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38 posts from March 2011

March 15, 2011

Errors piling up for Ramirez, Marlins this spring (updated)

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.

Hanley Ramirez Tuesday, the Marlins committed their 20th and 21st errors of the spring against the Rays, further moving them up the food chain of teams killing themselves with mistakes.

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.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> 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."

Win or lose, manager Edwin Rodriguez wants Marlins to pick up intensity this spring

PORT CHARLOTTE -- The Marlins will make their second television appearance of spring training this afternoon when they take on the Rays here at Charlotte Sports Park at 1:05 p.m. SunSports will broadcast it.

Edwin Rodriguez Win or lose, manager Edwin Rodriguez made it clear this morning he would like to see his team pick up its intensity. The Marlins (5-11) have lost seven in a row and have been outscored 39-4 in their last five.

Sure, it's only spring training. And most of the pitching staff has spent the first two weeks of Grapefruit League play working on pitches and not focusing on game plans. But first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who ripped the team last Friday after the Marlins made five errors in a 10-0 loss  to the Mets, said Tuesday enough is enough. 

"We just got to turn it around, go out there, play baseball, hit the ball and do what the other team is doing to us," Sanchez said. "We need to start getting those timely hits and basically prepare to get in that winning mentality now so it can carry over into the season.

"Your mentality as an athlete as any player is to win when you're out on that field. I don't think the coaches need to tell us that. It doesn't matter the score. We want to win ballgames. You see an L next to your name and you don't like it. It's something we've had for the last five or six games. Enough is enough."

The Marlins will only have four regulars in today's lineup -- Sachez, second baseman Omar Infante, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and Logan Morrison, who will serve as the designated hitter.

But the regulars should start seeing more time moving forward according to Rodriguez, who also said Monday he's planning to work his regular bullpen arms longer so they can "stretch out."

A COUPLE TIDBITS...

> Rodriguez said right-handers Javi Vazquez and Anibal Sanchez, scratched from their scheduled starts on Monday and Tuesday, should be back in the rotation this weekend. Vazquez (elbow soreness) is on tap to pitch Saturday in Jupiter against the Cardinals. Sanchez will pitch Sunday in Jupiter against the Mets.

> As bad as the Marlins offense has been of late, Rodriguez said he isn't concerned. "The guys you want to see taking good at-bats, they've been taking good at-bats," he said. "Let's put it that way."

> While several new players competing for the last remaining roster spot have performed well through the first two weeks of the spring, Rodriguez isn't anywhere ready to name any leaders for the job. Ultimately, who wins that last spot on the bench, Rodriguez said, will likely come down to if Chris Coghlan and Mike Stanton are ready for the start of the season.

As it stands, most figure utility man Emilio Bonifacio, veteran infielder Wes Helms, infielder Donny Murphy and a backup catcher are locks for bench spots. Assuming that's the case, Bonifacio would be the only available outfielder. So, it would make sense the Marlins keep an extra outfielder in that scenario.

So far, veteran pinch hitter Greg Dobbs, who can play some outfield but is mostly a corner infielder, has performed the best with the bat. Dobbs is 9 for 20 (.450) with a home run and four RBI. Dwayne Wise, meanwhile, has clearly proven he's the best defensive option in the outfield. But he's only hitting .214 with 6 RBI in 28 at-bats.

> So what was the Marlins' reaction to Nyjer Morgan's comments after Sunday's game that Ricky Nolasco intentionally hit him with an 0-2 pitch? A rather big rolling of the eyes according to Gaby Sanchez.

"It's just whatever at this point," Sanchez said. "I'm pretty sure Ricky's not hitting him on purpose. It's just one of those things -- what are you going to say?"

March 14, 2011

Nats' Nyjer Morgan stirs it up again, claims Ricky Nolasco went after him in Sunday's game

FORT MYERS -- Nyjer Morgan apparently isn't ready to let last year's run-in with the Marlins fade into the past.

Nyjer Morgan The Nationals' center fielder told MLB.com after Sunday's game that he felt Ricky Nolasco purposely hit him with an 0-2 pitch during the Nationals' 5-1 victory over the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

"No question, without a doubt," Morgan said. "It's obvious because of what happened last year. Obviously, they haven't turned the page. But I'm going to be a stronger player, better person. I'm not going to react to it. I felt better by going out there and being able to steal that bag, getting myself over to third and generating a run.

