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40 posts from April 2013

April 10, 2013

Valaika to get his first career start -- Little League included -- at first base versus Braves

As a utility infielder Chris Valaika said he's always had a first baseman's glove in his travel bag just in case it has been needed in an emergency situation. 

It isn't exactly an emergency situation now, but Valaika will finally be putting his first baseman's glove to work tonight. The Marlins are starting the 27-year old at first base against the Braves. It's not just the first time Valaika will be playing first base in the big leagues. It's the first time ever in a game -- Little League included.

"With Cincinnati I had always taken ground balls over there just in case," said Valaika, who in a span of 35 games over three-plus big league seasons has played third base, second base and shortstop, but never first. 

"There was a time when Joey [Votto] was out where I almost got in. But it never happened. This is Day 1."

Valaika, who has known for the past few days he would likely get a start at first, is getting the nod to play first because Marlins skipper Mike Redmond said he wanted to give Greg Dobbs the day off against Braves left-hander Mike Minor. Valaika, a right-handed hitter, is a career .284 hitter. He's been taking grounders at first with the Marlins since the spring and began getting more work there once Casey Kotchman went on the disabled list last Thursday with a strained left hamstring. 

"We've talked about the position we're in over there," Redmond said. "[Valaika] had some good at-bats the other day in New York against lefty. This is the situation we're in. We need somebody to play first. He's the guy. I feel 100 percent confident he can go over there and do a good job."

Redmond said first base help could be on the way in the next week or two. Left-handed hitting Joe Mahoney, who showed some power this spring before straining his oblique and going on the disabled list on March 22nd, played in his first rehab game Wednesday and went 1-for-4 with a home run and two strikeouts in extended spring training according to Redmond. Mahoney is expected to get some more at-bats in Single A Jupiter soon, Redmond said.

"We all liked him in spring training," Redmond said of Mahoney. "When we talked about a guy who could potentially hit behind Stanton he was one of the guys. He has a lot of pop. He was having a good spring and just got hurt that last two weeks of spring training and that was it. Had he stayed healthy, that decision probably would have been a lot tougher."

> Logan Morrison, who was slated to be the Marlins Opening Day first baseman but is still recovering from knee surgery, said Monday his target date for his first rehab action is May 3rd. Morrison is hitting, throwing and now just beginning to put his full weight on his knee while running.

> Tuesday night's announced crowd of 14,222 was the smallest in Marlins Park's brief two-year history. The Marlins, who obviously expected smaller crowds this season with only 5,000 season ticket holders (a drop off from 12,000 a year ago), only drew fewer than Tuesday's total 14 times in their final year at Sun Life Stadium.


> Braves (7-1): 1. Andrelton Simmons SS, 2. Jason Heyward RF, 3. Jason Upton LF, 4. Evan Gattis C, 5. Dan Uggla 2B, 6. Juan Francisco 3B, 7. Chris Johnson 1B, 8. Jordan Schafer CF, 9. LHP Mike Minor.

> Marlins (1-7): 1. Juan Pierre LF, 2. Donovan Solano 2B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Placido Polanco 3B, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Miguel Olivo C, 7. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 8. Chris Valaika 1B, 9. RHP Alex Sanabia.

April 09, 2013

Stanton's three walks Monday a good sign says Redmond

After striking out 10 times during the Marlins' opening six-game road trip, Giancarlo Stanton on Monday night displayed the kind of patience the team wants him to have this season, drawing a career-high three walks against the Braves.

It's the first time this season an opponent didn't give Stanton anything to hit according to skipper Mike Redmond. Stanton, hitting just .174 (4 for 23) with no homers or RBI, did strike out once looking. But the effort was a sign he's being more selective and waiting to swing at the pitches he wants to swing at.

Stanton estimated he saw "probably two" pitches he wanted to swing at Monday. Stanton saw 21 pitches Monday in all. He fouled off two and took another five for strikes. Only two of the pitches in the strike zone were fastballs.

"He just has to continue to prepare himself and be ready to hit," Redmond said. "Somebody is going to make a mistake and he's going to make someone pay. Once he does that should alleviate any stress he has.

"Last night was good. They threw him some pitches where he could have swung and he laid off. That shows progress. There's going to come a point where he finally relaxes and says I'm not worried about getting a hit or hitting a home run and when that happens it will all come together."


Adeiny Hechavarria's sliding, behind-the-head catch in Monday's 2-0 loss to the Braves earned top Web Gem honors on ESPN's Baseball Tonight telecast.

