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50 posts from June 2012

June 06, 2012

While most of the Marlins are rooting for the Heat, catcher Brett Hayes is focused on his L.A. Kings

Just because they've got their own season to worry about doesn't mean the Marlins haven't been keeping an eye on what's also been happening in the NBA and NHL playoffs.

Brett HayesWhile a good chunk of the clubhouse has been following the Heat closely (a handful went to see them play against the Pacers on an off-night last week), catcher Brett Hayes has been focused on another team -- his hometown Los Angeles Kings.

With L.A. leading the Devils 3-0 and on the verge of winning their first Stanley Cup title heading into Game 4 Wednesday night, Hayes, not in the Marlins starting lineup, said he was going to rely on updates from the training staff throughout Wednesday's game against the Braves as he sits on the bench. 

"Hopefully we don't have to go into extra innings or anything," Hayes said. "We can win quickly, get back in here and I can catch the last period."

Hayes, born and raised in L.A., said his parents were season ticket holders for Kings games for four seasons. Hayes said he played club hockey for six years as a kid and "grew up wanting to be a King more than a Dodger."

"We actually played our games in the same training facility as the Kings," Hayes said. "I had Rob Blake's No. 4 jersey, still have it in fact. My wife just bought me a new Kings jersey the other day."

Hayes said he recently picked up the sport again this past off-season. He said he plays in a non-contact, pickup league. 

"I'm in gear from head to toe. I look like an idiot," Hayes said. "Everybody is in shin guard and hockey pants and I'm in full gear, facemask, shoulder pads. But it's fun. I pretty much picked up right where I left off."

> If Giancarlo Stanton does indeed receive an invite to represent the National League in the home run derby at the All-Star Game in Kansas City next month (it's considered a formality now after captain Matt Kemp said Tuesday he wants Stanton on the team), it won't be the first time the 22-year old Marlins slugger has participated in a home run derby.

In fact, Stanton said Wednesday he's 0-for-3 in his lifetime in long ball competitions, saying he lost to a teammate in high school and former Nationals prospect Michael Burgess in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game (High-A ball) in 2008.

"The reason I probably lost was because I tried too hard," Stanton said. "It's hard man. You have a packed stadium and people wanting to see you hit it as far as you can. Your hips start leaving earlier, you start hooking things. You just got to stay inside yourself and not try to do too much... it's easier said than done."

> After Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez put his pitcher to bat eighth Tuesday and had a little success with it (Tim Hudson went 1 for 4 with two RBI), Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was asked Wednesday if he would ever consider doing the same thing. 

"I never did, I never tried," Guillen said. "I almost tried to call people and ask why they do it. I've got to get a good feeling about it. I'd have to have a great answer to do that."

> Former singer and American Idol judge Paula Abdul watched the Marlins take batting practice before Wednesday's game. Abdul took time to pose for photos with owner Jeffrey Loria and Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine.

JJ will try to put an end to Marlins' skid against ATL

If you are scoring at home you know the last two times the Marlins have faced the Braves things haven't gone well. 

In fact, it's been awful. Miami, shut out 11-0 Tuesday, was blanked 7-0 by the Braves the last time they played them in Atlanta.

Josh Johnson will try to put an end to that skid when he takes the mound tonight. Johnson is 5-3 with a 2.29 ERA (94.1/24) in 16 career games (15 starts) against the Braves. All of his decisions have come in the starts, with a 2.39 ERA (90.1/24).

In his four starts versus Atlanta since the beginning of the 2010 season, he is averaging 13.1 strikeouts-per-9.0 innings against the Braves. He has struck out at least eight batters in each of those starts.

Here's an interesting factoid about the Marlins starting rotation: The Fish are one of just four teams in the majors to use only their season opening rotation thus far. The other teams to not use a sixth starter this season are Cincinnati (Arroyo, Bailey, Cueto, Latos and Leake), St. Louis (Lohse, Garcia, Lynn, Wainwright and Westbrook) and Seattle (Vargas, Hernandez, Beavan, Millwood and Noesi).

WEDNESDAY'S LINEUP

> Marlins (31-24): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 5. Logan Morrison 1B, 6. John Ruggiano LF, 7. Bryan Petersen CF, 8. John Buck C, 9. Josh Johnson P

June 05, 2012

Marlins go position player heavy on Day 2 of draft

A day after using their only pick on the second best left-handed pitcher available in the draft according to Baseball America, the Marlins used their first three selections on Tuesday to reel-in talented position players out of high school.

Avery RomeroAvery Romero, a 19-year old senior shortstop and University of Florida commitment out of Menendez High in St. Augustine, was the first player the Marlins took with the 104th overall pick.

