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36 posts from July 2013

July 24, 2013

Jose Fernandez takes dip in Coors Field home run fountain

DENVER -- Jose Fernandez made himself at home in his first visit to Coors Field. Not only did Fernandez take care of the Rockies on Tuesday in another strong performance by the rookie All-Star, Fernandez said he also took advantage of the surroundings at Coors -- specifically, the home run fountain in center.

""The first day, I go back there behind center field and that thing back there -- that little pool back there -- I went in the water, and the water was nice and cool," Fernandez said. "So it was pretty fun. It was pretty nice. I'm going to do it. Why not?"

Fernandez took the mound for the first time since his All-Star outing last week and improved to 6-5, holding the Rockies to a pair of runs while striking out eight over seven innings. He gave up a solo homer to Todd Helton in the second, but very little else.

Fernandez, of course, was not the star of the game for the Marlins. Christian Yelich, making his major league debut, singled in each of his first three at bats and tied a franchise record by becoming only the third Marlins to have three hits in his first career game. The others: Mike Redmond in 1998 and Giancarlo Stanton (then known as Mike) in 2010.

Afterward, Redmond joked that he feared Yelich might break his record.

"I actually got a little bit nervous there, because I was 3 for 3 with a home run in my major league debut," Redmond said, tongue in cheek. "When he got that third hit, I thought, 'Man, there's no way this guy can top me.' I thought about maybe taking him out of the game."

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Marcell Ozuna, who was optioned following Monday's game to create roster space for Yelich and Jake Marisnick, will see a hand specialist in Miami on Wednesday. Ozuna jammed his left thumb while making a diving catch, and there is a good chance he'll end up on the disabled list. If so, he will continue to accrue big-league service time, and that's important for this reason: he could reach "Super Two" status and become eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season. Had he spent the remainder of the season in the minors, the date for his first big pay bump would have likely been pushed back until after 2016.

As it stands, Derek Dietrich, who was also optioned to Double A Jacksonville, will now likely have to wait until after '16 to become arbitration-eligible, even if he is brought back in September.

 

July 23, 2013

Rocky Mountain High: Yelich, Marisnick on their way up

     DENVER -- Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick -- two of the most promising young prospects in the Marlins' farm system - will make their way to the Mile High City on Tuesday and then make their big league debuts.

      Yelich, the Marlins' #2 ranked prospect by Baseball America, will start in left with Marisnick in center.

      To make room for the two outfielders, the Marlins optioned infielder Derek Dietrich and outfielder Marcell Ozuna to Double A Jacksonville.

      "I want to make this really clear, that the offensive woes of this team I don't want attributed to them," said Larry Beinfest, president of baseball operations, in making the announcement. "That's not why this is happening. Those kids did an incredible job. We rushed them here to the big leagues out of need. They had almost no Double A experience, and they did a great job for us."

      But it was clear in watching their at bats in Milwaukee that Dietrich and Ozuna were struggling badly, often swinging at pitches far out of the strike zone.

      "We just thought it warranted a time to go down to the minor leagues and work on some offensive things on both their parts," Beinfest said. "We asked a lot of them, putting them in the middle of the lineup. They're part of our future, and part of our future is coming as well."

      The Marlins have had high hopes for Yelich after since they drafted him in the first round in 2010. They acquired Marisnick, a skilled defensive outfielder, among a package of players in the blockbuster deal with Toronto last November.

       Yelich was hitting .277 with seven homers and an OPS of .882. He recently started in the Futures Game at Citi Field and had a pair of hits. Marisnick was hitting .295 with 12 homers and an OPS of .861.

       "This is a good time to bring them and let them have the experience," Beinfest said. "As a general rule, we don't like sitting young players, and they're not coming here to sit."

       Manager Mike Redmond confirmed as much, saying the two newcomers would be in Tuesday's starting outfield with Giancarlo Stanton.

       The Marlins will have to make room for Yelich and Marisnick on the 40-man roster, most likely with players already on the disabled list, Beinfest said.

