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36 posts from March 2013

March 10, 2013

Round 2 of World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park

Here's a list of all the basics for you to know: 

> What, where: Round 2, Pool 2 of World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park. Team workouts Monday. Games begin Tuesday and run through Saturday. Top two teams advance to San Francisco for the semifinal and final round.

> Teams: Italy (2-1), USA (2-1) or Canada (2-1), Puerto Rico (3-0/2-1), Dominican Republic (3-0/2-1).

> Tickets: $20-$300. Tickets remain for all games of the World Baseball Classic Round 2 in Miami. Box office hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and 9 a.m. to one hour following the completion of the games as of Tuesday. Tickets are also available online at worldbaseballclassic.com. All fans who have tickets or purchase tickets to Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park are invited to attend the workouts Monday free of charge. Game tickets for any game must be presented for entry to the workouts.

> TV: MLB Network, ESPN Deportes.

11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.: Pool D Runner-Up Workout
1:15-2:45 p.m.: Pool D Winner Workout
3:30–5 p.m.: Pool C Winner Workout
5:15–6:45 p.m.: Pool C Runner-Up Workout

Game 1 - Pool D Runner-Up (Puerto Rico/Dominican Republic) vs. Pool C Winner (Italy or USA/Canada), 1 p.m.
Game 2 - Pool C Runner-Up (Italy or USA/Canada) vs. Pool D Winner (Puerto Rico/Dominican Republic), 8 p.m.

Game 3 - Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 7 p.m. (Elimination Game)

Game 4 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m. (Winner clinches spot in semifinals)

Game 5 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 7 p.m. (Elimination Game)

Game 6 - Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 1 p.m. (Semifinalists play for seeding)

> The World Baseball Classic, which is officially sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), will for the first time in 2013 be recognized as the official national team World Championship, with the winner being crowned the 2013 World Baseball Classic Champion and the IBAF World Champion.

March 09, 2013

Bud Selig does a tap dance around Marlins situation

    PHOENIX -- Bud Selig is in no mood to talk about the Marlins.

    That became very apparent last night when the commissioner of Major League Baseball held an imprompto press conference in the back of the press box as Team USA was losing its World Baseball Classic opener to Mexico.

    Selig spent about 15 minutes answering questions about the growth of the WBC and his vision for the tournament when I tried to get him to comment on the present situation involving the Marlins. It was clear from the outset, when his face tightened, that it wasn't a subject he wished to be addressing.

    Me: "Sorry to be the one to shift gears here, Bud, but given...

    Selig (interrupting): "Depends what you shift gears to."

    Me: "Well, it's baseball. Given what's transpired in the Miami market in the past year, the new ballpark and, again, the stripping of the roster, what is your level of concern -- what is the league's level of concern -- with Miami as a major league market?"

    Selig: "Look, I've commented as much as I'm going to comment on it. I said at the time that, in looking at the trade, they have to do what they think is right. I talked to a lot of people, a lot of general managers, a lot of baseball people, and they gave me their evaluations and we'll just....I learned from Branch Rickey many years ago, you've got to wait three to five years to see how trades turn out. Let's see how it turns out."

    Me: "But that's one trade. I'm looking at the big picture there with...

    Selig (cutting me off): "We'll see. Time will tell."

    And that was that. Selig was hustled away by his handler.

    Selig either didn't understand my broader question about the Marlins situation, or understood and tiptoed around it, referring instead to November when he approved the 12-player deal with Toronto. I suspect it was the latter.

     Given that the next round of the WBC is in Miami and Selig is likely to attend, he'll surely be pressed again on the Marlins -- only by a larger group.

Photos: Peterson developing focus, Redmond's still got it

Marlins outfielder Bryan Peterson was working on his mental game during the Marlins' morning warm up.


Manager Mike Redmond spent some extra time hitting grounders to non-roster invitees Chris Valaika and Ed Lucas.

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 11.24.52 AM

-Steph Rogers 

Ruggiano to make first spring appearance

Entering camp as the leading candidate for the center field job, Justin Ruggiano has been sitting out with a strained lower back. He's in the line up for the first time on Saturday against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium, batting sixth.

He's been progressively upping his activity level in anticipation of returning to play.

Even with an impressive consistency in 2012 with the Marlins, nothing is guaranteed. The 30-year-old is going to see competition in all directions, including from Chris Coghlan, who started center against the Mets in Port St. Lucie on Thursday, and Gorkys Hernandez, who is out of options.


Saturday marks a split-squad affair, with a bus of Marlins headed to Viera to take on the Washington Nationals.

Here is the look of the contingency staying at Roger Dean for the 1:05 p.m start:

7 Juan Pierre

4 Donovan Solano

2 Rob Brantly

DH Austin Kearns

3 Casey Kotchman

8 Justin Ruggiano

5 Kevin Kouzmanoff

6 Adeiny Hechavarria

9 Bryan Peterson

Starting: RHP Jacob Turner


-Steph Rogers

Stanton sends two to warning track, Cishek limits damage in WBC

    PHOENIX -- A few feet here and a few more there and Giancarlo Stanton would have connected on a pair of home runs that might have changed the outcome for Team USA on Friday. Instead, both balls were caught on the warning track and Mexico handed the U.S. a 5-2 wake-up call in the World Baseball Classic.

