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58 posts from May 2012

May 17, 2012

Nolasco goes for franchise wins record -- again

ATLANTA -- Ricky Nolasco will take to the mound Thursday once again looking to break a tie with Dontrelle Willis for the most victories in franchise history.

Nolasco had a shot it at Saturday against the Mets, but had his worst outing of the season. He walked three in the first inning, hit two batters late in the outing and gave up six runs on nine hits in his first loss of the season.

It won't be easy though. The Braves rank second in the National League in runs scored and batting average. Right-handed pitcher Brandon Beachy (4-1, 1.60 ERA) will start for the Braves. He touts the best ERA among NL starters, and is 1-0 with a 4.01 ERA in four career starts against the Marlins.

Throughout his career, Nolasco has had mixed results against Atlanta, going 5-7 with a 4.80 ERA in 20 career starts. But he does have fond memories here. Atlanta is where the righty broke the Marlins' single-game strikeout record three years ago, fanning 16 over 7 2/3 innings on Sept. 30, 2009. That day, Nolasco struck out the side in the third, fourth and fifth innings, falling one strikeout shy of the Major League record of 10 in a row.

> Good news Marlins fans. Looks like Giancarlo Stanton, who tweaked his left shoulder attempting to catch a sinking line drive off the bat off of Erik Hinske, is okay. He's back in the starting lineup. Stanton had the shoulder covered in ice last night and said his shoulder "freaking hurt."

THURSDAY'S LINEUP

> Marlins (20-17): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Logan Morrison LF, 5. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 6. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 7. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 8. Brett Hayes C, 9. Ricky Nolasco P.

May 16, 2012

After "The Catch," Stanton tweaks shoulder trying to make another one

ATLANTA -- Nobody knows how much pain Giancarlo Stanton will be in when he wakes up Thursday morning, but his left shoulder was "freaking" hurting him Wednesday.

Stanton, who made a diving grab to rob Jason Heyward of a run-scoring extra-base hit that would have tied the game in the fourth, definitely tweaked his left shoulder trying to catch a sinking line drive off he bat of pinch-hitter Eric Hinske in the seventh. His shoulder was rapped in ice after the game and Stanton admitted he was in pain.

"That freaking hurt," Stanton said of the failed attempt to catch the ball off Hinkse. "I lost it in the lights and then I picked it up probably this far away. I don't know how it hurts so bad. But they were saying it looked pretty ugly on film. [My left arm] kind of yanked over. The ground kept it from going. But it will be alright. It just was really [painful]. It really hurt."

Stanton has had some amazing catches this season and some really ugly defensive moments too. Later in the seventh, he was charged with his fifth error of the season when he booted a single to right by Martin Prado. 

"A lot of stupid, stupid mistakes this year," Stanton said of his defense. "Like that ball right there, it snaked on me a little bit. That's about all my errors -- easy plays like that. I've just got to just learn from it and keep improving."

As for his big catch, Stanton said: "I just put my head down and ran -- ran to a spot and popped [my head] back up and dove for it... This was way better than [Tuesday's vs. Pirates]. This one saved two runs and the other one was just a catch."

> Give the normally quiet Austin Kearns credit for the best quote of the night. Told that before Jose Reyes stole home Wednesday, he was the only Marlin on the team who had achieved the feat, Kearns laughed and said: "Not everybody can run like me and Reyes you know."

Ozzie may have finally settled on keeping Omar 2nd, Boni 7th in Marlins lineup

ATLANTA -- A week after dropping Emilio Bonifacio from the No. 2 spot in the batting order to seventh, and bringing Omar Infante up to bat second, manager Ozzie Guillen sounded Wednesday like his days of juggling the Marlins lineup to find the right combination may be over.

"When I first got this job, that was my idea. How do I put Omar batting second?," Guillen said before the Marlins took on the Braves at Turner Field. "But I needed some production in the bottom of the lineup, too. Early in the season Bonifacio was doing good, and then he started struggling a little bit. 

"I think the lineup we have is a lot better now because we have speed also in the bottom of the lineup. We can steal bases late in the game. Before we couldn't, we had slow guys in the bottom. I think it makes the lineup a little bit better overall."

