« May 2014 | Main | July 2014 »

52 posts from June 2014

June 24, 2014

Giancarlo Stanton's teammates are outraged he's not receiving more All-Star love

Steve Cishek called it "ridiculous." Casey McGehee said it was "inexcusable."

Their beef? When the latest All-Star voting update was released on Monday, Giancarlo Stanton had slipped to fourth in voting among National League outfielders.

"I know that there are many talented, deserving outfielders in the National League," said Marlins infielder Ed Lucas. "But I do not think you can find three that are more deserving than him."

Yet Stanton trails Yasiel Puig, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gomez in the voting among NL outfielders even  though, statisically, he's enjoying a much better season than those three. Stanton leads the league in homers and RBI, has a .303 average, and established a new single-season career high Monday night with his seventh stolen base.

In a head-to-head comparison, Stanton's WAR (wins against replacement) of 4.5 is not only tops among outfielders, it is significantly better than McCutchen (3.7), Gomez (2.9) or Puig (2.8). His OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .983 also leads all NL outfielders. McCutchen is a distant second with an OPS of .948.

"You can't ask him to do anything else," Lucas said.

Said manager Mike Redmond: "There's no way this guy shouldn't be a starter in an All-Star game."

Voting by fans continues online at MLB.com through July 3. But Stanton lost considerable ground relative to the other outfielders in the latest release. Puig, McCutchen and Gomez each has received more than 2,400,000 votes while Stanton sits at just over 2,130,000.

"That's a joke," McGehee said. "That's inexcusable. I don't know how he could not be in the starting lineup in the All-Star game with what he's done. Everyone probably has their own bias. But I think, objectively, I don't see how he could be kept out of the starting lineup."

There's a chance Stanton could still start, though not necessarily in the outfield.

Stanton figures to be the only Marlin on the N.L. squad, though many feel McGehee has a strong case with the season he's having. McGehee's .390 average with runners in scoring position leads the league. Stanton is solidly in the third baseman's corner for an All-Star nod.

"It should be by the numbers, not popularity or most fans of a team," said Stanton, adding that fellow Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna should also be considered. "I'm sure Ozuna and McGehee aren't even in the conversation. It's unbelievable. The fact that they're not even in the conversation is unbelievable."

_________________

Adeiny Hechavarria thought he would be available to return to play Tuesday. Instead, the shortstop returned home to Miami, where he received a MRI that revealed a right triceps strain. The Marlins didn't know as of Tuesday afternoon whether he would be placed on the disabled list.

"We're just kind of waiting to try to give it a day," Redmond said. "We've given it a few days to see if it gets better to where he's able to play without putting him on the DL. We thought he was getting better, and yesterday he tried to throw and he still had some discomfort there."

Lucas started at shortstop again on Tuesday.

June 23, 2014

Division title, not wild-card, might be best hope for Marlins

PHILADELPHIA -- Come the July 31 trading deadline, the Marlins might be more inclined to swing a deal to upgrade their roster if the team is in the division race as opposed to simply being in the larger wild-card fray.

And the division title might be the Marlins’ best hope at the moment.

“Just looking right now, I would tell you the best shot may be the division,” said Marlins general manager Dan Jennings. “Usually in years past, there’s always somebody in this division that’s put their foot on the accelerator and you go, ‘We have to focus on the wild card.’”

But the wild card isn’t what it once was when the Marlins won their two World Series titles as the lone wild card. Now there are two wild card teams that meet in a one-game, win-or-go-home matchup.

As a result, teams might be more reluctant to go all-in on a major deal just to enhance their chances of grabbing a wild card spot, as the Marlins did in 2003 when they traded Adrian Gonzalez for a half-season of Ugueth Urbina.

Because the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants have built comfortable early leads in their respective divisions, Jennings said the two also-rans -- the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers -- have already gained a strong upper hand in wild-card positioning.

The N.L. East, on the other hand, remains muddled.

