While the Marlins were losing their ninth straight on Thursday, Jake Marisnick was unleashing up in the Florida panhandle, belting two grand slams in back-to-back innings for Double A Jacksonville. This qualifies as reason for hope for the punchless Marlins.
Not that Marisnick, one of the organization's top prospects, is regarded as a big power guy. He's averaged about one homer for every 41 at bats so far in his minor league career. But it's a sign of promise for the Marlins, who are banking on Marisnick and others to turn the franchise around in years to come.
As for clubbing grand slams in back-to-back innings, it's happened six times in the majors, most recently by Josh Willingham in 2009 when "Hammer" was with Washington. Nobody tops Fernando Tatis, though. Tatis connected on two grand slams in the same inning for the Cardinals in a 1999 game.
Jacob Turner, the 22-year old right-hander the Marlins acquired in their trade with the Tigers last season, will make his 2013 debut for the Marlins on Friday against the Mets. The announcement is expected to be made by the team after Thursday's game.
Turner went 0-3 with a 9.69 ERA in 13 innings of work and four starts this spring, and struggled initially when he began the season in Triple A New Orleans, giving up 11 combined earned runs in his first three starts.
But since then, he's gone at least six innings and given up three earned runs or less in his last seven starts for the Zephyrs. He's now 3-4 wit a 4.47 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 14 walks in Triple A.
Turner, a 2009 first round pick, went 1-4 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts for the Marlins after being acquired in July and called up in late August.
It's hard to tell where exactly Giancarlo Stanton is in his comeback from a second degree hamstring injury these days.
One minute his manager is telling reporters the All-Star right fielder is backing off his rehab because of sore knees. The next, Stanton can be seen running in the Marlins outfield during batting practice. Such was the case Thursday.
"Stanton came in a couple days ago with some sore knees. We've had to back him off," Mike Redmond told reporters before Thursday's game when asked if he had any health updates among the laundry list of injuries on the team. "He just started lightly jogging and is now complaining about his knees being sore. So, that's where we're at with that. He's still playing catch and hitting, but not being able to run."
"Disappointing?," Redmond said with a chuckle under his breath. "That's an understatement. That's an understatement."
Less than 20 minutes later, after stretching alongside his teammates before batting practice, Stanton was seen working with the Marlins training staff and running in the outfield grass.
Stanton said Wednesday he no longer feels pain in his hamstring, but added "it's more about letting it go." We assume he meant the fear of re-injuring himself.
On Wednesday, Redmond was asked how much longer he thought Stanton might be out.
"It's really just up to him and to how he's feeling now and when he's ready to start," Redmond said. "He can start anyday. It's really up to him when he feels good to go start on a rehab [assignment]."
I don't know about you, but that sounds like a manager saying it all comes down to the pain tolerance of his player.
> The Marlins will announce after Thursday's game who their Friday night starter will be. Chances are it will be left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who hasn't pitched since tossing three scoreless innings of relief Sunday against the White Sox.
LeBlanc has posted a 3.09 ERA in the five relief appearances since being yanked out of the rotation on May 6th. He was 0-5 with a 6.11 ERA before that.
"It's like a non-stop, constant battle to keep your mind in the same spot," LeBlanc said when asked if he's learned anything about starting pitching since being yanked from the rotation. "There's a lot of things that can go wrong. Broken bat pitches, errors, mistakes on your part. You have to keep flushing away and moving onto the next pitch because your whole job as a starting pitcher is to go as deep as you can with 100 pitches and give your team a chance to win.
"If you're focused on all the negative things its not going to allow you to move on. At times I let bad luck or whatever you want to call it get into my head. I put pressure on myself to make the perfect pitch instead of just letting go. That's the main thing I've been focusing on -- not really worrying about the results, but the process in my mind."
> Redmond said in a perfect situation he'd like to move the red-hot Chris Coghlan out of the team's leadoff spot and in a position where he could drive in runs. But since moving into the starting lineup 11 games ago, Coghlan has been getting on base more often than anyone on the team. He's hitting .351 with three doubles, three triples, a home run and four RBI over the stretch.
"He's not a prototypical leadoff hitter, but then again we don't have a prototypical three or four hole hitter either," Redmond said. "So it's just one of those spots where I feel like he's giving us good at-bats. I'm trying to get guys on base for the middle of the order. We get some guys on base at least they'll have an opportunity to drive someone in. Right now, he's the guy getting on base so we're hitting him in the top of the order.
