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52 posts from June 2010

June 11, 2010

Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy on Mike Stanton: "Amazing"

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy just finished watching the Marlins take batting practice from behind the cage and walked away impressed with one 20-year-old in particular, Mike Stanton. Stanton launched one missile after another into the outfield seats at Tropicana Field.

"I was just telling Larry (Beinfest) and Fredi (Gonzalez), what amazes me is when other major league hitters stand around the cage and go, 'Oh my God,'" Van Gundy said. "When guys who can also hit the hell out of the ball go 'Oh my God, this is unbelieable,' that's what amazes me."

   Van Gundy said Stanton is built like one of his Magic stars, Dwight Howard.

    "He's built a lot like Dwight -- wide shoulders, small waist, obviously not as tall," Van Gundy said. "But tall enough."


MARLINS: 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. Wes Helms, 3b; 9. Ronny Paulino, c. (Pitching: Anibal Sanchez)

RAYS: 1. John Jaso, c; 2. Carl Crawford, lf; 3. Evan Longoria, 3b; 4. Carlos Pena, 1b; 5. Ben Zobrist, rf; 6. B.J. Upton, cf; 7. Hank Blalock, DH; 8. Sean Rodriguez, 2b; 9. Reid Brignac, ss (Pitching James Shields).

 UMPIRES -- HP, Jim Joyce; 1B, Jim Wolf; 2B, Darryl Cousins; 3B, Marvin Hudson.

Leo Nunez's Change-Up, Iron Man Paulino

    Twice catcher Ronny Paulino went to the mound to visit with Leo Nunez during Ryan Howard's ninth-inning at bat in Philadelphia on Thursday, and both times manager Fredi Gonzalez thought to himself "Somebody, don't say to throw him a fastball here."

Much to Gonzalez's delight, Nunez never wavered from his strategy, feeding Howard nothing but change-ups -- six in all -- and striking out the Phillies slugger to end the game. Nunez also retired the previous batter, Chase Utley, on a change-up.

  "If you're a right-handed pitcher and you're going to dominate left-handed hitters, you've got to have a good change-up or split," Gonzalez said. "And he does that. They were quality change-ups (in the Howard at bat). He's got to be sitting change-up, but that's how good Nuny's change-up was. They were down, they had movement, and they were strike-to-ball change-ups."

  Nunez, who had not pitched in a week when he took the mound Thursday, now has 13 saves, which ranks seventh in the NL.

  -- Gonzalez said that, due to Wednesday's rainout in Philadelphia and Monday's off day, he will more than likely catch Paulino in all three games of the Rays series.

  -- Gonzalez's good friend, Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, met with the Marlins skipper and watched batting practice before Friday's game.

June 10, 2010

Jorge Cantu Played Street Hockey in Mexico, Watches Blackhawks win Stanley Cup

    The more you learn about Jorge Cantu -- cool, quiet, mild-mannered Jorge Cantu -- the more you discover what an interesting dude he is. Earlier in the season, he made the shocking revelation that he's such a huge fan of the Oakland Raiders that he attends one game a season, wears a skeleton mask and sits in the "Black Hole" section that is home to the Silver and Black's rowdiest fans. Today, after I found out he was among a handful of Marlins players able to snag tickets to the deciding Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last night after their own game with the Phillies was rained out, I questioned him about his hockey knowledge, what with his Mexican upbringing and all.

    Well, that set him off right quick. Cantu, who said he had seats behind the penalty box for last night's big victory by the Blackhawks, said he was quite the star on his street roller hockey team, a goal-scorer in the Wayne Gretzky mold, in his hometown of Reynosa.

    "There's a lot of stuff you don't know about Mexico," Cantu started off when I acted skeptical about his claim. "I was good. I was always scoring for some reason. After school, we went at it. It was four against four, and we broke a lot of windows in cars and houses. It was four mean guys and us kids, man, in this neighborhood, and little girls and people in the street with their sticks and their skates, and their friggin' pucks, gosh, they were really mean. It was unbelievable."

   As for last night's game, Cantu had this to say: "I've never been a part of something like that, a hockey championship. It was a weird feeling at the end of that game, with the Blackhawks winning on the road. The place was real quiet, it was really awkward. Becoming champions on the road, that's tough to do, and they did it."

  Cantu wasn't the only Marlin able to land tickets at the last minute (remember, the Marlins game wasn't called until about 5 p.m.). Dan Uggla, Chris Volstad and Josh Johnson also scored tickets. Uggla and Volstad sat in the second row behind the goal net where the winning goal was scored in overtime. Only they, like pretty much everyone else, weren't really sure it was a goal at first.

