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58 posts from May 2012

May 25, 2012

LoMo's Slump, Boni's Surgery, Stanton hitting Cleanup, Posey Collision Anniversary

       Quite a few odds and ends to catch you up on here before Josh Johnson goes against Tim Lincecum in a marquee pitching encounter, at least one based on reputation.

     -- It's almost unfathomable to think that for all his big-bat wallop, Giancarlo Stanton has never hit a home run from the cleanup spot. And it's not like he hasn't been given a chance to do some damage from a lineup position that would seem like a natural for him. Yet, in 140 career plate appearances from the No. 4 hole, Stanton has a goose egg showing under the home run column. Manager Ozzie Guillen is returning him to the cleanup spot tonight for the first time since April 20 because 1) Stanton is rocking at the plate at the moment and 2) Injuries, slumps and demotions have depleted the lineup.

     -- Logan Morrison is slumping big-time this month. After hitting .310 in April, Morrison is hitting just .154 this month with no home runs and only three RBI, hardly the numbers that Guillen expected from him. "It's very surprising and confusing to see this guy struggle the way he is right now," Guillen said. "I think he's a way better hitter than what he's showed. And I think his ability as a hitter is better than what we see. I think he (worries too much) over 0-fers. As soon as he's out in the first inning, you can of see him go, 'Here we go again.' You've got to take one at bat at a time. It looks like he's always guessing at the wrong pitch. That's what we see from the dugout."

     -- Emilio Bonifacio underwent surgery on Friday to repair a torn thumb ligament. Guillen said he expects him to be ready in four weeks.

     -- With Bonifacio and Austin Kearns on the DL and Morrison playing first, the Marlins are so desperate for outfielders that Guillen said he intends to start infielder Donovan Solano in left on Saturday when the Marlins face Giants southpaw Madison Bumgarner, purely because he wants Solano's right-handed bat in the lineup. Solano made only one outfield appearance -- and only then in an emergency situation -- during his eight years in the minors. "He's a good athlete. And I have confidence he can handle himself there," Guillen said. "I'm looking for his bat. I'm not looking for his defense."

     -- And it was exactly one year ago today that Scott Cousins and Giants catcher Buster Posey were involved in a home plate collision in San Francisco. Both players are tired of discussing it. Cousins, who is presently at Triple A New Orleans, grew irritated with questions about the play during spring training. And Posey sounded as if he has had enough, too. Cousins and Posey still have not spoken with one another about the collision. "There's no extra anything to it, promise," Posey said. Collision

  -- As expected, the Marlins recalled left-handed reliever Dan Jennings from Triple A New Orleans. He takes Mike Dunn's spot in the bullpen. Dunn was optioned to Triple A following Thursday's outing in which he gave up four runs.

   TONIGHT'S LINEUPS:

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

   GIANTS: 1. Blanco, rf; 2. Crawford, ss; 3. Cabrera, lf; 4. Posey, c; 5. Pagan, cf; 6. Huff, 1b; 7. Arias, 3b; 8. Theriot, 2b; 9. Lincecum, p.

   UMPIRES: HP -- Mike Winters; 1B -- Mark Wegner; 2B -- Mike Muchlinski; 3B -- Wally Bell

U.S. visa issued to Juan Carlos Oviedo

       Juan Carlos Oviedo received his U.S. visa on Friday and told reporters in the Dominican Republic that he plans to arrive Monday at the Marlins' minor league facility in Jupiter. Oviedo said he decided to wait to Monday to travel because Sunday is Mother's Day in the Dominican Republic.

       "I'm very happy to get the U.S. visa this morning," Oviedo told Listin Diario newspaper. "I decided to leave on Monday to be in Jupiter becasue I wish to be with my mother on Mother's Day."

       Sources confirmed that Oviedo received his visa.

       Oviedo, who pitched under the name of Leo Nunez before his true identity was discovered last year, will be slapped with an 8-week suspension by Major League Baseball after he arrives, sources have said. That means he could be eligible to resume his major league career the last week of July.

May 24, 2012

Guillen: "Worst game all year"; Dunn optioned to Triple A

     Another 16 minutes and tonight's baseball monstrosity would have gone down as the longest nine-inning affair in Marlins history. As it was, there was much bad baseball squeezed into three hours and 54 minutes, allowing Ozzie Guillen to comment accurately: "That's the worst game we've played all year. We've been playing pretty good baseball all year, all around. Today was very ugly and something you have to turn the page as quick as you can."

