July 16, 2012

Marlins reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo has sprained elbow

According to the Marlins, an MRI has revealed that relief pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo has suffered a UCL sprain in his right elbow.

As of Monday evening the team has not given a timetable for his return.

Oviedo walked off the mound Saturday night in a rehab appearance at Triple A New Orleans after recording only one out because of right elbow discomfort.

Oviedo was back in Miami Sunday and was examined by team doctors. Manager Ozzie Guillen spoke to the media at 4:15 Monday afternoon and said Oviedo's MRI results were being evaluated.

Oviedo is eligible to return from his eight-week suspension for age and identity fraud on July 23.

July 15, 2012

Oviedo headed back to Miami to have elbow examined

Juan Carlos Oviedo's comeback has hit a snag.

The right-handed reliever formerly known as Leo Nunez walked off the mound after recording just one out Saturday night in a rehab appearance at Triple-A New Orleans because of right elbow discomfort and is headed back to Miami to be examined according to the Marlins.

Oviedo, who saved 92 games for the Marlins from 2009 to 2011, is eligible to return from his eight-week suspension on July 23. The Marlins were hoping he would be ready to return to the team that day.

Oviedo hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since revealing last September that he had been playing under a false name and birthdate.

Prior to pitching in New Orleans Saturday, Oviedo had made two appearances in Single A Jupiter, giving up a hit and an earned run (3.38 ERA) over 2 2/3 innings. He faced three hitters in New Orleans before being pulled Saturday. He gave up a walk, a hit and recorded one out.

> How do you celebrate your first career five-out save? Steve Cishek did by waking up sick to his stomach Sunday with vomiting.

The 26-year old right-hander, who picked up his second save of the season Saturday night against the Nationals, was in the Marlins clubhouse with a cup of Gatorade in one hand and a piece of bread in the other.

"This is the first thing I've put in my mouth this morning," Cishek said. "I couldn't probably play catch right now if I tried."

The Marlins probably were not going to turn to Cishek to close today anyway after he became only the third Marlins pitcher since 2008 to record a save of five outs or more.

The last pitcher to do it before Cishek? Burke Badenhop on April 14, 2010 vs. the Reds. Prior to 2008, it happened 59 other times. Robb Nen has the most five-plus out saves in franchise history with 12. Bryan Harvey is next with nine.

SUNDAY'S LINEUPS

> Nationals (50-35): 1. Steve Lombardozzi 2B, 2. Bryce Harper RF, 3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B, 4. Adam LaRoche 1B, 5. Mike Morse LF, 6. Danny Espinosa SS, 7. Roger Bernadina CF, 8. Jhonatan Solano C, 9. Stephen Strasburg RHP.

> Marlins (42-45): 1. Jose Reys SS, 2. Omar Infante 2B, 3. Carlos Lee 1B, 4. Logan Morrison 1B, 5. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 6. Greg Dobbs RF, 7. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 8. John Buck C, 9. Ricky Nolasco RHP.

July 10, 2012

Ozzie: It's closer by committee until Bell regains form

When the Marlins open the second half of the season Friday night at Marlins Park against the Washington Nationals, the ninth inning will no longer belong to Heath Bell.

In fact, the closers job won't belong to anybody.

On his weekly appearance on the Dan LeBatard Show on 790TheTicket Tuesday, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said he's going to with a closer by committee approach until Bell -- he hopes -- figures it out.

"... I'm going to go by committee, see who throws the ball better," Guillen said. "I will talk to [Bell] when we come back from the All-Star Break and explain to him why we're going to do this. Hopefully, he'll come back and start throwing the ball better and then he'll go back to his role."

"I have to," Guillen continued. "The players, club, the fans, myself, himself -- it's kind of hard dealing with this every other day."

Bell (2-5, 6.75 ERA) has blown six saves this season -- one more than he did all of last year in San Diego. But he's also had a handful of other situations where he's given up the lead and just hasn't been charged with a blown save because someone else inherited the opportunity or because the Marlins' lead was more than three runs (such was the case in a loss to the Cardinals on June 25).