  "It's amazing how those guys can skate backwards and turn on a dime," Volstad said. "They're better on skates than I am on my feet."

  CANTU WILL LIKELY DH IN THE TAMPA SERIES....Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he would use his "nine best hitters" in the Tampa series, meaning that Cantu will probably see most of the DH duty, rookie Mike Stanton will remain in right, and Cameron Maybin will watch from the bench.

   Cantu went 5 for 9 with four walks as the DH for the Marlins when they faced the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field last month.

  MARLINS DIG THE AQUARIUM BACKSTOPS.....Most Marlins players gave a thumbs up to the aquarium backstops that will be incorporated into the new ballpark, with reactions ranging from "awesome" (Hanley Ramirez) to "pretty cool" (Gaby Sanchez).

   "We are Miami, after all," Sanchez said. "We have a lot of water around us. We might as well have water there, too."

   Volstad said he doesn't think it'll distract him as a pitcher.

   "Is it going to be weird having fish swim around while you're trying to throw strikes?" Volstad asked. "Probably not."

   However, reliever Clay Hensley thought it could be a distraction for infielders trying to field ground balls.

   "If they have fish moving around and the ball's coming at them at the same height as the aquarium, that could be tough to see," Hensley said.

   MAKEUP DATE SET.....The Marlins and Phillies will make up Wednesday's rained out game on Sept. 6 in Philadelphia as part of a day-night doubleheader.


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

   PHILLIES: 1. Shane Victorino, cf; 2. Placido Polanco, 3b; 3. Chase Utley, 2b; 4. Ryan Howard, 1b; 5. Jayson Werth, rf; 6. Raul Ibanez, lf; 7. Wilson Valdez, ss; 8. Carlos Ruiz, c; 9. Roy Halladay, p.

    UMPIRES: HP -- Tony Randazzo; 1B -- Brian Gorman; 2B -- Paul Nauert; 3B -- Ted Barrett.


Will Wild Pitches Scare the Fish?

    This just in: two salt-water aquariums will serve as the home plate backstop in the Marlins ballpark. Here's an artist's rendering of how it'll look:


   The "backstop aquariums" will flank the two sides of home plate. So, like, you can watch the fish when you're not washing the Fish. We're told the material used for the see-through paneling is the same type of stuff used in bullet-proof glass. Still, you have to wonder what the unexpected impact of a Stephen Strasburg fastball will do to the fish.

June 09, 2010

Marlins TV Ratings Up for Mike Stanton Debut; Fredi Gonzalez Explains Late-Inning Strategy

    Considering what the Marlins and Mike Stanton were up against last night for his major league debut, they fared very well in the ratings. Ratings for last night's Marlins game were up 28 percent over the May average, according to Amy Pempel, director of media relations for Fox Sports Florida, with 59,000 households in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market tuned into the game.

    That's strong considering it was a Tuesday broadcast and the Marlins were facing keen competition on the sports airwaves from Game 3 of the NBA finals between the Lakers and Celtics and pitcher Stephen Strasburg's sensational big-league debut on ESPN.

    "I'm sure there was interest in (Stanton), absolutely," Pempel said.


    Twice in the past three days the Marlins elected not to intentionally walk a batter with first base open in a crucial spot late in the game and it's come back to haunt them.

    On Sunday, with one out in the seventh, runners at second and third, and the Marlins holding a 6-3 lead over the Mets, manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to have Tim Wood pitch to Jeff Francoeur with Alex Cora and the pitcher due up next. Francoeur, who has been swinging a hot bat, homered to tie the game, which the Mets ended up winning.

    On Tuesday, with two outs in the eighth, runners at second and third, and the Marlins clinging to an 8-7 lead over the Phillies, Gonzalez allowed Taylor Tankersley to pitch to Ben Francisco with a left-handed batter, Raul Ibanez, on deck. Tankersley had retired all seven left-handed batters he had faced to that point but was struggling against right-handers. Francisco singled, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs in a game the Phillies ended up winning, 10-8.

  Asked about it afterward, Gonzalez said: "It's a situation as a manager where you've got Ibanez on deck, but you also have (Jayson) Werth sitting in the dugout."

   In other words, Gonzalez was concerned that the Phillies - had Francisco been walked -- sent up the right-handed hitting Werth to pinch-hit for Ibanez in that situation. Keep in mind that Gonzalez had only two relievers, both right-handers, left in the bullpenl: closer Leo Nunez, whom he was saving for the ninth inning, and Jay Buente, who was likely being kept in reserve if the game went into extra innings. Nunez has been asked to get more than three outs just once before this season -- his first outing on April 7 against the Mets -- and that didn't turn out so well. Nunez entered with the bases loaded in the eighth of a 2-run ballgame. He walked in one run and balked in another. He also walked two more batters in the ninth of a game the Marlins ended up winning in the 10th.

