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36 posts from March 2013

March 19, 2013

Redmond's team on the home stretch

By Steph Rogers

JUPITER -- The Marlins shuffled the lineup, and opted to get a recently returned Greg Dobbs some additional at bats, bumping Rob Brantly down in the order.

A.J Ramos and Steve Cishek played across the field in a minor league game against the Cardinals, having missed out on work due to Monday's rain out.

The home stretch is at hand and Mike Redmond is feeling like things are close to coming together for his club.

"We're going to start playing guys a little bit longer...we have a couple of guys who've been banged up that we need to get more at-bats for: Ruggiano, Dobbs, and Polanco," he said. "I still feel like we have time to get them in."

The noted players will go in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the team will be off on Thursday.

"We’ll play it by ear after that....that last week I’d like to play a regular lineup as many days as we can," the manager said.

One staple for the 2013 roster is shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who the Marlins acquired in the blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays. Hechavarria will get his first look as an everday player in the Miami lineup.

Though he comes with a flashy glove, the infielder hasn't boasted big numbers at the plate.

"I know everybody looks at the batting average, but I look at the quality of at bats and the hard hit balls," Redmond said. "Obviously, you come into a new situation, I’m sure there’s a little bit of trying to impress everybody and he has."

The Cuban-born Hechavarria comes with 41 major league games under his belt. He made his debut with Toronto as a third baseman -- a position he'd never played before. He had 32 hits and as many strikeouts through 126 at bats with the Blue Jays.

"I know that he’s excited about the opportunity that he has being an everyday player in the big leagues and spring training is somethimes a tough time for guys," Redmond said. "I’m excited for when the lights come on to see what he can do, when the games really count and the pressure’s on."

Redmond said the club will monitor the young player's transition to his new role in a new league. He's hitting .162 in 14 games, with three walks and six strikeouts to his name.

  • OF Bryan Petersen was reassigned to minor league camp after the team's morning on-field warm up.
  • John Maine will follow up Wade LeBlanc in Wednesday's game, and Kevin Slowey will start on Thursday in a minor-league split squad game

Starting lineups:

Marlins: 7 Juan Pierre, 5 Placido Polanco, 9 Giancarlo Stanton, 3 Greg Dobbs, 4 Donovan Solano, 2 Rob Brantly, 8 Justin Ruggiano, 6 Adeiny Hechavarria, 1 Jacob Turner

Cards: 4 Daniel Descalso, 5 Matt Carpenter, 7 Matt Holliday, 3 Allen Craig, 8 Oscar Tavares, 9 Shane Robinson, 6 Pete Kozma, 2 Audry Perez, 1 Shelby Miller

March 18, 2013

Yelich belts fifth home run, a 400-foot plus shot into a pond

FORT MYERS -- Christian Yelich never really has considered himself a power hitter. But so far this spring he's displayed the ability to take pitchers deep quite often.

Monday afternoon, before rain came and stopped play after five innings at Hammond Stadium, Yelich belted his team-leading fifth home run of the spring. And belted might be an understatement.

Twins right fielder Darin Mastroianni hardly moved as the ball came off Yelich's bat. The ball itself -- hit off Twins reliever Tim Wood -- traveled well over 400 feet and splashed down in a pond behind the stadium in right field.

"I didn't know there was a lake back there," said Yelich, who finished 2-for-3 Monday to raise his average to .381 with a team-leading 13 RBI. "I got it pretty good. It was a hanging slider and I caught it good."

Yelich, who has never hit above Single A ball, has hit 27 home runs in 909 minor league at-bats since the Marlins took him with the 23rd overall pick in 2010. In 42 at-bats this spring he's looked like Superman, a left-handed bat that would fit in beautifully alongside Giancarlo Stanton.

But it's clear the Marlins won't be keeping Yelich on the Opening Day roster. How soon he gets called up probably depends on he performs in Double A Jacksonville. But it's pretty clear he's impressed the heck out of a lot of people so far.

"There's always that temptation," Redmond said. "But at the same time too we've talked about this as an organization. We want to make sure when he comes to the big leagues he's fully ready. But like you said it's fun to see a kid highly touted and have come in and back it up. That's a good sign."

