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28 posts from August 2013

August 10, 2013

Ruggiano (0 for last 38) starts in place of slumping Stanton

ATLANTA -- Just how bad are things going for Giancarlo Stanton? This bad: Justin Ruggiano, who has gone hitless over his past 38 at bats and is closing in on a major league record for futility, is starting in his place tonight.

"Believe me, it's not a perfect situation," said manager Mike Redmond.

Stanton has gone 3 for 17 on the road trip and is hitting only .125 in August. With only 13 home runs, there's a real chance he might not even finish the season with as many as 20. Even taking into consideration that he missed five weeks of the season with a hamstring injury, it's unfathomable to think one of baseball's star sluggers might not even get to 20.

Some of his other splits are just as startling. Stanton has a home OPS of 1.041. On the road: .586. He's hitting .302 at Marlins Park, but only .186 everywhere else. But he's been looking really lost at the plate in recent weeks.

"It just seems like he's really grinding and not having a whole lot of fun out there," Redmond said of his slumping slugger. "I think he's just frustrated, and I feel like he's trying to do too much. He understands how important he is to this lineup. At the same time, he's one guy. He can't do everything. He can't carry the offense. I think, maybe, sometimes he tries to do that. He's just got to do his part."

It wasn't lost on Redmond that Ruggiano is also mired in a pronounced slump. Ruggiano's last hit: a second-inning single off the Braves Mike Minor on June 6. The major league record for most consecutive hitless at bats by a position player -- 46 -- belongs to Eugenio Velez. Velez set the mark in 2011 by going 0 for 37 with the Dodgers. (Bill Bergen in 1909, Dave Campbell in 1973 and Craig Counsell in 2011 each had hitless streaks of 45 at bats).

"Rouge is due," Redmond said of Ruggiano. "We need to get some hits out of him." 

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So it's no surprise that the Marlins are the second-youngest team in the majors with an average age of 27 years and 121 days. Or that the Houston Astros, who own the worst record in the majors, are the youngest at 26 years and 14 days.

What some may find surprising is this: the Braves, who are riding a 14-game winning streak and own the best record in the majors, are the third-youngest team: 27 years and 160 days. Fourth-youngest: the Pirates of Pittsburgh, who have the second-best record in the majors. Fifth-youngest: the St. Louis Cardinals, who have the sixth-best record.

"We have a young team, but we have a young team that's been around already," said Braves pitcher Kris Medlen, who -- at only 27 -- is the oldest member of Atlanta's starting rotation. "We're young, but they've grown up."

August 09, 2013

Struggling Brantly demoted to minors

ATLANTA -- Catcher Rob Brantly, who had been struggling at the plate and behind it for the Marlins, was optioned Friday to Triple A New Orleans. The Marlins selected the contract of catcher Koyie Hill, a veteran of nine big-league seasons.

Brantly's demotion might not be permanent, as the Marlins will very likely call him back up after rosters expand on Sept. 1. But given how mightily he has struggled, it was a while in coming. Brantly, who was the Marlins' Opening Day catcher, saw his playing time diminish with the return of Jeff Mathis from the disabled list in May and his declining play offensively and defensively.

Marlins manager Mike Redmond said that, even visibly, Brantly had lost confidence.

"It's been a thing I've been concerned about for a while," Redmond said. "Part of what concerned me was that he kind of maybe lost his personality a little bit. We saw a guy in spring training that was really confident, bouncing around, having fun, joking around. And then, over the last month, I think he really kind of lost that."

While Redmond said Brantly had improved on throwing and blocking pitches, he still needed work in other areas.

"There's still some game plan stuff, and things he needs to work on as far as day-to-day preparation, and calling pitches and working with pitchers, and carrying out a game plan," Redmond said. "Some of those are experience things. Some of them are focus things."

Brantly, a key piece in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade with Detroit last year, hit .225 with one home run overall this season -- but just .175 since July 1 and .091 since the All-Star break. He also had his share of issues on the receiving end behind the plate. Brantly was behind the plate last weekend when the Cleveland Indians stole six bases, equaling a Marlins franchise record for most stolen bases allowed in one game, though the blame didn't rest squarely on his shoulder.

The Marlins were counting on Brantly to handle the bulk of the catching chores this season, with Mathis providing veteran backup assistance. But their roles reversed, even though Mathis has struggled offensively, as well, hitting just .199.

Koyie is a career .210 hitter in his MLB career with the Cubs, Diamondbacks and Dodgers. He was hitting .237 this season at New Orleans.