> Hitting coach Tino Martinez said it's been a tough battle this season trying to get his younger hitters to take pitchers deeper into counts while still being aggressive and swinging at good pitches. Wednesday, Rays sinkerballer Roberto Hernandez became the latest opposing starter to get deep into the game with a low pitch count, a problem the Marlins have had all season.
"There's a lot of young hitters in here," Martinez said. "[Adeiny] Hechavarria, a lot of those young guys, they're free swingers. They like to swing at the first one or two pitches. I don't want to take that aggressiveness away from them yet I want them to be more patient at times when they have to be and not chase pitches out of the zone. They're becoming tougher outs, which is what I want."
While the Marlins are the worst offensive team in baseball, they are fairly successful when they swing at the first pitch, hitting .286 as a team with five homers and 21 RBI.
Here's a list of how the Marlins hit as a team in all counts in order of when the at-bat ends: 1-2 counts (.147 in 293 at-bats), 2-2 (.178 in 247 ABs), 0-1 counts (.191 in 204 ABs), first pitch (.286 in 199 ABs), 1-1 (.273 in 183 ABs), 0-2 (.163 in 172 ABs), 3-2 (.197 in 152 ABs), 1-0 (.289 in 121 ABs), 2-1 (.296 in 108 ABs), 2-0 (.351 in 34 ABs), 3-1 (.471 in 34 ABs) 3-0 (.000 with 30 BBs).
The most aggressive first pitch swingers are Justin Ruggiano (24 ABs), Rob Brantly (20 ABs), Greg Dobbs (19 ABs), Chris Coghlan (17 ABs) and Adeiny Hechavarria (17 ABs). Coghlan is hitting .353, Ruggiano .375 and Brantly .400 on first pitch contact. But Dobbs is hitting .211 and Hechavarria is hitting only .176.
"Some guys like to swing at the first pitch, but in general if the guy in front of you swings at the first pitch, the guy behind you has got to take," Redmond said "We've got to eliminate the five pitch inning. That just doesn't cut it. Part of that is youth. We got to keep reminding guys we can't allow the pitcher to go out there and throw seven pitches and get three outs."
> Marlins (13-40): 1. Chris Coghlan LF, 2. Placido Polanco 3B, 3. Derek Dietrich 2B, 4. Marcell Ozuna RF, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Greg Dobbs 1B, 7. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 8. Rob Brantly C, 9. Ricky Nolasco RHP.
> Rays (28-24): 1. Ben Zobrist 2B, 2. Matt Joyce RF, 3. Kelly Johnson LF, 4. Evan Longoria 3B, 5. James Loney 1B, 6. Desmond Jennings CF, 7. Yunel Escobar SS, 8. Jose Molina C, 9. Alex Colome RHP.
Just like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James did before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Marlins have decided to honor the young life and spirit of local cancer fighter Bella Rodriguez-Torres, who passed away on Tuesday after a six-year battle with a rare, aggressive form of the disease.
The Marlins will hang a jersey with the phrase "#LiveLikeBella" in their dugout during Wednesday's game at Marlins Park against the Tampa Bay Rays. Tuesday, Wade and James wrote the same phrase on their sneakers before they took on the Pacers.
Rodriguez-Torres's fight against cancer made news over the last few the years as her story picked up steam on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Her father wrote a book about his daughter’s ordeal with rhabdomyosarcoma as she went through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery and coined the phrase, “Live Like Bella.” The family created her own popular website.
"You guys obviously know about my experience with cancer and my father," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. "Being a part of the community down here I know this has been a story that's touched so many peoples lives. I just thought it was appropriate we got a jersey for her and kind of honored her. It has affected my life, cancer, losing my dad. A story like that out of such a young girl, 10 years old, obviously touched me. I know some of the guys know about it too. We just felt it was the right thing to do, the appropriate thing to do to honor her."
LUCAS GETS CALL
After 10 years of fighting through the minor leagues, veteran utility man Ed Lucas finally got the call up he had been hoping for Tuesday when the Marlins designated infielder Nick Green for assignment and selected the contract of the 31-year old Lucas from Triple A New Orleans.
Lucas, a former eighth round pick of the Royals and the oldest player in the Marlins organization who had yet to play at the big league level, is expected to be used all over the field while the Marlins wait for several of their injured players to return from the disabled list.
"It was a pretty big surprise," said Lucas, who was hitting .304 with five homers and 14 RBI for the Zephyrs. "I'd been doing OK. But it's been 10 years and to finally get that call. At some point you kind of stopped expecting and kind of put it in the back of your mind, hoping it will come."