      The sloppy Marlins were tagged for a season-high 14 runs by the Giants. Of the many malfunctions from which to choose, Guillen settled on the botched rundown in the sixth as the most significant of the bunch. "One little play changed the game -- the rundown," Guillen said. "I think he (catcher Brett Hayes) didn't let the ball go right away. It was our defense not doing their job."

      Anibal Sanchez gave up five runs, ending his streak of allowing three runs or less at 16 straight games. The bullpen was no better. Ryan Webb gave up three runs and struggling left-hander Mike Dunn was tagged for four. Dunn, who now owns an ERA of 9.58, was demoted to Triple A New Orleans afterward for the second time this season.

      "Dunn I can't figure out," Guillen said. "The kid's got a good arm. His breaking ball isn't working. His location isn't the greatest."

      The Marlins, as is their custom, will wait until tomorrow to announce a corresponding move. But it's likely they'll bring back left-hander Dan Jennings from New Orleans. Jennings, in 15 appearances for the Zephyrs, has a 0.95 ERA and has struck out 17 while walking just two in 19 innings.

Emilio Bonifacio to have thumb surgery and miss 4-6 weeks; Austin Kearns goes on DL

      Bad news for the Marlins outfield this afternoon. Not only did the team place hot-hitting backup outfielder Austin Kearns on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury, but found out Thursday that center fielder Emilio Bonifacio will have thumb ligament surgery that will cause him to miss the next four to six weeks.

      "Obviously we're losing a big piece," manager Ozzie Guillen said of Bonifacio, who will undergo surgery on Friday.

      Bonifacio, who leads the majors in stolen bases, was placed on the 15-day disabled list after spraining the ligament in his left thumb while attempting to steal a base in Cleveland on Friday. After visiting with a doctor on Thursday, the decision was made to repair the injury with surgery.

      "Four to six weeks, that's what they say," Bonifacio said, adding that he probably would have missed that much time even if he didn't elect surgery. "It's something I can't control. I decided to fix it now. I'd be playing kind of scared (if surgery wasn't performed and he tried to play through it)."

      With Gaby Sanchez in the minors and Logan Morrison taking over at first base, the Marlins' outfield looks vastly different now than it did only a week ago. The Marlins had already called up Bryan Petersen and Chris Coghlan. On Thursday, they recalled outfielder Kevin Mattison from Triple A New Orleans to fill Kearns' spot. The Marlins were even working infielder Donovan Solano in left field before batting practice.

      It was only two weeks ago that Petersen, Coghlan and Mattison comprised the starting outfield for Triple A New Orleans. Coghlan was the starter in center on Friday as the Marlins opened a four-game series against the Giants. Greg Dobbs was in left.

      "We have to have confidence in the guys we've got," Guillen said. "You wish you had the same guys. (But) you look around baseball and nobody goes through the season with the same 25 guys. There's always going to be injuries."

      Guillen said he is not inclined at the moment to move Morrison back to left and play Dobbs at first base.

      ______________________________________

      Catcher Brett Hayes is back in the starting lineup for the second straight day. This marks the third time this season Hayes has started back-to-back games. He has never played three straight, however, and Guillen was non-committal about who would be behind the plate Friday.

     "I'm going to give Buck another day (Thursday) off to see how Hayes does," Guillen said. "Hopefully (Buck's)  out of the slump soon. I'm going to wait. I'm not going to take the job away from Buck. We all know Buck struggling right now. But the way Hayes is swinging the bat right now, I'll use him."

     _____________________________________

     LINEUPS:

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

      Giants: 1. Blanco, rf; 2. Crawford, ss; 3. Cabrera, lf; 4. Posey, c; 5. Pagan, cf; 6. Belt, 1b; 7. Arias, 3b; 8. Burriss, 2b; 9. Vogelsong, p.

      Umpires: HP -- Wally Bell; 1B -- Mike Winters; 2B -- Mark Wegner; 3B -- Mike Muchlinski

May 23, 2012

Solano's first hit conjures up memories for Guillen

Donovan Solano celebrated his first hit in his first major league at-bat Tuesday night with an array of phone calls from back home in his native Colombia.

Donovan SolanoThe 24-year old utility infielder -- just the 12th Colombian to make it to the majors -- kept the ball he hit and the lineup card from Tuesday's game, which he plans on getting everyone on the Marlins roster to autograph.

