« January 2014 | Main | March 2014 »

27 posts from February 2014

February 22, 2014

Jose Fernandez to start Grapefruit opener Friday

JUPITER -- Some non-political news involving upcoming pitching assignments:

Jose Fernandez is expected to start the Grapefruit League opener for the Marlins on Friday when they face the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Carlos Martinez is scheduled to take the mound for the Cardinals.

Manager Mike Redmond also announced that Angel Sanchez will start Wednesday’s exhibition opener against the University of Miami. Others down to pitch in the game for the Marlins: Adam Conley, Greg Nappo, Josh Spence, Grant Dayton, Rett Varner, Edgar Olmos and James Leverton.

Redmond has not yet decided who will start Thursday’s exhibition against Florida International University.

Henderson Alvarez organizes Venezuelan peace protest among Marlins players (w/photo)

JUPITER -- It's not often that major league players take part in political protests, but Henderson Alvarez organized a photo session Saturday morning with a group of his teammates, calling for peace in Venezuela, the pitcher's home country. They stood outside the Marlins' spring training clubhouse and posed with the Venezuelan flag while holding up signs reading "Paz" (peace).

"With the picture I'm hoping to send a message to Venezuela to have peace and to leave the violence behind," Alvarez said through an interpretor. "As baseball players our message has more of a potential to be reached."

Members of the Detroit Tigers, including Miguel Cabrera and Omar Vizquel, sent out a similar picture from Lakeland on Friday. Anti-government factions in Venezuela have been protesting against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Large-scale protests were expected Saturday in Caracas.

The unrest has become so great that Alvarez sent for his family, which arrived in the U.S. on Thursday.

"My family in Valencia is fine," Alvarez said. "It was my daughter who was affected. She was affected by tear gas, twice. I brought her and my wife to Miami."

It wasn't only Venezuelan players who posed with Alvarez in the photo. Others, including Cuban-born pitcher Jose Fernandez, also participated, as did A.J. Ramos (born in Texas) and Arquimedes Caminero (Dominican Republic).

"We're always supporting one another," Alvarez said. "It's not just a country thing. We always want peace and for the violence to end."

Alvarez, who was obtained by the Marlins in their blockbuster trade with Toronto in November, 2012, is best known for the no-hitter he threw on closing day last season.

In the photo, Alvarez is fourth from right.

20140222_084019

 

February 20, 2014

Loss-weary Giancarlo Stanton: "I'm not a loser"

JUPITER -- One can understand any frustration Giancarlo Stanton might have simply by looking at the Marlins' won-loss records during his four seasons in Miami. The Marlins finished 80-82 in 2010, the year he made his debut, and it's been downhill ever since: 79-90 in 2011, 69-93 in 2012 and 62-100 last season.

No wonder Stanton said he is tired of it.

"I'm competitive, so I don't take losing well," Stanton said Thursday to a group of reporters. "I'm not a loser. That's not what I'm accustomed to. That's not what I like to do. So obviously it hasn't been ideal so far. And I don't want a career like that. So we've got to push it forward and start turning it around."

Stanton has said he wants to see matters begin to stabilize with the Marlins, which has been a roller-coaster ride for him ever since his arrival, before making any plans to stay with the club long-term. Stanton is in his first year of salary arbitration and can hit free agency after the 2016 season.

"It's been a circus -- low, high-low..." Stanton said of the up-and-down years with the franchise.

Stanton said he likes the additions the team made during the offseason, but that's it's too early to begin making any kind of predictions. He remembers too well what happened in 2012 when the Marlins, as they prepared to move into their new ballpark, went on a free agent buying spree, gussied up the roster, and fell flat on their face.

"You can't just get a bunch of big names that aren't going to win together on the field," Stanton said. "Baseball is that one sport where you can't bring a bunch of guys in and expect it to click right away. So there's the chemistry that translates to how you play on the field."

Stanton said it's more important to stay healthy and play as many games as possible, something he's had trouble doing, than to establish personal goals such as home runs and batting average.

"If you're there the whole season, then you don't have to worry about home runs and average," he said. "It's the little out for three weeks (with injury), out for his long, that sets you back for everything. It sets your timing back. It sets everything back. If you're there every day of the season, it's (statistics) going to pan out for itself."

On a side note, Stanton said he had a 50-yard line seat at the Rose Bowl when Florida State defeated Auburn for the national championship. Stanton, a former standout in football in high school who decided to play baseball for a living, respects FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, a reliever for the Seminoles' baseball team.

Asked if he would like the chance to stand in against Winston on the baseball field, Stanton replied, 'Yeah, that would be cool. I've seen him thrown from the outfield, and he's got an arm."

The remaking of Rafael Furcal

JUPITER -- Rafael Furcal has been putting in extra time with Marlins infield coach Perry Hill on the practice field getting re-acquainted with second base. Furcal, a shortstop for the vast majority of his 13 major league seasons, hasn't played second since 2004 and last started a game there in 2002 when he was with the Braves.

Contrary to perception, Hill said the transition going from shortstop to second base is more difficult than it is the other way around.

"Taking arm strength out of the equation, it's more difficult from short to second than it is from second to short," Hill said. "Think about your double play pivot. When I come across the base (as a shortstop), I have a feel for where the base runner is. I have no idea where he is (as a second baseman). Plus, at second, I'm throwing it across my body almost everything I do."

Hill said that, for shortstop, "everything is happening in front of them."

"For second basemen, 70 percent of what you do is behind you," Hill said. "When a second baseman charges a slow roller, first base is now behind me. It's not as easy as people think. People think when someone goes to second, they're thinking of the ground ball right at him and the shorter throw. That's one-tenth of it. The other nine-tenths is hard."

Hill said he doubts Furcal will have any trouble making the adjustment to the new position, or getting used to Adeiny Hechavarria as his double play partner.

"I've mapped it out for them," Hill said. "Two weeks from now it'll be like they've played there forever."

Check out video of Hill working with Furcal in "The Bone Yard," Hill's private mini-sanctuary for infield instruction:

February 19, 2014

Steve Cishek dealing with sore neck

JUPITER -- Steve Cishek is good at shutting the door in terms of closing out wins. But shutting off the alarm clock is another story.

Cishek strained his neck when he reached to shut off his alarm Tuesday morning. The result: he's taking it easy for a few days while the pain subsides.

"I just reached to shut off the alarm and felt a nice little couple of pops in my neck and shooting pain," Cishek said. "It's a freak thing. Crazy. At least it happened now and not later."

Cishek did not throw off the mound as scheduled on Tuesday but hopes to resume throwing in the next day or two.

__________________

The spikes worn by Henderson Alvarez when he tossed his closing-day no-hitter for the Marlins now belong to the Hall of Fame.

Alvarez said Cooperstown came calling for his shoes after his no-no, the fifth thrown in Marlins history.

__________________

The Marlins will conduct their first full-squad workout in the early afternoon on Thursday, after position players have had a chance to complete their physicals.

February 18, 2014

Marlins going high-tech with drone cameras, helmet-cams

    JUPITER -- The Marlins are joining the modern age this spring.

    With the help of video coordinator Cullen McRae, some players will begin wearing small cameras affixed to the tops of their caps and helmets in order to gain a brand new perspective that they'll be able to watch and study afterward. And McRae said he also intends to mount a camera on a remote-controlled drone, which will hover above the field and film the routes taken by outfielders on fly balls.

    20140218_105748 "Just trying to get an edge," McRae said, adding that the camera technology will only be used during drills and not in actual games.

     McRae said the idea came out about over the winter while manager Mike Redmond was on a skiing trip. Redmond noticed skiers wearing the cameras on their helmets and asked McRae if it could be done with the Marlins' players.

     "I think some teams have dabbled with them," McRae said.

     The Nationals, for example, are already using a drone. (In the photograph, Jeff Mathis examines his camera-mounted helmet before catching Jose Fernandez's bullpen on Tuesday).

     "It's mostly early on doing drills," McRae said. "It's not going to be anything that interferes with game stuff. I really don't know what to expect. It's just to get a different perspective. I'm just trying to be creative. I've been here 18 years and technology is always evolving. I'm just trying to keep up with technology, and luckily for me, the Marlins have always given me the resources to be able to keep up with the trends in technology."

     McRae said the camera are already in widespread use in the X-Game sports.

     "The surfers are using them," McRae said. "I saw (surfer) Kelly Slater in a video using it, and (snowboarder) Shaun White."

     McRae has ordered a drone and hopes to begin practicing with it by the end of the week.

Policy change: Marlins players can now wear beards

   JUPITER -- Major news this morning out of spring training camp: manager Mike Redmond said it's now okay if players have beards, thus ending a long-standing team policy that was instituted when Jeffrey Loria took over as owner.

    Just don't expect any ZZ Top beards, or the shaggy versions popularized last season by the Boston Red Sox when they made their World Series runs. Redmond said the beards must be kept neat and trim.

    "This year we're going to let them have beards, but they've got to keep them trimmed up -- and the hair, too," Redmond said. "We just don't want it to look sloppy."

    Redmond said the policy change was "an organization" decision.

    Part of the reason for the change was that some players -- most notably pitcher Ricky Nolasco last season before he was traded -- were getting around the rule on facial hair. Nolasco didn't shave on days he started.

    Several players are already going bearded. They include new catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and non-roster pitchers Chris Hatcher and Chaz Roe.

    "We've only got a handful of guys who can even grow a beard," Redmond said, laughing.

    __________________________

    Redmond said he suffered a groin injury during a bowling outing Monday night.

    "I'm a little beat up. I pulled my groin last night," Redmond said. "I strained my groin in the 10th frame."

    Redmond said he rolled a 144 in the first game before suffering the injury in the second when he followed with a 104.

    "I had to talk to the trainers to make sure I wasn't going to do anymore damage," he said. "And they cleared me for the third game and I bowled a 166, so I bounced back pretty good. Got up this morning and heated it up, got my hour run in and had my Egg White delight and here I am."

    _________________

February 17, 2014

Carlos Marmol: Command issues were more mechanical than mental

JUPITER -- Though he used the word "frustrating" to describe his repeated failures with the Cubs toward the end of his long run in Chicago, reliever Carlos Marmol said his command issues were more mechanical than mental.

"It was a lot of things, the mechanics and my stuff," Marmol said of his experience, one in which he lost the closer's role with the Cubs before being traded to the Dodgers. "What can you say? Bad year. When you have a bad year, things happen. For any pitcher, when you don't do your job, it makes it frustrating for everybody."

The Marlins are gambling that the change of scenery will help get Marmol back on track, signing him to a low-cost deal with the intention of turning him into a set-up reliever for closer Steve Cishek.

Marmol said he is looking forward to a fresh start.

"I feel great with a new team," he said. "There's a lot of talent here."

Was 2013 frustrating for him?

"It was," he said. "But that's in the past. I don't even think about it anymore. I'm positive. I'm here with a new team and will try the best I can."

Marmol said the Dodgers coaches worked on ironing out his mechanical flaws during the half-season he spent in Los Angeles. He continued to work on his delivery over the winter in the Caribbean Series while playing for a team from the Dominican Republic.

"It was simple," Marmol said of his mechanical issues, which he feels have been corrected. "I wouldn't say it was my confidence."

February 16, 2014

Redmond praises ex-Marlin Ryan Dempster, who is not pitching in 2014

     JUPITER -- Ryan Dempster, who began his career on a 1998 Marlins team that lost 108 games, announced Sunday that he would not pitch in 2014 due to injuries and his desire to spend time with his family. Whether Dempster, 36, ever pitches again remains to be seen, as he stopped short of terming his decision a retirement. [Read story here.]

      DempsterDempster made his major league debut with the Marlins eight days before Marlins manager Mike Redmond made his with Florida, represented the Marlins in the 2000 All-Star Game, and went 42-43 during his five years with the team.

      "Demp was a warrior, the ultimate competitor," Redmond said. "We really cut our teeth in the big leagues together with 108 losses that first year. It wasn't easy for any of us. But I know we were all better off for it down the road."

       Redmond said he was especially pleased to see Dempster win a World Series ring last season with the Red Sox.

        "I was so happy for him what he did last year," Redmond said. "To get that World Series ring was huge. I wanted every one of my teammates to enjoy that experience, and I'm glad he did. He had one helluva career."

        Dempster made his big-league debut on May 23, 1998, giving up three runs in a 1-inning relief stint against Pittsburgh. It was a rough beginning for Dempster, who was charged with 12 runs in his first three outings, all in relief, and he finished the season with a 1-7 record and 7.06 ERA.

         But he turned into a solid starter for the Marlins before being traded to Cincinnati in a 3-way deal with Montreal midway through the 2002 season. His 42 wins with Florida ranks seventh on the franchise's all-time list, just ahead of Josh Beckett's 41 victories as a Marlin.

Tom Koehler has Olympic sports in his blood

    JUPITER -- Perhaps more than any player on the Marlins, Tom Koehler is intensely interested in the Winter Olympics. As pitchers and catchers were reporting to spring training Sunday and putting their lockers in order, Koehler was about the only person keeping an eye on the clubhouse television, which was turned to figure skating from the Sochi games.

      IMG_20140216_121207_951Koehler's interest goes beyond the fact he's from New York state. He said his grandfather, Josef Koehler, was a top ski jumper for Germany in the late 1930s and early '40s. Koehler said Josef was chosen to represent Germany in the 1944 Winter Olympics.

     "It's a little known fact on the family tree," Koehler said.

     But Josef Koehler never had a chance to jump in the Olympics. Due to the war in the European theater, the '44 Games were cancelled. Not only that, but Koehler said his grandfather ended up driving a tank for the German army, fighting against the Allies.

      "What he went through at that point, the Olympics were the least of his concern," Koehler said. "It (fighting for Germany) wasn't something he was proud of. If I remember correctly, he told me it was either join or get killed. So it's pretty simple, when you're that age, what your choice is going to be. If they didn't join, they would kill you."

       Koeher said when his grandfather died in 2006, his funeral card contained a photograph of him as a ski jumper.

       As for Koehler, the ski jumping gene wasn't passed down to him.

       "I can't get off the bunny hill on a snowboard," Koehler said. "I tried when I was younger. I would go a couple of times and I guess that just wasn't genetic."

       The photo above, provided by the Koehler family, shows Josef Koehler in action in his ski jumping days.