Lucas said he and his New Orleans teammates were running sprints before their game Tuesday when manager Ron Hassey called the entire team into the clubhouse "and broke the good news in front of everybody."
"Lot of hugs, lot of congratulations, especially in my case just because I've been around so long," said Lucas, who in 925 career minor league games is a .278 hitter with 66 homers and 418 RBI. "I think a lot of people who have put in a lot of time can relate to my situation. A lot of well wishes, a lot of congratulations and its really good to see that kind of support from the team. In this kind of day in age it's dog eat dog. It was nice to get some heartfelt appreciation."
Lucas said his parents, who live about four hours north of Miami in Deltona, along with his sister and fiancee were making the trip down for Wednesday's game. Lucas graduated from Dartmouth in 2004 when he was named the Ivy League Player of the Year. He majored in Sociology and Economics.
"This is the fun part of the job when you get to bring a kid to the big leagues who has been in the minor leagues forever," Redmond said. "Hopefully he'll come up and bring some energy and get some big hits for us."
THIS AND THAT
All-Star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, out since April 30, is still fighting his way back from a Grade 2 hamstring strain. Stanton said he's been picking up his speed while running on the outfield grass and simulating the cuts he needs to make while running the bases. But he still isn't going at full speed.
"It's really just up to him and to how he's feeling now and when he's ready to start," Redmond said. "He can start anyday. It's really up to him when he feels good to go start on a rehab [assignment]."
Stanton said he no longer feels pain in his hamstring and adds it's "more muscle memory and being able to let it go."
> Logan Morrison went 0-for-3 with a walk in Double A Jacksonville Suns debut Tuesday. He's now 4-for-26 (.154) with three RBI in seven minor league games since beginning his rehab assignment. Redmond said he expects Morrison will stay in the minors until his 20-day stint ends on June 8th.
> Marlins (13-39): 1. Chris Coghlan LF, 2. Placido Polanco 3B, 3. Derek Dietrich 2B, 4. Marcell Ozuna RF, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Greg Dobbs 1B, 7. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 8. Rob Brantly C, 9. Tom Koehler RHP.
> Rays (27-24): 1. Ben Zobrist 2B, 2. Matt Joyce RF, 3. Kelly Johnson LF, 4. Evan Longoria 3B, 5. James loney 1B, 6. Desmond Jennings CF, 7. Yunel Escobar SS, 8. Jose Molina C, 9. Roberto Hernandez RHP.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Could it get any worse for the Marlins? Well, as a matter of fact, it could.
The Marlins return home from their dismal road trip with a record of 5-20 for the month. It's only the sixth time in the history of the franchise that they've lost that many in one calendar month.
And, with three games still remaining in May, they have a chance to equal a franchise low-water mark. The record for worst monthly by a Marlins team belongs to the 2011 bunch, which went 5-23 in June of that season. Lose twice more to the Rays, as well as the series-opener on Friday to the Mets, and the Marlins are there.
Here is the complete list of 20-loss months by the Marlins through the years: 5-23 (June 2011); 5-20 (May 2013); 7-20 (May 1995); 7-20 (August 2011); 8-20 (May 1998); 8-20 (August 1998).
CHICAGO -- Alex Sanabia injured his groin Sunday and told reporters afterward he's headed to the disabled list, where he'll find plenty of company. The Marlins already have 11 players on the DL. Sanabia said he felt the injury early on in Sunday's outing but remained on the mound to spare the bullpen.
Sanabia is not scheduled to pitch again until Friday against the Mets, and it appears they'll plug his spot in the rotation with either Duane Below or Wade LeBlanc since there are indications the Marlins plan to call up left-handed reliever Dan Jennings from Triple A New Orleans.
Below had gone 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in four starts for New Orleans before his promotion to the Marlins. LeBlanc took over for Sanabia on Sunday and pitched three perfect innings against the White Sox.
Whether it's Below or LeBlanc, their stays in the rotation would likely be temporary, only long enough for Nathan Eovaldi to make another rehab start or two for Single A Jupiter before emerging from the DL and re-joining the Marlins rotation. That could be as early as the first week of June. Eovaldi made his first minor-league rehab start on Saturday for the Hammerheads and went five innings.
Don't look now, but the Marlins could be careening toward a historically bad month. They're 5-18 so far in May. Their worst month: June of 2011 when they went 5-23.