The five teams began the day Monday separated by only five games, and the Marlins were as close to first place as they were to last -- 2 1/2 games both ways.
___________

If the Marlins make any kind of move, it would most likely be to acquire starting pitching.

“Our starting pitching needs to step up a notch,” Jennings said.

Jennings said while the Marlins “love” rookie starters Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani, “the jury is still out” on the two youngsters.

“I mean, we love ‘em as prospects,” Jennings said. “How are they going to be as big-league producers? Time will tell. So that would be, potentially, where you would have to look.”

But Jennings added that “it’s way too early to panic” despite what was a “discouraging” home stand in which the Marlins won a total of only three games against three, sub.-500 teams.
___________

Rafael Furcal has a Grade III hamstring strain in which part of the tissue has separated from the bone near the knee.

As a result, the Marlins aren’t expecting Furcal to return from the disabled list anytime soon.
-- Christian Yelich (back) was to begin a rehab assignment Monday with Single A Jupiter. Manager Mike Redmond said Yelich would play two games with Jupiter, two with Triple A New Orleans, and re-join the Marlins on Sunday.

Once Yelich returns, Redmond said he would return to the leadoff spot.
___________

Even though he was born in Germany, Marlins infielder Jeff Baker said he’ll be pulling for the U.S. in Thursday’s World Cup match between the two countries.

“I think it’s cool the way the countries are rallying around this,” Baker said. “Let’s be honest. Soccer’s not exactly a popular sport in America. But it’s growing. I’m not saying this in a negative way, but there are a lot of bandwagon soccer fans right now, including myself.”

Baker lived in Germany for two years after being born there and doesn’t speak the language.

“I’m an American,” Baker said. “I know where I sleep at night, and it’s not over there.”
______________

Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was not in the lineup Monday for a third straight game due to a sore right elbow. But he said he expects to play Tuesday.

______________

LINEUPS:

Marlins: 1. Jake Marisnick, cf; 2. Derek Dietrich, 2b; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 4. Casey McGehee, 3b; 5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c; 6. Marcell Ozuna, cf; 7. Garrett Jones, 1b; 8. Ed Lucas, ss; 9. Nathan Eovaldi, p.

Phillies: 1. Jimmy Rollins, ss; 2. Carlos Ruiz, c; 3. Chase Utley, 2b; 4. Ryan Howard, 1b; 5. Marlon Byrd, rf; 6. Cody Asche, 3b; 7. Domonic Brown, lf; 8. Ben Revere, cf; 9. Roberto Hernandez, p. 

June 22, 2014

Dietrich recalled from NOLA in wake of Furcal injury

            Derek Dietrich rejoined the Marlins Sunday with a chance to remain the team’s starting second baseman for the next two weeks if not longer.

            Dietrich was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans in the wake of another injury to second baseman Rafael Furcal, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain.

            Furcal suffered the injury Saturday in the Marlins 4-0 loss to the Mets when he pulled up grabbing the back of his left leg as he was trying to beat out a double play. Furcal already missed the first two months of the season with an injury to his right hamstring and a groin injury.

            Marlins manager Mike Redmond said it could be some time before Furcal, 36, would be able to return.

            “It’s going to be a while for [Furcal],” Redmond said. “It looks like it could be an extensive thing so we’re not putting a timetable on it right now.”

            Dietrich, who got to the stadium early after catching a 6 a.m. flight out of New Orleans, hit .340 with six home runs and 15 RBI in 13 minor-league games since being demoted June 3.

            Dietrich’s problem at the time was defense. He committed eight errors in 36 games tied for the most by a second baseman in the National League this season.

Dietrich made only one error in 13 games at New Orleans.

“I knew I’d have a chance to play every day and get in a routine and rhythm,” Dietrich said. “I’m glad to be back here and playing well. I went down there with the same mindset to get quality at-bats. I put together good games and had a lot of opportunities.”

            Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was not in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game, but Redmond said he’d be available as a pinch-hitter. Redmond hopes he will be ready to start again when the Marlins play the Phillies starting Monday in Philadelphia.

LINEUPS

            Mets (34-41): Granderson rf; Murphy 2b; Wright 3b; Duda 1b; Nieuwenhuis cf; Tejada ss; Recker c; Niese p; Young, Jr. lf.

            Marlins (37-37): Johnson lf; Lucas ss; Stanton rf; McGehee 3b; Ozuna cf; Baker 1b; Dietrich 2b; Mathis c; DeSclafani p.

June 21, 2014

Furcal likely headed to disabled list with calf, hamstring injury

The Marlins are going to make another roster move soon now that looks like they'll be without second baseman Rafael Furcal again.

Furcal, 36, left Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Mets in the third inning after pulling up as he was running down the first base line and trying to beat out a double play. Manager Mike Redmond said it was a calf and hamstring injury and that Furcal was headed to the hospital to have an MRI performed.

The Marlins first called it a left hamstring cramp.

"It definitely doesn't sound good," Redmond said. "I'd be happy if it was a cramp."

Furcal has played in only nine games this season. He recently was recalled from the 60-day disabled list on June 13 after fighting through hamstring and groin injuries.

"I'm more disappointed for him," Redmond said. "He's been out for a long time. He was looking forward to this opportunity with us to go out and play and it just hasn't happened for him. A rough go from the start. Spring training was tough on him. He's been banged up really since Day 1. We were hoping getting him back would be a big spark for us and he just hasn't been able to stay out there. I feel more for him and what he's gone through to get back out on the field. It's tough when you get banged up and you can't get out there and perform and do the things you want to be able to do."

Redmond said the Marlins will announce a move Sunday.

Derek Dietrich, whom the Marlins sent back to Triple A on June 3 because of defensive struggles, is not in the lineup for the New Orleans Zepbyrs Saturday. So he very well could be on his way back to Miami.

Furcal leaves with left hamstring cramp Marlins say

Rafael Furcal has only been back from the disabled list a little over the week. 

He might be heading back there soon.

The 36-year old second baseman pulled up and reached back for his left hamstring after trying to beat out a double play, which ended the third inning. Furcal missed the first two-plus months of the season and most of the spring trying to recover from hamstring and groin injuries.

The Marlins said Furcal exited with a left hamstring cramp and listed him as day-to-day.

Jeff Baker replaced Furcal, who was escorted off the field by team trainers. 

The Marlins are already playing without shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who was scratched from Saturday's game and replaced by Ed Lucas.

Conine on Ozuna's throw: "Oh my God -- way better than mine"

There may never be a more meaningful throw to the plate to get a runner out in Marlins history than when Jeff Conine threw a perfect strike from left field to nail J.T. Snow in the 2003 National League playoffs.

The collision with catcher Pudge Rodriguez made it all the more special. But even Mr. Marlin had to admit what he saw Marcell Ozuna do Friday night -- throw a perfect strike from left on the fly to nail the Mets' Kirk Nieuwenheis and a cap 3-2 victory -- was special.

"Oh my God, way better than mine," Conine said Saturday when asked to compare the throws. "He was 50 feet back, 100 feet back further than I was. He made it all the way in the air. Mine only was picked up on the side and I was able to get right behind it. No question his arm is better than mine ever was."

Like everyone else inside Marlins Park -- including Nieuwenheis -- Conine said he didn't think Ozuna had a chance.

"Mechanically as an outfielder he played it perfectly," Conine said. "Weight behind the ball. Took his momentum through it so much it probably gave him the extra carry he needed to get it all the way to home plate. Pretty cool way to end the game. He said it perfectly in the post-game press conference. 'I didn't do it with the bat. But I can still do something on the other side.'"

MORE TIME IN LEFT?

Marlins manager Mike Redmond said having Ozuna's arm in left field has given him something to consider and he might end up playing Christian Yelich over in center field more often when he returns from the disabled list.