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While rookie Christian Yelich hit his first major league home run in Pittsburgh on Thursday, he lost a base hit on his personal ledger overnight. That's because the league office took away one of his three hits when he made his major league debut in Colorado on July 26 and charged an error to Rockies second baseman D.J. LeMahieu. The league was asked to review the play after the Rockies questioned the scoring decision. Because of the scoring change, Mike Redmond remains the only Marlin to begin his MLB career with three hits in each of his first three at bats.

August 08, 2013

Jose Fernandez vs. Gerrit Cole, round 2

It's a Jose Fernandez start for the Marlins today as they try to snap a four-game losing streak.

Fernandez comes in having struck out 13 or more batters in each of his past two starts (27 overall). The first 13 came against the Pirates at Marlins Park July 28. Cole gave up three runs in seven innings in that game which the Marlins won 3-2.

Fernandez won't have to face Pirates All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen after he was scratched from the lineup with shoulder discomfort.

The team made some lineup changes as Jake Marisnick did not start for the first time since being called up July 23. While fellow outfielder Christian Yelich has hit well and worked his way into the leadoff spot, Marisnick has struggled to find a groove at the plate hitting only .192 with one home run and three RBI in 52 at-bats.

Justin Ruggiano took his place and will try to snap his club record 0-for-35 stretch.

Placido Polanco will start at third and Ed Lucas moves to second with Donovan Solano sitting also. Jeff Mathis back behind the plate.

Starting lineup

Marlins (43-69): Yelich lf, Lucas 2b, Stanton rf, Morrison 1b, Polanco 3b, Hechavarria ss, Ruggiano cf, Mathis c, Fernandez rhp.

Pirates (69-44): Marte cf, Presley lf, Walker 2b, Alvarez 3b, Jones 1b, T. Sanchez c, Harrison rf, Barmes ss, Cole rhp.

August 07, 2013

Double-A LHP Andrew Heaney's scoreless streak snapped Tuesday in no-hit loss

Andrew Heaney has had a spectacular July that was recognized Wednesday when he was named the Marlins' Minor League Pitcher of the Month.

But his 33-inning scoreless streak came to an emphatic halt Tuesday night as did Double A Jacksonville's 11-game winning streak when the Suns were no-hit by Cubs prospect Eric Jokisch.

Heaney gave up three runs on four hits in the first and ended up yielding five earned runs in a start that lasted only three innings. It was the first runs given up by Heaney since June 29.

Second baseman Avery Romero, the Marlins' third-round pick in 2012, was named the Marlins Minor League Player of the Month.

The start of Wednesday's game was delayed due to rain.

INJURY UPDATES

Redmond said first baseman Casey Kotchman, out since June 9 with a strained left oblique, was close to playing some rehab games.

Starting lineups

Marlins (43-68): Yelich lf, Lucas 3b, Stanton rf, Morrison 1b, Solano 2b, Hechavarria ss, Marisnick cf, Brantly c, Koehler rhp.

Pirates (68-44): Marte lf, Walker 2b, McCutchen cf, Alvarez 3b, Martin c, Jones 1b, Harrison rf, Mercer ss, Morton rhp.

August 06, 2013

Alvarez will try to keep homer-less streak by starters alive vs. Pirates

The Marlins' starting rotation entered Tuesday's game against the Pirates, the first of a nine-game road trip, on a club-record 12-game streak of not allowing a home run.

Henderson Alvarez will try to make it 13 in a row. Alvarez has been strong since the second half began giving up only two runs in 20.1 innings (0.89 ERA). Only Giants' starter Madison Bumgarner is better (0.82) since the All-Star break.

Jose Fernandez, a key contributor to that surge, won National League Rookie of the Month honors Monday.

But before Tuesday's game, Fernandez didn't want to take sole credit for the award, acknowledging the recognition it brings to the young Marlins.

“It’s a privilege to get that [award], and it represents every man on the team,” Fernandez said. “It’s not only my accomplishment, it’s the team’s accomplishment. It’s [Jeff] Mathis calling a great game back there, it’s us making plays and getting hits.

“It’s amazing to have that support. This team is young, but I see a lot of passion on this club and we hate to lose. We just have to keep playing and I think next year, you’ll see a lot of surprises from this team. Everybody has seen that we’re playing a lot better.”

Starting lineups

Marlins (43-67): Yelich lf, Lucas 3b, Stanton rf, Morrison 1b, Solano 2b, Hechavarria ss, Marisnick cf, Mathis c, Alvarez rhp.

Pirates (67-44): Marte lf, Walker 2b, McCutchen cf, Alvarez 3b, Martin c, Jones 1b, Presley rf, Mercer ss, Locke lhp.

August 04, 2013

After rough night behind the plate -- and at it -- Rob Brantly remains upbeat

Our college summer intern, Rohan Nadkarni, caught up this morning with Rob Brantly after a trying game, both offensively and defensively. Here's his report:

Marlins catcher Rob Brantly came to the plate in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game against the Indians with a chance to redeem himself. His ground ball out to first summed up his entire day ­– the result didn’t match the effort.

