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.