricky Nolasco with two outs in the seventh, a runner on first, and a 6-2 lead. He faced three batters, giving up a single to Fernando Tatis, hit Alex Cora with a pitch on a 1-2 count, and walked Luis Castillo with the bases loaded. The Mets tied the score with three runs in the eighth off the combination of Veras and Nunez.

   "Like I told Veras -- he was a little upset, too -- I told him just forget about that game," Pinto said. "And Leo, too. Leo throws a lot of strikes. He's a strike machine. And last night he was bad, too. It was a bad day for the bullpen. Last night, only 'Woody' did OK. When I came out, I was so pissed I kicked something in the dugout. And then when I saw how he pitched, everything calmed down. It was his first save, and I got excited. He made the bullpen better right away -- a little bit.

  "It's only one game. We got 160 more games. We just got to forget about that game."


  Manager Fredi Gonzalez, though not pleased with the failure of his relievers to throw strikes, said he remains confident that the bullpen can do the job.

"You've got to forget all that," Gonzalez said. "They're here. I have confidence in them. We'll use 'em."

 However, Gonzalez joked that he might consider alternate methods to drive home the message that he demands strikes. He said he might head to Home Depot, buy a shock collar, and wrap it around each pitcher's neck. Everytime they get to two balls in the count, he'll push the shock button.


There's still some confusion about whether or not Nunez did anything wrong when he was called for a balk in the eighth inning, allowing the tying run to score.

Umpire "Wally (Bell) said he started and stopped," Gonzalez said. "I've looked at the tape from 40 different angles, every angle we have, and he didn't do anything crazy. I've seen (Nunez) do it the same way a million times. I've looked at the video. I didn't see anything. I didn't see anything crazy."

Gonzalez said he planned to discuss the call with umpires before tonight's game to gain a better understanding of what went wrong.


When Gonzalez used Ronny Paulino to pinch-hit in the 10th (Paulino drove in the deciding run), he was left with only Mike Lamb as an emergency backup catcher in case something happened to John Baker.

Lamb has not caught in a major league game since 2002 when he was with the Texas Rangers, and he said he did such a bad job in emergency relief of Ivan Rodriguez, with balls going in the dirt and getting by him, that fans in Arlington booed the heck out of him.

Gonzalez has annointed first baseman Gaby Sanchez as the first backup to Paulino and Baker, but Sanchez was already out of the game Wednesday when Paulino went in to hit.

"At that point in the game, you got to roll the dice a little bit," Gonzalez said of his decision to send up Paulino. "I may take it a step further, and see if Paulino can play first. Then you can leave Paulino in the game at first, move Cantu back to third, and you've got two catchers in the game if something happens."


   Wes Helms, who scored the go-ahead run in the 10th on Paulino's hit, said he beat the tag at home plate by less than an inch.

   "But I was definitely safe," he said.


  Chris Coghlan made a throw to the plate that was so bad he was able to laugh about it later. Coghlan caught a routine fly in left in the eighth, but then uncorked a rainbow throw that was caught by Veras near the backstop.

  "I was just trying to throw it as hard as I could and see how far I could throw it," Coghlan said, joking. "I thought if I could throw in the press box, I thought I'd give somebody a souvenir. When I went to stretch to throw, I stretched too far and my heel slipped. And when my heel slipped, my arm released at a lot different angle."

  The runner didn't tag from third, so the muffed throw didn't cause any harm.

   "I was glad nobody went," Coghlan said. "And when nobody went, you could kind of laugh about it and go, 'That's pretty bad.'"


   NOTES: The Oakland A's claimed outfielder Jai Miller off waivers from the Marlins. Miller had been designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Veras and Lamb. The A's immediately optioned Miller to Triple A Sacramento. Miller struck out in his only at bat as a Marlin -- in Oakland during the 2008 season.....Wednesday's game recorded a 4.1 average rating, the highest since 2006 for a Marlins game on FS Florida or Sun Sports in a season opening series. It was the most-watched cable program in the market.


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

    Mets: 1. Angel Pagan, cf; 2. Luis Castillo, 2b; 3. David Wright, 3b; 4. Jason Bay, lf; 5. Jeff Francoeur, rf; 6. Fernando Tatis, 1b; 7. Rod Barajas, c; 8. Ruben Tejada, ss; 9. Jonathon Niese, p.


Singing the Bullpen Blues

   Forbes magazine released its annual report on Wednesday that showed the Marlins having the highest profit margin of any team in the majors last season. But the team elected to spend nary a dime on the bullpen over the winter, and Wednesday it showed.

  The conglomerate of Renyel Pinto, Jose Veras and Leo Nunez combined to cough up three Mets runs on three hits, six walks, and a balk in a matter of 2 2/3 innings, allowing a 6-1 lead in the seventh to disintegrate into a 10-inning nailbiter that the Marlins finally managed to win.

