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Don't Count Out Paulino Just Yet


   The Marlins are clearly not happy with Ronny Paulino, who was hit with a 50-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy. But I'm not convinced that the incident dooms Paulino as far as the Marlins are concerned.

   There are several factors that could lead to his return in 2011. One, he'll likely come cheaper than he did this season when he was on the books for $1.1 million -- $272,000 of which he relinquishes due to the suspension. Two, the Marlins aren't exactly flush with catchers within the system. Question marks surround John Baker, who has missed most of the season....and could miss the rest of it depending on how he fares during this coming, make-or-break week when he tests his injured arm throwing to the bases. Next on the ladder are Brett Hayes and Brad Davis, who are extremely light on big-league experience. Kyle Skipworth, the sixth overall pick in 2008, is at least two years away. Three, if the Marlins do decide to keep Paulino, he'll still be allowed to take part in spring training and be set to go after sitting out the first eight games of the 2011 season. The 42 remaining games he'll be missing this season are, for all practical purposes, insignificant. Four, he's extremely well-liked and respected inside the clubhouse. Five, whether or not you accept his dietary pill explanation, he accepted full blame and apologized, which wins him points.

  We'll see what happens. Remember, though, that former first-round draft pick Jeff Allison committed drug sins far more damaging than Paulino's, and yet the Marlins refused to give up on him, even to the point that owner Jeffrey Loria took a personal interest in the situation. Behind the scenes, they're privately pulling for Allison to give them enough reason to justify a September call-up and reward his perseverance in overcoming a drug addiction. (He's 6-7 with a 4.83 ERA at Double A Jacksonville). I can see the Marlins allowing Paulino a shot at personal redemption, too.

   -- A lot going on today, what with the Paulino situation and Cody Ross waiver claim by the Giants (my prediction: he stays), but I caught up with Sean West for a few seconds after tonight's game. West had a MRI on his knee on Friday that he said showed no structural damage. So 15 days may be it for West as far as DL time is concerned. Then again, considering how well Alex Sanabia pitched Thursday in his absence...At the very least, the Marlins would have no trouble finding room for West on the staff once rosters are allowed to expand on Sept. 1.

    -- Marlins president David Samson said Loria has ordered a top-to-bottom review of the organization's drug-educatioin policy, as well as he should. While Paulino is the first player on a Marlins 25-man roster to get hit with a suspension, he's far from the only member of the organization to be stung with one. Former reliever Henry Owens was on the team's 40-man roster when he was slapped with a 50-game suspension after the '08 season, and pitcher Sergio Mitre was nailed early in '09, soon after the Marlins let go of him and he hooked on with the Yankees. Only 20 "major" league players have been suspended since Major League Baseball adopted its stricter drug policy in 2006. Ten of those, including Paulino, were on big-league rosters at the time. Six, including Owens, were on 40-man rosters. Four, such as outfielder Mike Cameron and reliever Guillermo Mota, were free agents when the suspensions were handed down. Of the 316 total players -- major and minor -- who have been penalized since the drug policy took effect in '06, 11 have been members of the Marlins organization -- or about the number one would expect, all things being equal with 30 major league organizations.

-- In addition to Dan Uggla, the Marlins have had preliminary talks with Ricky Nolasco about a contract extension.

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