This is the second time Bell has lost the Marlins closer's job. Guillen took it from him back in May temporarily, giving right-handers Steve Cishek and Edward Mujica and left-hander Randy Choate a couple opportunities to close out games and pick up saves.

Cishek and Juan Carlos Oviedo, who will complete an eight-week suspension for age and identity fraud July 22, are the most likely candidates to replace Bell in the closer's role moving forward. Mujica is expected off the disabled list (broken right pinky toe) Sunday, and also could be in the mix.

> Although the Marlins didn't have a visible representative at Tuesday night's All-Star Game in Kansas City, they'll receive more exposure -- and be exposed more than any other team in the league -- when The Franchise television series begins airing Wednesday night on Showtime.

Wednesday's first episode of the behind-the-scenes look at the Marlins will be one hour long. The next seven episodes will last a half hour.

MLB Productions executive producer David Gavant said the Marlins provided them more access than the Giants did last year, specifically to members of the front-office and ownership. “It’s ground-breaking,” he said.

Marlins President David Samson agreed.

"We promised to give them access to everything and we've delivered that. They're everywhere we are," he said. "They were there when we traded for Carlos Lee. They're there when we send players down. They there when we talk about players, off the field and on the field. It debuts Wednesday and it should be very interesting because there will be a lot of stuff that won't make the show because of the hours of footage.

"When they asked to do the Marlins, I don't think they had any idea what they were in for. I feel badly for next year's team."

> For more Marlins nuggets, check out Barry Jackson's Buzz Column.

July 07, 2012

Guillen: Getting Oviedo back will be like 'biggest trade of the year'

ST. LOUIS -- A day after closer Heath Bell came dangerously close to blowing another lead in the ninth inning, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen expressed his delight in the fact it won't be long before former closer Juan Carlos Oviedo is back with the team.

JC Oviedo"Biggest trade of the year," Guillen said when asked Saturday what it would mean to the team when Oviedo finishes serving his eight-week suspension for age and identity fraud on July 22nd.

"I will [treat] that as a big trade we make for the [playoff] run. He's going to help the bullpen. A day like today, he'll take Bell's spot. [Other times] we'll see how Bell's throwing and we'll flip flop each for whatever reason. It's going to be a big lift. Hopefully, he'll throw the ball like he has in the past."

Oviedo, who saved 92 games in three previous seasons for the Marlins when he was known as Leo Nunez, was scheduled to receive his first rehab assignment Saturday with Single A Jupiter. But that's been pushed back to Monday night because of a stiff neck The Herald learned.

Guillen has long said he'd keep Bell, who has converted 19 of 24 save opportunities, as his closer when Nunez returned. But it's clear after Saturday's comments Oviedo could put some heat on Bell, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Marlins in the offseason, but has struggled.

Guillen said he might go see Oviedo pitch for Jupiter while the Marlins are off. The Hammerheads are scheduled to play in Fort Myers Monday night. Oviedo is expected to rejoin the Marlins on July 23rd.

> With Bell having pitched on four consecutive days, Guillen said he's giving him the day off Saturday. Guillen said right-hander Steve Cishek or left-handers Mike Dunn and Randy Choate could pitch the ninth today. Guillen said he would prefer to give Cishek the day off.

> A night after making the game-saving defensive play in the Marlins 3-2 win over the Cardinals, Omar Infante is also getting the day off to rest. That means 24-year old rookie Donovan Solano, who grew up in the Cardinals farm system, will get his first career start against his former team. Solano went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter against the Cardinals when they faced the Marlins last month in Miami.

> Although his team has won 7 of 9 and has closed to within a game of .500, Guillen said he's disappointed with the Marlins' first half. 

"We're finishing a little strong," Guillen said. "But am I disappointed? Yes. I'm disappointed. I should be. We're a better club than we're playing. I didn't manage this club for .500. I think we're a better club than .500. We not playing up to the caliber we should be playing. A little inconsistent, a little weird first half, you can call it that.