       In the photo below, courtesy of the Jacksonville Suns, Yelich and Marisnick are congratulated by their teammates before heading off for Colorado to join the Marlins. Marisnick

July 22, 2013

Marlins react to Ryan Braun suspension

    DENVER -- The stereo inside the Marlins' clubhouse was playing Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." A handful of players were lounging on sofas in the center of the room, watching Kevin Millar gab on the MLB Network.

    And then came the news of the Ryan Braun suspension. In my 14 years covering the Marlins, I have never once seen a clubhouse react at once like it did Monday. The stereo was turned off quickly. Players seated at their lockers jumped from their chairs and congregated around the television to watch the news unfold. For at least 10 minutes, not a single word was spoken. Players were hushed and serious.

    Within minutes, reporters were whisked out of the clubhouse so that players could discuss the Braun issue privately among themselves.

    Pitcher Kevin Slowey: “First, I’m disappointed that a fellow baseball player would choose to do something like that. It seems that he’s acknowledging that he somehow violated the policy. Second, I think everybody in the clubhouse, all we really want is a fair and balanced playing field when you go out there competing. It’s good to know that the drug policy in major league baseball is working and guys who are choosing not to follow that policy are feeling the repercussions.

    “We’re all in support of a policy that would eliminate cheating from the game. We feel that it’s a hard enough game as it is. So anytime anybody is suspended, you’re sort of disappointed in whatever actions took place to get them suspended. And also there’s a part of you that says clearly the system that we have in place is working, and we’re thankful for that."

     First baseman Logan Morrison, shedding humor on the situation: “You know we’re clean. We haven’t scored a run in 37 innings."

     Morrision said Braun looked "different" to him during the Marlins' just-completed series in Milwaukee.

     “He probably knew about this for a while. I just thought he acted differently (during the just completed Marlins series). Something was weird. The way he was acting, he was different than he usually is.”

      Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos is the last pitcher to face Braun before the suspension, striking him out in the 11th inning Sunday when Braun was sent in to pinch-hit.

      “I was more happy to strike him out because the fans were cheering him on when he came in,” Ramos said. “They were like, “He’s going to win the game.’ So I kind of took a little offense to that. But, as far as all this stuff coming out now, it’s kind of a little more sweeter, I guess, knowing his last at bat was going against me."

      Manager Mike Redmond: “I think it’s definitely a negative. I don’t know all the facts of the case. But, on a suspension and whatever the facts are, for these guys to still be involved in this stuff just baffles me. It just baffles me. The education’s there and everybody knows what you can and can’t take. I sit there and I'm baffled that this continues to really be a black cloud over the game."

July 21, 2013

Giancarlo Stanton: "I'm not getting it done"

     MILWAUKEE -- Colorado can't come soon enough for Giancarlo Stanton, who is hoping Denver's high altitude will be just what the doctor ordered to cure his power dry spell. Stanton has homered in six of the seven games he's played at Coors Field, where the Marlins are headed right after the Milwaukee series.

     "Colorado always gives you a little extra boost, the way the ball flies," Stanton said.

     Stanton needs all the help he can get these days. He's hitting .189 with only two home runs in July. His average has dipped to .241, beow Adeiny Hechavarria's .248 mark. He's hit only 10 home runs, making it extremely unlikely he'll catch up to last season's total of 37.

     "It hasn't been there all year," Stanton said of his performance. "It's like I'm me for two days, and then I'm back to crap for 10. Kind of how it's been all year. But we still have the second half."

     Stanton said he can't find a rhythm. When games are close and late, he's not seeing many pitches that he can hit.

     "It seems a little different this year in terms of getting walked a little bit more," he said. "Like, if you start to feel good and then the game's close, and you don't really get pitched to, that kind of backs you up again, if that makes any sense. You could almost be there and then -- boom boom -- maybe get thrown off again."

    Stanton said he can't find consistency from one day to the next.

    "It's 'Who's going to show up today?' Am I going to swing at the nonsense? Look at the stats. You'll see more than one me."