Since joining the Marlins last year, Ozuna has seven assists in 43 games playing in the corner outfield spots. He has five in 97 starts in center field.

"When you see plays like that happen it definitely makes you think maybe Yeli could play center a little bit more often," Redmond said. "Maybe he'll have more chances. I don't know over the course of this year how many plays we could have had [if Ozuna was in left]. I can't remember a whole lot.

"Ozuna is so good in center too. That's the beauty of him. He can play right as well. We have that flexibility with him and Yeli too. Jake [Marisnick] can play all over too. But that's what you want. You want options with guys and for them to be able to feel comfortable in all the different positions. Last night we had him in the right spot."

Ozuna said he likes playing in left field in part because he's closer to the fans and can chats them up throughout the game. 

"I enjoy it. If you don't enjoy the game you don't have fun in the game," Ozuna said. "I enjoy every game no matter what happens. If I go 0-for-4, 0-for-5, same attitude every time. Just play the game."

What does he say to the fans? "At times they tell me 'Good catch or nice run'," he said. "I say 'Thanks.' And I go do my work, concentrate."

METS GM ALDERSON UPSET BY CALLS

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson expressed his displeasure after Friday's game with the application of the new home plate collision rules on David Wright’s out in th eighth. Alderson told Mets reporters after the game he contacted the league about the play to better understand how the rule is applied.

“I can’t really comment on the plays [Friday] because it would compromise my league-wide position as chairman of the playing rules committee,” Alderson said. “I do have several thoughts as general manager of the Mets that I can’t really share [Friday].”

Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said he, Redmond, and bench coach Rob Leary would have been thrown out of the game had umpires ruled he blocked the plate and didn't give Wright a lane. Conine said it would have been a crime had umpires overturned the call.

"I gave him a lane," Saltalamacchia said. "At the last second, I might have been put my foot in front, but I was also receiving the ball at the same time. It didn’t deceive where he was going. The ball got there before him. If the ball didn’t, then it’s on me.

"I think [the rule] says, if you catch the ball and you’re blocking the plate, the runner is allowed to run you over. So in theory, David probably could have run me over. I had plenty of time. On that one, I don’t mind that as a catcher because I had plenty of time of protect myself."

> Pitcher Henderson Alvarez said he tweaked his hamstring hitting in the batting cages on Thursday and it flared up during Friday's start. But Alvarez contends he's fine and will make his next start.

COMPARE THE TWO GREAT MARLINS THROWS BELOW

Hechavarria scratched from lineup with soreness in throwing elbow

Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was a late scratch from Saturday's lineup after he began feeling discomfort in his throwing elbow during warm-up tosses.

Ed Lucas, the only other player to start at short for the Marlins this season back on May 21, took Hechavarria's spot. Hechavarria has started 72 of the 73 games the Marlins have played this season at shortstop.

Manager Mike Redmond didn't sound too concerned, though.

"He had a little flare-up with his elbow," Redmond said. "He's kind of had that recurring thing from last year with his elbow. Sometimes he comes in and it's a little sore. He just needs a day off. I'm not worried. Up to this point, he's had it one other time and we gave him the day off and he was fine the next day. I don't know if he did it hitting or throwing. He was complaining about it after his warm ups."

SATURDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (37-36): 1. Rafael Furcal 2B, 2. Jake Marisnick CF, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 6. Garrett Jones 1B, 7. Marcell Ozuna LF, 8. Ed Lucas SS, 9. Tom Koehler RHP.

> Mets (33-41): 1. Curtis Granderson RF, 2. Daniel Murphy 2B, 3. David Wright 3B, 4. Lucas Duda 1B, 5. Chris Young CF, 6. Wilmer Flores SS, 7. Taylor Teagarden C, 8. Jake deGrom RHP, 9. Eric Young LF.

June 20, 2014

Ozuna's throw first time Marlins win a regular season game on outfield assist at plate

If Marcell Ozuna's game-winning throw to the plate to nail the Mets' Kirk Nieuwenhuis felt pretty rare to you it's because it was.