"[But] I'm pretty sure having Carlos Lee here [for the second half] is going to help. He's a guy who is going to lead and a guy they're going to look up to, a guy who has been in this situation before. I don't know why I feel that way. I hope it happens. I'm not going to say Carlos is going to carry this ballclub, or put people under his wing. But having him in the middle of the lineup, having his presence in the clubhouse is going to help those guys."

> Guillen said when Emilio Bonifacio returns to the Marlins after the All-Star Break, it's likely he'll return to the bottom third of the order. "I think I'm going to keep him low so we can get more speed in the bottom," Guillen said. "I think we're a little bit too slow in the bottom of the lineup."

Bonifacio has played in three games for Jupiter since returning from thumb surgery and is 1-for-7 with two walks, two strikeouts and two stolen bases.

> As far as outfielder Justin Ruggiano is concerned, Guillen continues to insist he will continue to get playing time when Bonifacio returns.

"If he continues to swing the bat like that and I bench him I shouldn't have a job. Fire me," Guillen said. "I'll try to find him a spot to play. Boni can play a little bit of second base, can play center field. We can move him around. We got to start thinking about [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Logan Morrison]. It's time to give them a couple days rest, too."

Ruggiano, who entered Saturday's game on a nine-game hitting streak and with a .411 average, five homers and 15 RBI since June 1, said he'll do whatever the team asks of him.

“I’m not going to be a selfish teammate,” Ruggiano said. “I want whatever is best for the team. It’s [Guillen]’s call and I’ll obviously support whatever Ozzie wants to do.”

> After seeing his average dip to .224 on June 26, Morrison has been swinging as hot a bat as anyone for the Marlins. He came into Saturday's game having hit in nine consecutive games (.444) with four homers and 11 RBI.

Morrison, who has played with an ailing right knee all season, was hit by a pitch in his calf and by another pitch on his ankle Friday. He also said he injured his right hand trying to make a diving catch on a sinking liner by Carlos Beltran in the fifth inning.

"I think I hyperextended a finger or something like that. But I'll be fine," Morrison said.

Guillen praised Morrison’s grit Friday. “Lomo is crazy or he loves baseball that much,” Guillen said. “He’s been playing in pain the whole season.”

As for his hitting, Guillen credited hitting coach Eduardo Perez for Morrison's improvement.

"I think Lomo has been more aggressive, pulled the ball a little bit more," Guillen said. "Now he doesn't have the mentality of a leadoff hitter. That's what I thought he was -- Lomo was a No. 6, 7 hitter who acted like leadoff hitter. He was trying to hit the ball to left field, looking for a great count to hit, looking for a perfect pitch. Now, I think Eduardo has tried to get him to swing the bat as a No. 6, No. 7 guy. He's 200 pounds. Drive the ball. He's doing it right now."

SATURDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (41-42): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 3. Carlos Lee 1B, 4. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 5. Logan Morrison RF, 6. Justin Ruggiano CF, 7. Donovan Solano 2B, 8. Brett Hayes C, 9. Carlos Zambrano RHP.

> Cardinals (44-40): 1. Rafael Furcal SS, 2. John Jay CF, 3. Matt Holliday LF, 4. Carlos Beltran RF, 5. Allen Craig 1B, 6. David Freese 3B, 7. Skip Schumaker 2B, 8. Tony Cruz C, 9. Kyle Lohse RHP. 

July 01, 2012

Dunn, Choate, Cishek will split 8th inning role

With right-hander Edward Mujica shelved by a broken right pinky toe, the Marlins called up left-handed starter Wade LeBlanc from Triple A New Orleans Sunday to take his place in the bullpen.

So why not a real reliever instead of the guy who is supposed to be the first option if somebody in the rotation goes down? According to manager Ozzie Guillen, there just weren't a whole lot of intriguing options.

"We got a couple guys hurt," Guillen said. "[Alex] Sanabia's got a rib cage. [There was Chris] Hatcher, but we didn't want to keep doing it to this kid. He's got to stretch out, continue to pitch. We have to develop him and hopefully we get something out of him. LeBlanc was just the guy who was available at [this] particular time. He's going to be a long guy. We hope we don't have to use him."

