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51 posts from May 2011

May 25, 2011

Marlins will put best road record in majors on line vs. Giants with Volstad on the mound

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Marlins 5-1 win over the Giants Tuesday night did more than move them to within a game of the Phillies in the NL East. It also upped their road record to 13-7, giving them the best road winning percentage in baseball (.650).

Yeah, it's early. But considering six of the eight playoff teams in baseball in 2010 had a winning record on the road, one could argue it is vital for the Marlins' playoff chances that they stay close to or above .500 away from Sun Life Stadium. Last season, the Marlins finished 39-42 on the road and 80-82 overall.

They've only finished .500 or better on the road twice in franchise history -- going 41-41 in 2004 and 44-37 in 2009, when they finished 87-75 (the third best record in franchise history).

> Wednesday night starter Chris Volstad (2-3, 5.73 ERA in eight starts) said Tuesday he thinks he's close to snapping out of his struggles.

"I feel like I'm just doing a good job keeping the ball down in the zone and attacking a lot better," said Volstad, who gave up four hits and three earned runs in five innings against the Cubs in his last start May 19. "I think I had nine ground ball outs in five innings. So I know I'm down, being aggressive and pitching more like I did at the end of last season. It's a big boost."

Volstad is 1-1 with a 1.20 ERA in two previous starts against the Giants. The last time he was out here, he threw a complete game shutout on 105 pitches, giving up just five hits and striking out six. But he knows this Giants lineup will be different than the last one he faced.

"The thing with these guys is you have to keep the game close because their pitchers are real good too," Volstad said. "The key is keeping it close and if you do have a rough inning, limit the damage. You just really need to get ahead, that's like with any team. You fall behind, they have some guys that do some damage."

> We should find out later today how Josh Johnson's first day of catch went and how his right shoulder is feeling. We may also find out who Saturday's starter against the Dodgers might be.

Another option I forgot to mention yesterday is former Astros pitcher Chris Sampson, a 33-year old right-hander who has 36 career starts and is 20-15 with 4.42 ERA. Sampson, signed by the Marlins April 23, pitched for the first time in Triple A New Orleans Monday and tossed six scoreless innings, giving up six hits and one unearned run with seven strikeouts. He is 12-12 with a 4.63 ERA lifetime as a starter.

WEDNESDAY'S LINEUP

> Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan CF, 2. Hanley Ramirez SS, 3. Logan Morrison LF, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Mike Stanton RF, 6. John Buck C, 7. Wes Helms 3B, 8. Omar Infante 2B, 9. Chris Volstad P.

Nolasco, Sanchez lead Marlins to 5-1 win over Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ricky Nolasco would have liked to retire the final outs Tuesday and picked up his fifth career complete game.

Instead, he settled for a nice parting gift -- a 5-1 series-opening victory over the defending world champion GIants on the first day of the Marlins' nine-game road trip out West.

With owner Jeffrey Loria watching among the crowd of 41,165 and 19th consecutive sellout at AT&T Park, Nolasco kept the GIants scoreless until the ninth inning.

He scattered seven hits, walked two and struckout five before manager Edwin Rodriguez finally pulled the plug with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth. Closer Leo Nunez came on and retired Miguel Tejada on a run-scoring fly ball before getting Emmanuel Burriss to fly out to left to end the game, resulting in his major-league leading 18th save in 18 opportunities.

"They came out and ambushed me," said Nolasco, who threw just 89 pitches after eight innings and finished with 72 strikes on 110 pitches. "Obviously their report was swing early. They know I like to pitch ahead. They didn't want to get behind. So they came out swinging and I just tried to take advantage and make better pitches early."

The Marlins, who now own second-best record in the National League at 27-19 and are one game behind the Phillies (29-19) in the division, got all the offense they really needed early. Mike Stanton hit a solo home run, his team-leading 11th of the season to open the fourth, and Gaby Sanchez had three hits including a bases-clearing, two out-double in the third inning.

The Marlins added another run when Chris Coghlan doubled and scored on a Guillermo Mota wild pitch in the ninth.

The Giants (27-20) had won nine games in a row at home and 12 of their previous 15.

Matt Cain, who came in 3-0 with a 2.98 ERA against the Marlins in seven previous starts, retired six of the first seven batters he faced.

But Omar Infante, who also finished with three hits, got the Marlins bats going with a leadoff single in the third. After Nolasco failed to get down a sacrifice bunt and Chris Coghlan grounded into a fielder's choice, Hanley Ramirez battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk. Logan Morrison followed by working a 2-2 count for a walk.