"I felt more satisfied after that than staring at him and putting on my mean mug. Basically, what am I going to get out of it [by fighting]? I'm just going to hurt my team and somebody could get hurt. It's Spring Training, anyway.

"It's a plus on our side because they know we are not going to react to their negativity. It's part of the game. I know I got tested for a reason. It will probably be the last test I will get. I felt a lot better by just walking down to first, stealing second and generating a nice rally in the first inning."

For what it is worth, Nolasco denied trying to hit Morgan on purpose. Nolasco was pitching his first Spring Training game after missing time with a thumb injury. He also hit Danny Espinosa in the head in the same inning.

"Obviously, no matter who is up there, I'm not trying to do that," Nolasco said. "It's my first outing coming off an injury. I just tried to bounce back from that. But obviously the rust showed and I'll keep working and go get them next time. "

On Sept. 1 of last season, Morgan charged the mound and threw a punch at Chris Volstad, who had thrown a pitch behind him. First baseman Gaby Sanchez intervened and clotheslined Morgan, setting off a brawl.

The Marlins had a problem with Morgan from the previous day, when he barreled into catcher Brett Hayes, who suffered a separated shoulder on the play. He then amped it up the next day by stealing two bases in a blowout. 

We'll have to see if this carries over into the season. But I'm about 99.9 percent sure Nolasco simply let a pitch get away from him. 

Espada eager to see Marlins starting outfield together

FORT MYERS -- With Logan Morrison in left, Chris Coghlan in center and Mike Stanton in right, Marlins outfield coach Joe Espada is pretty confident he's going to have one of the most talented and athletic young trios in baseball this coming season. 

Marlins Outfield He'd just like to see what they're going to look like together in a game sometime before Opening Day.

So far, through the first few weeks of spring training, the only time all three have been on the field together in a game has been the first two innings of an exhibition loss to the University of Miami on Feb. 27 -- before Stanton strained his right quadriceps running out a ground ball. The big guy has been out ever since.

Coghlan, meanwhile, has hardly broken a sweat in his new outfield position as the Marlins have tried to ease him back in following off-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Adding to the woes for Coghlan has been a sore throwing shoulder. He hasn't played in the outfield since March 7, serving only as the designated hitter in his last three games.

Manager Edwin Rodriguez said Sunday he expects Coghlan to begin playing regularly in center when the Marlins head back to Jupiter on Wednesday. But Stanton, who could begin participating in live batting practice and simulated games down in the minors later this week, probably won't be back for Grapefruit League games until the final week of spring, assuming there are no setbacks.

So will the Marlins new outfield really have enough time to gel before games start to count? Espada and Rodriguez think so.

"For me, it's not a concern," Espada said. "They do get out there together when we do our pregame work and they do a lot of talking during [batting practice] when they live shag, so it's not a concern. But I would like to see them out there more in game speed situations.

"Hopefully we'll have all three of them out there on the last day of spring and play them eight, nine innings together to see how it goes."

Rodriguez said the key before Opening Day is simply establishing how much ground infielders and outfielders have to cover to get to fly balls.

"One thing about these guys -- Logan Morrision, Chris Coghlan, Michael Stanton -- is they're makeup. They're not afraid of a challenge. They go for it," Rodriguez said. "I remember last year after [Coghlan] played one game in left field. He came up and said 'You're never going to hear me because I made that error in left field.' That shows a lot. That goes with Morrison and Stanton. There's no excuses for them."

Coghlan is confident he and his two young teammates will be ready.

"It hasn't gone the way we drew it up," Coghlan said. "There's been some nicks. But you can't control that. That's just the reality of it.

"I don't know when Mike will be ready. That's his protocol. But Mike's a good outfielder. He covers a lot of ground. He knows where he's at. We'll just communicate in our early work, what we want to do, our plan of attack. And you'll see a difference the last week. Our energy will be ramped up because it will be more game-like situations. We'll work on how we're going to position ourselves with the hitters and the teams we'll be playing. There will be a difference. We'll be ready."