Actually, bringing up LeBlanc might not be such a bad idea. Chad Gaudin, the team's designated long reliever, had to work overtime in June. He made 10 appearances -- one more than in April and May combined -- and didn't exactly sparkle. He went 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA.

As far as replacing Mujica in his usual setup role, Guillen said his plan is to move everybody up and just use left-handers Mike Dunn and Randy Choate and right-hander Steve Cishek.

Dunn, who had an ERA of 9.58 over 10 1/3 innings in his first two stints with the Marlins this season, hasn't given up a run or a walk in the 5 2/3 innings he's pitched since being recalled on June 21st. Guillen said he's been a pleasant surprise and said the difference for Dunn has simply been control.

"When you throw the ball 94, 95 and throw it where you want it, it's not the same as throwing 95, 96 and it's all over the place," Guillen said. "His location has been great and his breaking ball has been good enough to get away with. He's even thrown it for a few strikeouts.

Dunn said his second trip back down to the minors was when he finally figured out what was wrong.

"The first game I threw 3 1/3 innings and it was kind of a game where I had to mentally conserve myself because I couldn't go out there and blow it all out in one inning like normal," Dunn said. "After that game I realized I was under control. Pitches were a lot better and my velocity was even better than before with one inning. It was almost where less was more. Whereas I was trying to grunt through an inning and trying to overpower guys and pitch to velocity. Now, it's pitching to spots and actually pitching, not throwing. Go to the spot, be loose, be free and whatever comes out I know my stuff will be there."

Dunn spent three weeks in the minors in June and got to see a lot of LeBlanc. He said the 27-year old left-hander, who went 5-5 with a 3.74 ERA for New Orleans in 16 starts, looked just like he did in spring training when the Marlins last saw him.

"He was throwing a lot of strikes, going right at guys," Dunn said. "He's not going to ovepower you or blow you or away, but he knows how to pitch and throw strikes. He's fun to watch. He's like another [Mark] Buehrle really. They go out there and pitch, throw strikes and go right at guys."

> With the All-Star selections set to be announced at 1 p.m. today, most are expecting right fielder Giancarlo Stanton to be the Marlins' lone representative to get picked to go to Kansas City in two weeks.

"I hope he makes it," Guillen said. "If one thing is very bright for us [in the first half], it's him. For me, it's a shame. I looked at this ballclub in December, I said 'Wow we got a few All-Star guys.' Unfortunately they didn't play good enough to get into the All-Star Game."

Guillen said the only other player worthy of All-Star consideration in his mind for the Marlins is second baseman Omar Infante.

SUNDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (37-40): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Logan Morrison LF, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Greg Dobbs 1B, 7. Omar Infante 2B, 8. John Buck C, 9. Ricky Nolasco RHP.

> Phillies (36-44): 1. Jimmy Rollins SS, 2. Juan Pierre LF, 3. Hunter Pencer RF, 4. Carlos Ruiz C, 5. Shane Victorino CF, 6. Placido Polanco 3B, 7. Ty Wiggington 1B, 8. Mike Fontenot 2B, 9. Joe Blanton RHP.

May 28, 2012

Oviedo eligible to return to Marlins July 23

Juan Carlos Oviedo, the Marlins relief pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, arrived in South Florida Monday and was promptly handed an eight-week suspension by Major League Baseball for age and identity fraud.

The suspension will run through July 22nd, meaning the first day Oviedo will be eligible to return to the Marlins is July 23rd, when they open up a three-game series at Marlins Park against the Braves.

According to the league, Oviedo, who spent the last eight months in the Dominican Republic trying to resolve the issue of his identity, will be eligible to participate in extended Spring Training during the period of his suspension. The Marlins allowed to send Oviedo for one rehabilitation assignment to a Minor League affiliate that cannot exceed 16 days. That is expected to happen at the end of his suspension so he can prepare to return to the team.

Oviedo will meet with reporters Tuesday morning in Jupiter along with President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest and general manager Mike Hill.

