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26 posts from September 2012

September 17, 2012

Chipper Jones shares a few Marlins memories

    No telling what the Marlins have in mind as a tribute for living Braves legend Chipper Jones when he plays his final game in South Florida on Wednesday. But, if it has anything to do with Livan Hernandez's 15 strikeout performance against the Braves in the 1997 NLCS, Jones probably wouldn't include it among his favorite parting gifts.

     Jones said home plate umpire Eric Gregg's extra-wide strike zone that day at Joe Robbie Stadium still causes him to shake his head.

      "Saw that on MLB (Network) the other day and I was like, 'Good Lord, I couldn't hit some of those pitches with a telephone pole," Jones said. "And Livan still thinks they were strikes. Talked to him the other day in Milwaukee and we were kind of reminiscing. He's like, 'Man, I could have pitched until I was 80 if I got that strike zone every day.'"

      Jones, 40, is retiring after the season. No active player has played in more games -- or homered more times -- against the Marlins than Jones has during the course of his career, which began the same season the Marlins entered the majors.

      Of his 40 homers against the Marlins, Jones said the one that stands out most was his shot off Ricky Nolasco on June 8, 2008, at Turner Field in Atlanta. It was his 400th career homer.

       "Your milestones, they stick out in your mind," Jones said. "Obviously, 400 home runs, that's a lot of trots around the bases. That's probably the one that sticks out to me the most."

        Jones said the end is starting to sink in as he makes his final visits to cities and ballparks around the majors.

        "It's starting to hit home now," he said. "I've had a lot of last trips into cities this year, but the ones in the East are a little more special because I've got such a history with the Mets, the Marlins, the Nationals and the Phillies. I've got three more cities, and one last home stand. It's starting to get to me a little bit."

        As for the Marlins, specifically, Jones said, "We've had some epic battles down here. The years that the Marlins ended up winning the Word Series, those were some pretty good teams. Seeing Joe Robbie, or Pro Player, or whatever the hell that stadium was called, packed for a baseball game -- with 75,000 or 80,000 people -- that's a memory that you don't forget."


        Jones is not in the starting lineup for the Braves tonight. Either is Giancarlo Stanton for the Marlins. Stanton is dealing with soreness on the left side of his abdomen. He said it's not a big deal and expects to be back in the lineup on Tuesday. But manager Ozzie Guillen indicated that Stanton could be out a couple of days.

         "It's something you have to be careful about because that thing can go for weeks," Guillen said. "I'd rather him to miss two games than miss the rest of the season, because that injury can really put you down for a little while."


          Marlins: 1. Petersen, lf; 2. Hernandez, cf; 3. Reyes, ss; 4. Lee, 1b; 5. Ruggiano, rf; 6. Dobbs, 3b; 7. Solano, 2b; 8. Brantly, c; 9. LeBlanc, p.

          Braves: 1. Bourn, cf; 2. Simmons, ss; 3. Heyward; 4. Freeman, 1b; 5. Prado, 3b; 6. Uggla, 2b; 7. Ross, c; 8. Baker, lf; 9. Hudson, p.

          Umpires: HP -- Bill Miller; 1B -- CB Bucknor; 2B -- Dan Iassogna; 3B -- Vic Carapazza


          Stanton had his own headline for John Buck's game-ending flyout in Sunday's 11th inning: "The walkoff that never happened."

          Buck's shot was caught in the Bermuda Triangle, the deepest recess of the ballpark, by Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs.

          When asked about it Monday, Buck chose his words carefully.

          "My kid thought it was awesome I hit it so far," Buck said, with tongue in cheek. "I walked in the door and Brody said, 'Daddy, you hit it so far!' I looked at my wife and said, 'Did you tell him to do that?' I was able to find some happiness that he thought it was cool I hit it that far."

          Obviously, Buck described his feeling as "frustrated."

          "I knew I got it, but I know where I play," Buck said. "I hit it good. But I know how deep it is. It was probably disheartening to see the one spot where it could land and not go out of the park, or not hit a piece of the wall. That's where I decided to hit it."