Bonifacio went into Wednesday's game hitting .417 (10 of 24) with a double, three triples and two RBI since being moved down to seventh in Houston. He was just .152 as the No. 2 hitter in the 17 previous games before that.

Infante, meanwhile, is hitting .381 (8 of 21) with four RBI since being moved back into the second spot. Last year, Infante hit .278 with six homers and 37 RBI in 110 starts in the two-hole.

"I think Infante is going to see more fastballs because Reyes is on base," Guillen said. "But it's all about getting on base and good at-bats. Little by little we've started getting better. Hopefully, we start to feel each other out and not wait until the ninth [inning] to score some runs."

The Marlins finally did that in their win Tuesday, scoring five runs in the fourth inning. The Marlins, though, have been infamous this season for waiting until after the sixth inning to get their offense going.

Tuesday, Infante had the ninth four-hit game of his career. He said the bunt single in the third inning, which ended an 0-for-11 string, got him going. "After that I felt better with my approach," Infante said.

Asked if his move to the seventh spot has taken some pressure off him, Bonifacio said: "I don't know. I just know I'm not swinging at bad pitches like I was before. That's really the difference. 

NO CELEBRATING FOR JJ

There was no post-game celebration for Josh Johnson after he picked up his first win in 13 months on Tuesday night. Asked Wednesday how many bottles of champagne he popped, the two-time All-Star joked: "Too many to count."

Johnson didn't even keep the game ball. "You just move onto the next one," he said.

Johnson, who was born and raised in Minnesota, will make his next start Sunday in Cleveland. He said he's been to Progressive Field just once -- as a 12-year old. "We were playing in a World Series Tournament somewhere nearby," Johnson said. "I think I saw five innings there."

> The radar gun at Marlins Park wasn't operating Tuesday. Johnson said he's not sure what his velocity was because of it. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire said the velocity of Johnson's pitches Tuesday "looked about the same as usual to me."

> Wednesday's game was a chance for Guillen to reunite with his former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker, who is now on Fredi Gonzalez's staff with the Braves. Walker -- along with Guillen -- was fired after nine seasons in Chicago last October. 

> Guillen said he plans on using Logan Morrison, Greg Dobbs and Austin Kearns in the designated hitter spot when the Marlins play at American League parks during Interleague play. 

WEDNESDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (19-17): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Austin Kearns LF, 5. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 6. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 7. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 8. John Buck C, 9. Mark Buehrle.

> Braves (23-14): 1. Tyler Pastornicky SS, 2. Martin Prado LF, 3. Freddie Freeman 1B, 4. Dan Uggla 2B, 5. Brian McCann C, 6. Matt Diaz RF, 7. Jason Heyward CF, 8. Juan Francisco 3B, 9. Mike Minor P.

May 15, 2012

Can the Marlins prevail in the challenging NL East?

     The San Diego Padres' victory over the Nationals earlier this afternoon aside, it is starting to become clear that -- as we approach the one-quarter mark of the season -- the National League East is superior to the other NL divisions. Four of the five N.L. East members have winning records, and the one team that does not -- the Phillies -- has won the past five division titles and cannot be discounted.

     Going on winning percentage alone, the East (.559) tops all divisions -- N.L. as well as A.L. The N.L. East has gone 32-22 against N.L. West teams and 36-25 against the N.L. Central. Within the division, the Mets have the best record at 14-7. The worst? The Marlins at 3-8.

     Asked Ozzie Guillen what he thought would decide the division, and he pointed to pitching.

     "Whoever stays healthy the most and whoever pitches better," Guillen said. "If you look at each team's lineups, we're pretty strong. We're not showing it yet. I think at the end of the day is who pitches better because the hitting is almost equal (from one team to the next)."

      Do you agree? How do you think the Marlins rank in what could be the toughest division in the majors?

May 14, 2012

When it comes to scoring, Marlins are sleeping giants

      Comeback wins are becoming the norm for the Marlins, who now count 11 of them following Sunday's ninth-inning fireworks.

       "It's exciting for the ballclub, the fans and the media -- but not for the manager," said Ozzie Guillen. "It's not fun for us. But it's great for this ballclub, because I think this ballclub is very young. Now they find a way to fight back when they're behind. It's nice to see that. Most young teams just pack it in and wait for the next day. Now they have confidence. Now when they get to the eighth or the ninth, it's in their minds -- they say 'Well, we've done it before.'"