   "We're lucky we didn't lose the game today," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "It was the second game of the year and it feels like 140 after that one. We preach late in the game we can't walk people. We can't do that because we're going to get our heads beat in."

  Over the winter, the Marlins traded Matt Lindstrom to the Houston Astros for a couple of low-level minor leaguers and a Rule 5 pick -- Jorge Jiminez -- who failed to stick and was returned to his original club, the Boston Red Sox. They chose not to re-sign Kiko Calero, who is starting the season in the Mets farm system. They also chose not to re-sign Brendan Donnelly, who landed with the Pirates.

   They signed a handful of relievers to minor-league deals as non-roster invites to spring training, hoping somebody would emerge. Mike MacDougal didn't make it. Derrick Turnbow didn't make it. Seth McClung didn't make it. Veras did, but the former Yankees reliever was all over the place on Wednesday, as were Pinto and Nunez. Those three relievers delivered 82 pitches, only 40 of which were strikes.

   "We tried to get the job done," Veras said. "We tried to shut the door. We're going to get it. We're going to get it quickly.

    Only Tim Wood, who entered in the 10th after the Marlins regained the lead on Ronny Paulino's pinch-hit single, was able to locate the strike zone, throwing 10 of his 15 pitches for strikes, providing a 1-2-3 ending for his first major league save.

    "Me and (bullpen coach Reid Cornelius) talked before I went out to the mound," Wood said. "He said 'Just pound the zone.' The whole way I was running out to the mound, I kept telling myself, 'Pound the zone. Pound the zone.' These big-league hitters, if you're not around the zone, they're gonna spit on that stuff. They're going to spit at it, not swing at it."

   If Wednesday's performance by the Marlins bullpen is any indication, it could be a very long season.

April 07, 2010

Marlins PreGame vs. Mets: Game 2 of 162

    NEW YORK -- There's a lot of chatter about Jason Taylor on the local airwaves here in the Big Apple, not a lot about tonight's game. Heard one radio talking head say he's not so sure he wants Taylor in a Jets uniform because of all the years, as a member of the Dolphins, he spent trashing the Jets and their fans,

    It seems like a week has passed since Monday's opener. Here are a few tidbits to get you going as we head into Game 2:

-- Josh Johnson will start Saturday on normal rest while Anibal Sanchez will wait until Sunday to make his season debut. Sanchez is available out of the pen tonight.

    -- Quite a few players and coaches intended to catch "Jersey Boys" on the off day Tuesday, but had to make other plans after a fire and manhole explosion canceled the Broadway show.

    "We were wondering if actors get as excited as we do when our games are called off because of rain," said Marlins outfielder Cody Ross.

   Hmm. Interesting question.

   -- Ross said he is feeling absolutely no discomfort with his calf, even after spending part of the day Tuesday walking around Central Park with his family.

   -- Turns out that Clay Hensley was one sick puppy on Monday when he took the mound in relief. Hensley came down with the same stomach virus that also made life miserable for several teammates, including Johnson.

   Hensley said he started getting sick when the team was in Greensboro, N.C., and the trip to New York was no pleasure ride.

  "I was hugging the toilet until we got onto the plane," he said.

    After throwing five pitches in relief on Monday, Hensley retired to the training room and collapsed from exhaustion -- out cold until the game ended.

   -- Gonzalez said outfielder Brett Carroll, who is on the DL with an oblique strain, will play either Thursday or Friday in a rehab game for Single A Jupiter. Reliever Brian Sanches, who is on the DL with a hamstring injury, will rejoin the Marlins when the team returns home Friday and continue to work his way back to health.


   Marlins: 1. Coghlan, lf; 2. Maybin, cf; 3. Ramirez, ss; 4. Cantu, 3b; Uggla, 2b; Baker, c; Ross, rf; Sanchez, 1b; Nolasco, rhp.

   Mets: 1. Cora, ss; 2. Castillo, 2b; 3. Wright, 3b; 4. Jacobs, 1b; 5. Bay, lf; 6. Matthews, Jr., cf; 7. Francoeur, rf; 8. Barajas, c; 9. Maine, rhp.

   For What It's Worth

   Nate Robertson is the 14th player to return to the Marlins for a second tour of duty. The others are: Antonio Alfonseca, Jeff Conine, Juan Encarnacion, Chris Hammond, Rick Helling, Wes Helms, Charles Johnson, Al Leiter, Paul Lo Duca, David Weathers, Armando Benitez, Dave Magadan and Aaron Small. (I'm not missing anyone else, am I?)

