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34 posts from February 2013

February 22, 2013

Ruggiano has another MRI on aching back, awaits results

JUPITER -- Marlins center fielder Justin Ruggiano's stiff lower back was still bothering him Friday morning, a day after he pulled himself out of practice after it tightened up on him fielding a ground ball.

Now he's awaiting results of another MRI taken Thursday and said a spine doctor is coming in to see him.

"It feels the same," said Ruggiano, who was carrying a little case of pain killers with him back to his locker. "It's frustrating."

The Marlins open Grapefruit League action on Saturday versus the Cardinals. Gorkys Hernandez and Bryan Petersen figure to get action in center field with Ruggiano out. The Marlins also have top prospects such as Christian Yelich and Jason Marisnick in camp.

Hernandez led the Venezuelan Winter League with a .367 batting average and 15 steals in 226 at-bats. He batted .212 with three home runs and five stolen bases in 45 games for the Marlins after being traded by Pittsburgh for Gaby Sanchez last season.

Hernandez said he's focused on having a big spring for the Marlins.

"I'm working hard to have a good spring training and now that the games are beginning I have an opportunity to show the team what I can do," Hernandez said. "I came to spring training to win a job."

Hernandez said he worked with a hitting coach in the Indians farm system in Venezuela who helped him focus on working deeper into the count and "waiting for my pitch."

February 21, 2013

Ruggiano leaves practice early with a stiff lower back; starting pitching rotation set for first week of Grapefruit League action

JUPITER -- Center fielder Justin Ruggiano left practice early Thursday with tightness in his lower back and it is unclear if he will be ready to go when the Marlins open Graperfruit League action Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium against the Cardinals.

"My lower back kind of tightened up a little bit fielding ground balls," said Ruggiano, who hit .313 with 13 homers and 36 RBI in 91 games for the Marlins last season -- arguably the best surprise in a disappointing season.

"Instead of pushing it today being so early in camp I came in to see if we can't get it settled now. It's not fun. It's annoying. I'm frustrated and angry. I don't have a hold on why it keeps happening."

Ruggiano, a favorite to land the starting center field job, battled lower back pain last season. He also banged up his shoulder and didn't play again after Sept. 21.

"I know it's not that anything is wrong with my back," he said. "I had an x-ray and MRI on that so I know it's nothing structural. It's muscular.

"As soon as I can get back out there, I'm getting back out there."


Redmond has set his pitching rotation for the first eight games of the spring. Here is a look at the starters for each game:

John Maine will start Saturday against the Cardinals in Jupiter. Henderson Alvarez goes Sunday against Washington in Viera and March 1st against the Twins in Jupiter. Wade LeBlanc will pitch Monday against the Braves in Orlando.

Ricky Nolasco, Miami’s projected opening day starter, will then pitch Tuesday against the Mets in Jupiter and again March 2nd against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Nathan Eovaldi will go Wednesday against Washington in Viera and March 3rd against the Mets in Jupiter. Jacob Turner goes Thursday against the Cardinals in Jupiter.

> Redmond said former Marlins teammate Mike Lowell is scheduled to arrive in Jupiter Feb. 28. Lowell has agreed to serve as a guest assistant coach for a three-game stretch from then on. Redmond said he's still working to get Luis Castillo, the team's all-time leader in hits, to come and serve as a guest assistant coach, too.

"Luis is going to be a game-time decision," Redmond said. "He's either just going to show up someday or we're going to have to go down and get him."

> The Marlins wrapped up the second of two days worth of simulated intrasquad games. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria tripled off Alvarez and scored. Second baseman Donovan Solano had a couple of hits.

"A couple of those guys look like they're ready to go for opening day already," Redmond said. "I don't know how they do that. They come out swinging.

"We had a lot of good at-bats. I thought we pitched well, too. It was good to see [Braulio] Lara go up there and throw strikes. [Arquimedes] Caminero threw some nasty pitches. [Kevin] Slowey pitched well. Alvarez [did too]."

Morrison set to begin month-long running progression on treadmill

JUPITER -- Logan Morrison's first steps toward getting back into a Marlins uniform begin this morning.

The first baseman, who had a second surgery five months ago to repair a torn patella tendon in his right knee, will start running on a treadmill for the first time in eight months on Thursday. Doctors, Morrison said, don't want him hitting or doing any other baseball activities yet. Just the treadmill.

"It's not going to be like 20 minutes first time. It's going to be like a minute," said Morrison, who will wear an anti-gravity bubble below his waist to put less weight on the knee. "Probably just like a jog with half my body weight."

Morrison said the treadmill work will progress for about a month -- assuming there aren't any setbacks. His agent told The Miami Herald earlier this week the hope is Morrison will be game ready by April 15th. Morrison said Thursday that remains the hope.

"I just know I'm running today on the treadmill and then after that I don't know what's going on," Morrison said. "They don't want me hitting right now because if it does get sore they want to know what is making it sore."

Morrison said the opportunity to get fully healthy is exciting. He admits he tried to rush his way back on the field too early after the first surgery in Dec. 2011. 

"It's not always about being the tough guy, the guy who is going to be out on the field. It's about being able to help your team. If you're not able to do that, why be out there?" Morrison said.

"It was painful and a mental grind just to get out of bed [last season]. To go and face major league pitching wasn't fun either. I think the first time you go through it you think you're bullet proof. 'Yeah, it hurts, but it will get better.' Or, 'Yeah it hurts, but I can still play through it, still help the team win.' I wanted to help the people out on my team, but it didn't work out well."

Stanton feels better, x-rays on neck negative, expects to play in spring opener Saturday

JUPITER -- Marlins All-Star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton was in good spirits Thursday morning -- and feeling better -- a day after being struck in the back of the head by a Jose Fernandez fastball.

"It all checked out fine," Stanton said of the precautionary x-rays taken on his neck after practice Wednesday. 

"I was pretty loopy I must say yesterday. But for the most part I feel fine. [I'm] back. But we're going to see how much activity [I do] in the weight room. I'd like to at least get some hitting in today. It's probably smarter not to do much. I'll go according to what I'm feeling and what makes sense."

Stanton said Wednesday his vision was blurry for a few hours after getting plunked. The 23-year-old slugger said the ball got him just below the helmet, between the base of his skull and the top of his neck. But eventually, he said, that blurriness went away.

Stanton said he expects to play in the Marlins spring opener Saturday against the Cardinals. 

Asked about the ball that hit him, Stanton joked: "I don't know. I think it's like half of a baseball now." 

As for Fernandez, the Marlins' top prospect, he said he feels relieved Stanton is fine.

"It's still kind of tough, but I feel better that it's not that bad," Fernandez said.

February 20, 2013

VIDEO: Infield coach Perry Hill talks about new shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, others

Marlins All-Star RF Giancarlo Stanton struck in the head by top pick Jose Fernandez during sim game, leaves to have x-rays on neck

JUPITER -- Marlins All-Star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, struck in the back of his batting helmet on a fastball by top prospect Jose Fernandez during a simulated game Wednesday afternoon at the team's spring training complex, believes he will be fine but had x-rays performed on his neck for precautionary reasons after practice.

Those results, manager Mike Redmond said, are expected Thursday. But Redmond said he's anticipating everything will be fine. 

"I wasn't dizzy or nothing. I saw a little grayness, fuzziness on the outside of my eyes but it's subsiding now," said Stanton, who had an ice pack wrapped around his neck when he spoke to reporters in the clubhouse. "It hit me first and the helmet decided to come in after the impact."

Stanton said he was struck "right in the bottom of the head, high neck area." 

"I'm numb [right now] because there is ice on it," Stanton said. "But we'll see in a little bit."

Asked if he fears he may miss significant time, Stanton said: "No. Hopefully, not. But I would say no."

Stanton didn't fall to the ground when he was struck by the pitch, but staggered backward for a moment. He then gathered himself and scooped up his helmet on the way to the dugout. Moments later assistant athletic trainer Mike Kozak opted to take Stanton back to the team clubhouse via golf cart by for further evaluation. Although appearing a bit woozy, Stanton still signed autographs for a few children as he walked over to get into the cart.

Fernandez, the Marlins' first round pick of 2011, was visibly shaken after the incident.

After retiring the first three batters he faced on groundouts, Stanton stepped into the batter's box on Field 4 to face Fernandez. The first pitch Fernandez unleashed struck Stanton in the back of the head, knocking his helmet off and sending it rolling to the backstop. Redmond said Fernandez stayed in and retired the next batter he faced before leaving the field

Fernandez said it was a hard fastball that plunked Stanton.

"I know it was over 95 [miles per hour]. I know it was," Fernandez said. "It's a scary moment. When I let it go, I felt I didn't have control over it coming out of my hand. It could have gone to the other side. It went to the wrong side. I feel very bad about it.

"Normally, I've got a lot of control and I throw a lot of strikes."

Fernandez, who pointed out he hit just two batters with pitches last season in 146 innings, jogged into the clubhouse shortly after Stanton was carted off. Stanton acknowledged Fernandez apologized as soon as he walked into the clubhouse.

"Right when I came in, I talked with him," Fernandez said. "When I asked him how he's doing, he laughed. He said he is fine. I told him, 'I'm sorry. You know, nobody is trying to hit anybody. Same team and everything.' He just laughed, said, 'Bro, it's baseball. It happens.'"

Stanton obviously tried to make Fernandez feel better about the situation.

"It's happened before and it will happen another time," Stanton said. "He said 'Sorry.' [I told him] 'Don't dwell on it. We're good. Obviously you didn't mean to. No big deal.' "

Here is video of the incident. 

Maine happy to get start in Saturday's spring opener against the Cardinals

JUPITER -- John Maine hasn't pitched in a big league game since May 20, 2010.

Starting Saturday's spring training opener against the Cardinals won't count as ending that streak, but it's a step in the direction Maine wants to go.

"I appreciate them letting me do it," Maine said Wednesday, a couple days after manager Mike Redmond told him he would get the chance to start the Marlins' first spring game. "I'm excited to pitch... we'll see where it takes us. It's going to take a couple outings to really find a groove. But I feel fine. I expect to do nothing but go out and pitch well."

Maine, 31, is trying to come back from two shoulder surgeries. His wife had to talk him out of retirement in 2011. With the fifth starter spot up for grabs in camp, Maine knows the opportunity is there to get back into a rotation. But there is plenty of competition: left-handers Brad Hand and Wade LeBlanc and right-handers Alex Sanabia, Mitch Talbot, Kevin Slowey and Tom Koehler.

As for his shoulder, Maine said he still feels occasional soreness. But after throwing live batting practice Monday he felt "no pain, nothing."

He expects to throw two innings Saturday.


Marlins catchers on Tuesday took multiple turns squatting and catching relay throws will getting smacked by a weighted cylindrical bag on their blind side to simulate a collision at the plate. 

Redmond said while the drill might not be fun it's necessary. He expects all of his catchers to stand their ground and block the plate -- regardless of what happened to the Giants' Buster Posey in 2011 when then Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins knocked him out for the rest of the season.

"I think we try to tell our catchers how to protect themselves," Redmond explained Tuesday. "I blocked the plate and never got hurt. We try to teach guys to try to avoid going down to their knees. If you're a little guy and you go down to your knees it makes you even smaller and you don't have a base. I think we try to square guys up and try to give them the tools where they can protect themselves in case they do get run over."

Veteran catcher Jeff Mathis had a few ribs busted a couple years ago in a collision at home with the Rangers' Chris Davis. But he too believes the catcher's job is to protect the plate.

"It was unfortunate what happened to Buster," Mathis said. "But it's part of baseball. I've been hit, ran into and stuff like that. But that's our job. Our job is to protect that plate and try to keep runs from crossing that plate. That's the way I feel about it."

> The Marlins agreed on 2013 contracts with nine players Wednesday morning: right-handers Arquimedes Caminero, Jose Ceda, Sam Dyson, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Hatcher, A.J. Ramos; left-handers Brand Hand and Braulio Lara and outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

February 19, 2013

Morrison cleared to run on a treadmill; agent thinks April 15th is a target date for a return

It's a baby-step. But it's progress.

Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison flew out to Vail, Colo. Tuesday to visit with Dr. Richard Steadman, five months after having a second surgery on his right knee to repair a torn patella tendon. He tweeted out the following message about half an hour ago to provide an update on his status.

Prior to Tuesday's news, Morrison had only been cleared to walk on a treadmill. He was hoping he would be cleared to run on the field as well. Still, this was good news.

"This is exactly what we wanted to hear," Morrison's agent, Fred Wray, told our Clark Spencer.

Wray said that if there are no setbacks, Morrison could be playing by April 15, "assuming that’s what the Marlins want to do."

"The way he's progressing, at the rate he's progressing, that looks like it's going to be the target date," Wray said.

Morrison, who hit just .230 with 11 homers and 36 RBI last season in just 93 games, told reporters before the start of spring training his status for the season opener was questionable. He had surgery on the same knee Dec. 5, 2011. That procedure was less invasive than the surgery he had in September, but Morrison said he was never completely healthy during spring training 2012.

The Marlins obviously will take their time to make sure he's fully healed before putting him back out on the field this time around.

In the meantime, veteran Greg Dobbs and Joe Mahoney, a 26-year old left-handed bat scooped up from the Orioles, continue to work primarily at first base. The Marlins signed journeyman Casey Kotchman on Friday to add depth at first base. But Kotchman sliced his left ring finger Monday running into a fly-ball machine and needed four stitches to patch up the wound.

Manager Mike Redmond said Tuesday Kotchman will likely be out for a few days. The Marlins' first spring training game is Saturday in Jupiter against the Cardinals.


McKeon-PierreFormer Marlins manager and 82-year old team special assistant Jack McKeon reported for duty Tuesday morning, the first time he's been in camp since position players reported.

"He came to my door and said 'Red I'm here reporting for duty,'" Redmond said. "He said, 'I'm just going to go out there and do what I do.' It was probably 7:30 a.m."

McKeon then went and got on the treadmill according to Redmond for his usual morning workout.

"Jack and I have had several conversations already," Redmond said. "He was very supportive of me getting the job and in my corner. I know he's in my corner. If anything ever comes up, I'd never hesitate to ask him."

Redmond, who played for McKeon on the 2003 World Series team, said McKeon's strength as a manager was his loyalty to his players.

"He stuck with you. It didn't matter if you were struggling, 0-for-20, he'd keep running you out there until you got it," Redmond said. "At the same time, too, he was able to get the bench guys and all of us on board to what we're doing and trying to accomplish. He made everyone accountable for their job and role on the team. It worked. He's had a lot of success."

> The Marlins will replace batting practice with simulated games Wednesday and Thursday, “just to mix it up,” Redmond said. Although there will be a defense on the field, nobody will be running Redmond said.

“These live BPs are not hitters’ favorites,” Redmond said. “We’re going to make it a little more realistic for everybody, not just the pitchers.”

> The Marlins announced Tuesday they agreed to 2013 contracts with the following players: pitchers Steve Cishek, Tom Koehler, Scott Maine, Edgar Olmos, Evan Reed; catcher Kyle Skipworth; first baseman Joe Mahoney and outfielders Kyle Jensen and Alfredo Silverio.

Kotchman waiting for inflammation to go down; Mahoney eager to impress Marlins at first base

JUPITER -- Once the inflammation goes down on his sliced left ring finger, Casey Kotchman said he will have a better idea of when he might be able to get back on the field for the Marlins.

The 29-year old veteran first baseman -- signed to a minor league contract last Friday to help provide some depth at first base with Logan Morrison still healing from knee surgery -- received four stitches Monday after he ran into the stationed machine that was flinging pop files to infielders.

“When I hit the pitching machine, I grabbed it,” Kotchman said. “When I grabbed it, the wheel was kind of cutting my finger. I guess, instead of hitting it over, I held onto it, and kind of picked it up, and it just kept slicing.”

“I just got some stitches in it, and we’ll see how it feels. It's day-to-day. I think the tentative plan is to let it calm down for now, and see how it progresses.”

Teammate Greg Dobbs teased Kotchman a little in the clubhouse Tuesday morning.

"Dude if the machine falls and breaks the drill is over," Dobbs told Kotchman.

"Yeah I'm trying to be a gentleman to the machine, [not] throw it down on the ground," he responded. "But it sounds like [my] teammates would have been happy if the drill was over and the machine got broke."

The Marlins play their first spring training game Saturday in Jupiter against the Cardinals. Kotchman, who has played for six teams over the past five seasons and hit .229 with 12 homers and 55 RBI last season in 142 games in Cleveland, said he wasn't sure if he would be ready by then. He has yet to throw or grab a bat since slicing his finger. He also scraped his middle finger in the incident.

Morrison, who had a second surgery on his right knee last September, was in Veil, Colo. Tuesday morning being examined by Dr. Richard Steadman. Morrison is expected to find out Tuesday if he is cleared for running.

In the meantime, the Marlins figure to give the majority of their first base work to Joe Mahoney. The 6-6, 240-pound left-handed bat spent all of his career with the Orioles before being selected off waivers by the Marlins Nov. 30.

In 2010, Mahoney was the Orioles' Minor League Player of the Year. The 26-year old Albany, N.Y. native hit .307 with 18 homers, 78 RBI and 13 stolen bases that season in High-A and Double-A ball. Last season, he hit .265 with 10 homers and 56 RBI in Triple A Norfolk.

"They want me to do my thing, be myself, play good defense at first and in the outfield if they need me, bring to the table what I can," Mahoney said of the Marlins. "Hopefully I fit into their plans."

Mahoney said he played about 10 games a year in the outfield for the Orioles - left and right field. He played in just two games for the Orioles last season and went 0-for-4.

> Veteran infielder Placido Polanco said Tuesday he will have to go back to his dentist in a week or two to have a root canal procedure. Polanco missed practice Monday to see the dentist, but said he won't miss any more time until he returns for his procedure. 

February 18, 2013

Casey Kotchman injures finger; John Maine to start Grapefruit opener

     JUPITER -- On what was only his second day with the Marlins, first baseman Casey Kotchman cut his finger during an infield pop-up drill Monday and is out indefinitely. Kotchman cut his left ring finger after catching a pop near home plate and grabbing the machine. The cut required four stitches.

      "Bad luck," said manager Mike Redmond. "Hopefully it's not more than a few days. It was crazy. I heard him call it and I was like, 'no way he's gonna get to that ball.' And he caught it. He made a great play. He just couldn't stop. It's unfortunate. We're hoping it's not an extensive thing. This might be something we benefit from that extra time (during spring training) and won't become a huge issue."


      Placido Polanco missed practice Monday in order to undergo a root canal.


      Redmond has tabbed John Maine to start the Marlins' Grapefruit League opener Saturday against the Cardinals. Maine will go two innings. Others scheduled to pitch Saturday: Tom Koehler, Brad Hand, Steve Cishek, Chad Qualls, Mike Dunn, Dan Jennings and Michael Wuertz.


      The pace picked up slightly Monday when hitters faced living pitching for the first time. Maine broke Jake Marisnick's bat with his first pitch.

      "Obviously the older guys, there's more tracking," Redmond said. "There are more takes. I saw J.P. (Juan Pierre) and (Chone) Figgins and those guys doing a lot of tracking. But it's always fun to see the younger guys get in there and whack away. They're eager. You don't know where you're at until you swing the bat."

       Redmond said he saw Marisnick's broken bat swing.

       "I said, 'Hey man, this isn't A ball now,'" Redmond said. "This is big-league pitching. You're going to have to get that thing started a little earlier.' You're always kind of laughing today because it's a humbling day for the hitters. Pitchers, obviously, are way ahead of the hitters."


       The most anticipated pitcher/hitter match-up Monday was Jose Fernandez throwing against Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton was in tracking mode and swung at only one of the 10 pitches thrown to him by the organization's top prospect. Stanton grounded a ball toward second with his only cut.

       "He's got a little cut to his fastball, which is always good," Stanton said. "We weren't interested in hitting today off live pitching. It's just good to get our timing down. We're not trying to swing out of our shoes or nothing."

       Fernandez said he was pumped to get on the mound and take on hitters, but acknowledged pitchers held the advantage.

       "Hitters are not ready. We are," Fernandez said. "We've been throwing a lot of bullpens. I don't think it's fair for the hitters yet.

        "But I compete when I see hitters there. I was competing."

        Asked to describe his impression of Stanton standing in against him, Fernandez replied: "He's unreal. He's a bull like nobody else. I've never seen a guy hit the ball as hard as he does. It's impressive. I saw him hit the ball in batting practice yesterday, he was hitting balls like I've never seen."

         Here's video of Stanton vs. Fernandez: