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52 posts from June 2010

June 24, 2010

Stan Van Gundy Goes off on Loria and Beinfest on 790-The Ticket


  Let's be very clear. Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and Fredi Gonzalez are close personal friends, and so Van Gundy's opinion of his buddy's firing is biased, to say the least. But Van Gundy probably won't ever be invited into the owner's suite at the Marlins' new ballpark, even if he wasn't formally renouncing the Marlins, as he vowed to do on Dan LeBatard's show this afternoon on 790-The Ticket.

  Actually, Van Gundy said more than that. Quite a bit more. Here's a sampling:

  Van Gundy described Loria's thinking -- that the Malrins are a playoff contender without spending accordingly on payroll -- is "delusional."

  "There's one guy not stepping up," Van Gundy said of Loria. "It's absurd. Is there a fan down there who thinks Loria is committed to winning? The guy who hasn't done his part, let's be honest, is Jeffrey Loria. He hasn't stepped to the plate."

  In noting that Gonzalez's record as manager (246-249) isn't markedly inferior to Bobby Valentine's (1117-1072), Van Gundy had this to say: "Acting like this guy is one of the best managers in baseball is absolutely insane."

   Van Gundy also took Larry Beinfest to task, saying the president of baseball operations didn't provide Gonzalez with a decent bullpen.

   "In what tangible way has Beinfest been accountable for putting that bullpen together?" Van Gundy asked. "There was one guy held accountable, Fredi. That bullpen is bad. Why not go out and get somebody? But, no, we make a managerial change instead."

    And that's only part of it. If you want to hear the whole thing, click here.

Valentine or Rodriguez Would Make For Puerto Rican Intrigue


One way or the other, the manager will be THE story for the Marlins when they head to Puerto Rico early next week for a three-game "home" series against the Mets. If interim manager Edwin Rodriguez is still at the helm, he'll be managing on native soil. Rodriguez is the first Puerto Rico-born manager in the majors.

But if Bobby Valentine has the Marlins gig by then, he'll be taking on a familiar foe, returning to the majors as manager for the first time since being dumped by the Mets after the 2002 season. In an e-mail, Valentine said "I will be there this weekend" ("there" meaning South Florida) when asked when he planned to interview with the Marlins. So it would appear that Rodriguez will, at the very least, still be calling the shots through the San Diego series.

The Marlins face the Mets in San Juan on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Marlins president David Samson said the Marlins would like to have a permanent manager in place by the All-Star break that begins July 12. In the past, the Marlins have tended to move rapidly with managerial changes. Jack McKeon was in position to take over immediately when Jeff Torborg was fired in 2003, as was Fredi Gonzalez when Joe Girardi was given the boot after the '06 season. The only time the Marlins have taken their time conducting a search was before the Girardi hiring. But because that process took place after the '05 season, they had plenty of time to play with. Not so now with a mid-season move in which the aim is to quick-start the team.

"NO SOUR GRAPES" FOR PRESLEY...Jim Presley was mystified by his dismissal, saying his record for 4 1/2 seasons as Marlins hitting coach "speaks for itself." The Marlins, as Presley noted, didn't suffer from lack of offense during his time with the team. "If not for the offense, swinging the bats, we wouldn't have won some of those games this year," Presley said. "The offense was my responsibility and I think for the past 4 1/2 years, we were pretty good at it." Presley said when he was fired Wednesday morning in Baltimore, he asked "Did I not do a good job? Their answer was yes." But Presley stopped short of criticizing the organization. "I appreciated the opportunity." Since Presley took over as hitting coach in 2006, the Marlins have: ranked 8th in runs scored in '06 among NL teams, 6th in '07, 5th in '08, 5th in '09 and are 5th currently. Prior to Presley's arrival, the Marlins never finished higher than 8th in runs scored at any time during the decade, including the World Series year in 2003 when they ranked 8th with a lineup that featured Ivan Rodriguez, Derrek Lee, Mike Lowell, Juan PierreLuis Castillo and Miguel Cabrera (for half the season). "It's a numbers game and the numbers don't lie," Presley said. There's a good possibility that the Marlins axed Presley -- as well as bench coach Carlos Tosca -- to create vacancies that the new manager can fill with coaches of his own choosing. And since all of the team's other coaches were hired within the past year, the feeling within the organization could be that it would be unfair to get rid of the newcomers so quickly.

June 23, 2010

Rodriguez, first Puerto Rican-born manager, wins debut

BALTIMORE -- Edwin Rodriguez said being promoted to Marlins interim manager was "bittersweet" because it cost friend Fredi Gonzalez his job. His first win as the first Puerto Rican to manage in the big leagues? That tasted a lot better.

