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Javi Vazquez doesn't look like he'll be pitching with his job on the line Saturday

Javi Vazquez's first eight starts of the season haven't exactly gone the way the Marlins envisioned it when they signed him to a one-year, $7 million deal this winter.

So how important will his ninth start be Saturday against the Rays? Well, it doesn't appear like he's pitching for his job -- at least not yet.

"I think [this start] is very important for Javi, but I think it's more important for us, the Florida Marlins," manager Edwin Rodriguez said Friday.

"We need to establish and solidify that rotation. And without him in the rotation, we don't have many options. He's going to have to step up, make adjustments because that rotation, the one we send out there, that's the one we plan on using. We're going to stay with that rotation and see how far it takes us."

Vazquez is 2-4 and has a 7.55 ERA that ranks 148th out of 150 starting pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched this season. He's been working with pitching coach Randy St. Claire since spring training "to use his body more" on his delivery. The problem Rodriguez said he sees is Vazquez's mental approach, adding, "he needs to be aggressive with secondary pitches. He's trying to be perfect with those secondary pitches."

According to a report from fangraphs.com, Vazquez's fastball velocity (88.2 mph) is the slowest of his career and he's getting swings and misses on just 9.5 percent of all his pitches, compared with 26.7 percent two years ago. Asked if Vazquez is getting enough break on his secondary pitches, St. Claire said "yeah."

Ultimately, Rodriguez and St. Claire are hoping if Vazquez can get past his first inning struggles (he's given up at least one run in the first inning of every start and has a 15.25 ERA in the frame) he may be able to turn things around.

"As an organization and manager you have to have a Plan B for everything," Rodriguez said. "If you look down at the minor leagues the guys were thinking about are hurt or struggling. You look at the bullpen, there's nobody there you can rely on for those starts. We're relying on him."

St. Claire said the pitcher who is likely the closest to being ready down in the minors in 27-year old right-hander Jay Buente, who is 3-0 with a Pacific Coast League-leading 1.94 ERA. The drawback? Buente, a former reliever, has just five minor league starts this season under his belt.

"Right now he's locating his fastball and he's using his curveball," St. Claire said.

"Out of the bullpen he was just fastball, splitty and he wasn't commanding his fastball. That's where he got in trouble here, his walks. He's not walking anybody down there. He's walking a guy every four or five innings. Maybe the starting role has helped him out where he's found that fastball command and he's using his curveball more. Last year he came up here and he didn't use a curveball. I talked to him about using it when he went down. Then, he had shoulder issues and they shut him down. Now, he has three pitches working for him."

St. Claire said left-hander Sean West, who went 8-8 with a 5.03 ERA in 22 big league starts over the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Marlins, is close to finishing up rehab in Triple A.

"He looked good in spring," St. Claire said. "He was throwing the ball over the plate. It was just about getting his pitch count up and getting him back into pitching."

Asked who had the best stuff among the minor league pitchers he saw this spring, St. Claire said: "Probably [Tom] Koehler. He's got a good arm. He's probably the second guy right now."

Koehler is 4-0 with a 3.16 ERA in New Orleans. But his last start May 16 lasted just two innings as he walked five and gave up three hits and three earned runs.

> Staff ace Josh Johnson, who took a come backer to the mound off his right forearm Monday night against the Mets, threw his usual bullpen session Thursday. St. Claire said the extra day off caused by Tuesday's rain out "worked out nice" for Johnson.

"Hopefully the pain in out of there," St. Claire said. "He didn’t throw many breaking balls [during his session], but he doesn’t throw many anyways. He spins a few, but doesn't throw a lot on his sides, mainly locates his fastball and his changeup. Depending on his fingers feel and the blisters and stuff, he'll spin a few balls."

> Rodriguez said it's likely Chris Coghlan will get Saturday off when the Marlins face left-hander David Price. Coghlan, mired in a 13 for 77 (.169) slump since pulling himself out of a game against the Dodgers with shoulder pain, is hitting just .106 (5 for 47) against lefties this season.

"I think he’s getting late to the hitting position," Rodriguez said. "I think he needs to start earlier. We already approached that so he’s working on that."

Could it be the shoulder? "The trainer says he’s fine," Rodriguez said. "He’s been very honest through his career with me. He says he’s fine. He’s just struggling at the plate."

Rodriguez said he would hit Emilio Bonifacio in the leadoff spot and not Hanley Ramirez when Coghlan is out of the lineup.