    Stanton went 0 for 3 with a walk in his WBC debut.

    But two of his outs just missed going for homers. Batting seventh (hmmm) on manager Joe Torre's lineup card, Stanton's first near-miss occurred in the sixth inning when, with two on and two outs, he drove the ball to the warning track in center at Chase Field, where it was caught for the third out. His second close call came in the eighth when, with two outs and a man aboard, he drove one to deep right that was also hauled in on the track.

    The setback put Team USA in an immediate bind. In fact, the U.S. could be eliminated from the tournament as early as Saturday if Mexico (1-1) knocks off Canada (0-1) and surprising Italy (2-0) defeats them in the nightcap. If that happens, Sunday's U.S./Canada tilt will feel like the old consolation games in the NCAA tournament.

    If not for Marlins closer Steve Cishek, the predicament for Team USA would even be worse than it is already. Run differential is used in the tie-breaking formula to determine which teams advance, and with Mexico leading 5-1 in the eighth, Torre brought in Cishek with precious runners at second and third and one out.

    "We're all very aware of it," Cishek said of the tie-breaking formula, which could become necessary if three teams in the round-robin event finish with identical records -- a real possibility. Two teams from Pool D in Arizona will advance to the second round in Miami next week.

    After intentionally walking pinch-hitter Efren Navarro to load the bases, Cishek retired another left-handed pinch-hitter, Walter Ibarra, on a shallow fly ball to left and ended the threat by getting ex-Marlins teammate Gil Velazquez on an easy bouncer to second. (Former Marlins, by the way, are everywhere in the WBC. Jorge Cantu collected a pair of hits for Mexico in the win.)

    "Every run that crosses that plate matters in this tournament," Cishek said. "So, obviously, putting up a zero right there was key. That was my job and my objective."

     Cishek said he was "excited and fired up to be out there." The crowd, which seemed to be split about equally between Mexican and U.S. fans, totaled 44,256.

     "The atmosphere was electric in here, so I was pretty fired up," said Cishek, who threw only eight pitches, four of which were necessary to issue the intentional free pass. "It was a pretty cool atmosphere. It was definitely different. It was non-stop energy throughout the game. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us."

March 08, 2013

Espada checked into Stanton's Puerto Rican heritage before WBC

SAN JUAN -- Marlins outfield coach Joe Espada, serving as assistant for the Puerto Rican National team during the World Baseball Classic, said Friday afternoon that although he's having fun representing his nation he does miss the guys back in Jupiter.

"I've been looking at the box scores, keeping up with text messages with Bone [infield coach Perry Hill], [bench coach] Rob [Leary] and [base-running coordinator Terrell Brock] who is helping me with the outfielders," Espada said. "This is my country, but I miss my guys in the big league level who are trying to improve."

One guy Espada wishes he could have brought with him to Puerto Rico is the 6-5, 245-pound monster who is currently roaming right field for Team USA, All-Star Giancarlo Stanton. In fact, Espada said he tried his best to find a way to get Stanton to play for Puerto Rico. But Stanton, whose mother has Puerto Rican heritage, "wasn't as close as it needed to be to make him eligible," Espada said.

"We were looking at it for awhile," Espada said. "I was working on that since last year. It had been a long investigation to see how close that relationship was leading into this tournament. He had a grandmother or great grandmother supposedly who had the connection. But it was way back, not close enough to be native."

Puerto Rico, which finished fifth in both previous WBC tournaments, doesn't have the same caliber team it has had in the past. Just three of the 28 players on the roster are All-Stars: outfielder Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios and catcher Yadier Molina. Last year there were only 17 Puerto Ricans in the majors. There were 53 in 2001. 

But Espada said there are good, young up-and-coming players the island is producing. Last year the top pick in the MLB Draft was Puerto Rican-born shortstop Carlos Correa. There were 25 Puerto Ricans taken in the draft overall. Twins right-hander Jose Berrios, 18, is on Puerto Rico's WBC team. He was taken with the 32nd pick in last year's draft. Berrios 

"He has great stuff," said former Marlins pitcher Javi Vazquez, who would have pitched for Puerto Rico in the tournament had he not injured his knee a month ago. "I heard he works hard. That's one of the things for the young kids to work hard. I know he's also got a great feel for pitching and not all the young kids have it. He does."

Michael Wuertz released; Marlins trim 11 from roster

       The Marlins trimmed 11 players from their spring roster on Friday. Among the departures: right-handed reliever Michael Wuertz, who was released, and left-handed reliever Scott Maine, who was optioned to Triple A New Orleans.

       Completing the list:

       -- Right-handed reliever Arquimedes Caminero and third baseman Zack Cox were optioned to Double A Jacksonville.

       -- Right-handed pitcher Michael Brady, left-handed pitchers Adam Conley, Brian Flynn, and Raudel Lazo, infielders Danny Black and Derek Dietrich and outfielder Kevin Mattison were reassigned to minor league camp.

       The transactions reduced the spring roster to 61 players.

March 07, 2013

Former Marlins reunite in San Juan and joke about being traded

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

Fee-fi-fo-fum! Giancarlo Stanton is like fairy tale giant to R.A. Dickey

        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."

Marlins Tidbits: Loria "Truth-o-Meter," Silverio, Marisnick, Polanco injuries

     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 CabreraJose 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:


• 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.