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36 posts from July 2013

July 16, 2013

Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez joins Gooden, Feller with rare 2-strikeout performance by 20 year olds at All-Star Game

NEW YORK -- As far as All-Star debuts go, there aren't many pitchers in the history of the game who put on the type of show Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez did Tuesday night at Citi Field.

In fact, only two others did -- Dwight Gooden and Bob Feller.

That's the company the 20-year old Cuban defector joined in the sixth inning when he sandwiched strike outs of former MVP Dustin Pedroia and current major league home run leader Chris Davis between getting Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to pop out to first.

Gooden and Feller, two of the top 50 strikeout kings in the history of the game, are the only other players to manage to do that before their 21st birthday.

Fernandez, who wore bright orange shoes with his Twitter handle on them, didn't hit 110 on the radar gun. But he came close.

On baseball's big stage just a few months after he was surprised to make the jump from Single A to the big league team on Opening Day, he hit 98 miles per hour three times on the radar gun against Cabrera, a former Marlin.

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

In all, only five pitchers have made an All-Star appearance before their 21st birthday. Fernando Valenzuela and Jerry Walker are the others besides Gooden, Feller and now Fernandez.

"It's an honor to be mentioned with those guys," Fernandez said.

Fernandez soaks up All-Star experience and takes home autographs

NEW YORK -- Jose Fernandez reached into his locker Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field and pulled out a white Marlins jersey to show a friend.

Jose FernandezThis wasn't any ordinary jersey, though. It had the autographs of every All-Star in the National League clubhouse on the back, a special keepsake the 20-year old rookie said he plans on putting in a frame and on a wall up in his house.

"I got a bat autographed, too," Fernandez said with a smile on his face. "It's been amazing just to be here talking to all these guys."

The second-youngest player and the only rookie at this year's All-Star Game, Fernandez spent his first 48 hours in New York busy conducting interviews in both English and Spanish, and signing tons and tons of autographs himself.

"It's been crazy -- nothing but signing and talking, signing and talking -- a lot of stuff to sign," Fernandez said. "But I'm not complaining. I'm thrilled to be here."

Fernandez, the youngest Cuban-born player in baseball history to earn an All-Star nod, said he had a great time Monday catching up with fellow Cuban defectors Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes. They stayed on the field talking even after the National League had already completed its work.

Fernandez said he didn't know either until this trip to New York, but heard about their big-time talent while he was growing up in Cuba.

Their stories of defection, though, weren't nearly as harrowing as his own.

Chapman, 25 and now a two-time All-Star for the Reds, walked out on the Cuban National Team during a tournament in the Netherlands in 2009. Cespedes, who received a special invite to the All-Star Game for the Home Run Derby and edged out Bryce Harper to win it Monday night, fled Cuba with his family for the Dominican Republic in 2011. He's now 27.

Fernandez was 15 when he jumped into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to save his mother during his fourth and final attempt to reach the United States. Before that, he spent months in prison next to murderers, locked up because he sought a better life and tried to leave a communist country.

"We talked like we've known each other for 10 years," said Fernandez, who cheered on Cespedes during the derby.

"A lot of guys were impressed by the way Cespedes hit the ball last night. He was hitting them like nothing, like he was in a Little League park. I really enjoyed it. [Cubans] just love the game, respect it and play hard."

Fernandez, who brought his mother with him on his All-Star trip, said the first thing he plans to do when he gets back to Miami is call his grandmother in Cuba to share his experience. She was listening to the game on radio on the roof of her home.

After tonight, though, the focus will return to the Marlins. Just the third Marlins rookie to make the N.L. All-Star team (joining Dontrelle Willis and second baseman Dan Uggla), Fernandez said he expects big things from his team in the second half of the season. Since Logan Morrison's return on June 9th, the Marlins have gone 18-14.

Three-time All-Star and ESPN commentator Rick Sutcliffe told Fernandez before Tuesday's game he was a big fan of his, but was disappointed he probably wouldn't get to broadcast one of his games since the Marlins are a last-place team. Fernandez politely shook his head and smiled.

"People can think what they want, but I think we're going to play even better in the second half," Fernandez said. "It's a different energy. We're hitting the ball well. There isn't a game we play now where we don't think we can win."

