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44 posts from March 2012

March 24, 2012

A. Sanchez to Stanton after HR blast: "Now you can run"

   JUPITER -- Given the dearth of regulars involved in the Marlins/Red Sox spring showdown (I would imagine the sell-out crowd at Roger Dean Stadium will be quite dismayed when they see the lineups for both teams), I wandered out to the back fields to check out Anibal Sanchez, Randy Choate, Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton.

   Those four Marlins were getting their work in the controlled setting of minor-league scrimmages involving Triple A and Double A players. Neither Stanton nor Morrison, who are dealing with right knee injuries, played in the field. But each was given a handful of at bats, the highlight being Stanton's long blast off Sanchez.

   Stanton, as well as Morrison, were under orders not to run out hits. But Stanton trotted around the bases after his home run ball, which easily cleared the fence in center before disappearing into a stand of trees while still in flight. That prompted Sanchez to remark -- jokingly -- "Now you can run" to Stanton as he was rounding first.

    Morrison didn't provide any such fireworks and said afterward that his timing was off but maintained his stance that if there are no setbacks, he'll be ready to go Opening Day.

    Choate was the most imprressive of all. He retired the three hitters he faced on eight pitches, all of them strikes. Choate is scheduled to pitch Monday in Lakeland.

    Sanchez went four innings, throwing 53 pitches, and said he's on track to take his spot in the rotation.

    Here are today's lineups:

    Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, cf; 2. Chris Coghlan, lf; 3. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 4. John Buck, c; 5. Austin Kearns, rf; 6. Donnie Murphy, 3b; 7. Donovan Solano, 2b; 8. Nick Green, ss; 9. Wade LeBlanc, p.

    Red Sox: 1. Jose Iglesias, ss; 2. Pedro Ciriaco, 2b; 3. Cody Ross, lf; 4. David Ortiz, dh; 5. Ryan Lavarnaway, c; 6. Ryan Sweeney, rf; 7. Jason Repko, cf; 8. Lars Anderson, 1b; 9. Nate Spears, 3b. Pitching: Felix Doubrant.

March 23, 2012

Scott Cousins goes to minors; are Morrison and Stanton cursed?

    JUPITER -- The Marlins optioned Scott Cousins to Triple A New Orleans this morning, whittling the field of contenders for bench spots. Four other players were reassigned to the minors: infielders Terry Tiffee and Gil Velazquez, outfielder Kyle Jensen and catcher Luke Montz. That reduces the number of players left on the spring roster to 37.

    Cousins went 0 for 5 on Thursday in Kissimmee, lowering his spring average to .147. With Cousins out of the picture, the group of outfielders vying for bench spots consists of Austin Kearns, Bryan Petersen, Chris Coghlan and Aaron Rowand. Of course, those reserve spots could turn into starting jobs on Opening Night if injured outfielders Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton aren't ready. 

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     Logan Morrison was feeding balls into the pitching machine for Greg Dobbs on Thursday and ended up getting hit in the shoulder with a line drive. Later the same day, Morrison said he was hanging out at the pool with Giancarlo Stanton when the slugger slipped on the wet concrete, creating visions inside Morrison's imaginative mind of a bloody mess.

     "We think that we have the plague right now," Morrison said. "We're cursed or something."

     It's been a long spring for Morrison, Stanton and Greg Dobbs, who are officially in hurry-up mode to make the Opening Day roster. The three injured Marlins are scheduled to pick up the pace over the next few days. Morrison (right knee) says he'll DH in a minor league game on Saturday. Stanton (right knee) hopes to do the same early next week. Dobbs (hamstring) is jogging but hasn't been told when he can expect to start playing.

    There's a chance that one, two or all three could start the season on the disabled list. If so, the Marlins could DL them retroactive to March 24, meaning they would be eligible to come off on April 8 and miss at least the first three games.

     "It feels good," Morrison said of his problematic knee. "But I'm kind of reserved about it because you can have setbacks. I feel like if I'm too upbeat, I'll go out there and run a mile, and I don't want to do that because I might have a setback."