At 5-11, 190 pounds, Romero is a player Baseball America listed as a second-round talent with above average power who will likely have to make the switch over to 3rd base because he lacks the quickness to stay in the middle of the infield. Romero hit .400 with 18 RBI and five homers as a senior.

The Marlins then spent their next two picks on outfielders -- Kolby Copeland (3rd round compensation, 127th overall) out of Parkway High in Bossier City, La. and Austin Dean (4th round, 137th overall).

Copeland (6-0, 190), according to Baseball America, "has tools that are somewhat comparable to first-round candidate Courtney Hawkins. Hawkins has more raw power, but some think Copeland is a better pure hitter. He runs well and has solid arm and fielding tools to with his considerable offensive potential."

Kolby CopelandA quarterback who earned honorable mention all-state, Copeland hit .390 with four home runs in his senior season and was named honorable mention Class 5A All-State in baseball.

Signed to a scholarship at Texas, Dean (6-1, 190) is a player with above average power.

According to Baseball America: "He may not be Exhibit A in a how-to video on batting stances and approaches, but Dean's ability to punish a baseball is the main reason he's in the Top 100. Dean has quick hands and strength, which leads to above-average raw power. He does it with an unorthodox swing and there are, as a result, some holes, but when he makes contact, it's hard. He goes all-out at all times, which allows him to use his solid average speed well. He's likely limited to first base or maybe left field at the next level because of fringy defensive tools. His size, bat speed and power potential lead to a Jonny Gomes comparison and the team that takes him will hope he lives up to that billing."

The draft concludes Wednesday with Rounds 16-40.

Here's a list of all the Marlins picks on the Second Day of the Draft:

- Avery Romero, SS, R/R, 5-11, 195, St. Augustine Menendez High, 3rd round, 104th overall VIDEO
- Kolby Copeland, CF, L/R, 6-0, 190, Parkway High, La., 3rd round compensation, 127th overall VIDEO
- Austin Dean, OF, R/R, 6-1, 190, Klein Collins High, Texas, 4th round, 137th overall VIDEO
- Austin Nola, SS, R/R, 6-0, 185, LSU, 5th round, 167th overall
- Anthony Gomez, SS, R/R, 6-0, 185, Vanderbilt, 6th round, 197th overall
- Ryan Newell, RHP, 6-2, 185, Shorter U, Ga., 7th round, 227th overall
- Drew Steckenrider, RHP, 6-5, 215, University of Tennessee, 8th round, 257th overall
- Nicholas Wittgren, RHP, 6-3, 210, Purdue University, 9th round, 287th overall
- Ron Miller, 3B, R/R, 5-11, 205, Junipero Serra High, Calif., 10th round, 314th overall
- Matthew Milroy, RHP, 6-2, 185, University of Illinois, 11th round, 347th overall
- Christian Rivera, SS, R/R, 5-10, 165, Escuela Nueva Superior, 12th round, 377th overall
- Blake Logan, RHP, 6-1, 225, Eastern Oklahoma State JC, 13th round, 407th overall
- Michael Vaughn, C, R/R, 6-2, 190, Pacific University, 14th round, 437th overall
- Cody Keefer, OF, L/R, 6-1, 185, UCLA, 15th round, 467th overall

Stanton strikes out with All-Star voters; Reyes, Infante only Marlins receiving love

The first results of the All-Star Game voting by fans were released Tuesday and as usual it was tough to find Marlins. 

Giancarlo StantonMiami, tied for first place in the National League East entering Tuesday's game against the Braves, had just two players listed among the top position players receiving votes for the 83rd All-Star Game next month in Kansas City. And the big surprise was that neither of the two was named Giancarlo Stanton, who crushed his way to NL Player of the Month honors in May.

The 22-year old slugger was nowhere to be found among the top 15 vote-getters in the outfield. Second baseman Omar Infante, meanwhile, ranked third at his position with 512,049 votes while Jose Reyes received 425,682 votes, fourth among shortstops.

The news hardly surprised the Marlins. The club has only had two players ever voted by the fans as starters: Gary Sheffield at third base in 1993 and Hanley Ramirez at shortstop from 2008 to 2010. The others have been picked either by the All-Star game manager or their peers.

"The people who vote for All-Stars it's all about the most popular players," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "There are people on the DL who are still among the top vote [getters]. But I don't pay attention to that...