September 16, 2012

Guillen: Don't Blame the Ballpark

        For reasons unknown, John Buck didn't hang around to talk to reporters after Sunday's loss to the Reds. Perhaps he was late for dinner. Or perhaps he was too angry to talk and didn't want to say anything that might land him in hot water later.

        Marlins Park deprived Buck of a game-winning homer in Sunday's 11th inning, caught in the deepest recess that is the "Bermuda Triangle." Drew Stubbs drifted back into the cutout, reached up with his glove not more than a few feet from Home Run Sculpture, and pulled down the blast for the game's final out.

        Did the ballpark's large dimensions cost the Marlins a win on Sunday? Maybe. Maybe not. Manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't think it did. In fact, Guillen said that if the series with the Reds had been played in their bandbox -- Great American Ballpark -- they would have swept the series. They, too, Guillen said, had a few deep drives go for outs in the series.

        Watch what Ozzie had to say about it afterward. Then tell us if you think they should bring the fences in at Marlins Park.

September 14, 2012

Tit for tat: Hanley Ramirez pokes back at David Samson

      In a Q&A interview with MLB.com, Marlins president David Samson said one of the reasons that infielder Hanley Ramirez was traded in July was because the team wasn't winning with him. Actually, Samson's comments were mild compared to the explanation that was given to me by another front office exec just after the deal was made. He said the team's higher-ups had decided that Ramirez was "a loser," implying that NO team could win as long as he was on it.

      Well, Samson's comments reached Ramirez, who fired off a barb of his own: "Now are they winning without me?"

      Ramirez might have added for extra measure that, without him, the Marlins now have a third base problem, one they will try to to address during the offseason. But he didn't. As Bill Shaikin points out in this Los Angeles Times notebook. the Dodgers' winning percentage has declined since Ramirez's arrival -- "from winning percentages of .541 before and .467 after" -- even though his raw offensive numbers have improved a shade.

Jose Fernandez (1st team), Christian Yelich (2nd) named to Baseball America All-Star Team

      While the Marlins are one loss away from securing their third consecutive sub-.500 season, there was a bit of bright news for the organization on Friday when Baseball America unveiled its 2012 Minor League All-Star team.

        FernandezRight-hander Jose Fernandez (1st team) and outfielder Christian Yelich (2nd team) made the list.

       Fernandez, the 14th overall pick in the 2011 draft, went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 25 starts split between the Marlins' two Single A affiliates, Greensboro and Jupiter. As Baseball America noted, Fernandez led all minor-league pitchers with a 0.93 WHIP, striking out 158 against 35 walks in 134 total innings.

       Yelich, the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 draft, hit .330 with 12 homers and 20 stolen bases in 106 games for Jupiter this season. Yelich

        Alas, Fernandez and Yelich were unable to lead the Hammerheads to a Florida State League title when Lakeland won the deciding fifth game of the series on Wednesday. Greensboro trails Asheville (N.C.) in its best-of-five series for the South Atlantic League title, two games to one.

September 12, 2012

Donnie Murphy suffers concussion in loss to Phillies

    PHILADELPHIA -- Donnie Murphy is out indefinitely with a concussion, one he sustained when Chase Utley's leg struck him in the head on a play at third. The injury occurred in the sixth inning when Utley slid into third on John Mayberry Jr.'s RBI single.

     Murphy remained in the game and batted once more, but came out after that due to dizziness.

     "I've been hit in the head before," said Murphy, who was noticeably groggy. "I thought it was one of those things you shake off with a little time. But even during that bat and right after, it just wasn't feeling right."

     Murphy was examined by a physician at Citizens Bank Park and said he would likely be re-examined on Thursday in Miami.

     The Marlins are carrying only 12 position players. If Murphy has to miss time, the Marlins would possibly bring back infielder Gil Velazquez

Marlins open 2013 season at Washington on April 1

    PHILADELPHIA -- The Marlins will open the 2013 season in Washington on April 1 and play their home opener on April 8 against Atlanta, based on the "tentative" schedule released Wednesday by Major League Baseball.

    With Houston moving over to the American League, the schedule contains a number of interesting quirks, such as the Marlins playing a back-to-back, home and road series against Tampa Bay in late May and closing out the season in late September at home against Detroit in an interleague series.

     In addition to the Tigers and Rays, the Marlins interleague opponents also include the White Sox, Minnesota and Kansas City. They'll play the Twins both on the road (late April) and at home (late June). The White Sox series (May 24-26) will mark the return of Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen to his old stomping ground.

     "I grew up in that ballpark," Guillen said. "How am I going to feel? I don't know. I might feel weird. I have to wait until that day and see. You never know. Maybe I won't care. Maybe I'll start crying. Maybe I'll be nervous. Of course it's going to be different. I was raised in that yard."

     For the complete Marlins schedule, go here.


    While Giancarlo Stanton has hit 34 home runs to match his career high, he's hit 23 of them with the bases empty, which suggests pitchers could be pitching him much more cautiously when men are aboard.

     "He's left a lot of guys on base," Guillen said. "He's got to learn, and he will learn how to approach when people are in scoring position. I think when he learns how to take a base hit or take a walk, he'll become a more dangerous hitter. Obviously when there are going to be people on base, they're going to pitch him very different."

     Stanton is hitting .267 with runners in scoring position.

September 11, 2012

Jeffrey Loria is optimistic about '13. Are you?

    PHILADELPHIA -- Caught up yesterday with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who is optimistic about the team's chances in 2013. Loria was typically vague on most issues -- including whether he intends to shake up the front office as some are predicting -- but said there's no reason to think that the Marlins can't turn it around quickly and contend by next season.

    Asked specifically whether fans can expect a methodical rebuilding process, one that takes some time, in other words, Loria responded: "I don't think it's going to take a long time at all. I don't have any patience for that. (With) a little bit of adjusting, we should be doing what we were supposed to do. We will do what we were supposed to do."

     Keep in mind, the Marlins (63-79) could be headed for a second straight last-place finish in the N.L. East. Despite their large free agent spending spree last winter, they could finish with a record as bad as -- or worse -- than last year's 72-90. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Reyes, they have question marks at most other positions. Who will play first (Morrison? Lee?)? Second? Third? Left field? Catcher? Is Justin Ruggiano a full-time player? Is Donovan Solano? Their starting staff has been nothing to brag about. Nor has their bullpen.

     Loria said he believes there is enough of a foundation -- Reyes, Stanton, Rob Brantly -- on which to build. But is there? The pending free agent market is especially thin, particularly in spots where they have their greatest need (i.e., third base). So the Marlins will likely have to go the trade route in order to shore up the several "holes" that Loria acknowledges are in need of filling.

     How do you see next season turning out? Do you see things turning around as quickly as Loria thinks they can? If you had to fix one or two things, where would you start?


     The Jupiter Hammerheads -- the Marlins' high-A minor-league team -- are scheduled to face Lakeland tonight in what could be the deciding game of the Florida State League championship. The Hammerheads lead the best-of-5 series, two games to one.

     And, up in North Carolina, the low-A Greensboro Grasshoppers will be facing Asheville in the second game of their best-of-five championship series. Greensboro, the defending South Atlantic League champs, won the first game of the series.

September 09, 2012

Stolen base pleases Giancarlo Stanton more than home run

    WASHINGTON -- While Giancarlo Stanton hit his 33rd home run of the season to leave him one blast shy of his single-season high, he said it was his stolen base -- his first since returning from knee surgery in July -- that made him happiest.

     Stanton even joked that he would aim for the team lead in steals, which is currently held by Jose Reyes with 35.

     "How many games do we have left?" said Stanton, who stole his sixth base of the season in Sunday's fifth inning.

     Adding the stolen base threat to Stanton's arsenal of skills would make him even more dangerous than he is now, according to Ozzie Guillen, who would like to see the slugger put his legs to greater use than he has in the past.