"Everybody was happy. Everybody was proud of me," said Solano, who led the team in hitting during spring training but was surprisingly sent down to Triple A. "I just had a lot of good feelings in my body, good thoughts when I reached first."

Manager Ozzie Guillen, who said everyone in the Marlins dugout stood and cheered Solano after his hit, recalled his first hit Wednesday -- a bunt single in the ninth inning of a come-from-behind win over the Brewers on April 9, 1985 in Milwaukee. 

What did Guillen do with his game ball? He donated it to a church in his native Venezuela. 

"I flew to Margarita and gave it to the priest," Guillen said. "He was laughing because he had gold, medals, diamonds, other stuff, and I gave him a little ball. But it meant a lot to me and my family."

> Closer Heath Bell picked up his fourth consecutive save in as many chances Tuesday. But perhaps the more encouraging sign was how he was ringing up the radar gun with a fastball that topped off at 95, 96 miles per hour. 

"My mechanics are starting to feel good. I feel like I can roar back and give it a little bit more and actually hit my spot," Bell said. "For awhile, I haven't felt like that. I've just been trying to stay under control, hit my spots and keep the ball down."

> Second baseman Omar Infante was back in the Marlins lineup Wednesday after taking three days off to return home to his native Venezuela and attend the funeral of his paternal grandfather.
Infante said he was scheduled to come back and play in Tuesday's game, but didn't because his flight was delayed because of stormy weather.

WEDNESDAY'S LINEUPS

> Rockies (15-27): 1. Eric Young CF, 2. Marco Scutaro 2B, 3. Carlos Gonzalez LF, 4. Troy Tulowitzki SS, 5. Jason Giambi 1B, 6. Michael Cuddyer RF, 7. Jordan Pacheco 3B, 8. Ramon Hernandez C, 9. Alex White P.

> Marlins (24-19): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Greg Dobbs 1B, 5. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 6. Chris Coghlan LF, 7. Brett Hayes C, 8. Bryan Petersen CF, 9. Carlos Zambrano P.

Mujica said Oviedo told him he would likely return to Marlins June 1st

Juan Carlos Oviedo, the relief pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, is a big step closer to getting his career back on track with the Marlins.

Juan Carlos OviedoAccording to a major league source and published reports, Oviedo received a pardon from the U.S. State Department Wednesday and must now wait to receive a visa from the U.S. consulate in the Dominican Republic in the coming days to return to the Marlins.

Once he arrives, though, the 30-year old right-hander must serve an eight-week suspension with major league baseball for faking his identity when he signed with the Pirates in 2000. Oviedo, third on the Marlins all-time saves list with 92, has been on baseball's restricted list since last September and will not receive any of the $6 million he is due until the suspension is over.

It still isn't clear when exactly Oviedo will return to South Florida, but teammate Edward Mujica said Wednesday that when he spoke to Oviedo on Monday Oviedo told him it would likely be June 1st.

The Marlins told reporters they had nothing to say yet about the matter because "nothing had been finalized." But when Marlins President David Samson was asked by local radio station 790TheTicket on Wednesday if he expected Oviedo to be a part of the team's bullpen later this season Samson said: "Yes."

"When he reports, after that, there will be a period of time that he will not be with us," Samson told 790 AM. "We're not really counting on him for quite a while... The way it's supposed to work, he's supposed to get a visa, call us to say he has a visa. We make a flight to get him to Florida so he can report and start doing stuff with him, and wait to hear what's next. We haven't even got to the first part yet, but I did just read about him getting on. So when there's smoke there's fire. But we have not gotten that first call."

Manager Ozzie Guillen said before Wednesday's game that he felt for Oviedo because he was a victim of a tough situation in the Dominican in which players over 18 years of age have trouble getting signed because the push is to sign younger players.

"People who criticize that situation are people who have never lived in that situation," Guillen said. "You want to live it? Go out there and spend a month, not an [expletive] weekend. Go there for a weekend and you have a couple beers and say 'Oh this is nice.' Go there for three months, four months and live the life they live and you'll see why they're doing this."

The Marlins have said in the past they envision using Oviedo as a set-up man for closer Heath Bell. Asked it about Wednesday, Guillen said he would have to see Oviedo first before figuring out where to use him.

"Either way, our ballclub is going to be better -- if he pitches like he did in the past," Guillen said. "It's like making a trade in July."

Said Mujica: "I'm definitely happy for him. We need him on the team. His chemistry especially. In the bullpen, I'm the only Latin guy now."

