Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez shares emotions, memories after passing of friend and mentor Don Zimmer
ST. PETERSBURG -- As a son of Tampa who began his professional coaching career with the Rays, Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez not only grew to knew Don Zimmer as a mentor, but as a close friend.
So after learning of Zimmer's passing during the middle of Wednesday's game the 53-year old Marlins assistant naturally took the news hard.
"He was a friend. He was a mentor to me," Hernandez said after the game before his voice trailed off and he took a moment to compose himself. "He fought a hard long fight as would be expected. He's going to be in a good place tonight. All my thoughts are with his family, [his wife] Soot and his son. Just a great guy. What an impact on so many people for so long. We're going to miss him."
Zimmer, 83, spent 66 years in the majors as a player, coach and manager and wore 14 different uniforms -- but none longer than the 11 seasons with the Rays. Hernandez spent six years in the minors with the Rays and then two more as the major league pitching coach in 2004 and 2005 when Zimmer had joined the organization after leaving the Yankees in 2003.
"So many memories," Hernandez said. "I go back to him as a kid, growing up in Tampa and going to the Tampa Greyhound track, one of his favorite places. And I was underage and in there and he's teaching me how to pick dog races. We did a lot of that. And then coaching wise -- especially my first year here with the Rays. He'd always sit right next to me on my left and so much knowledge would come out. I would just try to absorb as much as I could. We're going to miss him."
Marlins manager Mike Redmond never coached with Zimmer, but he respected him plenty.
"I was never on the same team with him or around him a ton other than the times I played against the Yankees and here," Redmond said. "But definitely all of our thoughts and prayers from the players, coaches, front office staff are with his family. Not just the Rays organization -- the Yankees, every organization, every person influenced by him throughout his life. Definitely a heavy heart for baseball. We lost a great man tonight."
ST. PETERSBURG -- The season isn't over yet for Carter Capps.
The hard-throwing reliever met with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday to have his elbow examined, and the recommendation given was the same as the one Marlins doctors first gave Capps when he went on the disabled list last week with a right elbow sprain -- no surgery and a month's rest.
"I haven't talked to Capps, but I'm sure he's relieved," manager Mike Redmond said. "He got checked out again and it has to be comforting for him they both [Andrews and Marlins doctors] said the same thing.
"He's going to rest for the next month and then will start playing catch again and start building back up and see where we're at. So there is no surgery or recommendation or anything like that. So it's good news."
Capps was transferred to the 60-day disabled list Wednesday. The earliest he could return from the DL is July 25.
DIETRICH TAKES DEMOTION 'LIKE ANY YOUNG GUY -- IT WAS TOUGH'
Redmond said second baseman Derek Dietrich took his demotion to Triple A New Orleans after Tuesday's game "like any young guy -- it was tough."
"But I think he understood where we were coming from," Redmond continued. "The focus needs to be not just on hitting. It has to be on defense too. I think he understands that. I felt good walking away... I know he'll go down there and do that and give effort to improve in those areas."
Dietrich's seven errors at second base were tied for the most in baseball at the position. Redmond maintains Dietrich's defensive struggles are a product of what happened to him back in spring training when he was struck in the face by a hard-hit, one-hopper.
"That's all I can say really caused him to go into a defensive struggle," Redmond said. "Because he was so good playing defense last year. We know it's in there. For whatever reason he just needs to go down there, relax and get his confidence back defensively. We know when he does that he'll be back."
In the meantime, Redmond said he would like to get Donovan Solano some more at-bats and playing time at second base along with Ed Lucas. Solano was in the starting lineup at second base for only the fifth time this season Wednesday. He's only had 35 at-bats so far despite being with the team all year.
PLAN FOR THE DH SPOT
With the Marlins playing at American League parks in four of their next seven games, Redmond said he plans on mixing up who he slots into the designated hitter's spot. Redmond said rookie Justin Boar, called up to replace Dietrich, could get the nod on Thursday against Tampa. He also said it's likely Giancarlo Stanton could DH against the Rangers next week.
"DH is tough for us because guys aren't used to that," Redmond said. "It's not an easy role especially when you're used to playing and playing defense, sort of being in that flow of the game.
"It's perfect for Casey to get the DH tonight especially after taking that bat in the ribs. I know he's fine. But at the same time too he has to be a little bit sore whether he admits it or not. Really that bat hit him a lot harder than I originally thought. But he's fine. We'll just kind of mess around with that spot, see who can give us good at-bats."
> Redmond said he's leaning toward starting rookie J.T. Realmuto behind the plate Thursday but hasn't made a final decision yet.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee has had a lot of broken bats come flying at him over the years, but Tuesday turned out to be the first time one actually hit him.
In the fourth inning, McGehee was standing in the on deck circle when the barrel of Giancarlo Stanton's bat came zooming at him. The severed, sharp edge grazed and scratched McGehee's left elbow before the barrell hit him on the upper, left side of his rib cage.
"I got as lucky as I could have got," McGehee said Wednesday. "If the barrel hits me more flush it probably wouldn't have been too good.
"Usually at third base my eyes usually go to the bat. But on that one I was looking at the ball. So I never saw it. Even if I would have [seen it] I'm not sure I would have been able to do anything about it."
McGehee said he wasn't freaked out over how close it came to really hurting him until he saw replays after the game.