Hechavarria, who ran a long way from his shortstop position and into foul territory in shallow left field to make the grab, said Tuesday he didn't know if he had a chance at first to make the grab but hustled after it anyway.

"On my way to it I saw I could reach it, but when I slid the air took it and I completely lost it," said Hechavarria, who swung his glove behind his head before making the no-look grab. "When I caught it I said 'Wow! I can't believe it.' One of the best catches I've ever made."


Even tough he got a chance to play a few games at home during the World Baseball Classic last month, Stanton said Tuesday he's still getting adjusted to the new grass that was installed at Marlins Park during the off-season.

"Super fast," Stanton said when asked to give his assessment of the the new Tifway 419 Bermuda grass in the outfield that replaced the Celebration Bermuda grass, which began to brown in certain patches during the park's inaugural season.

"It's almost like astroturf fast. Doesn't remind me of any grass field I've played on before."

The outfield grass at Marlins Park, the same as the one used at Sun Life Stadium, is different than what it is being used in the infield and in foul territory. That sod is known as Platinum TE Paspalum. But it too plays fast.

"Different than last year for sure," second baseman Donovan Solano said. "The grass was quick, faster. I felt the difference. I don't know if its the same as Washington or Atlanta or any other new stadium. Hechevarria told me it was faster in Toronto because of the turf."

The Marlins would eventually like to use the Platinum TE Paspalum grass throughout the park. There simply wasn't enough available for the start of the season.

Stadium officials have brought in special lights from Holland -- similar to the ones used in European soccer leagues -- to make sure this grass doesn't begin decay. Redmond said Tuesday he expects the team will play more games with the roof open this season because park officials want the grass to grow.

The Marlins played just eight of their 81 home games last season with the roof open. They went 4-4 in those games.


> Atlanta (6-1): 1. B.J. Upton CF, 2 Andrelton Simmons SS, 3. Justin Upton LF, 4. Evan Gattis C, 5. Dan Uggla 2B, 6. Juan Francisco 3B, 7. Chris Johnson 1B, 8. Reed Johnson RF, 9. RHP Kris Medlen.

> Marlins (1-6): 1. Juan Pierre LF, 2. Chris Coghlan CF, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Placido Polanco 3B, 5. Greg Dobbs 1B, 6. Donovan Solano 2B, 7. Rob Brantly C, 8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 9. LHP Wade LeBlanc.

April 08, 2013

Marlins players, coaches not worried about negative feedback from fans on Opening Night

The roof will be open for Opening Night tonight at Marlins Park. 

How many fans actually come into the building to watch baseball remains to be seen. But Marlins players and coaches say they are not worried about any of that. They're job is simply to win games.

"We were wondering if we were going to get little Brazlilian girls bringing us out today," joked right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, obviously making a reference to last year's Opening Night when players were accompanied to the field by women wearing carnival outfits.

"[As for the fans] they're not going to be negative towards us. I don't know how many will be here. But I expect a positive reaction."

Unlike Ozzie Guillen who got a chance to manage few a games at Marlins Park in the preseason a year ago, skipper Mike Redmond will be managing his first game at Marlins Park tonight. He said his club is excited about making its home debut -- regardless of the negativity the franchise has faced since the dismantling of last year's club.

"I know it's tough," Redmond said. "All I can do is focus on the 25 guys in the clubhouse... I feel like we can get this back in the winning direction, the direction we're all use to and accustomed to. I just want them [the fans] to hang in there and watch the Stantons and these exciting young players -- the [Jose] Fernandezes."


> Braves (5-1): 1. B.J. Upton CF, 2. Jason Heyward RF, 3. Justin Upton LF, 4. Evan Gattis C, 5. Dan Uggla 2B, 6. Juan Francisco 3B, 7. Chris Johnson 1B, 8. Andrelton Simmons SS, 9. Paul Maholm LHP.

> Marlins (1-5): 1. Juan Pierre LF, 2. Placido Polanco 3B, 3. Giancarlo Stnaton RF, 4. Greg Dobbs 1B, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Rob Brantly C, 7. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 8. Donovan Solano 2B, 9. Kevin Slowey RHP.

April 07, 2013

Jose Fernandez discusses MLB debut (video)

Jose Fernandez K's 8 in MLB debut

    NEW YORK -- Rather impressive debut by 20-year-old Jose Fernandez, who whiffed eight Mets before departing after the fifth.