July 15, 2013

Fernandez thinks he'll get into Tuesday's All-Star Game

NEW YORK -- Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez spent a few extra moments soaking up the All-Star atmosphere at Citi Field with fellow Cubans imports Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes after the National League finished up its work out Monday afternoon.

Jose FernandezFernandez, who spent the early parts of Monday night snapping photos on his cell phone of the Home Run Derby, said he's fairly confident he will get to pitch in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

"I talked to the pitching coach and most likely I'm pitching," Fernandez said. "I don't know what inning. But I'm good to go.

"It's going to be fun for sure. I don't think it will be early in the game. Older guys will go first and then there's a space. I have no idea how it's going to go. Whatever it is, I'm going to enjoy it."

Fernandez's agent, Scott Boras, said Fernandez's first half numbers (5-5, 2.75 ERA, 103 Ks, 40 BBs) put himself in the realm of young aces Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals and the Mets' Matt Harvey.

Asked if the Marlins have started discussing long-term plans for Fernandez, Boras said: "I've talked to [owner] Jeffrey [Loria] a number of times, but we have not talked about that.

"Obviously he's got five more years there and I think he enjoys playing for the Marlins," Boras said. "It's something that if the team decides to look at that, we'll have to evaluate it and go from there."

July 14, 2013

Jose Fernandez goes bonkers on Giancarlo Stanton HR

       If you were trying to watch Saturday's game, you might have missed Giancarlo Stanton's game-tying home run -- and Jose Fernandez's accompanying celebration. That's because Fox switched away from the game in the ninth to show the trial verdict in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

       Just how excited was Fernandez?

       "Big time," he said. "I was pretty excited. It was fun to watch. That's why I love this game so much. I love this team, and I'm going to give everything to it, and whoever doesn't like it, I don't mind."

        As Fernandez acknowledged following the Marlins' 2-1 victory in 10 innings: "As everyone knew today, I didn't have my stuff."

        Still, Fernandez managed to hold the Nationals to only a run over six innings in what was his final outing before heading off to New York and Tuesday's All-Star Game. But he didn't slip away before having a chance to show one more time that, when it comes to his involvement in the game even when he's not on the mound, no one gets more into it. As usual, Fernandez remained in the dugout after being taken out to watch the final innings unfold.

        When Stanton tied it in the ninth, Fernandez couldn't contain himself.

        "I was pretty happy," Fernandez said. "I was so excited, I don't even know what I did. I enjoy it. My teammates laughed. Everybody was laughing. I was just enjoying it. When he made contact, I knew it was a bomb, so I got really excited. It's fun. You guys know how I am. I like to have fun."

        Before checking out the video of Fernandez's excitement, can anyone remember another Marlin who showed as much enthusiasm? I'm thinking Dontrelle Willis deserves a mention. Anyone else?


         Meanwhile, over on the Nationals side, Bryce Harper's teammates and manager were none-too-happy that their 20-year-old All-Star, Bryce Harper, was ejected in the sixth after disputing a strike three call by Hunter Wendelstedt. Yes, the pitch from Dan Jennings was high and away -- definitely outside of the strike zone -- and Harper had good reason to be unhappy. But his ejection might have cost the Nationals dearly, as his spot came up in the 10th with runners at second and third and one out.

          Instead of Harper, Marlins closer Steve Cishek was tasked with Scott Hairston, and he struck him out. Cishek then struck out Ryan Zimmerman to end the threat.

          "He cannot, in a one-run ballgame, (get ejected)," said Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. "That's a game you have to stay in no matter what."

          Said Nationals manager Davey Johnson: "You can't do that. Take it out on the pitcher. Don't take your frustration out on the umpire."

July 12, 2013

Colin Moran signs (w/video), plus Coghlan, Qualls, Kearns tidbits

The Marlins made it official earlier today by signing their top draft pick, Colin Moran. First stop for Moran: Single A Greensboro, where he'll begin his pro career Monday.

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said Moran would be invited to major league spring training camp next year but gave no indication when he expected the third baseman to make his debut in a Marlins uniform.

"We haven't had a long-term third baseman since Mike Lowell left us (following the 2005 season), and we've been searching for that person," Beinfest said at Moran's introductory press conference. "Hopefully, it ends right here with you, Colin. We can't wait for you to assume that role and become our everyday third baseman, and that journey starts today."

