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39 posts from August 2012

August 14, 2012

Brantly thrilled to be making his big league debut; Ozzie said he'll find ways to play rookie, Buck equally

Rob Brantly was five years old when his grandfather bought him his first set of catcher's gear. Brantly said he slept in it that night. 

John Paul Brantly, a former catcher in the Panamanian baseball league who passed away the same year his grandson was drafted out of high school, always told his Rob the easiest way to make it to the big leagues would be behind the plate.

Tuesday night, the 23-year old San Diego native will make his major league debut for the Marlins doing exactly that -- catching ace Josh Johnson and batting eighth in the lineup for manager Ozzie Guillen

Brantly said there is no doubt his late grandfather's voice will still be in his ear come game time.

"I always think I carry him with me," Brantly said. "I always hear his voice saying 'Hey Robby hit that ball with authority.' I'd get up there and swing and tell him, 'I hit it with authority.'"

Hitting with authority of course is something Marlins catchers haven't done this season. The combined averages of John Buck and Brett Hayes, sent down Sunday to Triple A to allow Brantly the space on the roster to move up, was a major league-worst .190. Brantly has a .280 career batting average in the minors with 16 HRs and 124 RBI in 262 games. He was a .286 hitter in Triple A this season for both the Marlins and Tigers.

Tuesday, Guillen said his plan for Brantly is to give him an opportunity to play a lot, but also not completely put Buck on the backburner.

"We're going to take a look at the kid. It's our job to make the lineup and make sure the kid has plenty of game time," Guillen said. "On the other hand, we're not going to leave John on the bench. We're going to pick a spot to play him and try to have the kid catch everyone in the rotation. But in the meanwhile, Buck also has to play games. He's not going to be a backup. We're going to figure out how to do it. It's a little bit of a headache. But I have to respect Buck. He's a veteran player and I respect that. We're going to find out, make sure they have equal playing time and the kid has enough playing time to see what he can have."

Brantly said his parents, cousins and agent took a red-eye from Southern California to Miami on Monday to be here for his major league debut. He said his father, a former college catcher, was "hysterical" when he heard the news.

Brantly said he's received text messages from his former coaches with the Tigers and former teammate Nick Castellanos, a sandwich round pick from Archbishop McCarthy High in Broward County. Brantly said some Castellanos family were also coming to his debut.

As for who Brantly grew up admiring? Well, turns out his grandfather had an influence on that, too.

"Mickey Mantle," Brantly said. "My grandfather always had videos of hitters. He said 'You got to swing like this guy.'"

Guillen joked he'd welcome a Mantle-type bat in his lineup.

"I want the catcher to take charge. I want the catcher to be the leader on the field. I want him to have confidence. I want him to be himself," Guillen said of Brantly. "Hopefully, it works out and he'll have a long, brand new career and stay here for a long time."

August 13, 2012

Could Justin Ruggiano play third base? Stay tuned

       Times are so tough at the hot corner for the Marlins that manager Ozzie Guillen said outfielder Justin Ruggiano was his emergency backup. Nick Green, who was penciled into the lineup at third for tonight's game, has been scratched due to a ligament injury to his left thumb. Greg Dobbs replaced Green on the lineup card, but he is dealing with an oblique strain that knocked him out of the lineup on Saturday. Dobbs is taking batting practice. Aterward, he said he was able to play but would have to "manage" his injury.

        If Dobbs had been unable to go, manager Ozzie Guillen said he would have likely used Ruggiano at third. Yes, Ruggiano, whose sum total of professional experience at third is the one inning he played there in 2010 for Triple A Durham.

        Guillen said it's too early to tell whether Green will go on the DL and the team is awaiting X-rays before making any decision.


       Look for rookie catcher Rob Brantly to see extensive playing time behind the plate. Guillen said he hasn't made up his mind yet on how much time that will be, but he said the Marlins didn't promote Brantly from the minors to have him sit on the bench. In fact, Guillen said Brantly would likely get his first start on Tuesday.

       "He's going to play," Guillen said. "He's going to get a lot of at bats. That's the reason he's here."

       Tuesday's starter for the Marlins, Josh Johnson, said he would "trust" the youngster and let him call the game -- up to a point. Johnson said he won't be afraid to shake off anything he doesn't like but, for the most part, plans on allowing Brantly to have his freedom calling pitches.


August 12, 2012

Marlins to call up C Rob Brantly; Hayes optioned to NOLA

           The Marlins optioned catcher Brett Hayes to Triple-A New Orleans following Sunday’s game and will bring up recently-acquired catcher Rob Brantly.

            Brantly, a 23-year old left-handed hitting catcher, was part of the trade July 23 that sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit. Brantly hit .365 with two home runs, four doubles and 11 RBI in 14 games for New Orleans.

            “When we traded for him, we knew he had pretty good offensive upside,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. “It’s a small sample size, but he’s hit the ball very well. The pitchers down there love him. He’s still working on some defensive stuff, but we feel like he can work on them up here and take a look at him.”

            Beinfest said although John Buck remains the starting catcher, the team will find ways to get Brantly a good amount of playing time to get him Major League experience and begin to evaluate him at that level.

            “When you give up the kind of guys we did to get him, it’s because we felt he can be an every day catcher in this league,” Beinfest said. “I don’t think you want to bring him up and have him sit. You want to look for some advantageous situations for him, but he needs to play.”

            Guillen said: “We’re going to try to figure out playing time and how many games a week because he’s being brought up to play.”


Emilio Bonifacio to rehab in Jupiter Wednesday

            Emilio Bonifacio is scheduled to start a rehab assignment Wednesday in Single-A Jupiter, and said he’s on track to return to the team during its four-game series in Colorado this week.

            Bonifacio sprained his thumb Aug. 3 in Washington while fielding a ground ball, and is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday for the series finale against the Rockies. He re-injured the same thumb that had kept him out for an extended amount of time earlier this season.

In addition to hitting the ball off the tee Saturday, Bonifacio said he has resumed other baseball activities such as fielding and catching.

Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said he felt moving Bonifacio back to the outfield upon his return might be the safest move. Bonifacio started 47 games in center field and started 14 at second base after the Marlins traded Omar Infante to Detroit.

 “I’m ready to go,” Bonifacio said. “It doesn’t really bother me as long as I can play.”

August 10, 2012

Morrison said second knee surgery is inevitable; expects to be back for spring training

Barring a surprise, Logan Morrison expects he'll undergo season-ending surgery next month to fix the same patella tendon tear he was operated on last December in his right knee.

“I just know how my knee feels and I know it doesn't feel good,” Morrison said. “I want to be healthy again. I don't want to have any pain in my knee and when two of the best knee doctor's in the world say I need surgery, it's probably a good indication.”

Morrison said rehab will last six to eight months, but he should be healthy in time for the start of spring training. The Marlins have said they would like to move him to first base, but there is a possibility the team could re-sign Carlos Lee, who likes living in Miami.

Hanley returns to Marlins Park, says it's nice not to have to play hero for the Dodgers

Sporting a Dodgers cap spun backwards and a t-shirt with the "I See You" hand gesture he created not long after being traded to Los Angeles on July 26, Hanley Ramirez took a seat in the visiting dugout at Marlins Park and started fielding questions about his return to South Florida on Friday.

Hanley Ramirez'Is it an emotional day for you?' the former batting champion was asked first.

"It's a wonderful day," he said with a smile. "I'm with my family. I got a chance to spend the whole day with my kids, my wife, in-laws. It was a great."

Is it weird to face the team you were once the face of the franchise for?

"It's going to be a little weird, definitely," he said. "... I was hoping we could play three games in one day and get it over with. But it is what it is. I spent seven years here. It's going to be a little weird playing against guys who were teammates for many years."

How does it feel to be playing for the Dodgers?

"Wonderful," he said. "We're one game behind [in the National League West]. We got 50 something games left. I'm happy, really happy to be here. I have great teammates and they work really hard everyday."

The Marlins were on the field stretching and preparing to take batting practice when Ramirez walked into the Dodgers dugout and answered questions for nearly 10 minutes in both English and Spanish.

When he was finished, Ramirez walked back into the Dodgers clubhouse and returned to the field with his new teammates for stretching. The Marlins were still on the field taking batting practice. They finished and returned to their clubhouse. Assistant Gary Thurman was the only person in a Marlins uniform to come over and shake Ramirez's hand and give him a hug.

Ramirez said he didn't get a chance to speak to his former teammates before the game, but planned to on the field. Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, the two Marlins closest to Ramirez during his time in Miami, said they hadn't spoken to Ramirez recently and were going to try to leave him alone when he was in town so he could spend time with his family, which remains in Miami.

"I'm giving him some space," Reyes said. "I'll see him on the field."

Ramirez said he speaks to his wife and children on Facetime -- a video chat program on his iPhone -- every night after games. He said he's been nervous driving around Los Angeles because he's afraid he'll got lost. "There are like 15 different highways," he said. "But now, I'm getting a little more comfortable with getting from the hotel to the ballpark."

Ramirez was asked what the biggest change has been for him with the Dodgers.

"My confidence -- I'm not trying to do too many things," he said. "If I do something wrong, I'm not going to disappoint the fans or the team. I have people here that tell me all the time 'Don't try to be the hero. Everything they give you on the field, just take it and take it easy. Everybody here has your back.'"

Asked about the origin for his new team hand gesture 'I See You' and t-shirt, Ramirez smiled.

"When I got to the Dodgers, I did 'Lo Viste' for Bonifacio a couple times and it was cool," Ramirez said. "But then I spoke with Dee Gordon and he said 'Let's do something different. You're no longer in Miami.' That's when we tried to do something new and came up with this. It's all for fun."

Ramirez, who hit .246 for the Marlins with 14 homers and 48 RBI in 93 games this season, is hitting hitting .226 with one home run and 12 RBI in 14 games with the Dodgers.

> Reliever Randy Choate, shipped off to L.A. in the Ramirez deal for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and another minor league pitcher, spent about a half hour in the Marlins clubhouse before Friday's game sharing laughs with just about everyone. At one point, a Marlins rep jokingly asked Choate if he was going to today's pitcher's meeting. 

> Bonifacio, who re-injured his thumb in Washington last weekend, said he expects to return to the Marlins as soon as his stint on the disabled list is over. He said he is going to hit off the tee on Saturday.

> Reyes, held out of the Marlins lineup Friday with swelling in his hand, said he will be back in the lineup for the Marlins Saturday.

Will fans boo or cheer Hanley Ramirez?

      Barely two weeks since the Marlins traded their "face of the franchise," Hanley Ramirez returns to Miami tonight as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ramirez made a strong impression in his first few games with the Dodgers but has cooled lately, with only five hits in his past 36 at bats. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had him playing third base initially but has since switched him back to shortstop, his original position that was taken from him on the Marlins by Jose Reyes. Overall, Ramirez is hitting .226 with a homer and 12 RBI in 14 games for L.A.

      Ozzie Guillen said it's hard to predict how fans will greet Ramirez when he is introduced for the first time at Marlins Park.

      Hanley"Some people should love him because he had pretty good years here," Guillen said. "But he had a couple of bad incidents here, and people remember the bad things. People don't remember the good things and we will see. If they want to boo him, please bring 50,000 people here so we can hear it. I don't want just 2,000 booing him if that's going to be the point."

       Guillen said he didn't have any issues with Ramirez in their brief time together.

       "I can't say anything bad about Hanley," Guillen said. "To be honest, he couldn't put it togther for us. Obviously, there wasn't the production we were looking for. But everything and anything we asked him to do as a coach, as a manager, I think he did it. But I don't have anything bad to say about the kid at all. I don't have anything against the kid. He just didn't play good for us."

       What's your best guess? Will fans cheer, boo, or act indifferently when Ramirez is introduced for the first time during his MIami homecoming?

August 09, 2012

Giancarlo Stanton on board with cautious approach

    NEW YORK -- Barely 12 hours after going off at the plate at Citi Field with four hits, including a pair of homers, Giancarlo Stanton sat at his locker, squeezing a surgical scars on his right knee as if it was a giant pimple. Stanton was trying to loosen the scar tissue underneath but, otherwise, said his knee felt perfectly fine.

     He's also perfectly fine with Ozzie Guillen's decision to sit him out of today's game as a precautionary measure.

     "You got to do it," Stanton said. "It's just the smarter thing to do."

     While the temptation to keep Stanton in the lineup is probably great, especially after last night's performance, Guillen made it clear he is thinking long-term with Stanton and wants to ensure he'll be 100 percent healthy next season.

      Stanton, who came off the DL on Tuesday, said he might require occasional rest for the first couple of weeks.

      "Don't want it get repeated," Stanton said.


      Don't look now, but John Buck is showing some life at the plate. By hitting safely in six of his past seven games, Buck has his average up to .179. Six of his seven hits during in August have been doubles.

      "It's not easy hitting one-whatever in the show, that's for sure," Buck said.

      Buck is hoping to avoid finishing with the worst average by a regular catcher (min. 300 plate appearances) since Tony Pena hit .181 with Boston in 1993. But Buck said even if he is able to raise his average to .200, it won't make him feel any better about the season.

      "I don't know if I'll ever feel good about this year," Buck said. "I've kind of come to the point where I can literally say I don't look up there (to see his average on the scoreboard). If it gets there, great. If it doesn't, I don't know if my view of the season will change much. Whatever comes at the end of the year, I don't know if it'll make me feel that much better about the season."


      Jose Reyes takes a 26-game hitting streak into this afternoon's game. Only two other players since 1933 -- the first year of the All-Star Game -- hit safely in their first 26 games after the break: Cleveland's Hal Trosky in 1936 and the Cardinals' Albert Pujols in 2003. Trosky's streak ended at 26 games. Pujols made it to 29 straight before coming up empty.


      Marlins: 1. Petersen, lf; 2. Cousins, rf; 3. Reyes, ss; 4. Lee, 1b; 5. Ruggiano, cf; 6. Dobbs, 3b; 7. Green, 2b; 8. Hayes, c; 9. Johnson, p.

      Mets: 1. Tejada, ss; 2. Baxter, rf ;3. Murphy, 2b; 4. Wright, 3b; 5. Davis, 1b; 6. Valdespin, lf; 7. Torres, cf; 8. Thole, c; 9. Dickey, p.

August 08, 2012

Heath Bell close to closing again

    NEW YORK -- Don't be surprised if Ozzie Guillen signals for Heath Bell the next time there's a ninth-inning save situation. Guillen said Bell merits another chance.

    "We're thinking about putting him back where he belongs," Guillen said. "We're going to give him another opportunity."

     Bell, who was an absolute bust before the All-Star break and the poster child of disaster for the Marlins, has looked like a new pitcher of late. In his 10 relief outings covering nine innings since the break, Bell has not allowed a run, given up only three hits, and struck out eight to go with three walks.

     The reason?

     "I fixed my mechanics," Bell said. "There was something wrong all year. I found out what it was a couple of weeks ago. I realized what I was doing. I feel like the person I was before."

     Specifically, Bell said he shortened his stride by three or four inches. He said that slight adjustment has enabled him to keep the ball down in the strike zone.

     "If I stride too long, I can't reach out in front of me, so therefore everything's up," Bell said. "My pitches aren't as sharp. I can't finish. You can kind of not make up for it by not pushing off, not throwing has hard, ease up, drop your arm angle....But as soon as I shortened up my stride, everything clicked, every pitch was -- 90 percent of the time -- exactly where I wanted it to be, just like I was in previous years."

     Bell said he didn't "feel right" as far back as spring training.

     "I found out what it was," Bell said. "I think I strided too far at the end of spring and into the season, and it was creating a bad habit, and then everybody else was about my arm, about my head, about second-guessing me about what pitches I threw....I created a bad habit in spring, and nobody caught it."

     Bell said he figured out the flaw on his own.

     "I'm my own best coach," he said. "I'm not trying to take anything away from (pitching coach Randy) St. Claire. I'm not saying he's bad. I'm just saying my pitching style is unique and I need to figure it out, and I figured it out."

     Bell acknowledged that he "stunk" the first half.