-- Miami Herald staff writers Frances Robles, Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer contributed to this report

Report: Juan Carlos Oviedo receives visa to return to U.S.

Juan Carlos Oviedo, the relief pitcher for the Marlins formerly known as Leo Nunez, received his visa Wednesday to return to the United States according to a published report in El Caribe.

Although Oviedo can return to the U.S. it doesn't mean he can pitch right away. He still has to serve an eight week suspension laid down by Major League Baseball.

The Marlins have said in the past they envision using Oviedo as a set-up man for closer Heath Bell. Nunez will not receive any of his $6 million salary until his suspension is over.

MLB and the Marlins have yet to comment about the matter.

Oviedo has 92 saves in his career for the Marlins, third all-time.

May 22, 2012

Kearns exits in fourth inning with tight right hamstring

Just when he was starting to really heat up and become a factor for the Marlins, veteran outfielder Austin Kearns has a new problem to deal with -- a tight right hamstring.

The 32-year old Kearns was pulled from Tuesday's game against the Rockies shortly after chasing down a leadoff double by Michael Cuddyer with nobody out in the top of the fourth. Kearns was replaced by Chris Coghlan. 

The Marlins have listed Kearns as day-to-day.

Kearns walked in the first and started the Marlins third inning rally with a leadoff single to center. He came around and scored to tie the game at 3 on Giancarlo Stanton's RBI double to center. As he was rounding third, Kearns appeared to slow down a bit. But it's unclear if he tweaked his hamstring then or later on as he was chasing after Cuddyer's double. 

After starting the season hitting just .174, Kearns has gone on a tear, picking up 14 hits over his last 25 at-bats to raise his average to .375.

Kearns, hitting .362, has won Guillen over; plus Ozzie says LoMo is no Don Mattingly at first base

When it came to making a good first impression this pring, Austin Kearns failed to do that for Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen

Austin KearnsIn fact, if it was Guillen's decision alone to decide who was going to stick around after the first round of cuts back in early March, the 11-year veteran probably would be on another roster today.

"He got lucky he got hot for three days because he was my first release when we had [our first] meeting," Guillen said before Tuesday's game against the Rockies. "He started playing better, having better at-bats. We needed a right handed hitter and I made him compete against [Aaron] Rowand and he beat him easy."

"So far he's been great. Can he play everyday? I doubt it. But if we use him the way we use him right now he'll be very productive."

Kearns, who turned 32 on Sunday, matched a career-high with four hits and drove in two runs in Monday's 7-4 win over the Rockies -- an overlooked star because of Giancarlo Stanton's mammoth grand slam.

Although he's played in just 21 games, starting 10 of them entering Tuesday, Kearns is hitting .362 with three home runs and nine RBI. After starting the season hitting just .174, he's gone 13 for 24 over his last 11 games and is 3 for 8 in pinch hit situations.

Although he's played just one full season in the big leagues (2007 in Washington), Kearns had never been reserved to the role of a full-time bench player last season in Cleveland. 

"When you're a bench guy it's definitely better for you if you're in the National League because your probably going to get a pinch hit a day," Kearns said. "I just try to stay ready. [Greg] Dobbs is one of the best, if not the best at it. You just learn from watching and seeing what he does also."

A father of three boys, Kearns said he's been keeping up with his wife Abby and three boys in Kentucky on iPhone. Abby had the couple's last child, Cooper, on March 21. 

"The good news is all the technology nowadays helps you keep in touch with them," Kearns said. "They've been here once so far, and I got to go stay at home when we were in Cincinanti. I commuted back and forth to the games. They also came to Cleveland this past weekend. But I miss them." 

Logan Morrison picked up his first error at first base Monday when he muffed a ground ball in the ninth inning.

Asked about Morrison's defense at first, Guillen joke Tuesday: "He's better [there] than in left. And he's not that good either. For some reason, people in this organization think LoMo is a Don Mattingly in first base. I ain't seen it yet and I hope to see it soon."

Morrison, who grew up playing first base and was converted to a left fielder in 2009 because Gaby Sanchez was manning first for the Marlins, had a .989 fielding percentage in the minors at first base. His fielding percentage as an outfielder is .974. 

Coming off a knee scope in December, Morrison has battled soreness all season. That, Guillen said, is his bigger concern.