Asked if he's ever been on a tear like this before Yelich smiled.

"Actually I don't even feel super locked in," the 21-year old said. "I felt pretty good today, but it's spring training. It comes and goes."

As much as he would like to be with the Marlins on Opening Day Yelich said Monday he understands why the team probably will send him back to the minors.

"I don't really know what's going to happen. I know they do things for a reason and they got a process and they stick to it. It's worked in the past," he said. "I can't really be disappointed with anything that happens whatever that may be here in the next week or two. My goal from the beginning of spring training was to have fun and enjoy the experience."

Redmond: Platoon in center might be Marlins' best option

FORT MYERS -- The fifth spot in the Marlins' starting rotation isn't the only job weighing on the mind of skipper Mike Redmond these days.

With two weeks to go before Opening Day in Washington, Redmond is also trying to figure out what the best solution in center field might be and he said Monday a platoon situation "could end up being our best option."

"We could definitely go that route, that way we make sure we don't wear one guy out," Redmond said. "We don't have a ton of depth out there and we have to make sure we keep everybody healthy out there as well."

If Redmond had his way 21-year old former first round pick Christian Yelich (.359, 4 HRs, 12 RBI in 19 spring games) would probably be his top choice. But it's inevitable Yelich, who hit .330 with 12 homers and 20 steals last season in High-A Jupiter, will be sent to Double A Jacksonville so the team can avoid starting his salary arbitration clock and he can gain more plate experience.

"You get a feel for what I think about him," Redmond said. "I play him all the time. I love him. Like I said, he's had a great spring. He's done everything we've asked of him. But at the end of the day he's never had an at-bat above A-ball and we have to make sure we're doing the right thing for him and the organization."

With Yelich out of the mix that leaves left-handed hitting Chris Coghlan (.318 with five extra base hits and four RBI in 44 ABs), right-handed hitting Gorkys Hernandez (.290, 3 RBI, 3 SBs in 31 ABs) and Justin Ruggiano, who is just 1 for 11 in the five games since returning from his back injury this spring, to compete for the center field job. The Marlins will keep two of the three. Ruggiano was supposed to be the clear-cut starter before getting hurt.

With Hernandez out of options and Coghlan with one left the Marlins could elect to send Coghlan down and keep Ruggiano and Hernandez in a platoon situation, too. But it looks like Coghlan has performed well enough thus far to deserve a shot at the job.

"He's done a nice job," Redmond said when asked if Coghlan is solid enough defensively to play center at spacious Marlins Park. "But I think that's the challenge. It's a big outfield in Miami. We're hoping whoever is out there just can cover the most ground. That's just kind of the situation we're in."

One option that appears nixed now is moving 35-year old Juan Pierre over to center from left.

"I know we mentioned early on throwing him over in center, but I think he just works well in left for us," Redmond said. "We'll figure out center field... it might be one that comes down to the last day."

> Right-hander Jacob Turner (0-1 with a 16.20 ERA in two starts) may be down to his last chance to make the starting rotation when he takes the mound Tuesday in Jupiter against St. Louis.

"It's safe to say tomorrow is a very important start for him," Redmond said. "We're trying to decide on this No. 5 starter and then adjusting the bullpen accordingly. It's been good to have guys like Kevin Slowey step up and pitch well. Honestly, we're still not sure. I'd love on the 18th of March to say it's all set. We're still not there yet."

> Reliever Chad Qualls, who has made just three Grapefruit League appearances, is expected to get a good look today along with two innings of work according to Redmond. Qualls, who hasn't pitched in a spring game since last Tuesday, has tossed three scoreless innings thus far.

"He had a little tight oblique early in spring. Everything is good now," said Redmond, who said Qualls got work in minor league games as he was recovering.

> Redmond got to enjoy a bit of a homecoming Monday. He spent five seasons with the Twins and got to see some familiar faces who didn't make the trek out to Jupiter when the Twins visited the Marlins earlier this spring.

"I spoke to [Justin] Morneau, [Joe] Mauer, the coaches," Redmond said. "Lot of great memories here. I spent spring trainings here with a great group of players and we had some good teams in there too. It's fun to come back and see everybody and say 'Hi."