Brantly stepped into the batters’ box with runners on second and third with one out in a 4-3 game but couldn’t deliver a big hit and bring home a win.

“Those moments are what we play for,” Brantly said. “You want to do it for your teammates. You try to stay within yourself.”

The catcher didn’t necessarily stay within himself earlier in the game, and his up-and-down play ultimately benefitted Cleveland’s offense. The Indians stole six bases, and he said their aggression on the basepaths led him to be “a little overaggressive” in return.

“That was good, hard baseball,” Brantly said. “The anticipation of their aggression got me a little over-amped, and that ended up costing us a little bit.”

Brantly is referring to a throwing error he made in the third inning.

Michael Bourn started the inning by stealing second, and then he advanced to third on a wild pitch. Off the pitch, Brantly attempted to make a spinning throw to catch Bourn at third, but the ball sailed into the outfield, allowing Bourn to score.

Fortunately for Brantly, the veteran leadership of fellow catcher Jeff Mathis and manager Mike Redmond, a former catcher, helped him navigate the tough outing.

"Jeff and Red pull me aside all the time,” Brantly said. “Jeff was first on the scene yesterday, and he told me, ‘We’re going to make aggressive mistakes.’ But those are the ones you want to make.

“Yesterday was rough, but I feel like a completely different catcher from the beginning of the year.” 

Indians leave tire tracks on Marlins

It was a long night for catcher Rob Brantly and the Marlins, who allowed the Indians to steal six bases in their 4-3 win. That equaled the Marlins' team record for most stolen bases allowed in one game. The last time it happened: when manager Mike Redmond was behind the plate in a 2000 game against Atlanta. It happened one other time, by the Dodgers in a 1996 game.

"It seems like he's had a few of those games were things just kind of snowballed," Redmond said of Brantly, whose playing time has diminished since Jeff Mathis came off the disabled list. "Part of that, I think, is the youth. His last three or four games he's been pretty good back there and tonight was just a rough night."

Brantly was also charged with a throwing error and failed to deliver at the plate in the ninth when the Marlins had a chance to tie -- if not win -- the game. With runners at second and third and one out, and the Indians corner infielders playing in, Brantly bounced out to first on a 1-0 pitch and the runners couldn't go.

"Anything but a ground ball to first there we score a run," Redmond said.

Not all of Cleveland's thievery was Brantly's fault. Drew Stubbs swiped a base on a botched pickoff by reliever Dan Jennings. Jennings' throw to first baseman Logan Morrison, whose throw to second sailed into the outfield. And Marlins pitchers, Jacob Turner in particular, didn't do a good job holding runners.

"You can't put that all on the catcher," Redmond said of the Indians' running success. "Jacob, he was not real quick to the plate, and that's something he's been working on. And (Ryan) Webb's not real quick to the plate either. So there's a couple of guys out there that aren't real quick."

Turner acknowledged that he needs to do a better job of holding runners.

"I was trying to do the best I could to hold them close," Turner said. "But I have to do a better job, just to give our guys a chance. I was trying to vary my looks. Unfortunately, he (Michael Bourn) got a couple good jumps on me. With his speed, it's pretty much on the bag if he gets a good jump. I think you could argue it was the deciding factor in the game."

August 01, 2013

Andrew Heaney extends scoreless innings streak in Double A debut

The next rung up the ladder proved no more difficult than the one below it for Marlins prospect Andrew Heaney, who turned in six scoreless innings in his debut Thursday night for Double A Jacksonville. (Read story here.)

Heaney, the Marlins' first-round draft pick in 2012, extended his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 33 consecutive with Thursday's performance. The left-hander closed out his stay at Single A Jupiter on a 27-inning scoreless streak before receiving his promotion papers on Wednesday. Heaney

To put Heaney's streak in some perspective, Josh Beckett delivered 30 consecutive scoreless innings for Single A Brevard County in 2001 when he was working his way up the Marlins' organizational ladder. The Marlins' big-league record for consecutive scoreless innings by a starter is 29, held by Javier Vazquez.

Heaney on Thursday held Chattanooga to three hits, walked one, struck out three, and threw 79 pitches -- 55 for strikes -- before being lifted after six. His performance follows by one day Justin Nicolino's first win for Jacksonville. The Marlins acquired Nicolino in the Toronto Blue Jays trade last November.

"I would say our pitching staff is as good as any in Double-A baseball right now," Suns manager Andy Barkett told the Florida Times-Union.

The Suns staff also includes Anthony DeSclafani, who was also acquired in the trade with Toronto.