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18 posts from January 2012

January 13, 2012

Yoenis Cespedes whiffs three times, booed in debut

     So much for the debut of Yoenis Cespedes in the Dominican Winter League. It turned out to be one big dud. Cespedes, the 26-year-old outfielder who is square in the Marlins' sights, struck out three times and was hit by a pitch in four plate appearances last night for the Aguilas Cibaenas.

     Cespedes was used as a designated hitter and batted fifth for Aguilas, which was eliminated from the DWL playoffs with last night's defeat. At one point, he was even booed by the home crowd after one of his whiffs. Here's a detailed account of Cespedes' unimpressive night.

     The Marlins plan to be aggressive in trying to sign Cespedes once he gains residency in the Dominican and is granted free agent status, which could come within days. During his weekly radio guest appearance on 790-The Ticket, Marlins president David Samson had this to say Wednesday about the team's interest in Cespedes:

      "Aggressive right to the point of stupidity, but not quite there," Samson said. "We think he's a perfect fit for us, but it has to be sane. (We're) expressing interest, going to visit, making it very clear to his representatives and to him and his family that we think he should not be anywhere other than Miami. As a Cuban and someone in the DR, it makes perfect sense. We have a perfect position for him to play. It would be great.

      "I think that we're right in there. There are a lot of teams who want him and we're definitely competitive and we're not fooling around. We expect he will be a significant sign and receive a significant signing bonus and contract, and we're prepared for that. Again, if you're dealing with another team who needs to make a bigger splash or wants to get irrational, we're not going to match that."

January 11, 2012

Set your watches for Opening Night

    ESPN has announced a 7 p.m. start time for the Marlins' season-opener against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals on April 4. The opener will be the first played in the new ballpark, of course, and will also kick off ESPN's coverage of Major-League baseball for the 2012 season.

    After opening their new ballpark with the single game against the Cards, the Marlins will immediately hit the road and open a series the following day in Cincinnati against the Reds. That game, scheduled for 4 p.m., will be televised on ESPN2.

January 08, 2012

The Marlins are a "Goofy" bunch

    One of the most overused cliches, oft heard during the first month of the season when a team gets off to either a hot or cold start: "The season is a marathon not a sprint." In other words, don't get too excited by early-season results.

    But it really was a marathon -- and then some -- over the weekend for a trio of Marlins running nuts: team president David Samson, general manager Michael Hill and head equipment manager John Silveman.

     The three men took part in the Disney Goofy Marathon, which consisted of a half marathon on Saturday, followed by a full marathon on Sunday. They ran as a group, with the Marlins three finishing the half in a time of 2:28:55 and the full in 4:56:00.

January 06, 2012

A rotation for the record books and a wedding dress

      Not that this should matter one iota in the big picture, but the Marlins are now positioned to become the first team in big-league history to start a season with three pitchers in the rotation with a no-hitter on the resume: Carlos Zambrano, Mark Buehrle and Anibal Sanchez.

      ZambranononoThe always incomparable Elias Sports Bureau did some checking for me and came up with only two other teams with three no-hit starters: the 2005 Yankees with Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Al Leiter and the '05 Dodgers with Derek Lowe, Scott Erickson and Wilson Alvarez.

       But Alvarez wasn't a regular member of that Dodgers rotation. He didn't join that team until May, spent most of the time in the bullpen, and made only two starts. And Leiter, as folks around here might recall, was bust for the Marlins in '05, released, and picked up mid-season by the Yankees, with whom he closed out his career.

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        Here's the Cubs' take on the Zambrano trade from Theo Epstein, their new president of baseball operations. Epstein said that the pitcher had lost the trust of teammates with his numerous outbursts. Epstein said he spoke to various players to get a read on the situation before deciding to deal Zambrano.

         "I'll just say that the people who have been around the situation over the years heard before there would be change," Epstein told reporters Thursday after the trade was announced. "They heard before there would be a new attitude, and they have been burned. Physical altercations, deserting the team, that type of thing. The best way to put it is there was a breakdown of trust. It would have been very difficult to re-establish that trust."

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         Chris Volstad said he was mildly surprised -- but not completely shocked -- by the trade. After all, the Marlins had made no secret of their efforts to strengthen the rotation, and Volstad was low man on that totem pole. Why, when the Marlins unveiled their new uniforms in a ceremony in November, Volstad was a notable omission from the lineup of player/models. He wasn't invited to participate. 