> Marlins (9-10-2): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Chone Figgins 2B, 3. Kevin Kouzmanoff 1B, 4. Austin Kearns RF, 5. Chris Valaika 3B, 6. Nick Green SS, 7. Matt Downs DH, 8. Kyle Skipworth C, 9. Gorkys Hernandez. RHP Nathan Eovaldi.

> Twins (10-9-1): 1. Aaron Hicks CF, 2. Brian Dozier 2B, 3. Joe Mauer C, 4. Josh Willingham LF, 5. Justin Morneau 1B, 6. Jeff Clement DH, 7. Darin Mastroianni RF, 8. Eduardo Escobar 3B, 9. Pedro Floriman, SS. RHP Kevin Correa.

March 17, 2013

Stanton and Cishek back from WBC to reality in Jupiter

JUPITER -- A packed house at Roger Dean Stadium on Sunday afternoon for St. Patrick’s Day isn’t quite the same as what Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek have grown accustomed to so far this spring.

With their Team USA colors retired for four more years as the American team was eliminated from World Baseball Classic action, the pair returned to the Marlins camp in Jupiter.

“I’m pretty much ready to get started with the season,” Cishek said. “After going through [the WBC], spring training games are going to be hard to get the adrenaline going for.”

The exhilaration of representing thier country on an international stage, and playing on a roster that rivals any all star contingency isn’t lost on either of them.

“At first it was a little overwhelming, like, ‘Wow, what am I doing here?’” Cishek said when asked about being a part of Team USA.

“It was amazing to see all these guys’ approaches, like [Joe] Mauer, [Ryan] Braun, and[David] Wright,” Stanton said. “I mean, I see Wright a lot, but it was different being on their side and not being in right field.”

Stanton was especially wowed by Mauer, spending most of his time batting behind the Twins’ veteran in the lineup.

“He’s unbelievable...” he said. “You can give him 0-2 every at-bat and he’s got no problem with it.”

The Marlins slugger has had the luxury of being surrounded by some of the game’s best players with his notable All-Star Game selection last season. Cishek, on the other hand, has quietly been a presence in the Marlins bullpen for the better part of the last two seasons.

“I didn’t go out there to prove myself, I went out there to put a zero on the board,” the reliever said of the opportunity to showcase his talents. “It was kind of cool because it showed me I could play with those guys. Just playing against them is humbling enough, nevermind being on the same team as them.

“That was probably one of the coolest things about [the WBC] was just how humbling it was to be around that group.”

Transitioning back in to spring training mode was nearly seamless for the two, with Stanton batting third in the lineup and Cishek getting a scoreless inning of relief in the eighth inning on Sunday.

Cishek, who is expected to continue with his late-2012 duties as closer for the Marlins, felt the experience with Team USA prepped him for the adrenaline of the later innings in a major league ball game. He describes the WBC crowd as ‘electric’, and unlike anything he experienced last season.

“I was pretty fired up when I went into those WBC games,” he said. “Hopefully that transitions into the year now. I’m prepared to take a step back, take a deep breath and then go at it.”

The homecoming isn’t without hard feelings; there’s disappointment in not taking Team USA to the final round of the Classic in San Francisco. Partially, because the contest doesn't provide a true reflection of a series-based match up between two teams. Stanton argues in a one-off, anything can happen.

"Baseball it’s so tough, you can have a triple-A team beat a big league team with certain pitching once," he said.

There's no appeal in breaking down flaws in format, timing, or different preparations for different countries. With Stanton, it's a closed case: "We lost."

“You don’t go there just to make an appearance and experience the WBC. We went there with the objective to win it all,” Cishek said. “It was disappointing, but at the same time, it’s great to be around these guys again and to get situated with the team.”

With the next opportunity four years down the road, Stanton won’t say no to an invite to try again.

“We’ve still got to be the first ones,” he said. “USA still needs to win it.”

