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3 posts from March 8, 2014

March 08, 2014

Red Sox owner John Henry zings Marlins

JUPITER -- The flap over the extraordinarily thin spring training lineup the Boston Red Sox sent to Jupiter on Thursday is not dying. Not by a mile.

On Saturday, Red Sox owner John Henry fired out this tweet, which is certain to stir things up further:

"They should apologize for their regular season lineup."


The Marlins cannot be amused by the latest salvo in the controversy. So far, they're not commenting. But given the growing animosity between the two franchises, it's hard to imagine they'll remain quiet on this. And, given the level to which the spat has now escalated -- team ownership, for crying out loud -- it would not be surprising to see the league become involved.

The Marlins were not pleased when the World Series champs sent over only one regular -- center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. -- for Thursday's Grapefruit League game. And, according to Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, Red Sox G.M. Ben Cherington emailed him an apology that day.

Based on Henry's tweet, which takes a shot at the Marlins, it's not a dead issue.

Stay tuned.

Henry, of course, gave up ownership of the Marlins in 2001, allowing Jeffrey Loria to take over. This isn't the first time Henry has grumbled about Marlins-related issues. He has complained about the lack of spending by low-revenue teams at the expense of the big boys.

Brantly shines, Turner gets tagged, and McGehee homers against Braves

Rob Brantly is likely headed back to Triple A New Orleans when the spring ends, but the Marlins 2013 Opening Day catcher isn't letting that affect his focus.

Saturday, he plated three runs with a double off Braves starter Freddy Garcia in the third inning and finished with two hits. He's now 4-for-8 this spring.

"He looks much more comfortable this year than he did last year," Redmond said. "He'll be fine to be able to go down to the minor leagues, get at-bats and improve his game-calling. Those are things that you need to be successful up here in the big leagues. He can catch. He got better last year throwing, catching and blocking.”

> Jacob Turner lasted only 2 1/3 innings in his second Grapefruit League start Saturday. He gave up seven hits, two earned runs and a walk and threw 35 of his 54 pitches for strikes. He also had a throwing error attempting to pick off Jason Heyward at first base.

“Obviously I gave up a lot of hits and results wise you don’t want to see that,” said Turner, expected to be the Marlins' No. 4 starter. “But I made a lot of good pitches that either found a hole or they put a good swing on it. The biggest thing was [the throwing error] to first. I got quick with the throw.”

Redmond said he thought Turner "did okay."

"He got himself in some trouble, gave up a few hits," Redmond said. "Definitely wasn't as sharp as his last game. It was one of those games where the first couple of innings were slow. Wasn't a great rhythm out there either side. It could have affected him a little bit."

> Third baseman Casey McGehee rocketed a solo home run off Garcia in the second inning.  It was his first home run of the spring.

"It's obviously nice to have a swing match up with what you've been working on," said McGehee, who finished 1-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .333 this spring. "The home run was nice. I was just more happy with the approach. All in all the first two at bats I really liked and the last two not so much. I'm trying to get more consistent and have the same approach for four at-bats instead of two."

> Reliever Henry Rodriguez, shelved in his native Venezuela because he had to deal with visa issues most of the spring, pitched a scoreless inning in his Grapefruit League debut Saturday. Rodriguez walked one and gave up a hit. 

"He threw some really good fastball, nice breaking balls," Redmond said. "It was nice to see him in person."

Former Braves pinch-hitter Reed Johnson ready to face his old team

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The Marlins get their first look at the reigning National League East champion Braves today at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.

For veteran outfielder Reed Johnson it's sort of a homecoming. Reed spent the last two seasons with the Braves and tasted the playoffs for the first time in his career last year.

A non-roster invitee at Marlins camp, Johnson, 37, has to overcome some odds to make the Marlins 25-man roster. The team traded Justin Ruggiano for Brian Bogusevic, who is most likely going to win the fourth outfielder spot.

But Johnson has value. While his overall offensive numbers weren't particularly strong in 2013 (.244, 1 HR, 11 RBI in 74 games), Johnson did perform well as a pinch-hitter. He batted .297 with an .801 OPS in 44 pinch-hit at-bats.

Reed admires what the Marlins young outfield looks like and thinks the team is in for a good season.

"Being in the East last year in Atlanta I got to see them quite a bit," Reed said. "To see those guys from the beginning of the year to the end of last year it was like night and day. It's a team you didn't really want to face. With the pitching staff they had and then having a lead late in the seventh inning with Dunn, Qualls and Cishek to close out the game. It made it tough."


Baseball's new instant replay system has been used in several Grapefruit and Cactus League games already, but the Marlins have yet to play in a game where replay has been available. They will Thursday, though, when they travel to Lakeland to face the Tigers.

It's the first of five "replay games" for the Marlins. The others: March 16 at Twins, March 20 vs.  Cardinals, March 23 at Tigers, and March 29 at the Yankees.

In Friday's 7-3 win over the Cardinals back in Jupiter, the Marlins had a bit of a controversial play that could have used instant replay help. In the fourth inning, Jeff Mathis hit a ball off the wall near the right field line. Umpires first ruled it foul. But after manager Mike Redmond ran out on the field, the umpires convened and decided to award Mathis a double.

"We've talked about going out there at times if there is a play that's really close, whether it is a replay game or not," Redmond said. "Just to get used to going out there and the mechanics of [challenging]. That just seemed like a perfect time to go out and see what they saw on that play.

"They were going to meet anyway. I think somebody saw it and knew that was the right call, and they got it right. I think the umpires want to get the calls right. If one of them sees it, I don't think they're afraid to overturn it. They want to get them right. And that's good."

> In order to avoid facing the Mets in back-to-back outings, Redmond said Jose Fernandez will skip his next scheduled start Monday and pitch in a simulated game back in Jupiter.

Right-hander Kevin Slowey, who has faced the Mets in both of his spring appearances, will pitch in a B game against the Mets to also avoid facing their regulars again.

Left-hander Brad Hand will start opposite Bartolo Colin in the regularly scheduled game against the Mets at 1 p.m. in Port St. Lucie.

"We can control the situation back there and the number of pitches and get the exact number of pitches we want out of him," Redmond explained of Fernandez, the Marlins' scheduled Opening Day starter. "There's really no reason for him to go and face the Mets again. He'll get plenty of opportunities to do that during the season. And Slowey too. It just worked out that staying with the rotation he's faced the Mets every single time. We can pitch Slowey in a B game. He gets his pitches. We know what he can do."


> Marlins (6-2-1): 1. Donovan Solano 2B, 2. Reed Johnson RF, 3. Marcell Ozuna CF, 4. Jeff Baker 1B, 5. Casey McGehee 3B, 6. Ty Wigginton DH, 7. Brian Bogusevic LF, 8. Ed Lucas SS, 9. Rob Brantly C. RHP Jacob Turner

> Braves (2-6): 1. Jason Heyward RF, 2. B.J. Upton CF, 3. Justin Upton LF, 4. Ryan Doumit C, 5. Gerald Laird DH, 6. Ernesto Mejia 1B, 7. Tommy La Stella 2B, 8. Ramiro Pena SS, 9. Philip Gosselin 3B. RHP Freddy Garcia.