Rodriguez said he was handed a game-ball from first baseman Gaby Sanchez, a bottle of champagne from Marlins management and the winning lineup card after Florida was able to rally for a 7-5 win against the Orioles Wednesday night.

"Definitely a very good win, especially in a close game," Rodriguez said. "We got clutch hits, aggressive base running. Great bounce back by Ricky Nolasco. He bounced back. Great pitching by Brian Sanches and Leo Nunez late in the game. The victory is a way better feeling [than being called up to manage from Triple A. The game was pretty much the same. I felt like I was managing a regular game."

Rodriguez, who has been in the Marlins system for eight years, has no illusions about his future. He knows he's just a candidate in what likely will be a short search for a new manager. At this point, it seems like unless ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine balks, Rodriguez will probably be back in the minor leagues soon.

"I might be here a day, I might be here a week, I might be here a month, who knows?" Rodriguez said before the game. "I'm just here enjoying the moment and I expressed that to the players and the team. At the meeting, they were pretty much on the same page I was, kind of bittersweet. They all love Fredi for the kind of person he is... but we know we have to move on and win games."

Strickland has unique perspective on candidates

BALTIMORE -- President David Samson acknowledged at least two candidates to become the Marlins next manager: interim skipper Edwin Rodriguez and ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine.

More than a handful of Marlins have played for Rodriguez, who served eight years in the organization including a few as manager at Triple A New Orleans and Single A Greensoboro.

Reliever Scott Strickland, though, also played for Valentine in his final season as manager of the Mets in 2002. He said he thinks both candidates would do a good job as the Marlins skipper.

"Bobby wants to win so damn bad," Strickland said. "He just always struck me like a general. If you're going to go into a war, you want Bobby Valentine on your side.

"The thing about him is he always knew where you stood. He always asked you how you were feeling, if you were sore, he would be roaming around talking to guys and how they were feeling. He knew his guys, I knew that. He's a players guy, a players manager."

As for Rodriguez, who has managed Strickland Triple A the past two seasons, Strickland described him as a "professional."

"I don't think he's big on getting in your way or making you do things your not capable of doing," Strickland said. "He just kind of is like, go do your thing, go do it. He's not an in your ear, yell at you guy. Edwin is a good man, too. He's got a big heart, huge heart. He feels the pain we lose or individually struggling. He feels your pain. He'll help you try to figure it out. He's not the type of guy who yells you. He puts his arm around you, father-figurelike."

> In lighter news... the Marlins released left-hander reliever Renyel Pinto, who had been designated for assignment on June 16. The also outrighted Jorge Sosa to Triple A.

Samson, Beinfest weigh in on Fredi firing, future

BALTIMORE -- Marlins President David Samson and President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest spoke with reporters for 20 minutes before the game here at Camden Yards. For the complete press conference, click on our audio link.

Samson's opening statement: "Today was a difficult day. I want to say from the outset that today's decision made by this organization, a decision that was made with me, Larry, [general manager] Mike [Hill] and [owner] Jeffrey [Loria], was based on nothing having to do with Hanley Ramirez and the situation that took place with Hanley earlier this season. As a management team we were completely supportive in terms with how that situation was handled. In addition, it had nothing to do with any lineup card issues that happened at all. This decision was made in an effort for this team to accomplish what we want it to accomplish going forward and our continued desire to become one of eight [playoff teams]. Any time a change like this is made, it's an adjustment for the players and the staff."

Samson on Fredi Gonzalez and why the Marlins decided to fire him today: "Fredi is a very, very good man and a good manager. We felt today was the right day to do it. There is no perfect day to do this. Whether you've won three of four lost eight of ten. Today was just the day we decided to do it."

Samson on the plan moving forward: "As far as going forward, Edwin [Rodriguez] is the interim manager. We are beginning and have begun today a search for the next manager. There will be internal candidates, there will be external candidates. Before any speculation goes forward, Bobby Valentine is a candidate for this position. He was spoken to by me today. I called him today and told him that Fredi had been dismissed and we were interested -- Larry, Mike and I -- in the very near future about opening in a managerial capacity".

"In addition, there are a list of candidates. The reason I addressed Bobby by name is because of the speculation that has been out there for so long. As president of this team, the search in our minds commenced today and the first contact I had with Bobby had today. The relationship Bobby and Jeffrey have had as friends is not relevant in our managerial search at all."