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March 22, 2012

Marlins killer Chipper Jones calling it a career

   KISSIMMEE -- Chipper Jones, who has done some serious damage to the Marlins during his long and illustrious career with the Braves, says this year will be his last. Jones announced his decision in a press conference preceding today's game between the Marlins and Braves.

   "When you talk about Chipper Jones, you talk about the Atlanta Braves and baseball in general," said Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. "So many years in the game. Did it clean. Went through a lot physically."

    Guillen, at a time when he was nearing the end of his playing career, was Jones' teammate on the Braves in 1998 and '99. Guillen said Jones is the reason why he was able to experience his only World Series as a player when the Braves reached the Fall Classic in 1999, losing out to the Yankees.

    "That year, the reason I went to the playoffs one more time, was because of him," Guillen said. "I never see anybody perform in the clutch the way he did that year."

    Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes called Jones "a future Hall of Famer."

    "He's one of the best third basemen ever to play the game," Reyes said.

    Marlins second baseman Omar Infante, who played in Atlanta with Jones, credited Jones with helping him as a hitter.

    "He was a good teammate," Infante said. "He is a real smart player, very smart. He showed me some little tips (that helped me as a hitter)."

     For the record, no player has had more at bats and home runs against the Marlins than Jones, who appeared in his first major league games in 1993, the Marlins' first season.

     In his 236 games against the Marlins, Jones has a .299 average and 40 home runs in 834 at bats. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has 782 career at bats against the Marlins, placing him second on the list. The Phillies' Ryan Howard has hit 34 home runs against the Marlins, second only to Jones.

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     With Opening Day fast approaching, Guillen said he told outfielders Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton that time is of the essence as they try to heal from knee injuries.

      "I told them, 'You want to make this ballclub, you better hurry,'" Guillen said. "We have to be prepared with how we're going to make the lineup the last couple of weeks of spring training, and I want to know if they're going to be available or not. I'm not saying this to push those guys out on the field. I just want to have a better idea. Somebody will play left field. Somebody will play right field. Hopefully it will be them."

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     Today's lineups:

     Marlins: 1. Jose Reyes, ss; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, 3b; 4. John Buck, c; 5. Bryan Petersen, lf; 6. Aaron Rowand, cf; 7. Scott Cousins, rf; 8. Terry Tiffee, 1b; 9. Ricky Nolasco, p.

     Braves: 1. Michael Bourn, cf; 2. Martin Prado, 3b; 3. Freddie Freeman, 1b; 4. Dan Uggla, 2b; 5. Eric Hinske, lf; 6. Jason Heyward, rf; 7. David Ross, c; 8. Tyler Pastornicky, ss; 9. Brandon Beachy, p.

 

March 21, 2012

Clock ticking for Morrison, Stanton and Dobbs

    JUPITER -- It's two weeks exactly to Opening Night, and it would be accurate to say that for Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton and Greg Dobbs, the clock is ticking louder by the day. The three injured Marlins received medical clearance on Tuesday to resume "baseball activities," but that's a vague term, one that carries different meanings. What it doesn't mean is that any of the three is ready to resume playing. Not immediately.

    Dobbs, for example, says he hopes to begin light jogging on Thursday when the Marlins return from today's one-day break from spring training. The Marlins' primary left-handed bat off the bench has been out since March 7 with a hamstring injury. Stanton has been sidelined by 1) a bruised wrist which has now fully healed and 2) a sore knee that remains a problem. Manager Ozzie Guillen said the plan is to go "slower" with Stanton as he works his way back.

    Then there's Morrison, who is having obvious problems returning from arthroscopic knee surgery in December. Morrison, who has exactly two at bats this spring, also plans to resume jogging on Thursday and told our Cory Nightingale yesterday that he hopes to DH on Monday, more than likely in a minor-league game. The last time Morrison tried that was last Tuesday, and the following day he woke up with a knee so swollen that the Marlins had to shut him down again.