Moran, who hails from New York, grew up a fan of the Yankees but has been studying up on the Marlins since being taken with the sixth overall pick in June.

"I've been following the team for a while and you can tell they're definitely headed in the right direction," he said.

Below is video from his press conference. But, first, a few additional notes:

-- Chris Coghlan received clearance from a back specialist in Texas on Thursday to resume "baseball activities," but it could still be a while before Coghlan is playing in games again. "He's been down for a while now and I think we've got to make sure we build him up, take our time and see how his back responds," said manager Mike Redmond.

-- Reliever Chad Qualls, whose wife is expecting their child, will be placed on the "paternity list" on Saturday and rejoin the club after the All-Star break. Redmond said the team would make a move Saturday to fill Qualls' roster spot.

-- Henderson Alvarez will start on Sunday instead of Kevin Slowey.

-- Austin Kearns is continuing to attend to a family medical issue, and it's appearing more and more unlikely he'll be rejoining the team this season. "He's got a very difficult family situation, and we feel for him," Beinfest said. "But it's getting late already. He's missed a lot of time. It would take him a while to ramp up now. You'd have to beat the clock to get back this year, probably."

July 11, 2013

Colin Moran, Marlins agree to terms

The Marlins have agreed to terms with their top draft pick, Colin Moran.

Moran, a third baseman out of the University of North Carolina, was offered the slot value for the sixth overall pick: $3.52 million. Completion of the deal is pending a physical.

The Marlins are not expected to sign their third-round pick, high school infielder Ben Deluzio, before Friday's 5 p.m. deadline. Deluzio is expected to honor his commitment to Florida State.

Here's an in-depth article on Moran that appeared recently in the Lower Hudson Valley News in New York. A few of the interesting tidbits from Josh Thomson's article:

Colinmoran-- “He’s always been kind of a drawn-back, quiet type of guy,” said catcher Brian Holberton, Moran’s freshman-year roommate. “Once you get to know him, he’s cool. He opens up. But he’s kind of quiet to the media and the public. That’s just his personality — but he doesn’t play like it."

-- He was born into a family of athletes, one that sent two of his uncles to the major leagues and a brother to Triple-A (for now), and produced a grandfather perhaps better than them all. Dick Surhoff played in the NBA and was later a fast-pitch softball legend; sons B.J. and Rich were big-leaguers, B.J. for 17 years; and Brian Moran pitches for the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma, Wash.

-- He stands every bit of the 6-3 listed on North Carolina’s roster and could pass for 2 or 3 inches taller on a football field or basketball court. He has gained 40 pounds since high school and now registers at a sturdy 215. Where his shoulders and hips were once narrow, they are now broad, even for a soon-to-be pro. His hair is cropped tight and as red as a hayfield at dusk. Even his jaw has squared and finally looks capable of handling a beard after three years away at college.

-- Moran notoriously acted his age during his sophomore season when he punched a bathroom wall and broke his hand after committing a costly error in the seventh inning of a loss to North Carolina State. That outburst cost him 21 games and was reminiscent of past moments of frustration at Iona Prep, where he would bury his hand in his helmet and smack the ground after a bad at-bat.

Mike Fox, the Tar Heels’ coach, believes Moran demands too much of himself. “It’s his best trait, and at times it’s been his worst trait,” Fox said.

(Photo: AP)

July 10, 2013

Marcell Ozuna credits ex-Marlins reliever Jon Rauch for throwing accuracy

       Jon Rauch didn't make much of a lasting impression as a reliever during his brief and largely forgettable stay with the Marlins. But he might have made a significant contribution in a way that went unnoticed.

       Marcell Ozuna said Rauch improved his throwing accuracy by changing the way the outfielder grips the baseball. Rauch told Ozuna he would receive better results if he threw a two-seamer with the palm of his hand "behind the seams." That slight adjustment flattened Ozuna's throws.

       "The ball was diving before," Ozuna said. "Jon Rauch told me to grab the ball with the seams behind. I saw the difference right away. The ball went straight, straight, straight -- no movement."

       Ozuna recorded his eighth outfield assist on Tuesday when he threw out the Braves' Chris Johnson at the plate. Only Arizona's Gerardo Parra and Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez -- with nine assists each -- have more. The Marlins team record of 20 outfield assists was set in 1998 by Mark Kotsay.