"As far as our expectations for the rest of this year, on the field and off the field, they do not change. We stood by our thought of making the playoffs and there's no question I feel very responsible today. That's why it's not a good day for me personally. Because I feel I've failed completely to date, on the field, off the field and it's something I take very seriously. It is a job that we all have to make this team better as we get ready to move into the new ballpark that's being built and when the performance isn't what our evaluators tell us it should be, then I take that responsibility along with Larry and Mike."

Samson was asked why firing Fredi was the answer: "We felt at this time, this was the proper move was to get a different voice. As far as our timeline, we are definitely active and we do not expect the interim tag to last very long. We will go through the search, we will have candidates, we will follow the commissioner's rules on interviewing 100 percent and we hope to have the interim situation resolved in the very near future.

"There is no perfect day, you just a get feeling that builds over time and just decide when you are trying to compete for a playoff spot and the clock turns to mid to late June, it's time to do it."

Samson on when was the decision made: "The final decision was made within the last couple of days and Larry and Mike were able to present a plan to me and Jeffrey that makes absolute sense. As far as Edwin, he's an important person in our organization, a baseball man that come in here and be seemless, knows the players and it would be a way for us not skip a beat.

Samson on what the Marlins are looking for in their next manager: "You want a manager who has the ability to lead our team. How do you react in certain situations? How do you interact with the front office? How do you lead 25 guys to where we want them to be?"

Samson on reaching out to Bobby Valentine: "He's an external candidate, one of the external candidates I had to reach out to. There will be more. We've been around enough and know enough people in this game. It will not have the deliberate pace maybe other managerial searches have had. We'd really like to have a permanent situation in place as soon as possible. We're confident in list we've put together, it has the type of people we're looking at."

Samson on the timetable for finding a permanent replacement: "We are being careful, but expedient. Before the All-Star break is a very fair thing to say."

LARRY BEINFEST

Opening statement: "On our personal note, all of us a little bit, earned a warm relationship with Fredi and it made this extremely difficult decision. We also recognize there are some personnel challenges on this team. I'll echo what David said. We feel like we failed.

"It's not a reflection or Fredi or Carlos [Tosca] or Jim Presley if we did not give them the right personnel. We share that burden and it's been a difficult day for me. On the flip side of that, though, this team seems to be stuck in neutral and our competitors are on the accelerator. The Phillies, Mets and Braves are on the accelerator and we seem to be a little bit stuck. So we are looking at our personnel and a leadership change to hopefully get us on the accelerator and that's a big part of what we did today."

Beinfest on Fredi: "As far as Fredi's managerial skills and what he meant to this organization, he did a terrific job here. He will manage again in the big leagues and he deserves to manage in the big leagues. It's been a very difficult day. As we told the players it's time to move on and play baseball. We're going to do our job in the office to find the right mix of personnel and continue down that path. Edwin will lead us in this interim position, win ballgames and help us stay in this race."

Beinfest on whether Fredi is to blame for the bullpen woes: "There's no question I'm going to take responsibility for the bullpen. I don't think its a reflection on Fredi at all. It's definitely a personnel issue. This was just an overall decision to see if we can get this team clicking. We recognize the issues we have. We've been in the market looking for relievers and we'll continue to do so. We are fully aware with our eyes open of the challenges with personnel."

Beinfest on whether the change was made to save the season: "We want to try and get it going. We're a couple games under. I really got concerned and started speaking to David and Jeffrey after the Rangers series. Something was missing. We're at the ballpark every day and in tune with the team and you could just tell there was something missing there. Maybe we weren't going to get the engine going the way we needed to. That's really when we had concerns about pushing things along.

Beinfest on if previous MLB managerial experience will be important in the hiring process: "It's not [required] at all. We're looking for somebody to put it together and get these guys moving forward and playing at a level we think they're capable of playing at. We've moved very quickly already to put together a list and we're going to move very quickly in the next couple days.

Beinfest on how Fredi took the news: "He was very professional, very appreciative. Fredi sometimes is more concerned with everybody else. It was a very difficult meeting. He was very professional, gracious."

Beinfest on why hitting coach Jim Presley was also fired: "With these type of changes it's an opportunity to have a different voice. We have a different team, a few young guys who have a relationship with John Mallee. We thought where he could up and maybe move those relationships along quickly, the Stantons, the Gaby Sanchezes, people he's worked with in the minor leagues. We thought it was an opportunity to make a change."

Valentine front-runner to be Marlins next manager

BALTIMORE -- Bobby Valentine withdrew his name from consideration for the Baltimore Orioles manager's job Wednesday, fueling speculation he'll likely replace Fredi Gonzalez as the Marlins' next skipper.

Edwin Rodriguez, the Marlins' Triple-A manager, was named interim manager Wednesday.

Bobby ValentineValentine, currently an ESPN analyst, told ESPN last week he had interviewed for the Orioles' opening, but said Wednesday he was going to "direct my energies in another direction." 

The former Texas Rangers and New York Mets manager is a longtime friend of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who owned the Rangers Triple A team when Valentine was managing the Rangers. After last season, Loria considered making a managerial change with the Marlins and had conversations with Valentine.

The last time the Marlins fired a manager in the middle of a season (2003), they went on to win the World Series. 

The Marlins are two games under .500 (34-36) and in fourth place in the National League East, 7 ½ games out of first, heading into Wednesday's game against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Last season's club had the same record through 70 games.

Valentine, 60, hasn't managed in the major leagues since he was with the Mets in 2002. He led New York to a pennant in 2000. He has a career record of 1,117 wins and 1,072 losses in 15 major league seasons.

June 22, 2010

New relievers Sanabia, Houser play meet and greet

BALTIMORE -- When Jacksonville Suns pitching coach John Duffy told Alex Sanabia Sunday he was being called up to the show, the 21-year old right-hander had nearly the same reaction he had when he was drafted by the Marlins in the 32nd round in 2006: He couldn't believe it. 

Alex Sanabia "My jaw dropped to the ground," said Sanabia, who a year ago was 9-5 with a 3.45 ERA for Single A Jupiter. "I wasn't expecting it. I was just going day by day and next thing you know they let me know. It was awesome."

The Marlins aren't necessarily looking for Sanabia or fellow newcomer James Houser to be awesome. They just want them to do what they were doing in the minors -- throw strikes.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez, who watched his bullpen walk 11 in a loss Saturday, said Sanabia (5-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 14 starts for Double A Jacksonville this season) will likely be used in a long relief role. Houser, a left-hander with a submarine delivery who was 0-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 11 relief appearances for Triple A New Orleans, will be used as a situation lefty.

Both pitchers, the 16th and 17th relievers for the Marlins this season, kept themselves busy Tuesday meeting their new teammates. Houser, who was in the Rays system until last season, said he hasn't been a submarine pitcher for very long. "I've been playing with it for a couple years," Houser said. "Last year I did it part time. This year I'm doing it full time. Xavier Hernandez, my pitching coach in Durham, saw me last year when I was throwing it in the pen. It was just something I thought could be a little nitch for myself."

Marlins Baseball President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest said the Marlins will "ease Sanabia in." "We're not going to throw him right into the fire," Beinfest said. "We'll try to stay away from back to back [outings], which is important. He's a strike thrower, which is important given the way we've been challenged out there throwing strikes. He's a winner and a good kid, we like his stuff and we'll give him a shot."

Beinfest says starting pitching provides "a lot of hope"

BALTIMORE -- Larry Beinfest has kept himself busy trying to solve the Marlins bullpen woes for the past month. Before Tuesday's night game against the Orioles, the team's President of Baseball Operations was in the clubhouse introducing himself to his two newest relievers and getting them to sign contracts. 

Larry Beinfest While Beinfest admits he never would have imagined the Marlins needing to call on 17 different relievers before the end of June, he isn't ready to give up on the team by any stretch. After all, the Marlins were 33-36 after 69 games last year, too. And, he believes the starting pitching could ultimately be good enough to carry the team through. 

"A year ago we were trying to get the starting pitching organized at this point," Beinfest said Tuesday. "The previous month of May a year ago was really challenging because we were trying to find people to start and give us five innings. Now, the bullpen has taken a step backwards. We just need to keep going and I think it will be OK. I think the starting pitching gives us a lot of hope. It will take pressure off the bullpen and it has."

Still, with the July 31st trading deadline a little more than five weeks away, he said its time for the team to turn the corner.

"The clock is ticking toward the 31st and that's when teams talks business and make decisions," Beinfest said. "As they say, it's not early anymore. It's important for this team. I think we've gone through a real tough stretch, a lot of tough road opponents, tough interleague opponents. I think we need to start playing good baseball, and try winning a little more consistently.

"We just haven't found that area where we can just perform, win series, win a couple in a row. We don't seem to be streaky at all. Streaky teams can be worrisome.

"I know there's a lot of attention on the bullpen, but there's other parts that have struggled. Runners in scoring position, whatever. But that happens over 162 games. Hopefully, we'll get hot and start knocking some people in, have a few blowouts. It's been a challenging stretch, but no challenging than any other season."