"You can't control it. You're famous in baseball when you do stupid things. Ask me about it. When you're good they're like 'OK, whatever.' When you do some stupid things, that's the first highlight you read. A lot of people didn't even know he was player of the month. Maybe a few people here know. But you wish it could be different, but it's not. It's the way it's going to be. Hopefully he'll get the recognition with how we're playing and for carrying this ballclub. He's carried this ballclub for the last month."

Asked who in his opinion is worthy of being an All-Star this season, Guillen mentioned Infante, Stanton and his entire starting rotation.

"The five starters have been great," Guillen said. "For me, they're my All-Stars. In my team they're my All-Stars. I'm good enough with that."

STANTON WOULD ACCEPT INVITE TO HOME RUN DERBY: Although he hasn't received a phone call from National League captain Matt Kemp just yet, Stanton said Tuesday he would love to participate in the home run derby if asked. Kemp, selected as the derby captain, mentioned on TV Tuesday he would select Stanton and teammate Andre Ethier. Four players from each league get picked to participate.

"It would be fun," said Stanton, who hit 34 home runs last season (5th in the NL) and had 13 entering Tuesday's game (tied with the Phillies' Hunter Pence for fourth in the NL).

"I watched it last year and it looked like a great time. Gaby [Sanchez] was there and a few others were tweeting about it. So, it was fun."

First baseman Logan Morrison has already offered to be Stanton's "towel boy" for the derby. "He wants to dab me up and give me Gatorade," Stanton said. "I told him if he puts some makeup on and gets a wig, I'll let him do it."

Morrison said he'll wear a skirt if he has to, and would even consider shaving his legs.

"It would be awesome because I would be giving him his water, his Gatorade, and his towel," Morrison said. "I'll be in Kansas City anyway. Hopefully he can hook me up with a field pass and I can be his towel boy, maybe a towel girl. Whatever he likes.

> Infante, hitting .311 (2nd among NL second baseman) with six home runs and 20 RBI, said he would be honored to get a second invite to the All-Star Game. He was selected to the game in 2010 as a reserve, but didn't get a chance to play in the game as a member of the Braves.

> Guillen said outfielder Austin Kearns, who went 1 for 3 in his first rehab assignment game in Jupiter Monday, should be back with the team when he's scheduled to come off the disabled list on Thursday. Kearns has been on the DL since May 24 with a tight right hamstring.

> Center fielder Emilio Bonifacio said Tuesday he expects to have the stitches removed from his surgically repaired left thumb next week. Bonifacio isn't expected back for a few more weeks.

> Morrison said a new sushi roll known as the "LoMo roll" will make its debut next week at Mr. Yum's Asian Cuisine in Miami (1945 Southwest 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135). The roll, made with red tuna, yellow tuna, tempura flakes and jalapenos, is supposed to sell for $18.95 with 30 percent of the proceeds going to the American Lung Association.

TUESDAY'S LINEUPS

> Braves (29-25): 1. Michael Bourn CF, 2. Martin Prado 3B, 3. Brian McCann C, 4. Dan Uggla 2B, 5. Freddie Freeman 1B, 6. Jason Heyward RF, 7. Andrelton Simmons SS, 8. Tim Hudson P, 9. Jose Constanza CF.

> Marlins (31-23): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 5. Logan Morrison 1B, 6. Bryan Petersen CF, 7. John Buck C, 8. Chris Coghlan LF, 9. Anibal Sanchez P.

Matt Kemp wants Giancarlo Stanton on his HR Derby team

     Giancarlo Stanton could make his first trip to the All-Star Game in Kansas City on merit alone as a member of the N.L. team. Stanton is having an All-Star caliber season.

    Stanton  But even if he doesn't land on the N.L. squad for the "Midsummer Classic" on July 10, it appears Stanton could be making the trip to K.C. anyway. That's because the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, who has been picked as captain of the N.L. Home Run Derby team, said he wants the Marlins' big bopper participating in the slugging exhibition the day before the All-Star Game.

     Kemp mentioned Stanton -- whom he referred to as "Mike" during an ESPN broadcast today -- and Dodgers teammate Andre Ethier as two players he'd like to have on his Home Run Derby team of four.

     ESPN's John Kruk wholeheartedly agreed with the choice.

     "You have to have him," Kruk said of Stanton. "The guy hits the ball 890 feet."

June 04, 2012

Marlins draft LHP Andrew Heaney with 9th overall pick

    The Marlins went with a college lefty for their first-round pick, taking Oklahoma State southpaw Andrew Heaney with the 9th overall selection in the draft.

     Here's what Baseball America has to say about Heaney:

     "Scouts have raved about Heaney's quick arm and clean, effortless delivery since he was at Putnam City (Okla.) High. He beat Marlins first-rounder Chad James in a head-to-head matchup as a senior in 2009 and would have gone higher than the 24th round to the Rays had he not been intent on attending Oklahoma State. Heaney has led the Cowboys in wins in each of his three college seasons and has seen his stuff improve as a junior this spring. The 6-foot-2, 174-pounder has added 2-3 mph and touches 95 mph. He's not afraid to pitch inside with his heater and can spot it to both sides of the plate. Heaney's three-quarters breaking ball and his changeup are both solid pitches that play up because of his plus command. He not only throws strikes but also generates swings and misses, and in mid-May he trailed only projected Duke first-rounder Marcus Stroman in the NCAA Division I strikeout race. In a down year for left-handed pitching, Heaney is clearly the best college southpaw available and should go off the board in the middle of the first round."

     And here's what ESPN.com talent evaluator Keith Law had to say about Heaney:

     "Heaney established himself as the top college lefty in the draft this year largely through his performance, leading Division I in punchouts while showing average to above-average stuff across the board. He works from just under a three-quarters arm slot and sits 89-92, occasionally reaching 94 with some tailing action, and he's aggressive with the fastball to both sides of the plate. He throws a big, two-plane breaking ball at 78-81, like a hard slurve, and will throw several in a row to try to set up a fastball against left-handed batters. His changeup is solid average at 79-82, although he can slow his arm almost imperceptibly when throwing it, something major league hitters should pick up. Heaney's not a projection guy and there are concerns about his slight frame remaining durable in the long term, although his arm action is clean and fairly compact."

     Check him out here:

June 03, 2012

Giancarlo Stanton wins NL Player of the Month

    PHILADELPHIA -- Giancarlo Stanton has been rewarded for his monster May by winning the National League Player of the Month award, becoming only the fourth Marlin ever to receive the monthly honor.

    The 22-year-old outfielder for the Marlins hit .343, smashed 12 home runs and drove in 30 runs. Only Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio had as productive a month statistically at such a young age. Stanton's OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was an off-the-charts 1.201.

    "To be mentioned in the same category, or the same sentence as him, is eye-opening," Stanton said of DiMaggio.

    With his 12 home runs, Stanton tied the club record for most homers in any month. Dan Uggla also hit 12 in May of 2008. He was three RBI short of Hanley Ramirez's club record 33 for any month. The dozen home runs tied the Rangers' Josh Hamilton for most in the majors last month.

    "I didn't give away too many at bats that month, and when I did it was boom, forget about it," Stanton said. "So I thought I was very disciplined and smarter in key situations."

    The only other Marlins to win the award were: Jeff Conine (June, 1995), Hanley Ramirez (June, 2008) and Emilio Bonifacio (July, 2011).     

 

June 02, 2012

Marlins have "strong" interest in Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler

     PHILADELPHIA -- After losing out on Yoenis Cespedes, the Marlins are now showing strong interest in another free agent outfielder from Cuba: Jorge Soler. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports reported Saturday that Soler has been declared a free agent.

     Soler, 20, has “Mike Stanton-like power,” according to one source, and projects to be a right fielder.

    Soler But his asking price might be too steep for the Marlins. Sources said that Soler’s agent has told teams he already has offers on the table for $25 million, and that might be too rich for the Marlins' blood, especially for a player who is thought to be a few years away from the majors.

     The Marlins have thoroughly scouted Soler, who defected from Cuba in 2011. The Marlins bid for Cespedes over the winter, but lost out to the A’s, who signed him to a 4-year/$36 million deal.

     The competition for Soler is expected to be just as keen, if not more so. According to reports, the Red Sox, Cubs, Blue Jays, Phillies, Orioles and Yankees might all have interest in him.

      Unlike Cespedes, who is starting for the A's, most feel Soler is still a few years away from being major league ready, which should make him less expensive. Cespedes is hitting .236 with five home runs and an on-base percentage of only .309 for the A's.

      Jim Callis of Baseball America described Soler (6-3, 225 lbs.) as a "five-tool player." Soler played for the Cuban national team in the 2010 World Junior Baseball Championship, hitting .304.

 

Guillen: Stanton needs better protection in lineup

      PHILADELPHIA -- Ozzie Guillen is not a disciple of statistics because, as he says, "the only good stat is when you win. When you look at stats, there are more negatives than positives."

      But after the Marlins went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position in last night's 6-4 loss to the Phillies, including zero for four with the bases loaded, Guillen instructed bench coach Joey Cora to look at the numbers. What Cora found surprised even Guillen.

      Certain Marlins aren't just bad with runners in scoring position. They're terrible.