    "It's frustrating," Morrison said. "I definitely want to be out there, but I have full faith in Petey (Bryan Petersen), Cuzzy (Scott Cousins) and (Chris) Coghlan to come in."

    Austin Kearns and Aaron Rowand are also in the outfield mix.

 

March 20, 2012

Awed parent says Greg Dobbs went above and beyond

 JUPITER -- Received an email yesterday from Peter Walsh, a Miami attorney who wished to share a "feel-good story" involving the Marlins and, in particular, Greg Dobbs. I thought it was worth sharing, too. Here's what Walsh had to say:

   "Yesterday (Sunday), after the Cardinals game in Jupiter, they held a clinic for the first 100 kids who signed up ($75 per kid got you into the clinic plus 2 bleachers tickets).
 
    Gregdobbs"The clinic was supposed to be about an hour long, with the kids spending 15 minutes at each of 4 stations--Joe Espada manned the baserunning station; Bryan Petersen did the outfielders station; Heath Bell did the pitching station; and Greg Dobbs did the hitting station. Some of the parents thought this would be a rush job in which the kids didn't really get to do much. In fact, however, it was very well run and the kids really enjoyed it. And Espada and the 3 players were great with the kids. And Logan Morrison came out of the clubhouse dressed in street clothes, and he mingled with the kids for about an hour or so, taking time to talk to all the kids and sign autographs for everyone.
 
    "But the amazing part was Greg Dobbs' batting station, which was in the batting cages outside the stadium. Dobbs, on his own accord apparently, stretched his station out to about 1 hour per group (rather than 15 minutes)! Long after the other Marlins players had all gone home to their families for Sunday dinner, Dobbs patiently handled kid-after-kid, hour-after-hour. I left at 7:00 pm and Dobbs was still patiently taking time with each kid individually, making sure the weaker kids all got to experience the thrill of getting off a good hit. The spring training staff seemed to be trying to shut the complex down, but Dobbs, fully decked out in his Marlins uniform, kept right on going. He was simply oblivious to everything going on around him except for the one kid at a time he was working with. He never lost focus and never even took a bathroom break for about 4 or 5 hours.
 
     "I have coached kids for a few years now, and I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about coaching kids. But watching Dobbs at work with kids from age 5 to 15 was truly amazing. I don't know if he has any kids of his own, but he had the rare ability to size up each kid as the kid entered the batting cage, and he knew EXACTLY how to adapt his approach to the age and ability of each kid, and knew exactly how to quietly engage each kid.
 
     "Many parents, like me, stood around the chain link fences around the batting cage, just watching in amazement at how he handled each kid. He seldom raised his voice above a very quiet volume, almost a whisper that only that kid could hear, so we had to strain sometimes to hear what he was telling each kid. And I'm pretty sure each kid left his station believing that he and Dobbs had bonded, and that Dobbs had passed on something special to him alone. It was really something to see."
 
Peter Walsh

March 18, 2012

Marlins hitting coach Eduardo Perez: Healthy Hanley Ramirez 'is MVP material', plus players sent down

JUPITER -- By the time Eduardo Perez replaced John Mallee as the Marlins hitting coach last June 8th, Hanley Ramirez was already playing like damaged goods -- sitting on the disabled list with back pain and a mere .210 batting average.

Hanley RamirezThe player Perez is seeing this spring hardly resembles that guy.

"We got three key free agents everybody talks about. I say we got four," Perez said Sunday morning, about three hours before the Marlins were set to take on the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

"My other free agent is Hanley... We got a top notch free agent third baseman. He's MVP material."

Ramirez, who hit a career worst .243 with 10 homers and 45 RBI in an injury-plagued 92-game season last year, has been hammering the ball this spring. Saturday, he smacked his third home run of the spring (second in Grapefruit League action) and is now hitting a team-leading .473 (9 for 19) with four RBI, four walks and three strikeouts in eight games.

In January, Perez expressed his concerns to MLB Network about how the 28-year old Ramirez would handle a position shift to third base and how off-season shoulder surgery might impact his bat. After spending his off-season training in his native Dominican Republic with two-time reigning home run champion Jose Bautista, Ramirez looks like his old-self -- only better.