    It was at Coors last year where Stanton hit what was measured to be the longest home run in the majors last season, a 494 foot blast to center. He also hit a 465 foot home run at Coors, and another measured at 456 feet.

    This season, Stanton doesn't even have one of the 95 longest homers in the majors. But he says he's not hitting home runs of any kind, short or long.

    "Feet (in distance) doesn't matter," he said. "They haven't come at all, let alone far. I'm not getting it done."

July 20, 2013

Adeiny Hechavarria moves to leadoff spot

   MILWAUKEE -- With Justin Ruggiano mired in an 0 for 20 slump, manager Mike Redmond has decided to stick his hottest bat -- Adeiny Hechavarria -- at the top of the lineup. It's no surprise given the fact Hech is hitting .444 this month while Ruggiano has failed to produce in the one hole.

   Hechavarria had three singles -- half of the Marlins' total output of six hits -- in Friday's 2-0 loss to the Brewers, and now boasts a slightly higher batting average (.248) than Giancarlo Stanton (.245).

   The leadoff spot has been a problem area all season for the Marlins, who rank 29th of 30 major league teams in batting average and on-base percentage from the top spot in the lineup. Hechavarria batted leadoff in six games in May, hitting .227 (5 for 22) with a .320 OBP. On the season, Ruggiano is hitting .169 in the one hole while Juan Pierre has a .232 average in that position.

   Christian Yelich has been used in the leadoff spot for Double A Jacksonville and could transfer to that position in the Marlins' lineup after he's promoted, which may not be long in coming. Yelich and Jake Marisnick hit back-to-back homers Friday to start the game for Jacksonville.

   Today's lineup: 1. Hechavarria, ss; 2. Lucas, 3b; 3. Stanton rf, 4. Morrison 1b, 5. Ozuna cf; 6. Dietrich 4; Ruggiano 7; Mathis 2; Eovaldi p.

July 19, 2013

Marlins to wear '56 uniforms Saturday for Negro League Tribute

    MILWAUKEE -- The Marlins on Saturday will wear 1956 Miami Marlins throwback uniforms in recognition of the Milwaukee Brewers' eighth annual Negro Leagues Tribute.

    The '56 Miami Marlins weren't a Negro League team, but Satchel Paige played for the Triple A member of the International League toward the end of his baseball career (read this 2009 article from the Miami New Times for the background). The Brewers will be wearing reproductions of uniforms worn by the 1923 Milwaukee Bears.

    "That's pretty cool to be able to wear a jersey that the great Satchel Paige wore," said Marlins outfielder Juan Pierre. "I'm excited. Just to honor those guys in the past, it's always cool."

    Said Giancarlo Stanton: "It's good that we're participating even though we didn't have one of those (Negro League) teams. I like the jerseys." 

    Stanton: It's good that we're participating even though we don't have one of those teams. It's good we just didn't say we weren't one of those teams, I like the jerseys, too." Imagejpeg_0

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   Worth noting:

   -- Chad Qualls was activated from the paternity list. The reliever's wife had their second child, a son -- Cavin Chance Qualls -- on Monday.

   -- Manager Mike Redmond said outfielder Chris Coghlan has resumed "baseball activities" but gave no timetable for his possible return. "He's just starting the process," Redmond said. "A lot is going to depend on being on his feet for an extended period of time, how his back reacts to that."

   -- Redmond said Matt Diaz, who was placed on the disabled list on May 20 with "left knee bone contusion," is home and probably won't be returning this season.

   -- Pitcher Alex Sanabia (groin) has begun light tossing.

July 18, 2013

Refreshed Redmond, Marlins ready for second half after All-Star break

While 20-year old Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez worked during the All-Star break his teammates and coaches got a chance to rest and recover from a grueling first half of the season.

Mike Redmond, himself a rookie manager in the big leagues, spent his All-Star break with former Marlins teammate Mike Lowell -- and their families -- over in the Bimini Islands of the Bahamas.