June 08, 2010

Mike Stanton Plays D, Plus More Bullpen Blues

   The three hits by Mike Stanton in his major-league debut came as no great surprise to anyone. What did was how well he looked in the field on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. Though not particularly known for his defensive skills, Stanton played caroms off the wall and cut off other balls before they could be turned into extra-base hits. And to think it was Stanton's first visit to the place. 

   "He held guys to singles that should have been easy doubles," said Cody Ross, was playing in center. "He didn't look shaky out there at all, or at the plate, for that matter."

   -- Set-up reliever Clay Hensley said he has been feeling under the weather lately, which could help to explain why his control hasn't been as sharp as it is normally. Hensley took the loss Tuesday after walking one batter and hitting another with a pitch. Hensley has now walked at least one batter in each of his past five relief outings.

   "I'm just kind of zapped right now," Hensley said. "The body feels like (garbage) right now. It's been like that the last couple of outings. I'm just trying to battle through it."

   Hensley turned the ball over to Taylor Tankersley, who continued his mastery of left-handed hitters by getting Ryan Howard to bounce out for the second out of the eighth. It's the right-handed bats that are killing Tankersley, with further evidence provided by Ben Francisco's two-run single after Howard had been retired.

    --   The Phillies scored seven of their 10 runs with two outs. Four of those runs came against Chris Volstad and allowed the Phillies back into the game.

    "It's just a matter of bearing down and getting that last out," Volstad said.

    Volstad was especially disappointed with the third inning when he got two quick outs, only to have it erupt into a three-run inning for the Phillies.

"It could have been a 10-pitch inning, but they got three runs right there," Volstad said.

    Said manager Fredi Gonzalez: "That's something we need to correct."

"Big Worm" Chows on Philly Cheesesteak, Fitted for New Suit; Also, John Baker Suffers Setback

  PHILADELPHIA -- Lots of happenings here at Citizens Bank Park, so let's get right to it, starting with the big story of the day, the arrival of outfielder Mike Stanton, aka "Big Worm." Stanton flew in Monday, checked into the team hotel and was quickly escorted by catcher Brett Hayes to a nearby men's clothing store to find the young slugger a pair of dress shoes and a new suit -- required apparel for Marlins on road trips.

  "Had to get him ready," said Hayes, who attended the same high school as Stanton. ""Had to make him look the part."

  The shoes were no problem, apparently, But the suit was a different matter. Seems the salesman gasped when he saw Stanton, shook his head, and said the earliest he could find a suit large enough to fit the rookie would be a month.

  "We've only got two days," Hayes begged the man."They had only three suits for him to pick from, that were large enough to fit him."

   After the fitting, Hayes and Stanton went to a local joint -- Joe's Philly Cheesesteaks -- to sample the cuisine.

  "He wanted to put away two (cheesesteaks)," Hayes said of Stanton. "But I said, 'We gotta go.'"

  Stanton's eating habits are legend. Just ask Wes Helms. During spring training, he said he took Stanton, Matt Dominguez and Bryan Petersen to dinner one night and couldn't believe his eyes.

   "(Stanton) ate a full rack of ribs for an appetizer," Helms said. "And then he crushed a steak and all the sides. After that he ordered dessert. And Dominguez told me when they got home he ate a whole loaf of raisin bread."

   After taking batting practice and spending time shagging fly balls in right, Stanton met briefly with the media.

   "I'm trying to to be normal and trying to soak it all in," Stanton said of his first day in the big leagues. "The seats are empty now, but not in a few hours."

   Manager Fredi Gonzalez inserted Stanton into the seventh spot in the lineup, made him his right fielder, and said he'll likely keep him there. Chris Coghlan remains in left. Cody Ross slides over to center and replaces Cameron Maybin, which will be the case most of the time.

   Gonzalez said he spoke privately with Maybin to explain the situation, and the young outfielder said he's fine with the decision.

    "I'm still here," said Maybin. "It could be worse."

    So tonight's lineup looks like this: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Cody Ross, cf; 7. Mike Stanton, rf; 8. Ronny Paulino, c; 9. Chris Volstad, p.

    JOHN BAKER SETBACK:  Gonzalez said catcher John Baker suffered a setback on Monday with his injured right arm and was scheduled to see the team doctor, Dr. Lee Kaplan, in South Florida. Baker was scratched from a scheduled rehab game with Single A Jupiter after complaining of soreness in the right elbow area when he tried to throw. Baker went on the DL on May 15.