The key, Perez said, is that Ramirez's back is healthy. Ramirez is also 10 pounds lighter.

"What I can see that's a good sign is that he can guide the ball to right-center, and not lob it into right field. Now, he's driving it into left-center and left field," Perez said. "The [home run] he hit [versus the Twins' Carl Pavano Saturday on a 2-2 pitch] was middle in. The one hit in Port St. Lucie [March 11th vs. Mets] on an 0-2 count was down and in.

"He's getting the head of the bat out. He's throwing his hands out and his hips are being used to perfection. It's a big deal for him. I think he's going to again be one of the top players in the league and maybe the top player in the league.

"It helps that he's seen this organization has done everything to help this team succeed. I think that right there is what really, really drives him. It's a good team on paper. Now, we just have to put it together on the field."

MARLINS TRIM SPRING ROSTER

General manager Mike Hill spent Sunday morning playing grim reaper inside the Marlins clubhouse, letting a group of 11 know they were being sent down to the minors.

Those optioned down to Triple A New Orleans: third baseman Matt Dominguez; outfielder Kevin Mattison; pitchers Tom Koehler, Dan JenningsSandy Rosario and Alex Sanabia.

Left-hander Brad Hand and right-hander Evan Reed were optioned to Double A Jacksonville.

Catcher Kyle Skipworth, infielder Jeff Dominguez and right-hander Elih Villanueva were reassigned to minor league camp.

Hand, who has shown signs of improvement with his control by staying consistent with his arm slot, didn't take the news poorly despite making 12 starts for the Marlins last year.

"It was great to get a few starts, get your feet wet and get to know what it takes out there," Hand, 22, said of his stint with the Marlins last year. "I haven't gone more than two innings [this spring]. I'm looking forward to getting stretched out and get ready for the season."

LINEUPS

> Marlins vs. Cardinals (Sunday in Jupiter): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez SS, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Omar Infante 2B, 6. Chris Coghlan LF, 7. John Buck C, 8. Bryan Petersen RF, 9. Carlos Zambrano P.

> Marlins vs. Astros (Monday in Jupiter): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Omar Infante 2B, 6. Scott Cousins LF, 7. Aaron Rowand RF, 8. Brett Hayes C, 9. Anibal Sanchez.

March 17, 2012

Choate hoping to make spring debut next week

JUPITER -- Randy Choate usually comes in and out of games so quickly it's often easy to miss him if you aren't paying close attention. Well, we all sort of missed him.

Turns out the 36-year old left-handed specialist has yet to pitch in any games this spring because of a strained right lateral muscle near his abdomen. Choate said it happened two weeks ago when he was "taking hacks" in the batting cages and after getting it checked out, the Marlins told him to take time off to rest it before the season.

Saturday, he threw his first bullpen since sustaining the injury and felt no pain. He says he's now on target to pitch another bullpen Monday before facing live hitters Wednesday. The hope is he'll get into a game by Friday or Saturday.

The fact he usually comes in to face just one or two hitters a game shouldn't delay his season debut.

"It was so early in spring we decided to take the time to knock it out so we wouldn't have to deal with it again," Choate said. "I'll have a week and a half, almost two weeks to get ready for the season and when you're preparing basically for one guy an outing [it should be easy]. It's not like a starter who has to build up arm strength. My arm feels so good hopefully there won't be any issues."

Choate went 1-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 24 2/3 innings last season. He retired 59 of the 74 left-handed hitters he faced in 2011, giving up just 10 hits. 

Marlins pitching coach talks Hand, LeBlanc, Nolasco and Big Z

JUPITER -- Caught up with Randy St. Claire this morning before the Marlins split squad game with the Twins at Roger Dean Stadium (Ozzie Guillen and the rest of the staff went up to Viera for the other game with the Nationals).

Here are a few thoughts from St. Claire on his pitching staff with a little over two weeks to go before the start of the season:

> St. Claire said nobody has over exceeded his expectations, but he's happy with what he's seen from left-handers Brad Hand and Wade LeBlanc, who was acquired in the John Baker trade with the Padres, and his bullpen. 

Hand is 2-0 and has yet to give up a run in three relief appearances, scattering three hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking two. Last season when Josh Johnson was shelved, Hand came up and made 12 starts for the Marlins, going 1-8 with a 4.20 ERA. He had almost as many walks (35) as strikeouts (38). But St. Claire said the 22-year old former second round pick -- who in his opinion was called up too early last season -- has shown signs of improvement this spring because he's maintained the same arm on his delivery.

"He has to tendency to float between breaking ball, changeup and fastball. So he's been more consistent with that," St. Claire said. "The more he pitches the more consistency is going to come out of it... I think when he gets that figured out I think [he'll do well] because his stuff plays in the zone."

LeBlanc, who was called the Cy Young of the Marlins staff this spring by Guillen earlier this week, has given up just one hit over 10 1/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and no walks.

"He's a quick worker, aggressive and goes after guys," St. Claire said. "What he's shown me this spring is the same stuff I saw when he was on the other side [with the Padres]."

> Carlos Zambrano, who will make his third Grapefruit League start for the Marlins Sunday, has watching videos of his early days with the Cubs per St. Claire's orders "to get back to the style he threw when he was really good."

"Last year he got into some bad habits and he's been working on it ever since his first BP with us," St. Claire said. "Every outing we're working on the video. He's getting closer and closer and closer to getting to where he was in his earlier years. He's been very good, a pleasure to work with. He's intense, does everything well on the field."

St. Claire said Zambrano (6.75 ERA in 5 1/3 innings) was "opening up real early in his delivery, showing the ball real early" last season.

"When guys open up, the hitters see the ball a lot longer," St. Claire said. "That usually drops your arm slot and arm angle and you don't get as much velocity. Your breaking ball gets sweepy. It can create a lot of bad things.

"We'll see. So far he's worked really hard and looks really good. He's not where we want him yet, but he's studying it, focusing on it, doing good."

> Saturday starter Ricky Nolasco has given up three earned runs and three hits over 3 1/3 innings (8.10 ERA) in his first two Grapefruit League starts, but St. Claire said he likes what he's seen of the 29-year old right-hander thus far.

"He's been very good so far. He's one of those guys that's in the zone all the time, doesn't walk guys. He's going to make guys hit the ball and he's probably going to have those [rough] starts where if he's not dead on he's going to scuffle a little bit.

"Well, what do you do? Start picking around [the plate]? For me, I'd rather have a game or two that he gives up more than you want than to start every game with walks and picking around the zone. I'd much rather have a guy go after people and he's always that. He attacks the zone."

Nolasco is scheduled to throw 70 pitches today according to St. Claire. He threw 54 in his last start.

SATURDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins vs. Twins (Saturday in Jupiter): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Terry Tiffee 1B, 5. Austin Kearns RF, 6. Chris Coghlan LF, 7. Aaron Rowand CF, 8. Brett Hayes C, 9. Ricky Nolasco P.

> Marlins at Nationals (Saturday in Viera): 1. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 2. Donnie Murphy SS, 3. John Buck C, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Brian Petersen LF, 6. Scott Cousins RF, 7. Donovan Solano 2B, 8. Matt Dominguez 3B, 9. Tom Koehler P.

SUNDAY'S LINEUP

> Marlins vs. Cardinals (Sunday in Jupiter): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez SS, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Omar Infante 2B, 6. Chris Coghlan LF, 7. John Buck C, 8. Bryan Petersen RF, 9. Carlos Zambrano P.

March 16, 2012

Stanton battling inflammation in left knee, likely out another week

JUPITER -- It looks like Giancarlo Stanton will be out at least for another week.

The Marlins starting right fielder and clean-up hitter said Friday an MRI performed Wednesday revealed "a little bit of inflammation in his left knee" and he'll wait a couple days before being reevaluated.