By losing Sunday, the Houston Astros remained a game behind the Marlins for the worst record in pro baseball (see standings from my previous post). But the Triple A Nashville Sounds won Sunday to drop two games behind the Marlins.
CHICAGO -- Never mind the Houston Astros, the major league team everyone keeps comparing the Marlins with in terms of utter futility. The Marlins have more than just the Astros to contend with as far as having the most abysmal won-loss record in North America.
That's right. When it comes to comparing pro teams with the worst records, I'm even including our friendly neighbors in Mexico. Because even the Mexican League doesn't have a team with as lousy a record as the Marlins, whose .265 winning percentage now gives them the distinction of being the absolute WORST PROFESSIONAL TEAM ON THE CONTINENT.
Keep an eye on the Nashville Sounds of the PCL, as they've been on a big losing roll that has them breathing down the Marlins' neck. The Sounds could be tough to shake. Even though it's early, it's shaping up to be a DOG fight to the end.
Check out the standings, which are arranged in inverse order:
Team (League) W L Pct. GB
Miami Marlins (MLB) 13 36 .265 --
Nashville Sounds (PCL) 13 34 .277 1
Houston Astros (MLB) 14 35 .286 1
Greenville Drive (Sally) 14 34 .292 1 1/2
Toledo Mud Hens (Intl.) 15 35 .300 2 1/2
Northwest Ark. Naturals (Tex) 14 31 .311 3
Lake Eisinore Storm (Calif.) 15 32 .319 3
Lake County Captains (Mid.) 15 30 .333 4
Petrolenos de Minatitla (Mex) 18 34 .346 3 1/2
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (South.) 16 30 .348 4 1/2
CHICAGO -- Mike Redmond remembers the last time he was at U.S. Cellular Field in a Marlins uniform. Everyone with that team remembers. It was September of 2004 and the Marlins, the defending World Series champs, were in the wild card hunt.
And then came Hurricane Ivan, which changed everything.
The Marlins were already in Chicago facing the Cubs, who were also in the wild card race, when Hurricane Ivan formed in the Atlantic and began to head on a path toward South Florida. Concerned that the storm would hit at around the same time the Marlins were scheduled to play a home series against the Expos, the decision was made to play those "home" games at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox.
"It was really weird," recalled Juan Pierre, who was also on that '04 team. "That's probably one of the weirdest games I've ever played in."
The Marlins tried making it seem like a home game. They flew up their own organist. They flew up Billy the Marlin. But it wasn't the same. It was bizarre. The crowds for the two games -- on Sept. 13 and 14 -- were small (4,003 and 5,457). Out of their hatred for the Cubs, some White Sox fans turned out just to cheer on the Marlins. Cubs fans showed up to cheer the Expos.
The Marlins won both games, but then collapsed, winning only seven of their remaining 21 games and dropping out of the wild card race. Right after playing the Expos in Chicago, the two teams flew to South Florida to play a doubleheader the next day.
"I think it kind of wore us out," Redmond said. "I think we were all looking forward to going home. And then we ended up going home and having to play a doubleheader. I remember getting home realy late and playing a doubleheader the next night, and I think it just wore us out. We were already kind of on fumes coming in. We had really fought hard to get back in it. And I think that was kind of the last straw where we ran out of gas. After that, we didn't play well."
It's unseasonably chilly here, so chilly that they've brought in space heaters to warm the Marlins dugout.
Kevin Slowey played catch earlier today and said he is good to go for his next start. Slowey came out of his last start with a lat injury, but said it wasn't severe.
Casey Kotchman (hamstring) made his first rehab start Thursday for Single A Jupiter and went 1 for 5. But another hamstring casualty, first baseman Joe Mahoney, complained of soreness after playing his first rehab game for the Hammerheads earlier in the week. Redmond said Mahoney will "back off" for a few days before returning to action.
Nathan Eovaldi is scheduled to make his first rehab start for Jupiter on Saturday. He is expected to throw 60-70 pitches.
Alex Sanabia said he had no idea that spitting on a baseball is prohibited.
"I didn't know it was illegal," Sanabia said Friday, four days after videotape captured the pitcher spitting on the baseball after giving up a home run to the Phillies' Domonic Brown. "I didn't think there was anything wrong with it. That's why I I openly did it."
Sanabia said he did what he did because the ball was slick.