       Yesterday's victory was a microcosm of the season offensively. The Marlins were dead early, failing to score through the first six innings, but explosive late. On the season, the Marlins rank 28th of the 30 big-league teams in runs scored from innings one through six. But they are fourth overall in scoring runs after the sixth.

        "At least we're get it done late," said Jose Reyes. "But we need to find a way to score early in the game and take some pressure off the starters. When you score early you're going to have a better chance to win the game. Hopefully it doesn't happen for too long. If we win late. We take it. But we don't want to have that habit for a long time. We want to score early in the ballgame."

        ________________________________

        A.J. Burnett, who once threw a warmup pitch through the window of a moving pickup truck back in his days with the Marlins, said he would not attempt to break one of backstop aquariums at Marlins Park with one of his fastballs.

        "No, I love fish," said Burnett, who is now with the Pirates.

        ________________________________

        Guillen is aware that some people might question why he's used Austin Kearns in the cleanup spot. The reason: "A lot of people criticize me because, 'How the hell is Ozzie batting Kearns fourth?' Well, if those people see his at bats, they're very professional at bats. And I need somebody, a veteran player, in the middle. We know he can do it against lefties. I want him in the middle to take the pressure off the (younger) guys."

         ________________________________

 

         TONIGHT'S LINEUPS:

         MARLINS: 1. Jose Reyes, ss; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, 3b; 4. Logan Morrison, lf; 5. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 6. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 7. Emilio Bonifacio, cf; 8. John Buck, c; 9. Anibal Sanchez, p.

         PIRATES: 1. Jose Tabata, rf; 2. Neil Walker, 2b; 3. Andrew McCutchen, cf; 4. Pedro Alvarez, 3b; 5. Casey McGehee, 3b; 6. Alex Presley, lf; 7. Rod Barajas, c; 8. Clint Barmes, ss; 9. Brad Lincoln, p.

         Umpires: HP -- Mark Wegner; 1B -- Mike Muchlinski; 2B -- Wally Bell; 3B -- Brain Knight.

         Matchup notes: Kearns (1-3) and Buck (0-1) are the only Marlins who have faced Pirates starter Brad Lincoln; Pirates who have faced Anibal Sanchez include Barajas (3 for 7 with a pair of doubles and a home run), McGehee (2 for 3), McCutchen (1 for 6) and Walker (1 for 5).

May 13, 2012

Gaby Sanchez wearing pink spikes for Mother's Day

    Shield your eyes. Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez says he'll be wearing pink spikes for this afternoon's Mother's Day matinee special against the NY Mets. Sanchez wore the garish shoes on Mother's Day a year ago and had his best day at the plate as a big-leaguer, going 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles, home run, walk and 3 RBI.

    He'll be hoping for the same today.

    The first month-and-a-half has been a struggle for the Marlins' only All-Star last season. Among first baseman, he's had a better start than Albert Pujols. But, then, who hasn't? Sanchez is hitting only .202 with an OPS of .567. The only NL first baseman with lower numbers is the Mets' Ike Davis (.175, .560).

     Sanchez went 2 for 4 with a double and RBI on Saturday.

    BRETT HAYES LOSES HIS GLOVE -- Hayes can't explain why, after never, ever being called for catcher's interference in his entire pro career, he's twice been guilty of the offense this season. "It's just one of those things that happened," Hayes said. "I'm not any closer (to the plate) than I've ever been. I believe that I'm a little further back than most catchers. Can't explain it."

    Andres Torres caught so much of Hayes' mitt with his bat in Saturday's fourth inning that it ripped it off the the catcher's hand and sent it flying two-thirds of the to third base.

     LINEUPS (Ike Davis was a late scratch from the Mets lineup due to flu-like symptoms).

     Marlins: 1. Jose Reyes, ss; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, 3b; 4. Austin Kearns, lf; 5. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 6. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 7. Emilio Bonifacio, cf; 8. John Buck, c; 9. Carlos Zambrano, p.