Manager Ozzie Guillen said Thursday he didn't think the injury was anything major. Stanton doesn't either. But the issue now is how much time -- and potential at-bats -- he'll miss this spring. 

Guillen said Thursday he would like to have the entire Marlins lineup ready to go about 10 days before the start of the season (March 24th). Asked if he thought he would be back by then, Stanton said: "We're working towards it."

"It all depends on how it responds. I'm trying to get there," he said.

Stanton said if he can't make it back by the 24th, he'd at least like to return by the exhibition games April 1st and 2nd against the Yankees at Marlins Park "so he's not going straight into the season."

The Marlins obviously want to take a cautious approach and still prepare Stanton for the season. Stanton said he could just play in minor league games during spring training to get at-bats.

Stanton said Friday he isn't sure when he hurt his left knee, but played through similar knee pain and swelling last season.

Stanton is 2-for-9 with no homers and no RBI in four Grapefruit League games this spring. He was hit in the wrist by a pitch against the Mets last Sunday. But the wrist he said is no longer an issue. 

Stanton played in just six Grapefruit League games last spring (7 for 18, 2 HRs, 10 RBI) because of knee and hamstring issues. But he went on to lead to the Marlins with 34 home runs during the regular season.

LINEUPS

> Marlins vs. Cardinals (Friday in Jupiter): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Omar Infante 2B, 6. Austin Kearns RF, 7. Aaron Rowand LF, 8 Brett Hayes C, 9. Mark Buehrle P.

> Marlins vs. Twins (Saturday in Jupiter): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 5. Austin Kearns RF, 6. Chris Coghlan LF, 7. Aaron Rowand CF, 8. Brett Hayes C, 9. Ricky Nolasco P.

> Marlins at Nationals (Saturday in Viera): 1. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 2. Donnie Murphy SS, 3. John Buck C, 4. Terry Tiffee 1B, 5. Brian Petersen LF, 6. Scott Cousins RF, 7. Donovan Solano 2B, 8. Matt Dominguez 3B, 9. Tom Koehler P.

March 15, 2012

Marlins make cuts, plus lineup and LoMo update

    JUPITER -- Awaiting a mad rush of New York media at Roger Dean Stadium, down from Port St. Lucie to document Jose Reyes' first-ever game -- never mind that it's only spring training -- against his former team. Don't remember getting this excited when it was the other way around and guys like Luis Castillo, Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado were in Met uniforms facing the Marlins. But, oh well....

     First, though, some routine spring cleaning items to dispense with. The Marlins trimmed eight from their spring training roster this morning. No surprises with any of the moves. Optioned to Triple A New Orleans were pitchers Omar Poveda and Chris Hatcher. Optioned to Single A Jupiter was pitcher Arquimedes Caminero. Re-assigned to minor-league camp were: catcher Jacob Jefferies and pitchers Jose Alvarez, Corey Madden, A.J. Ramos and Rob Rasmussen.

      Thursday's cuts leave 55 in camp.

      Caught up this morning with Logan Morrison, who is feeling quite frustrated about his balky right knee. Morrison said the knee was swollen significantly when he woke up Wednesday, one day after serving as a designated hitter. As a result, he's been ordered to scale back on his routine for the time being.

       "It's not the soreness that's the thing," Morrison said of his knee, which required arthroscopic surgery in December. "It's the swelling. Need to get the swelling out of there for it to heal. There's no timetable on when the soreness and swelling goes away. I played with soreness all last year. It's the swelling you got to worry about. It's frustrating, aggravating. Your heart and your mind want to play, but your knee won't let you."

      Asked whether he was concerned about being ready for Opening Day, Morrison replied: "I'm not trying to think about any of that. If I think about that, I might kill someone."

      Here's the lineup the Marlins are sending out this afternoon against the Mets:

      1. Jose Reyes, ss; 2. Emilio Bonifacio, cf; 3. Omar Infante, 2b; 4. John Buck, c; 5. Scott Cousins, rf; 6. Terry Tiffee, 1b; 7. Matt Dominguez, 3b; 8. Chris Coghlan, lf; 9. Josh Johnson, p.