It was the first time in Marlins regular season history -- and the first since J.T. Snow's infamous collision at the plate with Pudge Rodriguez in the 2003 NL Wild Card Series -- a Marlins game has ended with an outfield assist at the plate. It also was the first time a Marlins outfielder recorded two assists at the plate in the same game since Joe Orsulak on Sept. 7, 1996 against Montreal.

That historic collision between Snow and Rodriguez didn't enter Marlins manager Mike Redmond's mind. 

"I'm not going to tell you what I was thinking. You can't print what I was thinking," a relieved Redmond said after the Marlins bullpen nearly blew a three-run lead and a win for Henderson Alvarez.

"It looked to me like it was deep enough to score that run," Redmond continued. "But O, he did a tremendous job getting back on the ball and getting some momentum going forward. There was really only one spot where he could put that ball to win that game for us and he executed. And then a great tag. And then the beauty of replay you can't celebrate too much because you have to look at it. That's the nature of the game now. There's nothing wrong with that. We would have done the same thing. But it was nice to win that one. We needed to win that one. Hopefully that's going to be the spark that we need to get going."

The Mets appealed Saltalamacchia didn't give Nieuwenhuis -- or David Wright when he was gunned out at the plate in the eighth -- a lane for the runners to slide into. But replays confirmed the calls made on the field by plate umpire Lance Barrett.

"I thought he was fine," Redmond said. "There's still sort of that little gray area where we're not really sure. But he had the ball well before the guys were there. And once you have the ball you can block the plate. For me, he had the ball both instances well before the runner got there even sliding. It looked clean to me.

"Guarantee in both those situations, given the magnitude of those runs there definitely would have been collisions [before the new rule]. But those are slides now."

Mets manager Terry Collins contended afterward Wright was given no room to slide. "David saw no plate," he said. "None."

> Starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who had pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and a team trainer out to see him in the third inning, said his hamstring tightened up on him. But he says he fine.

Redmond feeling better about the Marlins bullpen these days; Turner talks move to pen

It wasn't too long ago that the bullpen was giving Marlins skipper Mike Redmond headaches with nightmarish eighth inning meltdowns and other disappointing performances.

"I feel a lot better about the bullpen," lately Redmond said before Friday's game against the Mets.

A suddenly dominant Chris Hatcher (he's struckout 12 of the last 13 hitters he's faced), a rock solid Bryan Morris (he hasn't given up a run in 11 1/3 innings since being acquired on June 1st from the Pirates) and the recent arrival of 36-year old veteran Kevin Gregg (he tossed a 1-2-3 eight inning Thursday in his debut) have all played key roles in that.

Although the bullpen is still surrendering more runs per game this season (4.28, 18th) than last season (3.99, 12th), Marlins relievers are doing a better job handling inherited runners than they were a year ago (26% compared to 30%) and rank higher in save percentage (12th compared to 18th last year).

"It's a lot deeper," Redmond said of his pen. "We have a lot more depth. We're stronger out there.

"But the key is still the starting pitching. Where you can get exposed is when you get four or five innings out of our starters a couple days in a row -- as you saw against the Pirates. You get thin. That bullpen has to eat up a lot of innings. They just can't keep that pace up. Last night was perfect. We got six innings out of [Andrew] Heaney. You saw those guys come in and what they were able to do. But that's the key. It's always a process. Every team not just us. I feel a lot better about the bullpen. We've just got to put it all together and get some wins here."

Redmond said the Marlins sent Gregg down to the minors with a plan to be able to pitch on multiple days in a row and the veteran doesn't have any restrictions. 

"Last night I thought it was perfect to get him in there to be able to see how he looks," Redmond said. "He did a great job. He's going to fit in perfect in that bullpen."