     Mets: 1. Andres Torres, cf; 2. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, lf; 3. David Wright, 3b; 4, Lucas Duda, rf; 5. Daniel Murphy, 1B; 6. Ronny Cedeno, ss; 7. Jordany Valdespin, 2b: 8. Rob Johnson, c; 9. Jon Niese, p.

     Umpires: HP -- Todd Tichenor; 1B -- Larry Vanover; 2B -- Brian Gorman; 3B -- Tony Randazzo. 

 

 

May 11, 2012

Ozzie Guillen signals return of Heath Bell as closer

     Ozzie Guillen gave every indication that Heath Bell is returning to the closer's role immediately. When asked Friday whether he intended to stick with Steve Cishek, Guillen replied: "No. Let's put Bell back to see what happens. That's his job, and I liked the way he threw the ball (in Houston)."

     Guillen backed off slightly when asked point blank if that meant for certain that Bell would move back into that role beginning with tonight's game against the Mets, saying it's possible he could send in someone else to pitch the ninth.

     But he continued by adding: "I want him there. I'm going to give him another shot. He deserves another shot. And I like what I see (from Bell) in Houston. And I think we should. He threw very well, kept the ball down, threw a lot of strikes, kept us in the game. He's our closer. Let's see what happens."

     Bell was relieved of the role after blowing his fourth save on May 4 in San Diego. On Wednesday, in what marked his only appearance since then, Bell pitched one inning of scoreless relief in what was a non-save situation, allowing a hit but needing only 10 pitches to record three outs.

     ________________________________________

     Another new lineup twist for tonight's series opener against the Mets: Omar Infante is moving into the No. 2 spot in the order. Guillen mentioned the possibility of hitting Infante at No. 2 as far back as spring training.

      "I always liked the lineup with Infante batting second," Guillen said. "I think Infante is going to see more fastballs with Hanley hitting behind him."

      But Guillen said the move might not be permanent.

     ________________________________________

     As expected, the Marlins made it official on Friday, optioning right-handed relievers Chris Hatcher and Sandy Rosario to Triple A New Orleans while calling up lefty reliever Mike Dunn and outfielder Kevin Mattison.

     _________________________________________

    LINEUPS:

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

    Mets: 1. Torres, cf; 2. Murphy, 2b; 3. Wright, 3b; 4. Duda, rf; 5. Hairston, lf; 6. Davis, 1b; 7. Cedeno, ss; 8. Nickeas, c; 9. Santana, p.

    Umpires: HP -- Brian Gorman; 1B -- Tony Randazzo; 2B -- Todd Tichenor; 3B -- Larry Vanover.

 

May 10, 2012

Brett Hayes has close encounter with turnpike gunman

      A quiet, leisurely off day for Marlins catcher Brett Hayes took a dramatic and frightening turn a few hours ago when he came within close proximity of the Florida turnpike gunman suspected of shooting two law enforcement officers.

      "It was pretty scary, to be honest with you," Hayes said.

      HayesHayes and his wife were driving to a birthday party about 6 p.m. when traffic came to a sudden standstill on the northbound side of the turnpike near the Hollywood Boulevard exit. Hayes said that, moments later, a man appeared from out of the pouring rain, walking next to the concrete barrier in the center median.

      His first reaction: "Why is a man walking down the turnpike?"

      But then, to the catcher's shock, he noticed that the man was carrying a gun.

       “He and I made eye contact, and he looked like he was up to no good,” Hayes said. “Something was very wrong. I just had a very bad feeling. My wife and I were in shock. I told her ‘Do not look at him.’ He was walking like he was walking down the street. It was really creepy. but his face....it was pretty scary to be honest with you.”

        Shortly after the man passed their car, Hayes said a law enforcement officer wearing a bulletproof vest came walking past with gun drawn. After traffic began moving, Hayes said he turned on the radio and heard that officers had been shot.

       “My wife and I said a big, long prayer for them,” Hayes said. “We heard later that they were going to be all right. What a blessing.”

       The officers were taken to the hospital. Both will survive, according to reports. The gunman took his own life.

Marlins calling up Kevin Mattison, Mike Dunn

     With only one lefty arm in their bullpen, and that belonging to specialist Randy Choate, the Marlins are recalling Mike Dunn from Triple A New Orleans. Dunn was demoted on April 29 and has spent the requisite 10 days in the minors.