         "I can't say I'm 100 percent surprised, no," Volstad said. "That possibility was always in the back of my mind. They (the Marlins) have a lot of big plans and stuff they wanted to do."

         Volstad said he feels he can help the Cubs based on improved outings toward the end of the season after a brief stint at Triple A. While Volstad went 0-5 after his return from New Orleans in August, he had a 3.48 ERA in his nine starts (compared to his final ERA of 4.89). He held opponents to two runs or less in each of his final six starts while giving up only two home runs during that stretch.

       "I was basically a new pitcher at the end of the season when I came back up," Volstad said. "I started over, basically, Just made it simple and went back to my roots."

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      The Marlins will make a strong push for Yoenis Cespedes once the 25-year-old outfielder and Cuban defector is granted free agent status. But the competition is expected to be hot and a lot of teams are lining up to make a run for him.

      President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said the Marlins "were very impressed" with Cespdes.  "Obviously, as a Cuban, I think it would be an interesting fit in this market and on this ballclub," Beinfest said.

      In the meantime, Beinfest said Emilio Bonifacio is "the leader of the pack" among a "bunch of different guys" who can play center, a group that also includes Chris Coghlan, Bryan Petersen and Scott Cousins.

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      Mike Stanton will be among the guests when radio man Glenn Geffner hosts his weekly "Marlins Insider" Saturday on 790-The Ticket. Also scheduled to appear: ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine to offer his perspective on Zambrano and Ozzie Guillen, whom he covered in the Windy City.

      Show airs from 2-4 p.m.

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      Celebrity alert. Chad Gaudin, the well-traveled pitcher the Marlins have signed to a minor-league contract and invited to spring training, is married to the former Syndal Gorden, who appeared on TLC network's "Say Yes To The Dress." Wives of Yankees players helped her pick out the $10,000 gown during the 2010 season when he was with New York -- that according to my wife, who watches the show.

       Syndal
      

January 05, 2012

The Carlos Zambrano Incident File

   Say what you will about Chris Volstad, but the guy was a choir boy compared to the ticking time bomb the Marlins got for him, the short-fused Carlos Zambrano. (Actually, Volstad really did sing in his high school choir.) Let it be said that Zambrano isn't the Marlins' first human volcano, as Scott Olsen was generally good for one or two eruptions per season. Like Olsen, Zambrano has taken anger management, though I can find no record of his ever being tasered by cops.

    At any rate, a Google search of "Carlos Zambrano meltdowns" yields 383,000 results. In chronological order, here are the highlights:

    July 19, 2004 -- Zambrano was given the heave-ho after taking exception to the way in which the Cardinals' Jim Edmonds stood at home plate and admired his home run off the Cubs' testy pitcher. Then again, Edmonds was none too pleased that Zambrano had plunked him in an earlier at bat. When Edmonds came up to bat following his dinger, Zambrano drilled him again, earning the ejection.

  April 4, 2005 -- Zambrano made the first of what would be his six consecutive Opening Day starts for the Cubs. He was ejected in the fifth for arguing balls and strikes.

   June 1, 2007 -- If Zambrano doesn't like the way you play, he'll let you know -- even if you're his teammate. In a game at Wrigley, Zambrano came unglued in the Cubs dugout after his catcher, Michael Barrett, allowed a run to score with a passed ball and errant throw in the previous half-inning. Matters turned physical as Zambrano and Barrett locked horns. (See video here)

   September, 2007 -- Cubs fans booed Zambrano off the mound at Wrigley after a poor outing, prompting the pitcher to rip into them afterward. "I thought these were the greatest fans in baseball," Zambrano said. "But they showed me today that they only care about themselves. That's not fair. When you're struggling, you want to feel like you have their support. I don't accept their reaction." Zambrano apologized the following day.

    May 27, 2009 -- Zambrano landed a six-game suspension and $3,000 fine from MLB after he hotlyZambrano1 disputed a close play at the plate with umpire Mark Carlson. Zambrano went ballistic, throwing his glove and tossing the ball into the Wrigley bleacher seats, before taking a bat and destroying a Gatorade dispenser inside the Cubs dugout. Making matters worse, Zambrano missed the team flight to Atlanta. (See video here).

   June 25, 2010 -- Zambrano had to be separated from teammate Derrek Lee inside the dugout after the Cubs' mild-mannered first baseman failed to field a ground ball in the first inning of a game at Zambrano4U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox (managed by Ozzie Guillen). Cubs manager Lou Piniella did not send Zambrano back to the mound for the second.  Later that night, Zambrano and Guillen went out to dinner. The Cubs suspended the pitcher, ordered him to apologize to his teammates, and made him take an anger management class. When Zambrano returned, Piniella also moved Zambrano to the bullpen. (See video here).