       Rauch isn't the only person Ozuna credits with helping him defensively, and with his throwing, in particular. He said Marlins minor league outfield coordinator Tarrik Brock  instilled in him the need to always hit the cutoff man and Marlins front office assistant and Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson improved his footwork.

       "Before I made a lot of mistakes when I threw because I threw high and the ball had a lot of movement," Ozuna said. "I worked on that during the offseason in winter ball, and then Rauch told me how to grip the ball to make it flat."

July 09, 2013

Marlins bullpen equals post-1974 MLB record in near "perfecto"

        By retiring 24 straight batters Monday, Marlins relievers equaled the major league record for most consecutive batters retired by a bullpen over the past 40 seasons. According to info provided by Stats Pass, the Oakland A's bullpen also retired 24 straight in a 2011 game against the Cleveland Indians.

         No bullpen since 1974 (which is as far back as the Stats Pass records go with that statistic) has pitched the equivalent of a perfect game (27 straight), and the previous Marlins record for consecutive batters retired by the team's bullpen was 18 in a 2005 game.

         After the Braves' Jason Heyward tripled to lead off the sixth inning last night, the bullpen conglomerate of Dan Jennings, Ryan Webb, Chad Qualls, Mike Dunn and Steve Cishek did not allow a base runner through the 13th inning. It wasn't until Chris Hatcher walked Reed Johnson to lead off the 14th that the streak was broken.

          Dunn and a few of his teammates downplayed the feat, saying they felt it was still much more difficult for a starter to pitch a perfect game than for a combination of relievers to do so. There have been 21 perfect games by starters in the majors since 1900, including three last season.

          Dunn said the rare feat is more difficult for a "starter because there's a fatigue factor, and batters see the starters more than once. All it takes is one hitter on his third time (facing the pitcher) to see how fast his fastball is to time it up."

          A large part of the difficulty in retiring 27 straight for a one team's relief corps, obviously, is the infrequency of games in which a bullpen is even required to cover nine full innings.

          There was, of course, Ernie Shore's famous near perfecto in 1917 for the Boston Red Sox when he took over in relief of Babe Ruth and retired 26 straight. Ruth was ejected after walking the first batter, who was thrown out stealing after Shore entered. But that was one reliever, not a whole handful of them.

          Interestingly, both the Marlins and Oakland A's of 2011 ended up losing their games.

July 08, 2013

With Nolasco gone, Polanco new high man on paycheck pole

By trading Ricky Nolasco, the Marlins erased $5.7 million from their payroll ledger, which has shriveled up to near nothing over the past 12 months. With Nolasco off the payroll, the new high earner for the Marlins is Placido Polanco, who is making $2.75 million this season.

To put Polanco's salary into context, consider this: last year's major league average salary was $3.2 million. In other words, the Marlins don't have a player on their roster making the league average.

Technically, the player the Marlins are paying the most to this season ($4 million) is Heath Bell. The Marlins agreed to pick up $8 million of the $20 million owed to Bell for 2013 and '14 when they traded him last October to Arizona.


The deadline to sign draft picks is 5 p.m. Friday, and the Marlins are more optimistic about signing their top pick, Colin Moran, than they are their third-round choice, high school infielder Ben Deluzio. Deluzio is reportedly leaning toward attending Florida State even though the Marlins offered him the recommended slot amount for the 80th overall pick: $681,000.

Negotiations are ongoing with both players, and it could go down to the wire, just as it did with Andrew Heaney, the Marlins' first-round pick last year. Moran, the sixth overall pick, is one of only five first-round picks that has yet to sign. The Marlins offered the third baseman from the University of North Carolina the recommended slot amount of $3.52 million.


Though nothing has been finalized, manager Mike Redmond said that when the Marlins return from the All-Star break, they'll likely position Jose Fernandez at the back end of the rotation to give him extra rest.

Fernandez has thrown 98 2/3 innings so far and the Marlins intend to cap his innings total at no more than 170 innings. Despite the limitations on the rookie, Redmond said he hopes that Fernandez is given a chance to pitch in the All-Star Game.


Redmond said that Chris Coghlan could be cleared Thursday to resume baseball activities. Coghlan is scheduled to return to Texas that day to see the back specialist who has been treating him. Coghlan has been on the disabled list since June 9 with right calf nerve irritation.


