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51 posts from April 2012

April 18, 2012

Bonifacio has green light to steal as he pleases

When it comes to stealing bases, no number is too high or too low for Emilio Bonifacio. As long as the Marlins are winning and need him to be on the move, he doesn't quite care how many steals he finishes with.

Emilio Bonifacio"I want to try and steal as many bases as I can, but as long as it's helping the team win," Bonifacio said with a grin Wednesday when asked how many bases he thinks he could swipe in 2012. "And as long as I keep getting on base, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to run. That's my game."

Bonifacio, who stole two bases in Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Cubs to raise his season total to seven, came into Wednesday's game against Chicago tied with Starlin Castro and the Dodgers' Dee Gordon for the major league lead in base swipes.

While four Marlins have led the National League in steals at season's end a total of five times (Juan Pierre stole 65 in 2003; Luis Castillo had 48 in 2002; Castillo had 62 in 2000; Quilvio Veras had 56 in 1995; Chuck Carr had 56 in 1993), none has gotten off to as quick a start as Bonifacio has (Veras had six steals through 14 games in 1995).

At this pace, Bonifacio is projected to finish with 103 stolen bases on the season. Nobody in the majors has stolen more than 100 bases since Vince Coleman swiped 109 in 1987 for the Cardinals.

But going after a record or stolen base title is the last thing on Bonifacio's mind.

"I have the green light to go, but I'm not going to do it all the time," Bonifacio said. "There are pitches they'll tell me not to go on and there are times when I won't go because Hanley [Ramirez] or [Giancarlo] Stanton are up and have a chance to drive a run in. My goal is to get into scoring position and let them drive me in. I won't lose sight of that."

Bonifacio has won stolen base titles twice in the minors, taking the Southern League title in 2007 (Double A) with 41 steals and the California League crown in 2006 (High A) with 61 swipes.

Since June 20th of last season, when Jack McKeon took over as manager for Edwin Rodriguez, no player in the big leagues has stolen more bases than Bonifacio, who has a total of 43 steals -- six more than Michael Bourn and Brett Gardner (37 each) over the same span. Manager Ozzie Guillen said he'd love for Bonifacio to maintain the pace.

"Boni is doing everything we've asked him to do," Guillen said. "Besides hitting [.341], he's getting on base, making things happen on the field. Like I said earlier, if we got the speed, we're going to use it."

> As a team, the Marlins have 12 stolen bases (15 attempts), tied for the major league lead with Philadelphia. The last time the Marlins led the National League in stolen bases was 2003 -- when they stole 150 bases and won the World Series. They haven't finished higher than sixth in steals in the NL since.

> Second baseman Omar Infante hopes to rest his sore left groin/hamstring until the Marlins open a three-game series in Washington Friday. Infante, who sat out and rested the groin in last Saturday's loss to the Astros, said he tweaked his groin after reaching second base on a double Tuesday. 

Guillen said he Infante would be available in an emergency pinch-hit situation Wednesday, but the Marlins prefer to give him two days off. "That kind of injury could linger a couple days or a couple months," Guillen said. "I'd prefer to take care of it before it becomes a problem."

Infante scratched from Marlins lineup vs. Cubs Wednesday

The Marlins will be without one of their hottest hitters Wednesday night when they host the Cubs.

Second baseman Omar Infante, who leads the team with four home runs after just 11 games, was scratched from the lineup. Infante has been battling a strained left groin. He sat out Saturday to rest it.

In his place, Donnie Murphy is starting. Murphy is 0 for 3 with two strikeouts this season in two games.

> MARLINS VS. CUBS: 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Logan Morrison LF, 5. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 6. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 7. John Buck C, 8. Donnie Murphy 2B, 9. Mark Buehrle P.

April 17, 2012

Marlins post-game Quick Bytes

      1) Hard to tell who looked more relieved after tonight's 5-2 victory over the Cubs -- Ozzie Guillen or Heath Bell. Both had plenty of reason to feel good about the outcome. Guillen returned after his five-game suspension while Bell -- after a dismal beginning to his Marlins career -- posted his first save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

      "It felt good to kind of show the boys why Jeffrey (Loria) brought me here, plain and simple," Bell said. "I told you I was fixed and, plain and simple, I'm fixed. It's fixed. It's done with. It was like a huge weight off my back, I'll be honest."