> Left fielder Logan Morrison said he was saddened to hear about the death Friday of former wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage. "I only ate Slim Jim because of him, " Morrison said. "I was a big wrestling fan for like two years and when I was he was my dude. I would try to emulate his voice 'Step into a Slim Jim, oh yeah!' Then your voice would get hoarse. It's sad man. He's my guy. He'd get you jacked up."

Savage, whose real name is Randy Poffo, actually played in the minor leagues in the early 1970s for the Cardinals and Reds.

FRIDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (24-18):
1. Chris Coghlan CF, 2. Hanley Ramirez SS, 3. Logan Morrison LF, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Greg Dobbs 3B, 6. Mike Stanton RF, 7. John Buck C, 8. Omar Infante 2B, 9. Anibal Sanchez P.

> Rays (25-19):
1. John Jaso C, 2. Ben Zobrist 2B, 3. Johnny Damon LF, 4. Evan Longoria 3B, 5. Matt Joyce RF, 6. B.J. Upton CF, 7. Casey Kotchman 1B, 8. Elliot Johnson SS, 9. Andy Sonnanstine P.

Comments

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Glags

Why not bat Hanley 1st?! So he won't move him down in the line up due to his struggles and he won't move him up past the two hole to try to shake him out of his funk. Although he's had some better swings the last couple of games I say you try anything.

Lou Vales

Glags, The Tampa Bay announcers can't believe the swings the Marlins are putting on some pitches. Remember yesterday I said to watch what they hit 3-1 and 2-0. It's almost as if they should be given the take sign.

I do remember the ball Infante hit against the Dodgers but I believe that is the last ball that he hit HARd in the air. It's unbelievable. He could hit last year.

Isn't about time LoMo and Coghlan figured out how to play a carom off of ANY left field wall. IF you can't catch the ball play it off the wall.DON'T give it a silly jump that comes no where near it. IF you think the LF can catch the ball then CF should back him up by about 15 feet and NOT stand right next to him. MAN!!

Lou Vales

Glags, I'm GLAD they got the 2 runs. Let's look at it. 1st and 3ed NOBODY out.3-0 on Sanchez--Foul pop straight back. 3-1 chases breaking ball outside--foul ball. 3-2 shallow fly to RF--Glad Hanley is the baserunner. Stanton hits pop up to outfield grass, bad throw by Kotchman. 2 Runs.

Lou Vales

Vasquez-PRICE tomorrow. Will be very interesting to see what Vegas sets that line at.

By the way, don't believe the crap.NOBODY is ready to pitch in the Majors from the Marlins'system and NOBODY is ready to come up and play a position from the Marlins'system.

Don't get mad at the messenger!!

My God!! Price vs Vasquez. Since the Rapture is suppose to occur at 6:00 tomorrow, maybe this will be like David sl;aying Goliath.

Glags

Ironically the rapture could be Vazquez's saving grace.

Glags

I'm not a hitting coach and by no means should Gabby change his approach but it seems that he's uppercutting his swing a bit. It just seemed that way from the way he popped up the ball yesterday and today. Feels good to beat a 1st place team.

Lou Vales

Glags, I'm foolish enough to now be charting what they hit with 3-1 and 2-0 counts--I know.Get a LIFE!!!--so far it's not pretty. It really is not even believable. Those are called "cripple pitches" for a reason. IF it can be demonstrated that you CAN'T hit 3-1 and 2-0 would the manager almost be tempted to put the take on? I know that sounds NUTS but just watch what they hit on 3-1 and 2-0.AND I'm really starting to believe Infante is hurt. Now i understand that it tires him out to go through that routine of drying his face on his sleeve after every pitch BUT that does not totally explain the COMPLETE loss of pop.Now I'm not expecting 10 homers but I'm expecting once in a while for a line drive to be hit to a gap or at a glove or SOMEWHERE in the air.PLEASE!!! Someone help this kid. He looks like he is scared up there. Tell him everything will be fine.

The White Rat

Platoon Boni with Infante for a few games..Boni has better range especially to his left and adds speed and energy to line-up...

Erick

Infante has been great, defensively. He makes plays Uggla couldn't even dream of making.

I'd like to see Bonifacio in CF tomorrow. Coghlan's struggling, especially against lefties. No reason to start him against Price tomorrow.

I'd also let Hanley leadoff. He's not hitting for power, and he's really the only SB threat on this team, anyway.