"[Stanton] didn't even know it happened until I told him afterward," McGehee said. "He was messing me with that I should have caught it. Tony Perez was joking saying 'You got a bat in your hand, hit it back to him.' I'm just glad we're sitting here talking about it and making light of it compared to what it could have been. I got as lucky as I could have gotten. I dodged a bullet."
BOAR SURPISED BY CALL-UP
Derek Dietrich's late Tuesday night demotion -- a reassignment geared at getting the second baseman to work on becoming more consistent defensively -- opened the door Wednesday for the Marlins to get a look at left-handed power-hitting first baseman Justin Boar.
Acquired in the Triple A phase of the Rule 5 draft last December, Boar was hitting .330 with nine homers and 36 RBI for Triple A New Orleans this season.
With the Marlins playing four of their next seven games at American League parks, it's likely Bour will get a few shots to either serve as a designated hitter or even start at first base. Bour said he's only played "three or four innings in left field" in the minors so he won't be playing anywhere else.
Bour, who spent six years in the Cubs' minor league system and 23 homers in 2011 in Single A and then drove in 110 runs 2012 in Double A, said he was pleasantly surprised by Wednesday's call-up. He said Zephyrs manager Andy Haines took him out of the lineup pre-game on Tuesday and didn't explain why until after the game.
"I knew something weird was going on. I didn't know if it was going to be a trade or something like that. So I just kind of sat in the dugout the whole game wondering what was going on," Bour said. "Afterward [Haines] called me in and said, 'Sorry to lie to you, but I had to a little bit.' Then he said, 'It's June 3rd. As of June 4th you're a big leaguer. Come here, I want to give you a hug.' It was awesome. All the guys were real excited."
> Marlins (30-28): 1. Reed Johnson LF, 2. Ed Lucas 3B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee DH, 5. Marcell Ozuna CF, 6. Jeff Baker 1B, 7. Donavan Solano 2B, 8. Jeff Mathis C, 9. Adeiny Hechavarria SS. RHP Tom Koehler.
> Rays (23-36): 1. David DeJesus DH, 2. Ben Zobrist 2B, 3. Evan Longoria 3B, 4. James Loney 1B, 5. Desmond Jennings CF, 6. Matt Joyce LF, 7. Yunel Escobar SS, 8. Kevin Kiermaier RF, 9. Jose Molina C. LHP David Price.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Henderson Alvarez's third complete game shutout of the season Tuesday night put him into some elite Marlins company.
Only four other Marlins pitchers have ever made at least three consecutive starts without giving up a run -- earned or unearned: Chris Hammond (4 in 1994), Javier Vazquez (3 in 2011), Dontrelle Willis (3 between 2003-04) and Pat Rapp (3 in 1995).
Alvarez's string of 21 consecutive scoreless innings ranks sixth in club history for a starting pitcher. He still has a ways to go to set the club record owned by Josh Johnson (31 innings in 2010).
What was arguably the most impressive thing about Alvarez's start Tuesday was how efficient he was. He set a club-record by throwing only 88 pitches in Tuesday's nine-inning complete game shutout. He's now managed to throw fewer than 100 pitches three times in a complete game shutout for the Marlins.
Only two other Marlins are on that list with him: Kevin Brown (98 pitches in his no-hitter against the Giants in 1997) and Dontrelle Willis (97 pitches in a 9-0 win overt the Nationals on April 8, 2005).
Alvarez's three shutouts this season are now tied for the third-most in a single season in Marlins history with Brown (1996). A.J. Burnett (2002) and Willis (2005) each had five in one season.
What makes Alvarez so good and so efficient?
"He's just got a good fastball and it moves and creates a lot of ground balls," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think when he's pounding the zone with his fastball he's able to make guys miss. That's the key. The little bit of trouble he got into [Tuesday] he got out of it whether it's him fielding his position or a perfectly timed double play. He gets a lot of ground balls and doesn't give up a lot of hard contact and that's huge for me."
Justin Bour, a 26-year-old first baseman who has been crushing it of late at Triple A New Orleans, will be joining the Marlins in St. Petersburg today when they re-engage with the Rays at Tropicana Field. Bour, who gives the Marlins a lefty power option off the bench and could also serve as a designated hitter the coming two games, is tearing it up in the minors, where he is hitting .330 with nine homers and 36 RBI.
Over his previous nine games, he's gone 15 for 38 with three home runs. The Marlins acquired Bour in the Triple A phase of the Rule 5 draft in December. Bour had been with the Cubs organization, which means he could face his original club this coming weekend when the Marlins invade Wrigley Field.
Meanwhile, the Marlins have a couple of veteran infielders warming up in the wings. Rafael Furcal, who has probably set some sort of Marlins record for expending the most newspaper ink without ever playing a single game for them, has gone 6 for 13 over his past four games at Single A Jupiter and is headed up to Double A Jacksonville to continue his rehab assignment.
And Miguel Tejada, whom the Marlins recently signed to provide veteran infield depth in their system, has gone 4 for 12 with a double in his first three games with Jacksonville. Tejada, who is serving a MLB drug suspension, isn't eligible to return to the majors until June 11.
Bour will fill the roster spot vacated by Derek Dietrich, who was demoted to New Orleans on Wednesday. The Marlins will have to find room for Bour on their 40-man roster, which is presently full. One possibility: Carter Capps could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list if the decision is made today for him to have Tommy John surgery. Capps is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews.