SAN JUAN -- It feels like former Marlins reunion night here at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. And in a lot of ways it has been.
With the Dominican Republic set to take on Venezuela in the first game of Pool C play tonight in the World Baseball Classic, a number of former Marlins had the opportunity to reunite and share a few laughs during batting practice -- including three-fourths of the Marlins 2012 starting infield.
"I thought you said the Marlins would never trade you?" shouted Hanley Ramirez to Jose Reyes with Omar Infante laughing by his side. "Didn't you say you wouldn't be the one to go?"
Of course the Marlins dealt all three away. Ramirez, the NL's 2009 batting champion, went to the Dodgers; Infante and Venezuela's Thursday night starter Anibal Sanchez went to American League champion Detroit; and Reyes, along with four other Marlins were sent to Toronto.
"The only one we are missing is [Emilio] Bonifacio," Infante told Ramirez and Reyes in Spanish. "Then we would be complete."
Reyes actually got a chance to shake hands with one of the guys he was traded for -- 22-year old right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who will pitch for Venezuela in relief of another former Marlin Carlos Zambrano on Saturday.
Alvarez, the only current Marlin here in San Juan, said he's enjoyed his experience hanging out with Venezuela's national team and feels like he's not missing anything important with the Marlins.
"If I was competing for a job then I probably would have stayed with my team," Alvarez said. "I came to the World Baseball Classic not because I'm sure I have a job but because I feel like I could learn a lot. Thankfully the [Marlins] gave me permission and I'm planning on working just as hard as if I was there."
Reyes and his Dominican teammates pounded out 41 combined hits in their blowout wins over the Phillies and Yankees in WBC tune-ups earlier this week. Asked about facing former Marlins teammate Anibal Sanchez, Reyes said: "We know it's not going to be easy because he's a good pitcher and he knows how to pitch.
"But right now we've got to plan how we're going to go about it and we'll try to go from there."
Ramirez laughed when he noticed a familiar pair of Marlins reporters Thursday. "The Marlins media is here? The best organization in baseball I tell you," said Ramirez, who grinned as he said it.
> Ramirez later interrupted a live TV interview with Miguel Cabrera to give him a big hug. He then posed for photos with Cabrera as the interview went on. Cabrera, part of the Marlins 2003 World Series team, won the Triple Crown in Detroit this past season.
> For a few photos here in San Juan check out my Twitter timeline
PHOENIX -- Leave it to R.A. Dickey, who is about as articulate as they come in the big league playing ranks, to come up with perhaps the most colorful description of Giancarlo Stanton I've heard to date.
When asked what it's like pitching against Stanton, Dickey replied: "I feel like Jack around him, (as in), Jack and the Beanstalk. He takes up the whole box visually when I've faced him, and I've faced him a number of times. I remember having the same feeling when Frank Thomas was in the box. He just takes up the whole box and you don't feel there's much place to go with him."
Dickey and Stanton, who are teammates on the U.S. team that opens play in the World Baseball Classic here on Friday, are familiar foes. Only Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay have faced Stanton more often than Dickey, the reigning N.L. Cy Young Award winner who is taking his knuckleball this season to Toronto. Stanton has gone 6 for 20 against Dickey, but none of those hits were homers.
"Thankfully I throw a pitch that moves in a lot of different directions, so I've been able to have a little bit of success against him," Dickey said. "But he is a very intimidating player to play against."
Dickey isn't the only member of Team USA gushing praise at Stanton. The team's manager, Joe Torre, was equally effusive.
"He's quite a physical specimen and he's got a head on his shoulders to match," Torre said of the Marlins' slugger. "This kid is....wow. You can tell a lot from when a player takes batting practice. I go back to the days when I played and guys having contests of who can hit the ball the farthest. He's up there working his batting practice. And when I say working his batting practice, he'll hit more balls to the right side of second base than he will to the left side because he knows what makes him successful. He doesn't say a whole lot, very respectful. He's very special, a very special youg man in the few days I've been around him."
PHOENIX -- Yeah, you read right. Phoenix. That's where I am at the moment, preparing to cover the World Baseball Classic and Team Stanton, I mean, Team USA. And Manny is in Puerto Rico covering the WBC bracket there with all your former favorite Marlins: Miguel Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, etc. etc. etc.
In our absence, Steph Rogers is on the scene for us in Jupiter handling the Marlins. Before we get to some of her items of note, check out this Politifact item on Jeffrey Loria's recent comments about who bears the tax burden on the new ballpark. (Spoiler alert: the conclusion is that Loria's comments were "half true.") Anyway, it breaks it all down for you.
Now, back to the Marlins and Rogers' reporting:
THIS AND THAT
• There’s nothing wrong with making your first hit of the spring a memorable one. Bryan Peterson lifted the Marlins to a walk-off victory over the Venezuelan team on Tuesday with his two-run triple in the ninth.
“It was just cool. I envy all those dudes who can go out and play for their country,” he said. “That’s a really good team, all of the hitters, the pitchers; it’s obviously good competition for us.”
• Jose Fernandez has a contagious confidence about him. In Tuesday night’s showcase against Team Venezuela, it was an asset against a lineup that closely resembles a stacked fantasy team.
“It was big. I was kind of nervous out there,” the 20-year-old prospect said.
Venezuela’s talent-rich roster stopped in Jupiter before heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to begin Pool C play in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Fernandez faced one of his closest friends in the Miami clubhouse, Henderson Alvarez, in the Marlins’ 6-5 victory over Venezuela on Tuesday night.
“It was fun because he threw the third inning, I threw the fourth. In the fifth inning we ran together back [to the clubhouse],” Fernandez said.
• Alfredo Silverio has been shut down. During a long tossing session, the outfield prospect felt discomfort in his elbow. Silverio had Tommy John surgery in 2012, further complications from a January 2012 car accident. There is no timeline for his return.
• Placido Polanco was a late scratch from the starting line up Wednesday. He was expected to return to play, but experienced discomfort in his oblique.
“He hit, he made throws, it’s smart not to push it,” Redmond said.
• Jake Marisnick was hit square in the left hand by a Trevor Rosenthal pitch in the fifth inning. Marisnick received attention from Redmond and the trainer on the field, but stayed on the basepaths. He was replaced by Gorkys Hernandez in the outfield.
He told reporters that his x-rays came back negative, and he will take it day-by-day. Redmond won’t send him on the bus to Port St. Lucie on Thursday.
• The battle for center field continues, and Redmond expects Chris Coghlan to play center field in Thursday’s game.