A FEW MORE TIDBITS

> Alex Sanabia's one inning of work against the Twins Monday wasn't spectacular. He gave up a run on three hits as a substitute starter for Javi Vazquez. But consider Sanabia, who was scratched in his previous scheduled start last Tuesday, a continuing work in progress. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire has spent most of the spring trying to tweak his grip.

"We're just trying to keep his front side in and his hand on top of the baseball," St. Claire said before Monday's game. "He has kind of a lower arm slot anyway. He'll get real low on the ball. It's more this way and the ball tails, it doesn't sink. When he stays with his fingers on top of the ball, behind the ball, then he gets that downward action, which is what you want. Then, he can throw a slider. When he's around it, he flips open and that's where he gets the elbow strains. His last couple sides he's been staying on top of the ball. He's looked good.

Sanabia, 22, went 5-3 with a 3.73 ERA in 12 starts for the Marlins last year. But he's expected to head back to the minors before camp breaks.

> I'm fully expecting Anibal Sanchez to get scratched from Tuesday's scheduled start against the Rays in Port Charlotte. The Marlins were waiting to hear how Sanchez looked upon inspection by trainers in Jupiter Monday morning. He was still limping around after taking a line drive off his right shin in his previous start the Thursday. The cautious approach seems like common sense.

"He's coming off shoulder [surgery in 2009]," St. Claire said. "When you can't use that drive leg, that push leg and everything or your legs in general, your arm starts taking the brunt of it. If he can't grind and push the way he needs to, we'll just move him back."

March 13, 2011

Marlins RHP Anibal Sanchez still feeling effects of Thursday's line drive off his right shin

JUPITER -- The pain hasn't gone away for Anibal Sanchez. In fact, he said Sunday that it has begun to spread.

Anibal Sanchez The Marlins No. 4 starter, hit on his right shin by a line drive back to the mound during his last start on Thursday, said he's begun feeling discomfort in his ankle as the swelling in his shin has gone down.

"I'm okay, but my ankle is hurting a little bit and I'm not sure why," Sanchez said. "I think the inflammation is going down and that's affecting my ankle some, causing discomfort."

Sanchez said he completed his bullpen session Saturday without much discomfort. But he couldn't push off his ankle on Sunday and was walking gingerly in the clubhouse. 

"During my bullpen I felt very good," Sanchez said. "I thought I was going to be better today. But that hasn't been the case."

This wasn't the first time Sanchez was hit on his shin. He said David Wright plunked him in the same spot during spring training in 2007. Thursday, it was the Mets' Russ Adams who hit him.

"It was the same pitch a fastball inside to Wright," Sanchez said. "This one was a fastball outside."

As much as it hurts, Sanchez said he doesn't expect to be out long. He's scheduled to start Tuesday in Port Charlotte when the Marlins face the Rays. Manager Edwin Rodriguez said Sean West would probably pitch in Sanchez's place if he's unable to go. 

"It's still very early in spring training," Sanchez said. "I've made a few starts and I have a few left, even if I miss this next one. My arm feels great, I don't have any problems. I'll just try to recuperate as fast as I can."

Edwin not worried about rotation's rocky start

JUPITER -- Television cameras from FoxSports are here at Roger Dean Stadium to broadcast the first of four Marlins spring training games. They picked a pretty good day. 

Ricky Nolasco.pg Ricky Nolasco is set to make his first start of the spring since injuring his right thumb after slipping and falling during conditioning drills in Miami in early February. The Marlins, losers of five straight, would obviously love to see Nolasco do well for a couple reasons. First off, they want to make sure they're No. 2 starter remains on path to start the season in Game 2 versus the Mets. 

The other reason? Outside of Javi Vazquez, the team's projected starting rotation hasn't exactly gotten off to a great start. Ace Josh Johnson got lit up by the Red Sox Saturday and is 0-2 with 10.00 ERA in three starts. Chris Volstad didn't get a lot of defensive help in his last start (the Marlins made five errors versus the Mets), but he's 1-2 with a 7.88 ERA in three spring starts. And Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 4.15 ERA) took a hard line drive off his right shin in his last start Thursday. 

Health issues aside, should we chalk up the struggles to guys simply working on pitches during the first two weeks of meaningless spring training games? Or, is there a real cause for concern when you add up the injuries and the struggles?

"I have no concerns about the starting pitchers," manager Edwin Rodriguez said Sunday morning, about three hours before the first scheduled pitch against the Nationals at 1:05 p.m.

"I saw [Nolasco] throwing a live BP. He's ready to go. JJ, there's no concern. Every time he goes out there, he knows what he's doing. Everything he does is for a purpose. He was working on his change up yesterday and before that he was working with something in his last outing. Javi is going to be fine. Anibal Sanchez is no concern. And I like what I have seen with Volstad. I know it was a tough one in [Port] St. Lucie against the Mets, but I think he just made one bad pitch. Other than that, it was the defense."

So what has Rodriguez been looking for and seen that's keeping him at ease?

"First is the command of the secondary pitches. If they throw that changeup for strikes, that breaking ball for strikes you know that's a very good sign, especially this early in spring training," he said. "Then, it's the tempo of the game. Sometimes, if guys don't feel good or they don't have the confidence in their pitches, they will kind of slow down their tempo. But if they're working [fast], they're on. That's a good sign too."

Here's what else Edwin shared with the beat writers Sunday morning: 

> Anibal Sanchez (bruised right shin) threw a bullpen session Saturday and is still on schedule to make his next start on Tuesday versus the Rays in Port Charlotte. If he can't go, Rodriguez said Sean West will likely start in his place. "If he misses something it's going to be only one start," Rodriguez said. "Other than that, he's going to be fine. He threw yesterday and did good. He has two more days to go. I think he'll should be alright. But it's his push off leg."

> Rodriguez is hopeful right fielder Mike Stanton (strained right quadriceps) will begin taking live batting practice or playing in simulated games down in the minors this coming week. Stanton was on the field at Roger Dean Stadium with his teammates participating in running drills Sunday morning. But he wasn't going full speed. Rodriguez said he still expects to see Stanton play in a few Grapefruit League games during the final week of spring training.

Asked if he would still consider batting Stanton in the clean-up spot if he doesn't get enough Grapefruit League at-bats, Rodriguez said: "It depends on how he looks. The good thing is we have good options. Gaby [Sanchez] has been doing fine. Let's put it this way, I'm not going to put Stanton in a situation where he feels uncomfortable. We don't know what he's capable of doing."

> Asked who he would like to see more of this spring, Rodriguez said: "I would like to see Chris Coghlan in center field and I would like to see Stanton how he handles that four-hole. I know [Coghlan] is going to be able to play the position. But also the infielders also want to know how far they have to go get a fly -- or the corners guys want to know how far they can go."

March 12, 2011

J.J. Talks About Saturday's Rocky Outing

   FORT MYERS -- Josh Johnson made his third start of spring training start on Saturday, and it wasn't pretty. The Marlins' staff ace was knocked around by the Boston Red Sox to the tune of five runs on nine hits and a walk in only 3 2/3 innings of work. It was the second stinker of the spring for Johnson, whose ERA now stands at a hefty 10.00. He's allowed 17 hits -- including a pair of home runs -- in nine innings.

    Johnson said afterward that he was continuing to mess around with a changeup that's not been working for him so far. And catcher John Buck also said Johnson threw a lot of two-seamers, which were elevated and hittable.

    Here's what Johnson had to say about the performance:  

March 09, 2011

Stanton's Grapefruit debut likely delayed a week

JUPITER -- Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez still believes Mike Stanton will be ready for Opening Day. But it's going to be at least another week before the 21-year old slugger returns to spring training action with his teammates.

Mike Stanton Rodriguez said Wednesday morning he would be surprised if Stanton, who strained his right quadriceps running out a ground ball on Feb. 27, was back with the team next week as Stanton had originally anticipated. Instead, Rodriguez said, it's more likely Stanton will be back for the last 7 to 10 days of Grapefruit League  play (give or take March 20 or 22) following a short stint in the minors. 

"We're probably going to send him to the minors so he can face some light pitching," Rodriguez said. "We just want to make sure everything feels alright. We want to see how he runs on the field."