"Playing first base is not very easy," Guillen said. "You have to use your body. A lot of people say 'Well, he don't have to move.' They're wrong. They're very wrong. That base you move the most of any position besides pitcher and catcher. Because the ground ball to third base, second base you move. Fly ball to left field, you're moving all the time. Everybody at their position stays and watches the play. That's why I kind of worry about it."

Stanton's grand slam is historic, memorable for more reasons than busted scoreboard

Giancarlo Stanton's 438-foot laser-beam grand slam Monday night drew plenty of attention across the country because it temporarily knocked out a portion of the left field scoreboard at the Marlins' new ballpark.

Giancarlo StantonBut it was historic and memorable for many more reasons than just a busted scoreboard.

For starters, it was clocked at 122.4 miles per hour -- the fastest home run ball hit since hittrackeronline.com started charting baseball's biggest blasts in 2006. The next fastest this season was five miles per hour slower -- a 117.5 mph burner by two-time reigning home run champion Jose Bautista in Toronto.

Historically, the grand slam put Stanton, 22, in exclusive company. The only other players in Major League history to hit four grand slams prior to their 23rd birthdays are Ted Williams, Eddie Mathews and Ken Griffey Jr. Williams and Matthews are Hall of Famers. Griffey ranks fifth all-time with 680 home runs.

Stanton turns 23 on November 8th.

"That's good company," Stanton said Tuesday when told of his achievement. "Maybe I'll get five before I'm 23. Hopefully, I'll keep it going. I had a chance to get another one [Monday night], but I failed."

Stanton, once pretty shy talking about home runs, has mellowed out some in now his third season in the big leagues. Asked if he'd received a phone call from Marlins brass about damaging the scoreboard in left field, Stanton quipped: "It came back to life. But either way, I'm not paying for it, so..."

Through 291 games and 1,028 at-bats, Stanton has now homered 65 times in his career. That's an average of once every 15.81 at-bats. Historically, that ranks right behind Frank Thomas (521 homers) for 29th all-time -- and eighth among active players.

But manager Ozzie Guillen, who predicted earlier this season Stanton would injure someone with a batted ball, believes the 6-5, 246-pound slugger is on his way to becoming the most powerful hitter in baseball. If he isn't there already.

""I thought Jim Thome had some power. But this kid has some ridiculous power," Guillen said. "It's not because he plays for us. I've never seen anyone that the ball jumps off their bat like that...

"I don't see anybody has more power than him in the big leagues. Nobody. All my respect to Jim Thome. I've seen Jim Thome hit. But this kid is out of control. He's out of hand. He has some legit power."

What Stanton is also learning how to do is avoid swinging at pitches outside the zone. Although replays Monday night showed the 2-2 changeup Jamie Moyer threw Stanton was close enough to the zone to be called strike three, Stanton said Tuesday he was right not to swing at it and said he's learned in three years how to become a much more disciplined hitter.

"Coming up through the minors I did absolutely terrible with the bases loaded -- or so it seemed like," Stanton. "It seemed like every time I wouldn't get the job done. Now, I sort of just zone it out. Basically, nobody is on base. I try to do that as much as I can. Before, I'd kind of be like 'Man on 1st, Man on 2nd, Man or 3rd, Oh and I have to hit the pitch?' It's just like one runner in scoring position. The more you think about -- try to get four runs in -- you're not going to be successful.

"[At age 20] I would have been hacking at everything [Moyer threw Monday]. I fouled some balls off still. But I would have been a lot worse off. I wouldn't have had the thought process, being younger. He would have known to live off my aggressiveness to work it off the plate and what not."

> Second baseman Omar Infante, who left Sunday to return home to Venezuela and attend the funeral of his grandfather, returned to South Florida on Tuesday according to Guillen. The manager said he expects the Marlins everyday second baseman to be back in the starting lineup Wednesday. Asked if he would use Infante -- who missed batting practice -- on Tuesday, Guillen said "only in an emergency situation."

TUESDAY'S LINEUPS

> Rockies (15-26): 1. Jonathan Herrera 2B, 2. Jordan Pacheco 3B, 3. Carlos Gonzalez LF, 4. Troy Tulowitzki SS, 5. Todd Helton 1B, 6. Michael Cuddyer RF, 7. Willin Rosario C, 8. Dexter Fowler CF, 9. Juan Nicasio P.

> Marlins (23-19): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Bryan Petersen CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Austin Kearns LF, 5. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 6. Logan Morrison 1B, 7. John Buck C, 8. Donnie Murphy 2B, 9. Ricky Nolasco P.