     "I don't know if I was the worst pitcher in the game, but I was making a run for it," he said.

     Guillen said he met with St. Claire earlier today to discuss bullpen roles, and both felt that Bell was a better fit for the ninth inning than Cishek, who they see as someone better able to throw more than one frame, if necessary.

     Said St. Claire: "For me, I'd rather have Bell as the closer, because Bell is a one-inning guy and Cishek is a multi-inning reliever, as well as Dunn. So I think it better fits us with him as closer."


     Jose Reyes takes a 25-game hitting streak into tonight's game, along with a sore right hand. Reyes jammed his hand on Friday in Washington, which led to swelling on the top of his hand between his thumb and index finger.

      The swelling has decreased somewhat, but Reyes has decided to wear a thumb guard, starting with tonight's game. A switch-hitter, Reyes said it is more difficult to bat from the right side than it does from the left due to the injury.



     Marlins: 1. Petersen, lf; 2. Ruggiano, cf; 3. Reyes, ss; 4. Lee, 1b; 5. Stanton, rf; 6. Dobbs, 3b; 7. Green, 2b; 8. Buck, c; 9. Eovaldi, p.

     Mets: 1. Tejada, ss; 2. Baxter, rf; 3. Wright, 3b; 4. Davis, 1b; 5. Murphy, 2b; 6. Valdespin, lf; 7. Torres, cf; 8. Thole, c; 9. Young, p. 

August 07, 2012

Stanton returns to lineup, Marlins get more "good" news on Bonifacio

     NEW YORK -- Giancarlo Stanton found it painful to watch the Marlins during his time on the disabled list because 1) they played poorly while he was on the mend from arthroscopic knee surgery and, 2) there was not one thing he could do to help. 

     "It was not fun to sit and watch these past few weeks," Stanton said. "You don't want to watch the team lose the whole time and there were things you maybe could have helped or changed the game."

     Stanton, who has not played since July 7, was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday and inserted into the lineup. Ozzie Guillen has him batting fifth.

     "He makes the lineup a little better," Guillen said.

     The Marlins not only went 8-17 in Stanton's absence, but traded a handful of key players when the front office recognized the team wasn't going anywhere this season.

     Guillen said Stanton might require a day off here and there until he reaches full strength. He'll also continue to bat fifth, at least until Emilio Bonifacio returns from the DL. Bonifacio was examined Tuesday by the surgeon who repaired the torn ligament in his left thumb back in May and was told the latest injury to the same ligament is not nearly as severe as the it was the first time.

     "Boni is good, thank God," Guillen said. "They don't have to go in to to fix it."

     As a result, Guillen said he expects Bonifacio will be able to return to the lineup when he is eligible to como off the DL on Aug. 19. At that point, Guillen indicated he might move Jose Reyes back into the leadoff spot and have Stanton bat third.

     Reyes, who continues to hit third, takes a 24-game hitting streak into tonight's game against his former team. A hit tonight will move him into a tie with Kevin Millar for the third-longest hitting streak in Marlins history.

    -- To make room for Stanton on the roster, infielder Donnie Murphy was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury.

    -- Logan Morrison was scheduled to receive a second opinion on his injured right knee in Denver on Tuesday. Marlins president David Samson said there is still a chance Morrison will return this season.

    -- Guillen said that tonight's starter, Wade LeBlanc, will be limited to 85 pitches.

    Tonight's lineups:

    Marlins: 1. Donovan Solano, 2b; 2. Justin Ruggiano, cf; 3. Jose Reyes, ss; 4. Carlos Lee, 1b; 5. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 6. Austin Kearns, lf; 7. Nick Green, 3b; 8. John Buck, c; 9. Wade LeBlanc, p.

    Mets: 1. Ruben Tejada, ss; 2. Daniel Murphy, 1b; 3. David Wright, 3b; 4. Scott Hairston, rf; 5. Jason Bay, lf; 6. Ronny Cedeno, 2b; 7. Andres Torres, cf; 8. Josh Thole, c; 9. Jonathon Niese, p.

    Umpires: HP -- Gary Darling; 1B -- Paul Emmel; 2B -- Scott Barry, 3B -- Jerry Meals.