Stanton took batting practice again Tuesday and was playing catch in the outfield at Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday morning.

> Rodriguez is not quite ready to say Matt Dominguez has won himself the starting third base job. But the 21-year old's hot start this spring hasn't gone unnoticed by the skipper.

Through seven games, Dominguez is hitting .400 (6 for 15) and leads the team with two homers and 10 RBI. Sure, some of it has come at the expense of minor league pitching. But Rodriguez said he's still been impressed.

"If he was striking out at this stage we would be wondering 'Well, he's not even facing good pitching yet," Rodriguez said. "But he's walking and talking like he belongs here. He's handling himself very well. I think most of his RBI have been clutch RBI, with two outs, two men on. He's doing very, very well."

> Rodriguez was equally impressed with Elih Villanueva's start in Lakeland Tuesday in place of Alex Sanabia (sore right elbow). Villanueva tossed three scoreless innings against the Tigers, surrendered two hits and two walks to go with two strikeouts. Villanueva had a stellar season in Double A last year and is likely heading back to the minors. But Rodriguez said he can see Villanueva pitching at the big league level in the not-so-distant future.

"It was first time I actually saw him pitch," Rodriguez said. "They were telling me he was off today. But to me he was fine, throwing all his pitching for strikes. It was good to see him do that.

"There's so many players in the big leagues that have been in the big leagues for 10 years and if you look at them and their tools, they're not up to par. But they know how to pitch. Villanueva knows how to win, how to pitch. I think he's going to be in the big leagues for many, many years."

By the way, Rodriguez said Tuesday that Sanabia's soreness was the result of using a new grip -- something he's been working on with pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

> Rodriguez said he heard Ricky Nolasco's bullpen session went well Tuesday and that he's probably still on track to make his first Grapefruit League start Sunday. Nolasco is on track to pitch in a simulated game Thursday morning.

> When will we see Chris Coghlan in the everyday lineup? Rodriguez said probably after the Marlins return from their trip to the west coast of Florida on Monday and Tuesday.

March 08, 2011

VIDEO: Matt Dominguez talks hot spring start

LAKELAND -- The biggest question entering this spring wasn't if Matt Dominguez had the glove to play third base. It was if he had a good enough bat to be put in the lineup everyday. So far, he's looked pretty good.

Tuesday, the 20-year old prospect belted a three-run home run and drove in another run with an RBI single in the Marlins 9-5 win over the Tigers. So far this spring, he's hitting .400 (6 for 15) with a team-leading two homers and 10 RBI in seven games.

I caught up with him after the game to talk about his hot start.

Also, be sure to check out Burke Badenhop's video interview below. The Hopper was impressive Tuesday, tossing two scoreless innings and striking out four -- including Miguel Cabrera, one of the players he was traded by the Tigers for back in Dec. 2007. At this point, Badenhop is all the Marlins have left after probably the worst trade in franchise history.

March 07, 2011

Edwin Rodriguez On Matching Football Wits With Fredi Gonzalez

    JUPITER -- Edwin Rodriguez will be the first to admit he doesn't know a thing about NFL football. He didn't watc h a game all season, and that includes the Super Bowl. But when he was asked by a  Spanish-language radio station in Miami to go on the air and make weekly playoff selections, he couldn't resist.

     And the fellow manager he tested his football acumen against: former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. Rodriguez and Gonzalez were on 670-AM each Saturday during the NFL playoffs, choosing one team or the other. (They'll be matching baseball wits on the field later this afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium when the Braves arrive to face the Marlins.)

     "It was fun," Rodriguez said. "I think it was pretty tight. I think we had the same record. I never watched a game this season of football. But when they called me, I said, 'All right. Let's do it.' It was pretty close."

      Rodriguez said he started studying up on the NFL and also called Marlins media relations director Matt Roebuck for tips and advice.

      "I never watched a game this year, but I didn't want to say no," Rodriguez said. "I didn't want to look like I was running away or something."

      On a baseball note, Rodriguez said that Gonzalez, after being fired by the Marlins in June, called him daily for about four or five days to offer suggestions and any help that he might need.