As long as it doesn't rain -- and there doesn't appear to be any in the forecast -- the roof will remain open tonight at Marlins Park. That's good news for the Atlanta Braves. The Marlins are 0-12 this season with the roof open. It'll be the first time the Marlins have played a July game in their home park with the roof open.

Tonight's lineups:

Marlins: 1. Justin Ruggiano, lf; 2. Ed Lucas, 3b; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, 3b; 4. Marcell Ozuna, cf; 5. Logan Morrison, 1b; 6. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 7. Derek Dietrich, 2b; 8. Jeff Mathis, c; 9. Kevin Slowey, p.

Braves: 1. Andrelton Simmons, ss; 2. Jason Heyward, rf; 3. Justin Upton, lf; 4. Freddie Freeman, 1b; 5. Brian McCann, c; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. B.J. Upton, cf; 8. Chris Johnson, 3b; 9. Mike Minor, p.

Umpires: HP -- Dan Iassogna; 1B -- Mark Carlson; 2B -- Brian Knight; 3B -- Gerry Davis.

July 07, 2013

Nolasco departs; Slowey to start Monday

Ricky Nolasco cleaned out his locker and said his goodbyes in the Marlins clubhouse Sunday morning.

The Marlins traded Nolasco to the Dodgers late Saturday night for minor-league pitchers Angel Sanchez, Steven Ames and Josh Wall.

“I'm going to miss these guys here more than I can say,” said Nolasco, who flew to Arizona Sunday to join the Dodgers for a key series that begins Monday against the Diamondbacks. “But they understand it is a business, and I'll see them in August. I made a lot of lifelong friends here. I'm never going to forget that.”

Although Nolasco felt bittersweet departing after eight seasons with the Marlins, he said he was excited to be able to pitch for his favorite team that he said he’d go watch in person around 15 times a year with his dad and brothers growing up.

“The phone has been non-stop,” Nolasco said. “Obviously, I've never dealt with anything like that to where the phone was just blowing up. Everybody is just excited, everybody from back home. Even people who don't have my number, on Twitter and stuff, obviously where I grew up, they're all excited to see this happen. It's just an exciting time.”

Nolasco’s teammates wished him well and were happy he ended up in a good situation with the trade.

“He’s going to the perfect spot for him,” Giancarlo Stanton said. “To be able to go to where you want without having a choice is always a little extra bonus. It won’t be a tough transition for him.”

Nolasco, who went 5-8 with a 3.85 ERA in 18 starts for the Marlins, doesn’t know when he will make his first start for the Dodgers, but it could come during a key series with the Diamondbacks – the team they trail by 4½ games in the National League West.

 “Obviously we’ll miss Ricky and what he brought to this team, and the leadership he brought to this team, but at the same time, too, we all kind of knew this was going to happen,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “It’s good for Ricky that he’s going to go play for a good team, and a place where he wants to go. We wish him all the best.”


Nolasco’s trade meant Kevin Slowey’s return to the rotation for the time being. Slowey will start Monday in what would have been Nolasco’s spot against the Braves.

“[Redmond] talked to me about it yesterday,” Slowey said. “He knows the importance of preparation. I don’t think I’ll know until tomorrow but I’ll be as ready as I can be and the preparation will be there. It will be up to me to go and execute and do my best.”

Ames and Wall were assigned to New Orleans and Sanchez, the only starter of the group, was sent to Single-A Jupiter.

Slowey will likely remain the fifth starter in the rotation until at least the All-Star break. Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest said Saturday the team will use the second half to evaluate several potential starters including Tom Koehler (1-5, 4.70 ERA in 69 innings – 10 starts this season), who was recently sent to Triple-A to clear room for Henderson Alvarez, and prospects right-handers Anthony DeSclafani, Sam Dyson and lefties Adam Conley and Brian Flynn.

The Marlins also recalled pitcher Chris Hatcher from Triple-A New Orleans and transferred infielder Chris Valaika to the 60-day disabled list.

Starting lineups

Marlins (32-54): Pierre lf, Lucas 3b, Stanton rf, Morrison 1b, Ozuna cf, Dietrich 2b, Hechavarria ss, Mathis c, Fernandez p

Cardinals (52-34): Caprenter 2b, Beltran rf, Holliday lf, Craig 1b, Freese 3b, Jay cf, Cruz c, Kozma ss, Lynn p