     "He did something for us today I want him to do (more), steal more bases," Guillen said. "When you can steal bases and they want to pitch around you, they have to think about it. You might steal second, too. I want the scouts to say, 'Be careful, because if you walk him, he can steal second base.' Especially in very close games, I want him to use that weapon in his favor."

     Said Stanton: "Anytime you can steal, it gets in the pitcher's head a little bit. It changes games."

      Gary Sheffield's club record 42 home runs, set in 1996, appears safe for this season. But Stanton needs only two more homers to register the second-high single-season total in Marlins history. He and Miguel Cabrera, who hit 34 in 2007, currently share that distinction.

September 08, 2012

Marlins end Stephen Strasburg's season

    WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were planning to give Stephen Strasburg one more start before placing him in mothballs. But, one day after watching the Marlins knock him around, the Nationals decided to wait no longer. Strasburg was informed this morning that his season was over.

    "Mentally and physically, Stephen looked like he was fatigued," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. "It's the prudent time to pull the plug on Stras."

     The Marlins peppered Strasburg for five runs on six hits -- including a pair of homers -- before knocking him out after the third. It was the second time in less than two weeks that the Marlins have gone to town on Strasburg, who had held them scoreless for 27 consecutive innings at one point earlier in the season. But the division-leading Nationals, who are closing in on the organization's first playoff berth, have said since February that, in order to protect him for the future, they would not allow Strasburg to pitch the entire season. Strasburg is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and Rizzo said the Nationals made their decision after looking carefully at medical and performance data involving pitchers who have had elbow ligament replacement surgery.

     The plan was for Strasburg to make one final start next week in New York. But after watching him struggle Friday, Rizzo said he and Nationals manager Davey Johnson decided to "pull the plug on him" immediately.

     "It's a plan we've had since February 1, so I don't think people should be surprised," Rizzo said.

     One way or another, it's a gutsy call.

     Question: Given that the Nationals are in the September stretch drive and a team from Washington hasn't appeared in the postseason since 1933, are they making the right decision about Strasburg? How would you feel if the Marlins were in the Nationals' shoes and decided to shut down their staff ace a month away from possible postseason glory?

Why Jacob Turner was taken out after 81 pitches

     WASHINGTON -- If you happened to be watching or listening to last night's game, there's a good chance you questioned Ozzie Guillen's decision to lift Jacob Turner after the sixth. Turner not only looked strong to that point, turning in his best performance so far with the Marlins, but had thrown just 81 pitches.

      We were wondering ourselves, especially after Guillen summoned Carlos Zambrano and the Marlins' relatively comfortable 6-2 lead began to crumble almost instantly. Zambrano couldn't get anyone out and the Nationals rallied to send the game into extra innings, where the Marlins pulled out a 9-7 victory. Steve Cishek struck out Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth with the bases loaded to end the game.

       So why was Turner taken out? Guillen said that since it had been eight days since Turner last started, he was under orders from the front office to limit Turner's pitch count to 80 to 85 pitches.

       "Whatever they want, I do," Guillen said. "Whatever they say, I go by."

       Guillen wasn't disagreeing with the decision to limit the 21-year-old right-hander's pitch count. As he pointed out, "We have to take care of him. This kid, it's the first time pitching in September. That's one of the reasons we went to a six-man rotation. He was (throwing) 94, 95 (mph). Now he's 92, 91."

       According to FanGraphs, Turner's velocity has diminished slightly from his time with the Tigers until now. In fact, Turner said he threw harder in high school.

       "I've had games this year where it's been there and games where it's not," Turner said. "But you can't really control velocity. It's either coming out like that or it's not. If I could control it I'd be doing it. If every pitcher could throw 100, they would. It's just one of those things where some days it's there and some days it's not. Right now I'm not as consistent with it as I'd like to be."

       Turner, who totaled exactly 80 pitches in each of his first two starts with the Marlins, will be permitted to throw more in his next start for them.