      Bell said that as he was warming up in the bullpen to pitch the ninth, he could hear fans in The Clevelander on the other side of the bullpen wall telling him "don't blow this one."

       "I think they like me now," Bell said. "I can go there (now). I couldn't go there a couple of days ago."

       As for Guillen:

       "I spent three hours of my life where I wanted to be. Every time I step inside the dugout or put on a baseball uniform, that's Ozzie Guillen. That's what I want. That's what I know the best. Thank God this day is over."

       2) The Marlins turned four double plays, a feat they last accomplished on Aug. 29, 2006.

       3) Steve Cishek made his 8th scoreless appearance out of the bullpen this season.

Bell's wife soothes his soul with Facebook note

       Pitching coach Randy St. Claire worked on Heath Bell's mechanics. The closer's wife worked on his psyche. Bell hopes the combination of the two gets him back on track on the mound, where he's struggled, to say the least.

        Bell has given up eight hits and walked three in just three innings of work. He's also blown his only two save opportunities. After the second of those ninth-inning collapses on Saturday, his wife Nicole figured it was time to act. She wrote her husband a letter on Facebook offering encouragement.

        "It was inspiring, about how far I've come, how far we've come as a couple, where our daughter has come from because our daughter has Down's syndrome," Bell said. "Our first home was a mobile home, and I spent so many years in the minors. She was, like, 'Look how far we've come. Don't worry about all the other stuff that's going on. You've overcome so many things. Don't let this get you.'"

        Bell said his wife watched Saturday's game from the family home in San Diego.

        "She couldn't sleep and wrote it at 3 o'clock in the morning Sunday San Diego time," Bell said. "It was about the things we've overcome the last 11 years of marriage, and life, and kids. It really got me thinking. It was 'You'll overcome this. You've always been a hard worker and you'll figure it out.'"

        Bell thinks that, with the help of St. Claire and catcher John Buck, he's worked out a mechanical flaw in his delivery that's caused his fastball to be flat and remain up in the zone.

        "I figured out what the problem was," Bell said. "My fastball hasn't been down all spring training and everybody was saying don't worry, it's spring training, you'll figure it out. Well, it's not spring training anymore and it's still not down. My pitches were flat. Now they've got the tilt. If I'm blessed to pitch tonight, you'll see the tilt and that I'm down in the zone and dominating again. I guarantee it."


        Ozzie Guillen's juggled the lineup on his first day back from his five-game suspension, dropping Giancarlo Stanton from the cleanup spot to the six hole and putting Logan Morrison in the fourth spot.

         "I moved Stanton a little bit just to make him relax a little bit and take advantage of LoMo the way he's swinging the bat right now," Guillen said. "Hopefully, pretty soon, we move those backs where they should be."

         Stanton is hitting .229 and doesn't have any home runs. Morrison is hitting .320, and Guillen says he gives "lefty protection" in the lineup for Hanley Ramirez.


         How glad is Guillen that his suspension is over and he doesn't have to watch the games on TV anymore?

         "Very painful, even the ones we win," Guillen said of the TV watching experience. "There's nothing worse than watching baseball from the couch, when you're supposed to be on the field, and next to your wife (instead of) the coaches. My wife don't help me one lick. I wish I was with the coaches to help me a little about the situations."



          Marlins: 1. Reyes, ss; 2. Bonifacio, cf; 3. Ramirez, 3b; 4. Morrison, lf; 5. Infante, 2b; 6. Stanton, rf; 7. Sanchez, 1b; 8. Buck, c; 9. Johnson, p.

          Cubs: 1. DeJesus, rf; 2. Barney, 2b; 3. Castro, ss; 4. Soriano, lf 5. Stewart, 3b; 6. Clevenger, c; 7. LaHair, 1b; 8. Byrd, cf; 9. Dempster, p.

          Umpires: HP -- D.J. Reyburn,; 1B -- Brian O'Nora; 2B -- Alfonso Marquez; 3B -- Tom Hallion.