      They're also calling up outfielder Kevin Mattison from New Orleans to re-balance the roster with 13 position players.

      The Marlins have not yet made an official announcement, but both players were in transit to Miami from New Orleans and are expected to join the team Friday when it opens a three-game series against the Mets. Right-handed relievers Chris Hatcher and Sandy Rosario are being optioned back to Triple A.

      Mattison, 26, is a left-handed hitting outfielder and Fort Lauderdale native. He is hitting .250 with three home runs this season at NOLA.

      In his four relief outings covering 4 1/3 innings since joining the Zephyrs, Dunn has allowed six runs on six hits and six walks while stiking out five. In his most recent outing on Tuesday, though, he went 1 2/3 without allowing a run or a hit and walking just one.

Post-game nuggets following conclusion of Marlins best road trip ever

HOUSTON -- Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said what was most encouraging about the way the team's 8-1 road trip ended Wednesday was seeing two of the team's most important pitchers -- Josh Johnson and Heath Bell -- regain their form.

"I think the best news I saw was Bell and JJ throwing the ball outstanding. I mean that to me, that's very important. I want those guys to go out there and have some success, help this ballclub win some games. I know how much it means to them too. JJ threw the ball great and Bell threw the ball great when we needed him to."

Could Bell's scoreless inning of relief in the 10th get him back into the closer's role immediately? Maybe.

"Now, it's up to him to see how he's going to handle it," Guillen responded when asked if Bell's scoreless inning of relief gave him confidence to put him back in the closer's role.

"I want to see him throw the ball the way he did today with confidence. When you get [the game] on the line, he has to have our back and we have to have his back. I believe we're a better ballclub with him as the closer."

Bell's response: "Ozzie is going to put me in there to try and help the team win and I'll get up to pitch when Ozzie calls down for me. I want my job back. That's all I'll say. I want my job back. It's up to Ozzie when I get my job back. Plain and simple."

JOHNSON HAPPY WITH EFFORT: Johnson didn't get the win Wednesday -- he had a chance to pick up his first 'W' since April 19th of last year. But he didn't seem to care the Marlins blew their eighth save opportunity of the year (now tied with Colorado for the most in baseball).

"We got the win, that's all that matters. Unbelievable road trip -- eight out of nine games," Johnson said. "I feel like we've been on the road for the last month now and we get to go back home for five days. Maybe we'll start something there and keep winning ball games."

Johnson said he felt great using all of his pitches and made simply one mistake -- the solo home run by Chris Johnson in he second inning.

"Threw my fastball and located it. That's my game. That's how I get outs -- with that," Johnson said. "When I don't do that, that's how I get in trouble.

"Three punch outs with my curveball. That's probably the first time I've ever had three strikeouts with my curveball. So, something to build with that. Threw some good changeups, some good sliders. It was a good day."

Johnson, whose ERA is now 5.87, said he felt like he learned something watching Carlos Zambrano on Monday. Who would have ever imagined that?

"Watching Big Z helped," Johnson said. Every time he made a bad pitch, he just calmed down and relaxed.

"You can tell by the hitter's reactions I'm throwing the ball good. Saint was saying 'You've just got to trust it, throw it out there and trust it. I've been doing bullpens and feel good. I go out to games and then I'm like 'I have to get after it, get amped up.' Today, I made sure I stayed calm and relaxed and enjoyed myself out there."

> Second baseman Omar Infante, charged with two costly errors in Tuesday's loss, was happy to deliver his second game-winning hit in less than a week and make up for his mistake.

"Now I feel better because I made a big hit to help the team," said Infante, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 11th and struckout looking. "I just wanted to make contact in that situation. I didn't want to strike out again. It's not easy pinch hitting. The second at-bat I felt more comfortable."

> Guillen didn't think the antics of Astros reliever Wilton Lopez was very cute. Lopez plunked Hanley Ramirez with a fastball on his left arm then turned to the Marlins bench on the way to his own dugout and flashed the team's rally sign 'Lo Viste.'

"Very immature, that's all I can say. Very immature," Guillen said. "He's lucky I wasn't Hanley. I would have chased his ass all the way to Puerto Rico."