BEST OUTFIELD IN BASEBALL

Jake Marisnick picked up his first outfield assist of the season Thursday night when he came racing in from center field to catch a fly ball and then gunned out Mets lead-off hitter Eric Young Jr. with a bullet throw to first base in the eighth inning.

Marisnick has always been considered a standout defensive player through the minor leagues so it was no surprise.

"You see the athleticism out there with him," Redmond said. "Jake has a good arm. He's aggressive defensively. He's done a great job out there. I've been fortunate to see him play a lot of centerfield. He's good out there."

Even before Marisnick got here on Monday, the Marlins were already playing like sensational as a group. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Marlins outfielders lead baseball with 26 runs saved this season -- five more than the Mets, who are in second. Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton ranks third among all outfielders with 13 runs saved. Marcell Ozuna, the usual starter in center, is sixth overall with nine runs saved. Left fielder Christian Yelich, expected to be back from the disabled list on June 29th, ranks 29th with four runs saved.

"Those guys can cover a lot of ground," Redmond said. "That's fun -- especially in this ballpark. The gaps are big and the ballpark is spacious. We have fast young guys out there that can cover a lot of ground. Pitching wise it's a lot more comforting you know you have those guys out there."

TURNER ADJUSTING TO BULLPEN LIFE

Before he was booted out of the Marlins rotation on Monday, Jacob Turner had made all but one of his 117 professional appearances as a starting pitcher.

 

Manager Mike Redmond said Turner, the former ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, is going to have to pitch a lot better in his new role as a long reliever before the team considers putting him back into the rotation.

 

"Whether it's a confidence thing or just a result thing, he needs to pitch better," Redmond said. "If he's able to do that then we'll see where we're at as far the rotation. 

 

"It just came to a point where he hasn't had enough success to keep him in there. We still love him and love his stuff and there's more in there. Now it's just a matter of him without the pressure [of starting] coming out and being able to pitch out of the bullpen and get his stuff back."

 

Turner, who is 7-18 with a 4.70 ERA as a starter in the big leagues, would obviously prefer to start. It's all he's known. 

 

"But at the same time I understand their perspective on it," Turner said. "So, I'm not so much saying it shouldn't be this way. I just have to go down there and execute and be more consistent. I think when I do that good things will happen."

"Slowing down the snowball effect," is what Turner said he has to do.

In his first four losses of the season big innings hurt Turner. In his first loss of the season against the Dodgers on May 13, he gave up five runs in the sixth after starting the game with five scoreless innings. In his next loss May 18 at the Giants, Turner surrendered three runs in the first before settling in and giving up four runs total over six innings. 

"I don't think it's anything other than executing the big pitch when you have to," Turner said. "A lot of times you might be in the heart of the lineup, facing a 3 or 4 hitter and you have to really bear down and make a couple quality pitches to get yourself out of the situation. 

"Unfortunately early in the season I just wasn't able to do that in a couple starts. That inning turned from giving up one or two runs to giving up four or five runs. I think that ruined a lot of outings for me. It's just about going out there and being as consistent as I can so when that situation comes up I make the good pitch."

FRIDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (36-36): 1. Rafael Furcal 2B, 2. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 6. Garrett Jones 1B, 7. Marcell Ozuna LF, 8. Jake Marisnick CF, 9. Henderson Alvarez RHP.

> Mets (33-40): 1. Eric Young Jr. LF, 2. Daniel Murphy 2B, 3. David Wright 3B, 4. Curtis Granderson CF, 5 Bobby Abreu RF, 6. Lucas Duda 1B, 7. Anthony Recker C, 8. Ruben Tejada SS, 9. Daisuke Matsuzaka RHP.

June 19, 2014

Saltalamacchia back, eager to see Heaney he caught this spring -- and he's sticking with his hockey mask

Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn't get to spend a ton of time catching Marlins top prospect Andrew Heaney this spring. In fact, he thinks he only caught about an inning or two in Grapefruit League action.

But Saltamacchia said he's definitely seen enough of him to know the 2012 first round pick is pretty good.