    According to baseballreference.com, since 1916 only six other starting pitchers under the age of 21 struck out as many in their MLB debuts: Dave Morehead (10 in 1963), Rudy May (10 in 1965), Curt Simmons (9 in 1947), Denny McLain (8 in 1963), Gary Nolan (8 in 1967) and David Clyde (8 in 1973).

    Fernandez retired the first 10 batters he faced before giving up a one-out single to Daniel Murphy in the fourth. The Mets got to him for a run in the fifth after Ruben Tejada reached on a one-out single and scored on Anthony Recker's double on a 1-2 pitch.

    The rookie right-hander finished the day allowing a run on three hits and a walk over five innings.

    Other notable MLB debuts by Marlins starters:

    Josh Beckett (9/4/2001): 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

    Dontrelle Willis (5/9/2003): 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 7 K

    Livan Hernandez (6/15/1997): 5 IP, 3 ER, 6 K

    The Marlins, who have Fernandez on a pitch/inning limit, allowed him to 80 pitches, 53 for strikes.

April 05, 2013

Marlins call up Kyle Skipworth

     NEW YORK -- The Marlins are calling up catcher Kyle Skipworth to fill the roster spot of first baseman Casey Kotchman, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

     The Marlins didn't have many options. Three of their primary first basemen are on the disabled list and Skipworth and outfielder Kyle Jensen were the only two healthy position players left on the 40-man roster that they could select from.

     Skipworth, of course, if a former first-round draft pick -- taken one spot behind Giants catcher Buster Posey -- and received plenty of playing time during spring training after Jeff Mathis went out with a broken collarbone.

     Skipworth, along with Rob Brantly and Miguel Olivo, gives the Marlins three catchers on the roster. But Olivo could fill in as a back-up first baseman for Greg Dobbs, who is expected to receive the bulk of playing time there in Kotchman's absence.


     The Marlins are the eighth team since 1916 to score only one run in their first three games. (No team has ever been shut out in their first three). Along with the Marlins, the following seven teams scored just once in their opening three: 1988 Baltimore Orioles, 1969 Houston Astros, 1968 Los Angeles Dodgers, 1979 Atlanta Braves, 1937 Boston Bees, 1963 New York Mets and 1933 Boston Braves. That Orioles team lost its first 21 games.

April 04, 2013

Casey Kotchman to go on DL as first base woes continue for Marlins

     WASHINGTON -- It's the 75th anniversary of Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on First?" comedy skit.

     But the first base situation for the Marlins is no laughing matter. Manager Mike Redmond said Casey Kotchman, who strained his left hamstring while running out a ground ball on Wednesday, will be placed on the 15-day disabled list.

      The Marlins now have three first basemen on the DL -- Kotchman, Logan Morrison and Joe Mahoney -- and have no other first basemen on their 40-man roster they can bring up to fill in. Greg Dobbs is starting at first for the Marlins in today's game, and Austin Kearns could play there in a pinch. Redmond said Chris Valaika and even backup catcher Miguel Olivo could man the position if necessary, too.

       But it's not a good situation for the Marlins at the moment. They signed Kotchman as insurance knowing Morrison wouldn't be ready until May at the earliest. Mahoney is trying to work his way back from an oblique injury and is swinging off a tee. But he's 7-10 days away from getting back on the field.

       "We are currently trying to figure out a roster move, what we're going to do," Redmond said. "Right now Dobber is going to play quite a bit of first base."

       Redmond said the Marlins might not necessarily replace Kotchman on the 25-man roster with another primary first baseman. It could be another position player. While not ruling out the possibility, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said he is also reluctant to add a non-roster player because it would mean exposing another member of the 40-man to waivers. The Marlins lost reliever Evan Reed on a waiver claim earlier this week when they designated him for assignment in order to create room on the roster for other additions.

        "Usually first base, it doesn't seem like it's a tough position to fill," Redmond said. "You think of all the positions, you usually have a ton of first basemen. I don't know if I've ever been around a team that hasn't had multiple first basemen. So it's odd that we're sitting here talking about three injured first baseman already this spring. It's definitely been a challenge."

        Kotchman said it's the first time in his career he has suffered a hamstring injury.

        "I heard a pop probably two to three strides before the bag, and kept running, and when I got to the bag I went down," Kotchman said.

        Redmond said the Marlins would wait until Friday to place Kotchman on the DL, at which time they'll make a corresponding move.

Miami Marlins on cusp of baseball history for ineptitude

     WASHINGTON -- The Marlins wake up this morning on the brink of baseball history. They haven't just lost their first two games. They've been blanked in both. And, according to Baseballreference.com, no team since 1916 has started a season by coming up completely empty in its first three games. EVER.

      As it now stands, the Marlins are one of only 11 teams to suffer shutout losses in their first two games. They've played 18 innings and the closest they've come to crossing home plate was when Giancarlo Stanton was tagged out about 10 feet shy of the dish in Monday's 2-0 setback.

      Believe it or not, there actually exists a silver lining -- a tiny thread of hope -- in their early struggles. The St. Louis Cardinals of 1943 also hung up all zeroes in their first two games but managed to finish with 105 victories and a trip to the World Series.

      More often than not, though, putting up a pair of doughnuts to start the season is a sign of things to come. The 1963 Mets would go on to lose 111 games. The 1974 Padres lost 102. And so on and so forth. It's not a pretty picture.

      In reverse chronological order, here are thumbnail sketches of the 10 teams that stumbled out of the starting gate as anemically as the Marlins have:

      2002 San Diego Padres -- The Padres were done in by the Arizona pitching one-two punch of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling before breaking through in the first inning of their third game when Ron Gant's sacrifice fly plated his team's first run. Scoreless innings to start season: 18. Final record: 66-96.

       1994 Pittsburgh Pirates -- Barry Bonds bolted the Steel City following the '92 season, which also happens to be the last time the Bucs posted a winning record. In '94, the Pirates failed to score their first two games against the Giants' John Burkett and Bill Swift. Not until Andy Van Slyde homered off Mark Portugal in the fifth inning of the third game did they end the drought. Scoreless innings to start season: 23. Final record: 53-61.

       1980 Atlanta Braves -- The Braves fired blanks in their first two games, losing to Cincinnati's Frank Pastore and Mike LaCoss, though the second of those two shutouts was called after six due to rain. Not until Biff Pocoroba drove in Chris Chambliss with a RBI single in the 7th inning of the third game could the Braves breathe a bit easier. Scoreless innings to start season: 21. Final record: 81-80.

       1977 Seattle Mariners -- The Mariners came up all goose eggs to the Angels' Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan to start the season before Dan Meyers drove in Dave Collins with a RBI double in the third inning of the season's third game. Scoreless innings to start season: 21. Final record: 64-98.

       1974 San Diego Padres -- Hey, it's the Padres again. The Dodgers' Don Sutton and Tommy John shackled the Padres' lineup to start the season, and Andy Messersmith kept the scoreless run going before Willie McCovey ended the drought with his RBI single to score Bobby Tolan in the 6th inning of the third game. Scoreless innings to start season: 23. Final record: 60-102.

       1968 Los Angeles Dodgers -- The Dodgers came up short against the Phillies' Chris Short in the season opener before falling to the Mets' Jerry Koosman in the second game. Thanks to Don Drysdale, the Dodgers eked out a 1-0 victory in the third game, scoring their only run in the second inning on Ron Fairly's solo home run off Don Cardwell. Scoreless innings to start season: 19. Final record: 76-86.

        Time out for a trivia question: Ron Fairly hit his first major league home run at the age of 19 and his last when he was 39. Only two players (CORRECTION: three players) in major league history have hit homers as teenagers and in their 40s. Who are they? (Spoiler alert: "Answer Man" has produced the correct answer, and even corrected the original question, down below.)

      1963 New York Mets -- This team was awful, so taking shutout losses in their first two games came as no great surprise. The Cardinals' Ernie Broglio did them in in the season opener while Ray Washburn took care of them in the second game. Duke Snider homered in the second inning of the third game -- off Warren Spahn, no less -- to get the Mets on the board for the first time. Scoreless innings to start season: 19. Final record: 51-111.

        1947 Cleveland Indians -- The Indians opened with shutout losses to the White Sox and Eddie Lopat and the Tigers and Virgil Trucks (who just died a couple of weeks ago) before scoring their first run in the first inning of the third game. Lou Boudreau was the first to touch the plate for the Tribe. Scoreless innings to start season: 18. Final record: 80-74.

        1943 St. Louis Cardinals -- The '43 Cards opened the season with a couple of tough 1-0 losses, losing in 11 innings to the Reds and Johnny Vander Meer in the opener and in 10 innings the following day. Ray Starr started for the Reds. Stan Musial scored the Cardinals' first run in the sixth inning of the third game. Scoreless innings to start season: 26. Final record: 105-49-3.

        1940 Washington Senators -- The Senators were blanked by Boston's Lefty Grove and Jim Bagby in the first two games before scoring off the Yankees' Lefty Gomez in the second inning of the third game. Scoreless innings to start season: 19. Final record: 64-90.

        So pull up a chair later today and see if the Marlins can do what no team has ever done before. Jordan Zimmermann is on the mound for the Nationals.

April 03, 2013

Tino Martinez, Mike Redmond no match for Jose Fernandez

     WASHINGTON -- Five days before he faces major league hitters for the first time, Jose Fernandez impressed a couple of former players with his stuff when he threw a 50-pitch simulation game at Nationals Park.

      Marlins manager Mike Redmond and hitting coach Tino Martinez stood in the box against Fernandez, who got in his final work before his major league debut Sunday at Citi Field in New York.

       "I didn't get any hits," Redmond said. "It took me three at bats before I made contact. But I figured that was pretty good since I hadn't had an at bat in three years."

       Perhaps no one was more impressed with Fernandez than veteran catcher Miguel Olivo, who was behind the plate for Tuesday's mound workout.

       "I was surprised," said Olivo, who only joined the team a few days ago and hadn't seen Fernandez in person, much less catch the 20-year-old hurler. "It's amazing. When you see a young kid like that, 20 years old, and he has the control that he has, and the look on the mound like he's been in the league for five years. It was amazing."


       With left-hander Gio Gonzalez taking the mound tonight for the Nationals, Olivo will be making his first start for the Marlins since the end of the 2007 season. Justin Ruggiano is in center.

        The lineups:

        Marlins: 1. Juan Pierre, lf; 2. Donovan Solano, 2b; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 4. Placido Polanco, 3b; 5. Justin Ruggiano, cf; 6. Miguel Olivo, c; 7. Casey Kotchman, 1b; 8. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 9. Kevin Slowey, p.

        Nationals: 1. Denard Span, cf; 2. Jayson Werth, rf; 3. Bryce Harper, lf; 4. Ryan Zimmerman, 3b; 5. Adam LaRoche, 1b; 6. Ian Desmond, ss; 7. Danny Espinosa, 2b; 8. Kurt Suzuki, c; 9. Gio Gonzalez, p.

         Umpires: HP Eric Cooper; 1B Paul Schreiber; 2B Chad Fairchild; 3B Jeff Kellogg (cc)


        The much-celebrated trio of outfielders for Double A Jacksonville -- Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna -- are all starting the season on the disabled list. The Suns' season-opener is Thursday.

         Yelich has a stone bruise on his left heel, Marisnick is dealing with a broken hand and Ozuna has a fractured left wrist.

         Yelich isn’t expected to miss much time.


          Gorkys Hernandez, Zack Cox and Scott Maine have all cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple A New Orleans. But the Detroit Tigers claimed one of the other four players the Marlins designated for assignment -- right-pitcher Evan Reed -- on Wednesday.

          The four players were designated to make room for additions to the 40-man roster.


         Heath Bell’s debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday was reminiscent of many of his outings last season with the Marlins. Bell, who entered in the seventh inning with Arizona trailing 3-1 to St. Louis, gave up a home run on the first pitch he threw, walked a batter, and then gave up another first-pitch home run.

         All told, Bell went one-third inning, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk.


April 02, 2013

Talking Jose Fernandez, Marlins with ESPN's Keith Law

    WASHINGTON -- Dealing with a nasty head cold and haven't left my hotel room on what is an off day for the Marlins before they return to action Wednesday against Gio Gonzalez and the Nats. Kevin Slowey will be on the hill for the Marlins, seeking his first major league win since 2010.

     Jose Fernandez was scheduled to throw a 50-pitch "sim game" at Nationals Park this morning in preparation for his big-league debut on Sunday in New York. There's been quite a bit of debate surrounding the Marlins' decision to have Fernandez start the season with them rather than have the 20-year-old first gain some additional seasoning at Double A and, perhaps more significantly, push back the start of free agency by a year. I spoke about Fernandez and other Marlins-related issues this morning with ESPN's Keith Law. Here's the podcast of that discussion. I begin talking at about the 19:20 mark if you wish to fast forward.

      Along those lines, here's an opinion piece on the matter in which Jeff Moore of The Hardball Times argues that the Fernandez decision was a bad one by the Marlins.

      Tell us what you think. Should the Marlins have had Fernandez, who has never pitched above high A, gain more seasoning at Double A Jacksonville before bringing him up? Or did they make the right move?