"Franchise" promo shows Guillen being suspended

Here's the promo trailer for Showtime's special April 21 preview episode of "The Franchise." At the end of it, you'll see Marlins president David Samson telling manager Ozzie Guillen he is suspending him for his Fidel Castro comments

April 15, 2012

Infante puts home run sculpture in motion (video)

     It took four games, but the home run sculpture was finally put in motion when Omar Infante became the first Marlin to hit one out in Marlins Park. Infante led off the second on Sunday with a shot over the wall in left off Astros pitcher J.A. Happ. The trippy contraption doesn't show off as well with daylight pouring through the glass in left, but you get the idea. By the way, that's Infante's fourth home run of the season: Check out the video:

SNL spoofs Ozzie (video)

      Saturday Night Live weighed in on the Ozzie Guillen/Fidel Castro flap during last night's episode. Check out the clip ("Ozzie" appears at the 3:15 mark of this skit)

Cora on defense: We have to clean it up


      More on last night's ninth inning mess:
      -- Logan Morrison said he just plain panicked on the routine fly he dropped, which allowed the go-ahead run to score.
       "I just misjudged the flight of the ball, and by the time I realized I had overrun it, I just panicked to make a play, and it just hit me in the heel of the glove."
       Because the wind was howling in through both the windows in left and Clevelander bar that is positioned behind the left find wall, Morrison said he was playing shallow. But that corrective measure did him no good.      
    "I thought he hit it pretty good, but I was playing pretty shallow knowing the wind was howling in. So when he got it, I kind of turned the wrong way to start. (The ball) started one way and came back this way and I go "(expletive)." I was, like, 'I just (expletive) the game up for my team.' I'll be the goat."
     -- Brett Hayes on the catcher's interference call that put the tying run aboard. Jordan Schafer's bat caught Hayes' glove before it made contact with the ball, which went foul:
         "It was an accident," Hayes said. "I've never had it happen before -- ever."
        It was Hayes' first major league error.
        "For that to be the first one in that situation....there's no excuse. I sit further back (from the plate) than most, so it's shocking." 
      -- Acting manager Joey Cora on the ninth inning, which featured both another meltdown by closer Heath Bell, but also errors by three separate fielders on three different plays (Emilio Bonifacio was given an error when he fumbled the ball on Jose Altuve's one-out double):
       "If we pretend to be a good team, we have to clean it (defense) up. That's plain and simple. We have to play better defense to be able to compete and win games, especially with the way this ballpark is playing. We're going to have to catch the ball and make the right throws and play good defense to win games in this ballpark. We intend to work on it."
      Here are today's lineups. Second baseman Omar Infante is back in after sitting out last night's game with a sore groin:
      Marlins: 1. Reyes, ss; 2. Bonifacio, cf; 3. Ramirez, 3b; 4. Stanton, rf; 5. Infante, 2b; 6. Morrison, lf; 7. Sanchez, 1b; 8. Buck, c; 9. Sanchez, p.
      Astros: 1. Schafer, cf; 2. Lowrie, ss; 3. Martinez, lf; 4. Lee, 1b; 5. Bogusevic, rf; 6. Johnson, 3b; 7. Castro, c; 8. Altuve, 2b; 9. Happ, p.
       Umpires: HP -- Kerwin Danley; 1B -- Doug Eddings; 2B -- Paul Nauert; 3B -- Dana DeMuth


April 14, 2012

Cora: Friday's game made Ozzie's head throb

     Acting manager Joey Cora said Friday's 11-inning walkoff victory over the Astros was such a nailbiter that suspended manager Ozzie Guillen developed head pains because he was helpless to do anything about it.

      "He said it was a headache watching the game," Cora said. "It went 11 innings and there was nothing he could do about it. He wasn't there. just watching. It's tough on him. He sounded better. But, like I said, it's tough for him not to be here with the guys."

      Cora would not say where Guillen watched the game but that he's anxious to return. Guillen has two more games remaining on his five-game suspension, and he'll be eligible to return on Tuesday when the Marlins open a three-game set against the Chicago Cubs.

      "He wants to be here. Badly," Cora said. "He's really looking forward to being with the boys in the new ballpark. He hasn't been in the new ballpark that much. We've got a new toy. He's got a new toy and he can't play with it yet. Tuesday he's going to get to play at least three games in a row for real. He'll get to manage his team in his new ballpark, his new toy, and he'll enjoy it."

       Cora said Friday's victory was "emotional for everybody because of what they've been through."

       "One thing we're going to suggest to Mr. Loria is I don't think there are going to be that many home runs hit in this ballpark, so if he's planning on using that thing (the home run sculpture), maybe it would be better to (turn) it on when we win games instead of only (when the Marlins hit) home runs," Cora said. There's a good possibility we'll win more games than (hit) home runs, the way it's playing now."