"The one thing I noticed was his composure," said Saltalamacchia, who rejoined the Marlins Thursday after spending the last three weeks on the disabled list recovering from concussion-like symptoms and rehabbing down in Jupiter. "Usually young guys getting their opportunity try to impress and try to throw 100 mph. He wasn't. He was real fluid, pounding the strike zone, mixing his offspeed pitches, didn't overthrow. Hoping we can see that again tonight."

Heaney’s 38 career minor league appearances are the second-fewest of any Marlins’ first-round draft pick (pitchers only) prior to making his Major League debut. Jose Fernandez made just 27 appearances before his debut in 2013; Josh Beckett made 39 appearances prior to his debut in 2003; and Chris Volstad appeared in 82 games before his debut in 2008.

Heaney went 17-7 with a 2.31 ERA, 198 strikeouts and only 48 walks in those 38 appearances in the minors between Single and Triple A. Fernandez was 14-2 with a 2.02 ERA, 165 strikeouts and 39 walks in his minor league stint, which never went past High-A.

"When you have young pitchers it's a nerve-wracking day," manager Mike Redmond said. "There's a lot of emotions, adrenaline, a lot of firsts. No doubt his first start there are going to be some things that he's probably not going to be anticipating. But that's why you've got veteran catchers to anticipate tough situations and talk them through anything that comes up during the course of the game.

"Salty's been around a long time. He and [Jeff] Mathis both have spoken to Heaney to prepare him as much as they possibly can for tonight. But most importantly it's about him going out there and pitching his game, enjoying it and most importantly having fun, doing what he's done so well throughout the minor leagues. Hopefully that translates into a big night for him and a big win for us."

Saltalamacchia said he doesn't anticipate the moment being too big for Heaney.

"Just seeing him, talking with him yesterday seems like he has that personality already," Saltalamacchia said. "If the game speeds up i'll slow it down for him a little bit. The focus is obviously going to be taking care of him and helping him get the win tonight."

SALTY STICKING WITH MASK

Saltalamacchia, who was struck by a foul ball behind the plate back on May 31, said he's going to stick with the same hockey-style catcher's mask he's worn even though former Red Sox teammate David Ross switched to a traditional catcher's mask after sustaining a similar concussion last August.

"There's no evidence saying the hockey mask is the reason concussions are happening, but I know the traditional masks are better," Saltalamacchia said. "Still, I'm going to stick with the same mask. It was just a matter of hitting that spot."

Redmond said the Marlins will keep a close eye on Saltalamacchia and give him a day off if he needs it. Saltalmacchia said he felt good catching and hitting down in the minors after some extended spring training work, but "the only timing you're going to get is by being up here. You can only get so many A balls or Triple A balls."

After hitting .299 with five homers and nine RBI in April, Saltamacchia hit just .177 with one homer and seven RBI in 23 games as he struggled throughout May.

> Redmond said left fielder Christian Yelich, who took "dry swings' and played catch Thursday, should be ready to go as soon as his stint on the disabled list ends on July 1.

"I know he's feeling good," Redmond said. "He'll probably get a couple [rehab] games in before he's up and ready to go."

> Giancarlo Stanton reiterated Thursday he probably could have stayed in the game Wednesday, but was wisely taken out as a precautionary measure after bruising his wrist.

"I'll be fine. I'll be out there today," Stanton said. "It looked like it was just about out of hand already. So the smartest decision was to get out of there."

THURSDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (36-35): 1. Rafael Furcal 2B, 2. Jake Marisnick CF, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Garrett Jones 1B, 6. Marcell Ozuna LF, 7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 9. Andrew Heaney LHP.

> Mets (32-40): 1. Eric Young Jr. LF, 2. Daniel Murphy 2B, 3. David Wright 3B, 4. Eric Campbell 1B, 5. Curtis Granderson RF, 6. Chris Young LF, 7. Taylor Teagarden C, 8. Ruben Tejada SS, 9. Zack Wheeler RHP.