   Robertson last played with the Marlins in 2002, a gap of eight years. But that's not the longest stretch between Marlins stints. Small's were nine years apart.

   Young as Usual

   Courtesy of the Marlins media relations department: according to Stats Inc. the Marlins have the youngest starting rotation in the NL and fourth-youngest in the majors. Average age: 27.14 years. The only younger rotations belong to the Tigers (25.95 years), Rays (26.19) and Mariners (26.59).

   In addition, the Marlins have the youngest 25-man roster (28.09) in the NL. The youngest team in the majors is Oakland, with an average age of 27.71 years.

Good News Follows Bad for Brian Sanches after MRI

   Brian Sanches was tuned in to the Marlins/Mets season opener on Monday when he went in for a MRI on his hamstring. The reliever injured it Friday in Jacksonville while warming up on the mound.

  Sanches     "It was 2-1 when I went in," Sanches said of the Marlins deficit. "When I came out, it was 7-1."

    That was the only downer news for Sanches. The good: tests showed the injury was not as severe as first feared, that he sustained a mild, Grade I hamstring strain and could begin playing catch as early as the weekend. If all goes well, the right-hander could return to the Marlins not long after his 15 days are up on the disabled list.

  It was a giant relief to Sanches, one of the Marlins' most dependable relievers last season.

  "I didn't hear it pop," Sanches said. "But I felt it grab, and it stopped me in my tracks."

Sanches said he was scared initially that the injury was much worse, and manager Fredi Gonzalez echoed that concern. Turns out it wasn't as bad as either thought.

"A Grade I is the mildest case," Sanches said. "I think the plan is to try to play catch at the end of this week. Hopefully, we're only looking at two weeks (before returning from the DL)."  

April 06, 2010

Is It Deja Vu All Over Again for the Marlins?

   Let's examine the aftermath of the opener, which I described in my game story as "abominable" and "laughingly bad." The Marlins made three fielding errors, their center fielder acted lost and their starting pitcher didn't look anything like ace quality.

   Here's what the players and manager had to say afterward:

   Player 1: "We played very sloppy....We're not going to cry over one game."

   Player 2: "A day off will probably be good for us....."

   Player 3: "Errors are part of the game....."

   Manager: "We won't play many games like that....I hope. I bet we don't do that again the rest of the year. We'll take anything possible out of that mess."

    Monday's 7-1 loss to the Mets?

    No, their 8-5 defeat to the Phillies in the 2003 season opener, which was every bit the disaster Monday's was, except for the fact the '03 game was played in front of a Marlins home crowd that booed and began to file out before the fifth inning. Remember?

    Josh Beckett was simply awful, knocked out in the third. Infielders Mike Lowell, Alex Gonzalez and Luis Castillo were each charged with errors. A routine fly ball fell in for a hit in front of center fielder Juan Pierre, who lost it in the sun.

   Of course, we all know what happened after that.

    Jack McKeon took over as manager from Jeff Torborg in May. Castillo won the Gold Glove award as the league's best defensive second baseman (Lowell would win one two years later). Pierre was voted the team MVP. And the Marlins won the World Series, with Beckett recording the final out in a complete-game win over the Yankees.

 Not saying history will repeat itself with these Marlins. Just trying to show that one shouldn't draw too many conclusions from a magnified, one-game sampling of a 162-game season.

 On The Bright Side.....

 There was more ugly and bad than good in Monday's loss, but there were a few positives, believe it or not:

-- Hanley Ramirez looked sharp at the plate and in the field. The defending NL batting champ went 2 for 4 and stole a base. He also made two fine defensive plays.

-- While Gaby Sanchez was guilty of one of the team's three errors by bobbling a low throw from Ramirez in the sixth, he also went 2 for 4 at the plate and had one of the best at bats of the day against Mets starter Johan Santana, an 11-pitch at bat in the third that ended with a single.

-- Jorge Cantu, who drove in 100 runs in '09, drove in his first of this season -- the only Marlins run of the day -- with a two-out double in the sixth.

-- Everything appeared normal with Cody Ross. Even though he went 0 for 4, he didn't appear to be favoring his calf when he ran out two ground balls. I talked to him afterward and he said there was "no issue" with the muscle.

   Looking Ahead:

   The Marlins send out Ricky Nolasco on Wednesday to face the Mets' John Maine. The Mets have given Nolasco all kinds of trouble in the past. His record against NY: 3-6 (from 13 starts) with a 5.99 ERA. Maine has enjoyed mild success against the Marlins, going 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts.

   Off the Beaten Path

    Big thrill for me yesterday to meet author Paul Auster, a giant of the industry, who was a guest of the Marlins at the opener. Now I'm off to the Strand and a couple of other used stores to look for books to add to my collection of National Book Award winners and finalists for fiction.