-Steph Rogers

March 16, 2013

Christian Yelich goes deep again; Kevin Slowey shines

       PORT ST. LUCIE -- Christian Yelich said his goal this spring was to leave the Marlins with a good impression, "leave" in the sense that Yelich -- and pretty much everyone else -- expected him to be sent to Double A Jacksonville to start the season.

        Well, Yelich is certaintly drawing notice. And he hasn't left yet.

        On Saturday, Yelich came off the bench and hit an opposite-field homer. He's hitting .368 this spring with four homers, which leads the team, and four other extra-base hits.

        "I'm just trying to ride it out as long as possible and see what happens," he said.

        After Henderson Alvarez started and pitched into the fourth for the Marlins, Kevin Slowey took over and went 4 1/3 innings, giving up a run on two hits. Slowey is making a strong case for either a spot in the starting rotation or in the bullpen as a long reliever.

         "I want to be on a major league team and this has been a great opportunity for me to show that I can be," Slowey said.

         Among those fighting for roster spots, Chris Coghlan had a pair of hits, including a RBI triple, and Chone Figgins singled and drew a walk after an 18-pitch at bat.

Polanco, Dobbs, Alvarez back; Stanton, Cishek not far behind.

     PORT ST. LUCIE -- All of a sudden, manager Mike Redmond feels like he has all his weapons.

     Not only are Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs returning from injuries, but Giancarlo Stanton, Henderson Alvarez and Steve Cishek are returning from the World Baseball Classic.

     Polanco, who has been out with an oblique strain, is back in the lineup today while Dobbs (calf strain) is playing in a minor-league game and could be used as a pinch-hitter later this afternoon when the Marlins face the Mets. Alvarez takes the mound for the Marlins in what marks his first appearance for the Marlins since joining Venezuela for the WBC.

      Meanwhile, with the U.S. being eliminated from the WBC last night by Puerto Rico, Redmond is looking forward to the return of Stanton and Cishek. Redmond said Stanton would start Sunday in Jupiter versus the Cardinals and Cishek would also be used in relief.

       "Even though it's just a couple of guys, it thins you out," Redmond said. "We're trying to build that chemistry and get things rolling. We're down to the last couple of weeks and it's nice to have those guys back in camp. Now I feel a lot better."

       Redmond is also relieved that all of the WBC Marlins returned healthy. The same can't be said for the Yankees and Mets, who lost Mark Teixeira and David Wright to injuries sustained during the tournament. Then again, Texeira and Wright could have just as easily been injured with their MLB teams during spring training.



       Marlins: 1. Juan Pierre, lf; 2. Placido Polanco, 3b; 3. Rob Brantly, c; 4. Justin Ruggiano, cf; 5. Chris Coghlan, rf; 6. Donovan Solano, 2b; 7. Casey Kotchman, 1b; 8. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 9. Henderson Alvarez, p.

       Mets: 1. Mike Baxter, rf; 2. Justin Turner, 3b; 3. Ike Davis, 1b; 4. Marlon Byrd, cf; 5. Lucas Duda, lf; 6. Travis d'Arnaud, c; 7. Brian Bixler, 2b; 8. Omar Quintanilla, ss; 9. Shaun Marcum, p.



March 15, 2013

Rough outing puts Jacob Turner's rotation status in question

    TAMPA -- Mike Redmond didn't actually come out and say Jacob Turner's rotation spot is suddenly in doubt. But it was clear from the tone in his voice that Redmond has serious concerns after Turner labored through three innings in a minor-league game on Thursday in Jupiter.

    "He's definitely a concern," Redmond said. "I'm concerned about him. He's still got a couple of more outings, so hopefuly he can get it going. But he just struggled. Mostly command problems. His last outing was much better, but this one, it seemed like he scuffled. He had trouble with his command again, and that's defintely a concern."

     Redmond said Turner issued three walks in his start against the Cardinals' Triple A team. Turner has made two Grapefruit League starts in which he's given up six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings, walking four, hitting a batter and striking out two. Turner also struggled last spring while still with the Detroit Tigers, giving up six earned runs in four innings, walking six and striking out just two.

      "We need a guy in that rotation who can go in there and pound the strike zone and give us innings," Redmond said. "We're so young in that rotation that we've got to make sure that guy gives us the innings that we need. We are young there and we are going to have some times where guys will struggle through lineups."

