PORT CHARLOTTE -- Marlins players came into camp this spring wearing black t-shirts that read: "27 Outs, No More." I'm beginning to wonder if that meant how many they were going to give away in Grapefruit League play.
The Marlins entered Tuesday's game with the fifth-worst fielding percentage (.968) in baseball this spring. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez and first baseman Gaby Sanchez only helped make it worse in the second inning as the Rays scored five unearned runs off starter Sean West to build an early 7-1 lead.
Ramirez made the first mistake, booting a routine grounder hit right at him by BJ Upton. Sanchez then made the next mistake when he threw wide of Ramirez, who was covering second base on a pickoff attempt.
It was the second error of the spring for Sanchez and the fifth for Ramirez, who came in one off the lead for all shortstops.
Could Ramirez's added weight be playing a factor with his poor defensive start? Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said before Tuesday's game he didn't think so.
"He's in way better shape now than he was at the end of last season," Rodriguez said. "He's physically ready. He's been making errors. But fielding is the same as hitting, you have to get into a routine. That's why he's struggling defensively. That's the only reason."
If there is good news for the Marlins, it's that about a dozen of the errors have come from players who aren't expected to be on the Opening Day roster.
> Here's a look at the Marlins error totals this spring: SS Hanley Ramirez 5, INF Ozzie Martinez 2, OF Brian Petersen 2, 1B Gaby Sanchez 2, UTL Emilio Bonifacio 1, OF Scott Cousins 1, OF/INF Greg Dobbs 1, INF Ruben Gotay 1, P Brad Hand 1, P Josh Johnson 1, OF Josh Kroeger 1, 1B Vinny Rottino 1, INF Joe Thurston 1, OF Dewayne Wise 1.
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> Rodriguez said after Tuesday's 11-2 loss his biggest concern during the Marlins nine-game losing streak has been defense. He also said he's told Ramirez, Sanchez and Omar Infante to expect more playing time over the next couple of weeks.
"We have to start throwing those guys out there more frequently so they can get in a groove," Rodriguez said. "Whatever we're doing right now is not working. It's not a lack of work. They've been working hard. I think I was waiting a little bit longer to put the same guys out there on back-to-back days. But i think they're going to have to go out there. Fielding is the same as hitting -- it's a matter of timing. I already talked to the guys, Hanley, Gaby, Infante and they're willing to do that. What we're trying to avoid is having them in the last week of May already being tired. So, we have to be careful with that. We have to find a happy medium."
> Left-hander Sean West, who made his second start of the spring Tuesday, wasn't able to get to third inning as he was hoping. He lasted just two, giving up six hits, seven runs (two earned), a walk and a strikeout as he faced 14 batters. He stayed positive afterward.
"I saw myself today make some really good pitches to some really good hitters," said West, who gave up a two-run home run to Manny Ramirez in the first inning. "I could care less about the runs. The ball is coming out great. Everything else doesn't really matter to me right now.
"The last time I felt this good was probably in '08 when I was pitching in High A. The confidence is there. The health is there. My arm it feels live again. I don't feel like I'm muscling any pitches. Everything is coming out smooth. I'm really looking forward to this season. It's going to be a good one.
"My head is in a very good place right now. Wherever I start, Double A, Triple A, I know eventually I'll get my chance. And when I get there i want to stay up. I'm tired of being the guy that goes up and down. I know I'm better than that. I'm going to show it this year."