"The seas were a little bit dicey, but it was a good adventure," Redmond said of the families' 70-mile journey east to the tiny island. "We didn't get lost at sea or nothing. We had a nice time, got a chance to recharge and look forward to what's going to happen this second half."

Redmod said he and Lowell went fishing with their kids and even did a little knee boarding during their three days off. Redmond still tuned in, though, to watch Fernandez pitch Tuesday night in New York.

He, like other Marlins fans, was disappointed Fernandez's performance was interrupted on FOX's TV broadcast by an interview being conducted in the dugout with Pirates closer Jason Grilli.

"I was a little disappointed," Redmond said. "You have an up and coming star in the game and we didn't really get to learn anything about him. Maybe the fans outside Miami missed a chance to meet and hear about such an interesting story.

"[But] I heard a couple guys say they were pretty impressed with his stuff. Sometimes you just got to go out there and get yourself noticed with the way you pitch and the way you carry yourself. That's all of us. That's the Marlins really. Nobody is going to go out there and pump us up. We're just going to have to go out there and just prove to everyone 'Hey we're getting better and we're improving, look at us. Look at what we're doing too.'"

Although the Marlins will open the second half of the season facing three teams with losing records (Brewers, Rockies and Mets), they close out the season facing teams with winning records in 12 of their last 17 series including the Pirates (6 games), Indians (3 games), Braves (10 games), Dodgers (4 games), Nationals (9 games), Phillies (6 games) and Tigers (3 games) who are all either leading their divisions or in the wild card hunt.

Even though Redmond has quite a few players who have never played into September before, the skipper believes there are plenty of reasons his team won't get worn out by the dog days of summer.

"We've got too much to play for," Redmond said. "Guys are playing for lots of different things. They're playing for contracts, survival in the big leagues. Everybody's got something to play for. I just want us to focus on what we've been doing -- and that's improving, playing as a team, winning some ball games, learning how to win and continuing to compete and having some fun.

"I still feel like we can prove to this league we still have a lot of fight left in us and can make an impact. We're going to be playing a lot of good teams, teams that are going to be in the playoffs. We're going to give them everything we've got. We're going to see how many games we can win this second half."

> Third baseman Colin Moran, the Marlins' 2013 first round pick, homered in his first professional at-bat Wednesday in Greensboro -- and naturally Redmond took credit.

"I must have gotten him tuned up," Redmond joked Thursday. "My batting practice [session with him last week] must have gotten him locked in."

> With two-time Futures Game All-Star Christian Yelich healthy and raring for a big league call-up it might not be very long before long the Marlins bring up their 2010 first round pick to join their outfield.

"That's probably a discussion that is going to happen -- maybe on this road trip," Redmond said.

> Utility infielder Chris Valaika, who broke his wrist in early May, has been promoted to Triple A New Orleans after playing in 11 games in Jupiter.

Redmond said Chris Coghlan, who has resumed baseball activities after seeing a spine specialist, probably won't end up working at third base during rehab since the Marlins have Ed Lucas and Donovan Solano healthy and available. Coghlan, drafted as a third baseman out of college, has played outfield nearly all of his pro career.

Marlins still sticking to plan to shut rookie Jose Fernandez down after 150 to 170 innings of work

It's been a dreamy rookie season for 20-year old Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez, one made even sweeter by the All-Star experience he got to share with his mother Maritza in New York earlier this week.

"We actually stayed in the same room, talking until two, three in the morning every night," said Fernandez, who jumped into the ocean five years ago to save his mother during their daring escape from Cuba.

"My mom did a lot shopping with me. I was happy about that."

As good as things have been, Fernandez knows the good times -- at least for this season -- aren't going to last forever. He's well aware the number of starts he has left are numbered and before long he's going to be shut down.

The Marlins, who open the second half of their season Friday night in Milwaukee, have had their 2011 first round pick on an innings count all season. And despite the rookie's first half success, they still plan on shutting him down early to protect his arm.

"What we said was 150 to 170 innings," manager Mike Redmond said Thursday after his team got back together for the first time since the All-Star and held an afternoon practice at Marlins Park. "Obviously we're going to push for closer to 170."