       Turner is schedule to make his next start on Tuesday. But if he doesn't show signs of improvement soon, it could open up a rotation spot for another candidate. John Maine, who is taking the mound today against the Yankees, is one possibility. Maine has given up one earned run in five innings this spring. Kevin Slowey is another possibility. He's allowed three earned runs in 9 1/3 innings.


           Redmond said both Placido Polanco (oblique) and Greg Dobbs (calf) would play Saturday against the Mets.


           Today's lineups:

           Marlins: 1. Juan Pierre, lf; 2. Donovan Solano, 2b; 3. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 1b; 4. Austin Kearns, rf; 5. Rob Brantly, c; 6. Matt Downs, dh; 7. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 8. Nick Green, 3b; 9. Gorkys Hernandez, cf. P -- John Maine.

           Yankees: 1. Brett Gardner, cf; 2. Derek Jeter, ss; 3. Ichiro Suzuki, lf; 4. Travis Hafner, dh; 5. Juan Rivera, rf; 6. Francisco Cervilli, c; 7. Ronnier Mustelier, 3b; 8. Dan Johnson, 1b; 9. Corban Joseph, 2b. P -- CC Sabathia.

March 13, 2013

Oblique injury lands Joe Mahoney on the shelf

     JUPITER -- The injuries keep piling up for the Marlins' first basemen. Add Joe Mahoney's name to the list. Mahoney, who shares the team lead this spring with three homers, has an oblique injury that will keep him out of action indefinitely and pretty much end whatever chance he had of making the team.

     Mahoney, who had gone 7 for 30 this spring after being claimed from the Baltimore Orioles in November, provided the Marlins with a left-handed power bat that's lacking on the club. First basemen on the Marlins have been having a tough time staying healthy. Logan Morrison (knee) is out until April while non-roster invite Casey Kotchman cut his finger early in camp and missed a few days.

Jose Fernandez sent to minors -- maybe for last time

     JUPITER -- Nobody could have ever guessed from the smile on his face that Jose Fernandez had just been told he was being sent to the minors. But as the Marlins' top pitching prospect cleaned out his locker, Fernandez was anything but unhappy.

      "They were trying to make it easy for me and I told them, 'You don't have to. It's not a big deal,'" Fernandez said. "I understand how this works. I'm fine."

      Fernandez was reassigned to minor league camp and is expected to open the season at Double A Jacksonville. If all goes well for him there, Fernandez could be promoted to the majors as early as mid-season depending on the team's need at the time. Conceivably, Fernandez could replace Ricky Nolasco in the rotation if Nolasco is dealt before the trading deadline. When Fernandez arrives to the majors, it could be for good. He's ranked No. 5 overall on Baseball America's list of top prospects.

       "They told me, 'Hopefully this is the last time,'" Fernandez said. "You guys know me. I'm pretty confident, and I think I can pitch in the big leagues today. That's my personal opinion. Maybe I'm not ready. But that's how I feel. I feel I've got to learn and I've got to do the stuff that will help me be more successful in the big leagues. I think I will."

       The 20-year-old right-hander appeared in only one Grapefruit League game, delivering two scoreless innings and allowing only one base runner while striking out two. He also pitched against Venezuela in that country's tune-up for the World Baseball Classic.

       "It was fun," he said. "I enjoyed every bit of it, being around big-league guys, pitching against Venezuela. I enjoyed every bit of it and I'm glad they gave me a chance to be here."

       Fernandez always knew this day would come. He's just surprised it didn't happen sooner.

       "I expected it," Fernandez said. "I've been expecting it the last two weeks. I'm 20 years old. I can't be upset. I can't. It's not a secret. I knew I was going to get sent down. I was waiting for it. I know I've got to get ready for my (minor league) season. I want to get my routine going. I know they made the right call."

       -- The Marlins also reassigned outfielder Jake Marisnick to minor league camp and optioned right-handed reliever Chris Hatcher to Triple A New Orleans. The Marlins now have 49 players in camp.