"I wanted to get more grip," Sanabia said. "The next thing you know, I started getting messages saying you're on TV for spitting on the ball. I said 'You can't do that?' Well, apparently not. I don't read the rules, bro. My job is not to read the rulebook for (expletive) rule 821.29. Well now I know. I guess I should have known that, but I didn't. I'm pretty sure if I wanted to cheat, I wouldn't have rubbed it up the way I did. I would have just left that big ol' wad of spit on there and just threw it. But that wasn't the case."
Marlins: 1. Hechavarria, ss; 2. Polanco, 3b; 3. Dietrich, 2b; 4. Ozuna, rf; 5. Ruggiano, cf; 6. Coghlan, lf; 7. Olivo, dh; 8. Green, 1b; 9. Mathis, c. P -- Koehler.
White Sox: 1. De Aza, cf; 2. Ramirez, ss; 3. Rios, rf; 4. Dunn, dh; 5. Konerko, 1b; 6. Viciedo, lf; 7. Gillaspie, 3b; 8. Keppinger, 2b; 9. Gimenez, c. P -- Danks.
How much fun would it have been had the Marlins gone to the south side of Chicago this weekend with Ozzie Guillen still managing?
Guillen, fired after one season with the Marlins, managed the White Sox for eight colorful seasons in which he won a World Series but also openly feuded with members of the media as well as players and front office staff.
On Wednesday, Guillen told the Jonathon Brandmeier Show on Chicago's WGN 720-AM it is a little strange being out of baseball. Guillen signed a four-year deal with the Marlins and is still being paid "a lot of money" by the organization.
"If I said I didn't miss it, I would be lying,'' said Guillen, who managed the Marlins at Wrigley Field last year but the team didn't visit the Sox.
"Things are better and simpler without the stress. But you miss the players, being around people, being on the field. My family has made it easier. I've been traveling a lot.''
Guillen also added that when you Google his name, the first thing that pops up "are Fidel Castro pictures. That's stupid, but it is what it is.''
Guillen also said the Marlins told him he should buy a house in Miami -- something that sounds a little familiar.
Guillen, like Jose Reyes, didn't take that advice.
The third-base coach for the Marlins' 2003 championship team, Guillen said he had a house in the Miami area that he sold while managing the White Sox.
"I've lived in Miami, but I'm not a Miami type of guy,'' Guillen said. "You need to be single. Then you'll have fun. .-.-. In Miami, you can walk around and no one knows who you are unless you are Shaquille O'Neal or LeBron.''
-- Friday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (0-2, 2.82 ERA) at Chicago White Sox LHP John Danks (3-4, 5.70 in 2012), 8:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field.
-- Saturday: Marlins RHP Ricky Nolasco (3-5, 3.96) at Chicago White Sox RHP Jake Peavy (5-2, 3.31), 7:15 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field.
-- Scouting report: The Marlins went 2-7 on their previous homestand and have lost two straight. Koehler had the best start of his career last week against the Diamondbacks when he gave up a run off three hits with seven strikeouts in six innings. Miami lost that game 1-0.
PHOTO: Al Diaz, Miami Herald Staff
Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Tuesday that he didn't see pitcher Alex Sanabia spit on a baseball on Monday night -- but first base umpire Joe West did.
According to Redmond, West didn't say anything but tossed that ball out of play.
Redmond doesn't expect anything to happen to Sanabia since West didn't even mention it.
Sanabia declined all interview requests on Tuesday.
Video captured from Monday's Philadelphia broadcast briefly showed Sanabia spitting on a new baseball tossed to him moments after Domonic Brown deposited the previous one in the sparsely-filled right field seats.
Sanabia was seen vigorously rubbing down the ball as Brown rounded the bases, with one teammate joking "it was bone dry" afterward anyway.
Redmond said he didn't realize anything out of the ordinary -- and I'm not sure this is anything but ordinary save for it being caught on video -- until he saw the video later on.
"At the time it didn't make sense, but now it kind of does,'' Redmond said of West tossing the ball after the homer.
"Joe made him throw that ball out. I was wondering why. He must have seen him. I don't think [Sanabia spitting] was intentional. He rubbed the ball and I think he did it without knowing. Joe saw it and threw the ball out.''
-- Redmond said Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring) would take live BP on Wednesday and begin "functional running.''
Stanton has been taking batting practice in the cage. "He's cleared to hit,'' Redmond said.
Logan Morrison made his first start of his rehabilitation from knee surgery on Monday and went 2-for-5 for Single-A Jupiter.
Redmond said Morrison would be the designated hitter for the Hammerheads on Tuesday before playing first base on Wednesday. Redmond is expected to be back in the coming weeks.