"I still think there's a lot of confidence that if the starting pitching continues the way it has, we have a good shot to win games."

Beinfest shed some light on a few other topics...

> Although the Marlins released Hunter Jones on Tuesday to make room on their 40-man roster for Alex Sanabia, Beinfest said the left-handed reliever is still in their plans for the future. Beinfest said Jones, who suffered an elbow injury pitching for Triple A New Orleans on June 5th, was in Alabama Tuesday meeting with Dr. James Andrews to see if he'll need to have Tommy John surgery. 

"We've already made an offer to resign him. We just haven't heard back," Beinfest said. "It looks like he's hurt, let's kick him to the curb. It's not that. It's just the way it is sometimes. We needed the spot. He'll probably be out for a year. Nothing against the kid at all. We like him. He just got hurt."

> Beinfest said left-hander Sean West, who went 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA last season for the Marlins in 20 starts, has done really well in his four starts for Triple A New Orleans since coming back from injury. "He's throwing strikes," Beinfest said of West, who is 3-1 with a 1.90 ERA, 22 Ks and 6 walks in 22 1/3 innings.

Still, manager Fredi Gonzalez said West likely needs more time before being recalled. "Yesterday was only on his fourth start in Triple A," Gonzalez said. "Right now, he's not ready."

Of the previous relievers to lose their jobs in the Marlins 'pen and get sent down, Beinfest said right-hander Burke Badenhop (0-1, 3.27 ERA in 11 IP for Triple A New Orleans) is likely the closest to making it back. "Badenhop is getting better," Beinfest said. "[Rick Vanden Hurk] is throwing OK. So, we'll see. We'll give those guys time to get it back, get confident and reevaluate them before bringing them back."

LHP Hunter Jones released; H2R in lineup

Hunter Jones' homecoming didn't last very long. 

The Palm Beach Gardens native and left-handed reliever, acquired from the Red Sox along with another minor leaguer in the Jeremy Hermida trade in November, was released by the Marlins Tuesday to help make room on the 40-man roster for the two newest additions to the bullpen.

Jones was 0-5 with a 4.17 ERA in 45 1/3 innings and seven starts for Triple A New Orleans. That leaves left-handed pitcher Jose Alvarez (6-2, 3.69 ERA with Single A Greensboro) as the Marlins only remaining piece in the Hermida trade. Hermida, who is on the disabled list with a fractured left rib cage, is hitting .217 with a .268 on base percentage, five homers and 27 RBI in 45 games for the Red Sox.

Jones made a brief appearance for the Marlins in May. He pitched in three games and retired five of the six hitters he faced, three via strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.

HANLEY BACK IN LINEUP: Hanley Ramirez's tight left hamstring is apparently feeling better. He's back in the lineup at shortstop and in his usual No. 3 spot in the order. Ramirez strained his hamstring Saturday night and didn't play Sunday.

MARLINS LINEUP: 1. Chris Coghlan LF, 2. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 3. Hanley Ramirez SS, 4. Jorge Cantu DH, 5. Dan Uggla 2B, 6. Cody Ross CF, 7. Mike Stanton RF, 8. West Helms 3B, 9. Ronny Paulino C, 10. Anibal Sanchez RHP.

June 21, 2010

Sanabia, Houser next on Marlins bullpen try-out list

Manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters Sunday the team's front office is "actively looking" around the league for bullpen help. Until the Marlins make a deal, though, it looks like the team will continue to plug the leaks with minor league help.

The next two young arms on the bullpen try-out list appear to be right-hander Alex Sanabia and left-hander James Houser, who will join the team Tuesday in Baltimore and become the 16th and 17th pitchers to pitch in relief for the Marlins this season. Last year, through June 21st, the Marlins had only used 12 relief pitchers. 

Sanabia, 21, isn't like the other young arms the team has brought up of late. He is the ace of the staff for Double A Jacksonville.  In 14 outings for the Suns, the former 32nd round pick of the 2006 draft is 5-1 with a 2.03 ERA. In 84 1/3 innings, he’s walked 16 and struck out 65 -- the kind of strikeout to walk ratio the team could desperately use.

Houser, 25, was in Triple A New Orleans for the Marlins and is a former starter and 2003 second round pick of the Rays. The Marlins signed Houser to a minor-league deal this past winter. He went 0-0 with a 3.26 ERA with four walks and 11 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings for New Orleans. He's likely going to help fill the role of long reliever.

Last week, Larry Beinfest, president of baseball operations, said the Marlins had several young options they were looking at in their farm system as potential bullpen arms on the big league club.