    Aug. 12, 2011 -- In what was ultimately the final straw for the Cubs, Zambrano snapped after giving up five home runs to the Braves and showing his frustration by throwing two inside pitches to Chipper Jones. Zambrano was ejected and, before the game ended, cleaned out his locker and left, telling clubhouse personnel that he was retiring. The Cubs handed Zambrano a 30-day suspension. The pitcher later apologized to his teammates, but the Cubs had had enough and announced on Sept. 2 that Zambrano would not pitch again the rest of the season. (See video here).

January 04, 2012

Sources: Marlins/Cubs agree to Volstad for Zambrano trade

       The Marlins and Cubs are swapping starting pitchers -- Chris Volstad for Carlos Zambrano -- with completely opposite temperaments.

       The teams have agreed on the trade, which is pending physicals and the approval of the commissioner's office, according to multiple sources. The Cubs will pick up the bulk of the $18 million salary owed to Zambrano for next season -- anywhere from $2-3 million, or the approximate amount the Marlins would have had to pay Volstad.

        The Cubs give up a headache in the volatile Zambrano. The Marlins lose a disappointment in Volstad, one of their former first-round picks. The deal, which was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, is not expected to be completed until Thursday. 

       Marlins president David Samson would neither confirm nor deny the team's interest in the combustible right-hander on Wednesday during his weekly show on 790-The Ticket. When asked by host Dan LeBatard whether there was anything going on with Zambrano, Samson replied: "Who? The Game 5 starter in '03 (NLCS). He's pretty good. But he's on the Cubs, though."

        Because of his temper, Zambrano obviously brings risks. But there are those who believe his friend and fellow Venezuelan, Ozzie Guillen, is the one manager who could keep him in check.

        Guillen was asked about Zambrano last month at the Winter Meetings in Chicago and said he was in daily contact with the pitcher, but not about becoming a Marlin. Guillen predicted that Zambrano would be successful.

         "I got a bet with somebody, I will tell you, he will win a lot of games for the team," Guillen said.

         So give us your initial reaction. Who got the better end of the trade? Marlins or Cubs?

January 03, 2012

Dobbs agrees to 2-year deal with Marlins

       The Marlins have bolstered their bench, agreeing to terms with corner infielder Greg Dobbs on a two-year deal, pending a physical. Dobbs, 33, revived his career last season with the Marlins. He hit .275 while appearing in 134 games, which included 84 starts at third base.

       With Hanley Ramirez shifting from shortstop to third base due to the arrival of Jose Reyes, the Marlins will plan to use Dobbs off the bench as a left-handed bat and insurance at the corner infield spots. That the Marlins signed a role player to a multi-year deal marks a change. Other than Wes Helms, they have refrained from offering such contracts to bench specialists. Prime example: they lost Ross Gload in free agency to the Phillies a few years ago because they were unwilling to give him more than one year.

       Dobbs was coming off two poor seasons with the Phillies when the Marlins signed him to a minor-league deal last spring. Dobbs played his way onto the Opening Day roster and proved to be one of their key contributors last season, especially while filling in at third base.

January 02, 2012

Hanley sounds receptive to position change

      Hanley Ramirez is not only recovering nicely from shoulder surgery, he's also warming up to the idea of switching positions. According to a report out of the Dominican Republic, Ramirez says he's set to move to third base in order to make room for newly signed shortstop Jose Reyes.

       "I've spoken with (Ozzie) Guillen, and what we both want is to win with the Marlins," Ramirez told the Associated Press in Spanish. "When we get to January, we'll see what happens with the position change and everything else. If it's at third, fine. Wherever they put me, I'll do it in order to win."

      It's been an uncomfortable past month or so for the Marlins and Ramirez, who was hardly gung-ho about the Reyes signing in terms of what it meant to him, specifically a move from short to third base. He  repeatedly told reporters "I'm a shortstop" when pressed about the matter, and his representatives told the team in November that Ramirez wasn't thrilled about making the move.

       Guillen, obviously, has been talking to Ramirez.

       Ramirez said he is 95 percent recovered from surgery on his left shoulder, and he is expected to begin baseball activities within the coming days.

       "I'm very happy, better than ever," Ramirez said. "We're the new Marlins. I'm also a new Hanley. Good things are coming for this upcoming season."