May 09, 2012

Heath Bell says he's patiently waiting to get his job back

HOUSTON -- Since blowing his fourth save of the season last Friday in San Diego, former closer Heath Bell has been relatively quiet in the Marlins clubhouse. 

"I've been watching a great team play baseball and go out and kick some butt," Bell said before Wednesday's game in Houston.

With starting pitchers going deep into games there hasn't been much opportunity for the bullpen to see action. Guillen said he's wanted to use Bell in the sixth or seventh inning -- or even in the ninth if the Marlins have a cushion -- before getting Bell back into the closer's role. 

So far, though, Bell has just been a spectator.

"I'm going to pitch when Ozzie tells me to pitch. Plain and simple. He's the manager. He's going to put me in when he thinks its time for me to come in. And I'm okay with that," Bell sid. "But I want my job back.

"... If he pitches me the first inning, second inning, ninth inning, it doesn't matter. When Ozzie puts me out there to pitch I'm going to go out there and shove it up whoever I'm facing. That's pretty much it."

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire said Bell, like struggling starter Josh Johnson, is simply pressing.

"I don't think it's so much of a confidence thing," St. Claire said Wednesday. "I don't think Albert Pujols lost his confidence. I don't think Jose Reyes has lost his confidence. I just think [Johnson and Bell] want to do well so bad -- because they're so used to doing well -- that the pressure of wanting to do well is getting to them and they're not letting it happen.

"When you do things and try to create things that's when issues start happening. I think they'll be fine."

May 08, 2012

Marlins bullpen well rested heading into Tuesday's game in Houston

HOUSTON -- After working their butts off in relief of Josh Johnson Friday in San Diego and working overtime to save Heath Bell's rear-end two nights prior to that in San Francisco, the Marlins bullpen has to feel pretty well rested heading into Tuesday night's game at Minute Maid Park.

With Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano tossing complete games two of the last three nights, Marlins relievers have played the role of happy spectator for the most part.

New closer Steve Cishek, who worked a career-high three innings of relief Friday to pick up the win, has had three days off. Edward Mujica has pitched just once over the last four days.

Right-hander Ryan Webb, who along with left-handed specialist Randy Choate and Mujica are the only relievers to work since Saturday, said despite Bell's struggles the bullpen has proven over this 7-0 West Coast trip it can get the job done in some pressure situations.

"That's what you need," Webb said. "That's what's going to count. Our goal is to get to the postseason, and that's going to help in the postseason. That's going to help in a tight race at the end of the year in this tough division.

"We're going to be playing some good teams, but we've got a good team too. So we've played a lot of close games, a lot of good pitching matchups. So to get the experience early is good for a lot of guys, especially for some of the younger guys that we do have, stepping up to do these late-inning roles. We've got guys that can pitch in all those situations. So it gives [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] a lot of options to go to."

Take Bell (0-3, 4 blown saves, 11.42 ERA) and demoted left-hander Mike Dunn out of the mix and the Marlins bullpen would rank much better than sixth in the National League in ERA (3.45 ERA). They also might not rank right behind Colorado for the league-lead with seven blown saves.

Together, Webb, Cishek, Mujica, Choate, and right-hander Chad Gaudin have combined for a 1.81 ERA in 59 2/3 innings with 49 strikeouts and 21 walks. Opponents have hit just .189 off those five in 216 at-bats.

> The Marlins are off to their best May start in franchise history. The previous best start was 5-2, done three times (last, 2008). The Marlins finished that month with a 16-11 record, which tied for the most May wins in Club history (also, 1997 and 1996). The Franchise record for most wins in any month is 19, done in August 1997.

TUESDAY'S LINEUP

> Marlins (15-14): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Logan Morrison LF, 5. Omar Infante 2B, 6. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 7. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 8. John Buck C, 9. Anibal Sanchez P.

May 01, 2012

Could closer Heath Bell be the first struggling Marlin to slip out of a job?

Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen wasn't a happy camper after watching his team lose for the eighth time in nine games Monday. 

Heath+Bell+Miami+Marlins+Photo+Day+QiW4D4-duFflI couldn't get everything he had to say in the paper, but you caught the gist of it with his parting shot to reporters: "I’m glad we’re heading to the West Coast where nobody can [expletive] see us."