Fernandez, who had never pitched above Single A Jupiter before he surprisingly made the Marlins' Opening Day roster back in April, threw 104 2/3 innings in the first half of the season. Last year, he threw a total of 134 innings.

This season's first half, Fernandez finished 5-5 with a 2.75 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 40 walks. A total of 66 percent of his pitches went for strikes. In all, Fernandez threw 1,617 pitches, an average of nearly 90 pitches a start. The only time he eclipsed 100 pitches was in four of his last six starts.

Redmond said he never thinks about the long term when Fernandez takes the mound.

"I go solely on how he's doing that day," he said. "If he has a chance to win a ballgame or whatever it is and he's going good then we'll let him throw seven or eight innings. I've never gone into a game going we can only let him throw six innings a day. I take it from game to game. If he has a chance to throw a complete game then I'll let him throw a complete game. If he keeps his pitches down and he has a chance he'll go out there."

But protecting Fernandez's young arm is still important to Redmond for the long-term. Fernandez, for his part, would love to pitch the entire season. But he said he has no problem with the Marlins' plans in part because they've been up front since the get-go.

"They know I love to pitch, love to compete. They got a plan and I'm going to follow it 100 percent," Fernandez said. "I have nothing against it. For me, that's all I'm going to do.

"My next start is on Tuesday [in Colorado] and I'm going to go out there and do the best I can until they take me out. The next one after that should be five days after that and I'm going to do the best I can. That's how I'm taking it. I'm not really thinking about innings and stuff like that. They have a plan. They've had it since the season started. So far I think we're doing good. Our plan is working. Just keep it up."

-- MANNY NAVARRO

July 17, 2013

Colin Moran hits HR in first pro at bat

      Colin Moran made an instant splash in his pro debut tonight for Single A Greensboro. The Marlins' top draft pick homered in his very first at bat for the Grasshoppers.

       Moran's solo shot was hit to right.

       Not a bad way to debut for the third baseman out of North Carolina, who could make his way to the big club by the end of next season if everything works out just right.

       Moran flied to center in his second at bat and grounded to short in his third.

Posey, Davis among the many impressed by Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez

NEW YORK -- The guy who caught his perfect sixth inning of work was last year's National League MVP.

The last guy he struck out might be this year's American League MVP.

Count Giants catcher Buster Posey and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis as two guys at the forefront utterly impressed by 20-year old Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez and his history-making sixth-inning performance at Tuesday night's All-Star Game.

"He's really impressive -- especially for the situation," said Posey, who caught Fernandez in the sixth. "You figured there would be a lot of nerves and excitement. But he showed great poise and obviously the stuff speaks for itself."

Fernandez sandwiched strikeouts of former MVP Dustin Pedroia and Davis, the current major league home run leader, around getting Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to pop out to first.

Fernandez's strikeouts came on a 96-mile per hour two-seamer at the knees against Pedroia and then a nasty curveball in the dirt against Davis, who slugged 37 homers in the first half of the season.

"He was dirty man," Davis said. "He threw me that curveball to start off the at-bat. It looked like a heater coming in and then it just disappeared. Then he finished me off with it.

"Knowing where he came from and where he's at, he's got a very high ceiling. He's a guy I'm glad I don't have to see on a regular basis.

Fernandez called the experience "neat, very nice."

Fernandez hit 98 miles per hour three times on the radar gun against Cabrera, a former Marlin.

"I'm proud of how I went out there and didn't try to over-do anything," he said. "The result was fine, it was good. I think adrenaline just carried me a little. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the game. It was incredible to face those guys and get them out."

Fernandez's performance was interrupted at times on television by an interview FOX was conducting with Pirates closer Jason Grilli. Fernandez was unaware of that -- and what his teammates and family and friends were saying about him because after the game his cell phone was dead.

"I'm sure I missed a lot," Fernandez said. "But I can't wait to get back home and see my teammates, see my family. My teammates said they were going to watch me. This is for the Marlins, for the city of Miami."