      Omar Infante is hitting .216 with runners in scoring position. Hanely Ramirez is hitting .206 in those situations. Logan Morrison is at .146. On Friday, the Marlins had runners in scoring position in each of Morrison's first three trips to the plate, and each time he failed to produce. It was only when he led off the eighth -- with no one aboard -- did he come through with a home run.

       When Guillen was asked if he had given any thought to moving Morrison in the No. 2 spot, where he batted .320 as a rookie in 2010, the manager said he didn't think he would perform any better there than he has been in the No. 5 position. On the other hand, Guillen said it's imperative that Morrison break out of his slump.

       "We've got to get somebody to start swinging the bat better behind Stanton," Guillen said. "We have to figure out who. But you look around....nobody's swinging the bat well. Nobody."

       Guillen ruled out putting Infante in the No. 5 hole.

       "I'm not going to put Infante there, nope," Guillen said. "Infante's swinging the bat good, and we've been winning with the lineup. But my third hitter (Ramirez) is struggling with runners in scoring position, and my five hitter is struggling with men in scoring position. The main thing for us is LoMo's got to get hot because I need somebody to protect Stanton."

      One possibility: flip-flopping Ramirez and Stanton in the order.

      After Stanton delivered a RBI double in the first inning, Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick didn't give him anything to hit his second time up, with runners at the corners in the third inning. Stanton walked on four pitches, and Morrison promptly hit into an inning-ending double play.

      __________________________

      Justin Ruggiano, who homered last night as an eighth-inning pinch-hitter, is starting today in left. Guillen indicated that Ruggiano might start more often, even against right-handed pitching.

       "I like that kid Ruggiano," Guillen said. "He might get more playing time. I like his approach at the plate. We might see him a little more in left field, or right field to give Stanton a day off."

      __________________________

     LINEUPS:

     Marlins: 1. Jose Reyes, ss; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, 3b; 4. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 5. Logan Morrison, 1b; 6. Justin Ruggiano, lf; 7. Chris Coghlan, cf; 8. Brett Hayes, c; 9. Ricky Nolasco, p.

     Phillies: 1. Jimmy Rollins, ss; 2. Juan Pierre, lf; 3. Hunter Pence, rf; 4. Carlos Ruiz, c; 5. Shane Victorino, cf; 6. Ty Wigginton, 1b; 7. Placido Polanco, 3b; 8. Freddy Galvis, 2b; 9. Cole Hamels, p. 

 

June 01, 2012

Miami Marlins face June gauntlet -- as do others

    PHILADELPHIA -- With the best regular-season month in franchise history now behind them, the Marlins turn the calendar page to arguably the most challenging stretch of their schedule -- June.

    Beginning tonight with the start of a three-game series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, the Marlins face nothing but winning teams the rest of the month. For that matter, there are really no soft spots for them until after the All-Star break. The only sub-.500 opponent the Marlins are scheduled to face between now and July 17 are the Brewers (23-28) in early July, and they're no cupcake.

    But here's the thing: nobody in the National League East is getting off light in June. The Mets and Phillies each have 15 games against first-place teams this month (the Marlins have six). Because the NL East is matched with the AL East in interleague play, the June waters are shark infested for everyone.

    Taking a look at overall strength of schedule, here's how the NL East stacks up based on the collective winning percentage of each team's opponents this month:

     1) New York Mets (.543) -- The Mets face the Yankees six times. They also see the first-place Nationals, first-place Reds, first-place Dodgers and the AL East co-leaders, the Orioles and Rays.

     2) Atlanta Braves (.541) -- Like the Mets, the Braves also face the Yankees six times. Here's who else they'll be playing: Nationals (5 games), Marlins (3), Blue Jays (3), Orioles (3), Red Sox (3) and Arizona (3).

     3) Marlins (.535) -- The Marlins are facing only six different opponents this month, but they're all beasts: the Rays (6 games), Red Sox (6), Blue Jays (3), Phillies (5), Braves (3) and Cardinals (3).

     4) Philadelphia Phillies (.526) -- The Phillies have eight different opponents, and three of them (the Twins, Rockies and Pirates) are very beatable. But they've also got the Dodgers, Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays and Marlins.

     5) Washington Nationals (.525) -- With the exception of a 4-game series against the Rockies, the Nationals don't have any breathers in June. They'll be seeing the Braves, Mets, Marlins, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays and Rays.

     Just looking at it overall, I'm thinking this could be the month where the Mets drop out of it. And, with all their injuries, how much longer can the Phillies hang on? Anyone else have an opinion?