       Third baseman Placido Polanco (oblique strain) said he hopes to play Saturday. Polanco said he's been throwing and hitting and that his injury feels much better than it did a week ago.


       The Braves brought their big boys over for tonight's game at Roger Dean Stadium.

       The lineups:

       Marlins: 1. Juan Pierre, lf; 2. Donovan Solano, 2b; 3. Rob Brantly, c; 4. Justin Ruggiano, cf; 5. Chris Coghlan, dh; 6. Austin Kearns, rf; 7. Casey Kotchman, 1b; 8. Chris Valaika, 3b; 9. Adeiny Hechavarria. P -- Nathan Eovaldi.

       Braves: 1. Ramiro Pena, ss; 2. Jason Heyward, rf; 3. Justin Upton, lf; 4. Freddie Freeman, 1b; 5. B.J. Upton, cf; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Juan Francisco, 3b; 8. Gerald Laird, c; 9. Kris Medlen, p.

March 12, 2013

Former Marlins catcher Mike Piazza (albeit briefly) enjoying time as Italy's hitting coach

Even though he was only a Marlin for five games, Mike Piazza has always maintained a soft spot in his heart for South Florida.

Mike PiazzaThe 44-year old future Hall of Fame catcher -- once a standout at Miami-Dade College and even a University of Miami Hurricane -- has lived in Miami Beach for the last 10 years. So getting to come home for the World Baseball Classic with surprising team Italy has been nice.

But where Piazza could end up finding a job next is as a major league hitting coach.

His work with Italy's national team has definitely opened some eyes. Although Italy has just four regular major leaguers in its lineup (Dodgers infielder Nick Punto, Padres center fielder Chris Denorfia, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Mariners third baseman Alex Liddi), they've pounded the ball. They came into Tuesday's Round 2 opener against the Dominican Republic hitting .336 as a team (second best in the tournament) and having scored more runs (22) than it did in the previous six WBC games combined (19) in 2006 and 2009.

Piazza said his message to his hitters has been clear: relax at the plate and use the entire field, like he did during his 16-year career.

"My sort of whole agenda is to get these guys to believe they're good enough to be productive," said Piazza, a former 62nd round pick who knows a thing or two about overcoming long odds.

"[Rizzo] asked me 'How did you have great power to right?' My old joke was well there is a fence out there, too. I told them you've got to open the field up a little bit. Little things like that are getting into their heads a little bit, especially with two strikes. These are good pitchers, they're going to get outs. Make them earn it. Just don't get outs on their pitch."

Rizzo, Italy's No. 3-hitter and a former standout at Stoneman Douglas High in nearby Parkland said when Piazza has opened his mouth everyone on Italy's team has listened. "He just makes you so relaxed," Rizzo told reporters last week in Phoenix. "He'd be a great hitting coach."

Piazza, a 12-time All-Star and career .308 hitter with 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, said he's not necessarily looking for a major league job right now. But he is enjoying his time with team Italy, whom he played for back in 2006 and has remained involved with as both a consultant and a coach.

"At this point in my life it's exactly what I want to do," said Piazza, a father of two girls. "Being of Italian American decent, the tradition and the pride my family has -- and also the other Italian American guys here -- for me it's a small way to give back and spread the game worldwide. It's a plus what we've done in the tournament so far. It's a plus for baseball and for baseball in Italy. We knew coming into it it was going to be difficult.

"But as the Japanese have shown you don't always have to have the most talented team, just play well at the right time. Hopefully we can follow that model."

Piazza said while some may be surprised how well the Italians have done in this year's tournament, he said he isn't and points out how the Italians have played both the Japanese and Cubans frequently over the last 10 years while winning 10 European titles.

Piazza credits manager Marco Mazzieri with doing a great job motivating the team and even showed them photos of Marlins Park and San Francisco's AT&T Park before the tournament as "future destinations."

The finals are in San Francisco.

"Sometimes when you are going in that direction as a coach you don't know how guys are going to take it, but it's been fun to watch those guys respond to that," Piazza said. "I've said many times in my life you can never stop trying to find something to motivate you even as a major leaguer. The fact he's been so positive and so excited has kept us focused on the mission."