Then, Sanchez stepped in and delivered. He crushed a 2-2 pitch from Cain to the deepest part of the stadium in right-center field, right in front of the Pop Secret ad, for a bases-clearing double.

Cain finally got out of the 28-pitch inning by getting Greg Dobbs to ground out to second.

Stanton's home run, a straightaway blast just over the 399 marker in center field, was his ninth this month.

"That was a very good team effort," Rodriguez said. "Gaby had an outstanding night tonight. That was a huge, clutch hit with the bases loaded, three RBI double. Everybody is pulling together. Hanley moving runners, good defense out there. It was a good team win."

The Giants never got much in the way of offense until the ninth. After getting a leadoff double from Andres Torres to start the game, the Giants stranded him at third when Nolasco got Buster Posey to fly out to right field to end the inning.

After former Marlin Cody Ross picked up a one-out single in the second, Nolasco retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced before Freddy Sanchez singled to center with two outs in the sixth.

Even when the Giants did put a runner on base, they blew it. After Torres was hit by a pitch with one out in the third, he forgot how many outs there were and was doubled up on a routine fly out to center.

The Giants finally put a runner in scoring position in the seventh after Posey singled and Ross drew a one-out walk. But after starting 3-0 on Mike Fontenot, Nolasco battled back and forced a fly out to center before Miguel Tejada bounced into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

"He just had his stuff tonight," catcher John Buck said. "Whatever I called seemed to be in the right location, whether it be curveball, slider, changeup. When you're able to get ahead and locate those type of pitches the whole count it makes it tough as a hitter to lock in on a zone or a certain pitch. He was throwing three or four pitches whenever he wanted however he wanted."

With the return date of ace Josh Johnson still unsettled (he'll throw for the first time on Wednesday), Buck said the entire starting rotation knows they have to step up.

"I don't know if they're putting added pressure on themselves, but I know they know they have to go out there and put together quality outings because it's more important than ever without Josh," Buck said.

"But even with Josh we need them to pitch that way to stay in this division. So far, so good without Josh. Hopefully we only have one more start without him and we'll see where he's at."

Loria makes West Coast trip to keep eye on Marlins

SAN FRANCISCO -- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said he didn't make it out to the West Coast last year with his team. But he made this trip.

Jeffrey Loria With his club just two games back of the Phillies entering the night, Loria talked about a few different topics before Tuesday's game -- including why he decided to make the trip.

"There's nothing going on," Loria said. "I see we have a really good chance to do very well and another set of eyes is always good to have around.

"We always got to remain ever vigilant of all aspects of the game and what goes on with this team, which is one of the reasons I'm traveling with this team right now. I want to make sure the things are supposed to be going on are going on. I'm just looking."

Before Tuesday's game, Loria spent a few moments chatting up former outfielder Cody Ross. The topic, he promises, wasn't cars. Last year, Ross said Loria promised the player on his team who won the NLCS MVP his red Ferrari.

"He likes revisionist history, what can I tell you," Loria said when asked about it Tuesday. "I said if we win the World Series. I don't even know how to say those letters in that order. NLCS is nice, but for me it's the World Series or bust."

So did he make a similar Ferrari promise this season?

"It's an old thing, and it didn't work," Loria said. "So, I have to come up with something else. As you know I love my players. I will find the appropriate response at the right time. For now, let them concentrate on winning."

Does the back end of the Marlins rotation concern him? "We know what Javi can do," Loria said. "He showed it to us the other day. He was dominant and that was a pretty tough club he faced. I always take the 162 game look. You have to throw the other stuff out."

Does closer Leo Nunez, the major league leader in saves, deserve an All-Star trip?

"He's focused. He's hungry. That's nice to see," Loria said. "He has the most saves in the league, that's pretty good. I think we need to watch it for another three or four weeks. I think we have to watch it and those performances will define itself.

Did he promise Mike Stanton a Ferrari if he hits a home run into the big glove left field?

"It has to stay in the pocket," Loria joked. "He's 21 years old and couldn't even rent a car last year. He's a pleasure to have around, amazing to watch. He's going to spray that ball over the field. Has he had 400 major league at-bats yet? But he's a quick learner. That's what's good."

May 24, 2011

Marlins waiting on JJ before deciding Saturday starter

SAN FRANCISCO -- With Jay Buente designated for assignment, Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said Tuesday he didn't know who would start Saturday night against the Dodgers.

Josh Johnson But it's a safe bet he'll have answer after he finds out how Josh Johnson's right shoulder feels after he plays catch Wednesday for the first time in five days.

Johnson, who was placed on the disabled list retroactive to his last start May 17 with inflammation in his shoulder, was hopeful he would be available to pitch June 1st. But it appears the Marlins could be on the verge of now taking a more cautious approach.

"Replacing JJ is not an easy task," Rodriguez said. "[Saturday] might be a bullpen day, [the starter] might be a guy down in the minor leagues.

"I think it all depends on JJ. We’ll see if he’s able to get ready for June 1st. Right now, we don’t have a word on how JJ is doing because he hasn’t thrown yet. It all depends on how JJ recovers."

Johnson, who made the trip with the Marlins to San Francisco, said his shoulder "feels a lot better than it did before." But asked if he was still targeting June 1st, he said "I’m not really targeting anything."

"I just want to get it healthy and ready to go, ready to go for the long haul," Johnson said. "It’s not a reach [I could pitch June 1]. But we’re going to make sure it’s totally gone before we get it ramped up."

The Marlins could opt to start long reliever Burke Badenhop, who is 2-3 with a 6.95 ERA in 10 career major league starts. Or, they could dip down into their system and take right-hander Tom Koehler, who is 5-0 with a 2.92 ERA for Triple A New Orleans.

Either way, Wednesday’s starter Chris Volstad said the rest of the Marlins rotation needs to step up with Johnson out.

"Javi [Vazquez] did a great job the other night. He dominated," Volstad said. "Hopefully with JJ it will be a short term thing and he’ll only miss one other start. But until then, we have to pick up the slack and try to pitch as well he does to keep us in the race. That starts with me."

Cody Ross still wants Jeffrey Loria's Ferrari (w/video)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before the Marlins and Giants kicked off their three-game series Tuesday night at AT&T Park, Cody Ross made sure to walk over and say hello to his former boss, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

The two shared a few laughs and then a hug before Ross went back to slugging balls into the stands during batting practice.

“We didn’t talk about cars,’’ Loria said. “He just came over to say hello."

Ross, who hit .265 with 80 home runs and 297 RBI in 593 games for the Marlins before he was awarded on a waiver claim to the Giants last Aug.21, is still hoping Loria changes his mind about giving him his red Ferrari.

Last spring, before the Marlins revamped their outfield, fired their manager and watched Ross help lead the Giants to the World Series, Loria made a promise to his players Ross still hasn’t forgotten about.

“He came to us in spring training and told us if you are the NLCS MVP he would give us his red Ferrari,’’ Ross said. “So, after I won it, I shot him a text message and said, ‘I did it. Are you going to hold up your end of the bargain and give me that red Ferrari?’ He kind of chuckled, laughed back and said, ‘You have to be a Marlin to do it.’

“I’m still hoping one of these days he’ll give it to me. ‘Thanks for all your hard work when you were a Marlin.’"

Ross, 30, doesn’t have Loria’s Ferrari, but he’s still collecting his share of rewards with the world champions. His rise from Marlins cast-off to NLCS MVP landed him a one-year, $6.3 million deal this offseason and plenty of love from the Giants faithful, who make sure to spoil him whenever he’s in the city.

When he returned to his hometown of Carlsbad, N.M., Ross said was given the key to the city and the town designated a “Cody Ross Day."

“I haven’t had to pay for too many meals in this city,’’ said Ross, who came into Tuesday’s game hitting .256 with three homers and 11 RBI in 29 games.

“Everybody in the city, everywhere you go, everyone is wearing Giants hats, Giants shirts, [Buster] Posey jerseys and [Tim] Lincecum jerseys, shirts. This is a small city — what, seven or eight square miles — and everybody here is Giants fans. Everywhere you go everyone still says, ‘Congratulations!’ and ‘Thank you!’ It’s definitely different than South Beach."

Gaby Sanchez's new MLB.com commercial

SAN FRANCISCO -- Check out this new commercial for MLB.com starring Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

Buente designated for assignment; Cishek recalled from Triple A

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jay Buente's stint in the Marlins rotation won't include one more start after all. 

The 27-year old right-hander, who lasted just three innings against the Rays Sunday, was designated for assignment Tuesday and replaced by right-handed reliever Steve Cishek, who was recalled from Triple A New Orleans.

Buente was 3-0 with a Pacific Coast-leading 1.94 ERA when he was called up to replace Josh Johnson (on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation). After Sunday's 4-0 loss, manager Edwin Rodriguez said Buente would get at least one more start -- Saturday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Now, it looks like Burke Badenhop will go Saturday instead.

We're expecting to hear more on Johnson and his potential return later today. But the fact Buente was designated for assignment so quickly is likely a sign he'll be ready to pitch when he comes off the disabled list June 1.

As for Cishek, he was called up for one day earlier this season (May 10) when Javi Vazquez went on the bereavement list. Cishek didn't pitch for the Marlins and is 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 15 appearances for New Orleans this season.

Badenhop is 2-3 with a 6.95 ERA in 10 career major league starts.

> Down in Jupiter Monday night, the Hammerheads (the Marlins Single A affiliate) played a 23-inning game and won beating Clearwater 2-1.

In a game that saw each team use eight pitchers, the Roger Dean Stadium scoreboard had to be reset twice, the grounds crew dragged the infield four times and the crowd stretched their legs and sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" three times.

Jose Duarte had the game-winning hit, scoring J.L. Ortiz on a fly ball down the right field line. Both catchers caught all 23 innings.

May 22, 2011

Buck on Vazquez: exorcising first inning demons was huge

       Whether Javier Vazquez's performance on Saturday translates to future success remains to be seen. But catcher John Buck said he believes it'll boost his confidence level, especially since he was able to finally make it through a first inning without sustaining damage on the scoreboard.

       "He may not want to admit it," Buck said. "But I felt, 'Okay, we got through it.' It's something stupid and little, but he got that little monkey off his back."

       Vazquez had given up at least one run in each ofhis eight previous starts. Not only wasn't Vazquez nicked in the first, but he held the Rays scoreless for all seven innings he was on the mound, holding the Marlins' cross-state brethren to only three hits.

        Buck, who was behind the plate, said that the 1-2-3 first, as well as a couple of good early defensive plays, served to give Vazquez the confidence he's been lacking.

        "There were all these little things that kept biting him in his other outings, and we kind of nipped all those early in the game," Buck said.

        HENSLEY RETURNS -- Clay Hensley comes off the disabled list today and rejoins the bullpen. While he's uncertain of his immediate role, Hensley felt like there's room for improvement, that he wasn't as sharp as he could be before going out with the injury (bruised rib).

        "I wasn't throwing well," Hensley said. "I feel like I wasn't throwing up to my capabilities. I felt a little out of whack with my mechanics and it kind of snowballed on me. I felt like I was pitching well enough to keep us in games. But I didn't feel like I was putting guys away."

        In particular, Hensley was unhappy with his walks (eight in 13 innings).

        "I think a lot of that had to do with I kind of got strikeout hungry and was trying to throw the perfect pitch," he said. "But I'm not going to try to overanalyze it. It's not like I have a seven ERA or anything."

        Hensley said he still feels soreness in the rib area, but not enough to alter the way he throws.

        "It's sore," he said. "But, before, the pain was so bad it was restricting my movement. Now it just feels like I got hit by a baseball, and I don't really feel it when I'm throwing."

        With Hensley coming off the DL and infielder Ozzie Martinez going back to New Orleans, the Marlins now have eight arms in the bullpen, all ready to go if Jay Buente runs into early trouble in what will be his first big-league start.

       -- One roster note for the Rays: shortstop Reid Brignac has been placed on the bereavement list and the Rays have brought up infielder Felipe Lopez to fill his spot.

         LINEUPS:

         Rays: 1. E. Johnson, ss; 2. Damon, lf; 3. Longoria, 3b; 4. Joyce, rf; 5. Upton, cf; 6. Kotchman, 1b; 7. Rodriguez, 2b; 8. Shoppach, c; 9. Shields, p.

         Marlins: 1. Coghlan, cf; 2. Ramirez, ss; 3. Morrison, lf; 4. Sanchez, 1b; 5. Dobbs, 3b; 6. Stanton, rf; 7. Infante, 2b; 8. Hayes, c; 9. Buente, p.

May 21, 2011

Josh Johnson (shoulder) to DL (w/video), John Baker, Clay Hensley, Etc.

    Major news here at Sun Life Stadium, where the Marlins have announced that Josh Johnson has been placed on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Johnson, who was scheduled to start Sunday, has not pitched since Monday in New York when his start was delayed by a wet field.

    The Marlins have called up right-hander Jay Buente from Triple A New Orleans to make the start for Johnson in Sunday's game. It's unclear how much time Johnson will miss. Under a best-case scenario, he would miss just two starts. Johnson said he doesn't expect to be out for a lengthy period, perhaps no more than the 15 days he'll be required to be on the DL. Manager Edwin Rodriguez said he is hopeful that Johnson comes off the DL on schedule and make a June 1 start in Arizona, the final game of the Marlins' upcoming three-city road trip.

     "But you never know with these things," Johnson said. "It's going to tell me. Just got to make sure we get it out of there, that it goes away."

      Said Rodriguez: "They don't think it's too serious. I think it is a mild inflammation."

      Johnson said he has felt discomfort in the shoulder "pretty much the whole year," but was always able to work out the stiffness in his warmup tosses. Such wasn't the case on Thursday, though, when he threw in his normal, between-starts bullpen session. After that, he decided to go to the coaching staff and let them in on the problem for the first time.

      "It took everything I had to go and say something," Johnson said. "It's just kind of the way I am, the competitor I am. But, once I did it, it almost felt better, like something lifted off my shoulders. I'm kind of at peace with it. Now I can get it right and get back to feeling good like I was at the beginning of the season."

        This is not the first time Johnson's right shoulder has been an issue. He ws shut down the last three weeks of last season with shoulder and back injuries. So far this season, he is 3-1 with a major-league leading 1.64 ERA. Johnson's 15-day DL stint is retroactive to Monday.

        In Monday's start against the Mets, Johnson went just five innings and threw only 85 pitches. He was struck in the right forearm with a hard one-hopper. But x-rays revealed no damage and Johnson said he was fine afterward. He said his shoulder felt fine during the outing, after he had time to loosen it up beforehand in the bullpen.

        "I felt fine," he said. "Everthing was coming out the same. Once I get loose it's loose. But it's been taking forever (recently). I just knew that it didn't feel right. it was really sore. It was actually my last bulpen where i started getting really sore. i woke up the net morning and I was like, 'Man, doesn't feel great.'"

        Johnson, who hasn't thrown since Thursday, said he'll remain inactive the next couple of days before being reevaluated on Tuesday.

        After alerting management to the problem, Johnson had a MRI on Friday, which revealed the inflammation. The Marlins immediately sent word to the Zephyrs and had Buente scratched from his scheduled start last night. Buente, who recently switched to a starting role after serving in the bullpen, has a 3-0 record (10 games, five starts) and leads the PCL with a 1.94 ERA. To make room for Buente on the 40-man roster, the Marlins transferred Donnie Murphy on the 60-day DL.

         "There's no good time (for an injury), but this is probably the best time, early in the season," Johnson said. "(We can) catch it before it carries on into other starts. It's a good time to catch it."

         Here's what Rodriguez had to say about Johnson's injury in the daily pre-game chat with reporters:

                            

        JOHN BAKER SETBACK -- And the injury news doesn't stop with Josh Johnson. Catcher John Baker, who is trying to come back from Tommy John surgery, has had a setback in his rehab program and has returned to Jupiter from Triple A New Orleans.

        "Not improving at a rate acceptable to continue," Baker wrote in a text message. "Doesn't make sense to push forward too fast. Sill very early. Only 8 1/2 months since surgery. Taking a week off of activity then resuming a throwing program. Really frustrating. I just want to play baseball."

       CLAY HENSLEY UPDATE - The Marlins are expected to activate reliever Clay Hensley (bruised left rib) from the disabled list on Sunday. Hensley pitched in a rehab outing in an extended spring game in Jupiter on Friday, delivering an 11-pitch inning in which he struck out a pair.

        LINEUPS:

        Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, cf; 2. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 3. Logan Morrison, lf; 4. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 5. Mike Stanton, rf; 6. John Buck, c; 7. Wes Helms, 3b; 8. Omar Infante, 2b; 9. Javier Vazquez, p.

        Rays: 1. Sam Fuld, cf; 2. Ben Zobrist, rf; 3. Matt Joyce, lf; 4. Evan Longoria, 3b; 5. Casey Kotchman, 1b; 6. Sean Rodriguez, 2b; 7. John Jaso, c; 8. Reid Brignac, ss; 9. David Price, p.

        Umpires: HP -- Wally Bell; 1B -- Laz Diaz; 2B -- Scott Barry; 3b -- John Hirschbeck.                                                                                                                        

May 20, 2011

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.