    VANDENHURK, BONIFACIO ALSO JOIN TEAM: Overshadowed by the arrival of Stanton were the callups of pitcher Rick VandenHurk and backup infielder Emilio Bonifacio from Triple A. Gonzalez said he does not have an assigned role for VandenHurk, who will be used out of the bullpen.

JOSH JOHNSON COULD BE USED AS LEFTY BAT OFF BENCH: Yep, you read that right. With Mike Lamb being designated for assignment, Gonzalez was asked who he would now look to as his left-handed hitter off the bench. His reply: "J.J." That brought some snickers from the press gallery, but Gonzalez didn't flinch. He was serious. He said he could envision using Johnson as a pinch-hitter early in games, so there you have it. 


Hanley Ramirez Takes Over Lead in All-Star Voting for NL Shortstop

  Hanley Ramirez moved past the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins in the latest voting release for the All-Star team while Dan Uggla has moved up to third in the balloting among second basemen..

  Ramirez has 835,275 votes to 792,987 for Rollins. Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki is third among NL shortstops with 454,928 votes.

  Meanwhile, Uggla is climbing in the standings among second baseman, though it appears nobody will catch Philadelphia's Chase Utley, who holds a commanding lead. Utley has more than 1.5 million votes, or nearly three times as many as his closest rival, Atlanta's Martin Prado. It's another 200,000 votes back to Uggla.

   No other Marlins are in contention. Fans vote for the starting eight position players. Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson is a top contender to make the NL staff when it is selected.

Marlins Draft UCLA Southpaw Rob Rasmussen in 2nd Round

  After taking high school OF/1B Christian Yelich with their first-round pick (23rd overall), the Marlins had to wait until the 73rd pick in the draft for their second-round selection, left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen out of UCLA. Not the biggest guy in the world (he stands 5-11).

  Go here to see what they say about Rasmussen at Baseball Beginnings. The link also includes video footage of the pitcher in action. Baseball America ranked Rasmussen eighth among left-handed pitchers eligible for the draft, but also regarded him as a "third/fourth-round talent."

June 07, 2010

Marlins Draft 1B/OF Christian Yelich -- Scouting Reports, Video

     For the third time in the past four years, the Marlins used their first-round draft pick on a position player, first baseman/outfielder Christian Yelich of Westlake (Calif.) High School. Jim Fleming, head of player development and scouting for the Marlins, said the organization would groom Yelich as an outfielder in order to utilize his speed.

    Here's what Baseball America has to say about Yelich:Yelich

   Yelich first gained widespread scouting attention in the summer of 2008 when he put on an eye-opening batting practice display with wood bats at a Major League Scouting Bureau showcase at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. Bryce Harper overshadowed Yelich that evening, driving several balls off the batter's eye or into the parking lot, but Yelich held his own and has produced other highlights since then, such as the long, opposite-field homer he hit in 2009 off Tyler Skaggs, an Angels supplemental first-rounder last year. Tall (6-foot-3), angular and projectable and possessing a sweet lefthanded swing, Yelich is far more athletic than the usual lumbering first-base prospect, with above-average speed. He consistently runs a 6.75 second 60-yard dash in showcase events, and shows both range and a nifty glove around the bag. That kind of athleticism usually signals a position change, but Yelich has a below-average throwing arm that limits him to first. A Miami recruit, Yelich does not project to have the profile power organizations prefer in a first baseman, but he should develop into an above-average hitter with fringe-average power, along the lines of a James Loney or Casey Kotchman.

   Baseball America had Yelich listed as the top-ranked first baseman available in the draft, but had him pegged as a "second-round talent." ESPN.com's Keith Law had Yelich ranked 26th overall on his list of the top 100 prospects.

   Here's additional material, including scouting reports and video, provided by the folks at Baseball Beginnings:

 Video - http://baseballbeginnings.com/2010/05/15/christian-yelich-video/

Scouting Report - http://baseballbeginnings.com/2010/04/16/christian-yelich-report/

Q&A - http://baseballbeginnings.com/2010/04/23/christian-yelich-qa/


Update - http://baseballbeginnings.com/2010/04/07/christian-yelich-update/


Video - http://baseballbeginnings.com/2009/12/14/yelich-video/


   The Marlins also used their first-round pick to draft position players in 2007 (Matt Dominguez, 3b) and 2008 (Kyle Skipworth, C). Their second-round pick in 2007, outfielder Mike Stanton, will make his major-league debut for the Marlins on Tuesday in Philadelphia.