      Omar Infante isn't in tonight's lineup due to a slight groin injury. Infante and Cora said it is nothing major, but both decided it would be better to sit Infante for one game rather than risk aggravating it even further. Donnie Murphy will start tonight at second.

       "He's available, but we don't want to take any chances," Cora said. "Hopefully, tomorrow he'll start. If it was September in the middle of the pennant race, he would definitely be out there."


      Heath Bell experienced a pitching first on Friday: walking three consecutive batters on just 13 pitches.

      "After I threw 13 balls, they were booing me pretty bad, like my days in New York," Bell said of the crowd. "And then I threw a strike and it was like we won the World Series. The biggest challenge for me this season is to win over the crowd. I gave them a taste of badness last night."

       Bell said he didn't think he was missing the strike zone by that much, but he refused to give in to Houston's young and relatively unfamiliar hitters by throwing a meatball down the middle of the plate.

        "If you want me to throw it down the middle, I could," Bell said. "But I didn't want them to hit a home run (with a pitch) down the middle with a young kid. I think young kids are looking for right down the middle. We haven't faced them a whole lot and they're all brand new -- they're the second youngest team in the big leagues right behind the Royals -- so you don't have a lot of history with them. You don't know what they're looking for in certain situations."

        Bell said he used every pitch in his arsenal, but to no avail. He got out of the bases-loaded jam when he got Carlos Lee to bounce out on a check swing.

        "I was very fortunate he swung at a bad pitch," Bell said. "It was frustrating for me. It's almost like I should have had (catcher John) Buck come out and say, 'This is how you throw a strike.'"

        Commented Cora: "Obviously we were a little bit concerned. But he got through it. He's a veteran. He knows what he's doing out there. So we let him go. He threw a zero. That's what he gets paid for."


        Tonight's lineups (the roof and windows are presently open):

       Marlins: 1. Reyes, ss; 2. Bonifacio, cf; 3. Ramirez, 3b; 4. Morrison, lf; 5. Sanchez, 1b; 6. Coghlan, rf; 7. Murphy, 2b; 8. Hayes, c; 9. Zambrano, p.

       Astros: 1. Schafer, cf; 2. Lowrie, ss; 3. Martinez, lf; 4. Lee, 1b; 5. Bogusevic, rf; 6. Johnson, 3b; 7. Snyder, c; 8. Altuve, 2b; 9. Norris, p

       Umpires: HP -- Dana DeMuth; 1B -- Kerwin Danley; 2B -- Doug Eddings; 3B -- Paul Nauert.

Marlins Park attendance dip not unusual

     There were quite a few empty seats last night for the second game ever at Marlins Park, and the announced paid figure of 30,169 appeared to clearly exceed the actual number, as is often the case in many ballparks. But take a look at crowd trends for other ballparks that have opened in recent years. With only a few exceptions, the second-game attendance numbers are lower -- no surprise given the buildup for every new ballpark opening. Some of the dropoffs, though, are more pronounced than others: 

      Marlins Park (2012) -- First game: 36,601; Second game: 30,169

      Target Field (2010) -- First game: 38,145; Second game: 38,164

      Yankee Stadium (2009) -- First game: 48,271; Second game: 45,101

      Citi Field (2009) -- First game: 41,007; Second game: 35,581

      Nationals Park (2008) -- First game: 39,389; Second game: 20,487

      Busch Stadium (2006) -- First game: 41,936; Second game: 40.648

      Citizens Bank Park (2004) -- First game: 41,626; Second game: 37,519

      Petco Park (2004) -- First game: 41,400; Second game: 41,625

      Great American (2003) -- First game: 43,343; Second game: 22,878

      Miller Park (2001) -- First game: 42,024; Second game: 40,651

      PNC Park (2001) -- First game: 36,954; Second game: 35,045

      Minute Maid (2000) -- First game: 41,583; Second game: 39,018

      Comerica Park (2000) -- First game: 39,168; Second game: 21,405

      AT&T Park (2000) -- First game: 40,930; Second game: 40,930

      Safeco Field (1999) -- First game: 44,607; Second game: 43,252

      Chase Field (1998) -- First game: 47,484; Second game: 43,758