Lou Vales

Erick, It's hard to believe but Uggla has actually elevated his defense. Even his range has improved. It is still hysterical that he has 1!!!!! more RBI than Infante.He has been hitting in tough luck--REALLY!!__but 15 RBI's is still too funny to contemplate.

Do you have ANY ideas as to what has happened to Infante?? i watch many Braves games up here in the Carolinas and he really STUNG the ball last year. I bet we will find out in 2 months that he has been hurt since march.There is some plausible reason for not even hitting a SOFT line drive. I'm serious about that OCD thing with his sleeve maybe that needs to stop. he could be concentrating too much on the ritualistic aspects of his approach--Oh, Hell!! I don't know, but he does STINK at the plate.

Too bad that Murphy's wrist problem will linger until the 2020 Election.

Erick

Uggla's defense is actually still garbage.

He has 3 errors, and fangraphs has his defense at a -1.6 UZR already.

The few web gems he'll have are probably plays Infante makes look a lot easier standing up. Uggla, on the other hand, flops on the ground because he barely has any range.

If he doesn't hit, he's useless. I fully expect him to start hitting more, though.

As for Infante, I always thought he was a fluky hitter.

He's basically a singles hitter with very little power, and his plate discipline isn't good, either.

Infante's actually been the best defensive 2B in the game this year according to the #'s though. And I don't just mean fielding %. The whole "Fielding Bible" +/- has him as the best so far, as well.

Erick

Also, I don't really care much about Murphy's wrist (hopefully it heals for his sake, but I'm talking in terms of what he brings to the team).

The only reason why Murphy's considered a big leaguer is because our bench is garbage.

Stan M

I just woke up to all the above...wow! Regarding Infante, it seems that he's trying to pull the outside pitch and is grounding out to the left side far to frequently. And I agree with you, Erick that his batting average last year was "empty". Coghlan made two egregious errors of judgement last night. If Morrison was going to the wall to try for a catch, his place was off the wall for any rebound. What was worse in my opinion was his AB in the eighth inning. With a lefty on the mound there is no way that he should have swung at that 3-1 pitch. A walk sent the 1B runner to second with Hanley up. Dumb! And Lou, whereas I have little argument with your supposition that there is little ready talent in the minors, I still would prefer to see one from there than more of Vazquez. I have a lot of trouble with those "range statheads". That guy on TV a few games back said that Stanton saved 17 runs last year. Come on. And at that point he said Coghlan had cost us 2 runs this year. When? Did you folks see where Stanton has the 3rd best slugging percentage in the league? He's finally looking more comfortable at the plate and not hitting only with his arms as he did in the past this year. And with Gabby popping everything up as someone above said, now would be the time to move Stanton to cleanup. Buck finally made a throw to 2B that Coghlan didn't have to pick up in CF. When considering that 2 of our starters have been awful, and that 3 of our hitters (Hanley, Infante, Coghlan) are far below normal expectations, we are doing pretty darn well.

Lou Vales

We are doing MORE than "pretty darn well" when you consider everything mentioned by you, Glags and Erich. I believe the idea is to try to stay in this thing and maybe somehow win it which is possible when you look at the Hitless Wonder Phillies. As I've said the Braves will be the toughest team at the end.

I'm not saying at some point you won't have to go to Buente, Koehler or SOMEONE, my feeling is those guys will get shelled somehow even worse than Vasquez. We will keep getting the "It's too early to make a move" garbage while we continue to lose winnable games that we will lookback at horror about come September. There are "Money Ball" alternatives out there better than Vasquez they just are not in our system.Do we want to win or not> Well,"WE" want to win but do the Marlins want to win?

And even an "accidental"Major League ball player hits a Line Drive once in awhile, it's seemingly impossible to go 43 games and only hit 1 ball in the air HARD and not have someone in the organization question what the Hell is wrong with our ritualistic buddy.

Lou Vales

Erich, Thank You for the Fangraph numbers. Trust me I Believe in those kind of stats. I just find the Uggla numbers so hard to believe.I watch the Brave games when the Marlins are not playing and it "appears" Uggla is making plays to his left and right that he has NEVER made before. Now the Braves fans believe he is a "Gold Glover" and I KNOW that is absurd BUT somehow to the naked--but wizened eye---his defense has remarkably improved.His turn on the DP is even no longer an adventure.

Erick

Well, he used to be the worst defensive 2B in baseball. So in comparison to that, he probably has definitely improved.

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