Guillen has tried throughout the Marlins struggles not to make an example out of anyone in particular because aside from Omar Infante, Logan Morrison and four-fifths of his starting rotation (Josh Johnson would be the odd guy out) the entire team has been struggling. But the first fall guy might turn out the be closer Heath Bell, who aside from converting two saves in five chances has done just about nothing right since signing that 3-year, $27 million deal.

The 34-year old right-hander entered Mondays game with the Marlins trailing by two and gave up two more runs. He's now allowed 10 runs (eight earned) on 10 hits and eight walks over just 6 2/3 innings, bringing his ERA to 10.80 on the season.

"The reason we brought him in was because he got three or four days without pitching," Guillen said. "We put him in and he had the same trouble. That's what I'm talking about when I say adjustments."

Oh yeah, adjustments. Guillen went on and on about that after Monday's loss, saying he couldn't blame fans for booing the Marlins over their last two games because "I was booing too, they just couldn't hear me though."

"This game is about adjustments and we're not making any adjustments. Day in and day out we're seeing the same swings, the same approach at the plate, same mistakes. It's going to be tough to get out of that," Guillen said.

"I think [the] people [who] survive in this game, people have better careers and better years [are the] people who make the adjustments quickly. We have to start making better adjustments. If you will not make an adjustment, I'll make it for you. That's my job.

"Sometimes you have to be patient. Sometimes you try to go different ways to go about your business. But right now, I think if the players don't start to make adjustments you start to make different things [happen]. I'm going to make very drastic changes. I don't know which ones yet. But I've got a long way to go -- a six hour flight to make an adjustment. But I will make an adjustment. I'm pretty good at that. I know what [makes] a good ballplayer."

Back to Bell. Steve Cishek, who served as the closer some last year when Juan Carlos Oviedo was deported, would be any easy replacement. Cishek has looked good in April, going 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA.

MORE FROM OZZIE

Among some of the other funny lines from Guillen on Monday, here's what he said about the possibility the Marlins aren't hitting because of the large field dimensions at Marlins Park:

"If they don't want to hit here, call your agent and get traded," Guillen said. "Because they're going to play here. We're not going to play here and hit somewhere else. I don't see a problem with the other team. They're kicking our butt pretty good. We played in New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Cincinnati and they didn't hit many home runs there either. They've got the wrong manager if they think that's going to be an excuse. That's unacceptable if they're making that excuse. The ballpark's too big? Too bad. Bunt. That's the way I play."

Moments later, he continued: "If that's going to be their excuse, they've got 450 at-bats to clean up this crap. That's it. They've got to clean it up. If not, I will find out how to clean it up.

As for the job Diamndbacks rookie pitcher Patrick Corbin, who beat the Marlins Monday in his first start about Double A: "He threw pretty good," Guillen said. "But if you face the Marlins right now, that's a pretty good opportunity to get a W and great opportunity to look good."

March 26, 2012

Mujica looks like he's earned setup role with Marlins as Oviedo sits in Dominican

LAKELAND -- Ozzie Guillen said Sunday he was going to lean on pitching coach Randy St. Claire to decide who serves as the setup man for closer Heath Bell. Well, if that's the case, consider Edward Mujica the heavy favorite to be that guy come Opening Day.

Edward Mujica"For me right now, probably Edward is the guy who had the most chances in that role [last season] and did a pretty decent job," St. Claire said Monday. "For me, it's his job to lose."

Mujica, 27, hasn't done anything to lose that job this spring, even though the rest of the Marlins bullpen has pitched really well, too. In five appearances, Mujica has posted a 1.80 ERA, striking out six with no walks. Ryan Webb has done even better -- tossing six scoreless innings of relief in five appearances with three strikeouts and no walks. Steve Cishek has a 1.93 ERA in 4 2/3 innings, with three strikeouts and two walks.

Of course, the Marlins were hoping to have someone else serve as their setup man before spring training began -- former closer Juan Carlos Oviedo. But with the man formerly known as Leo Nunez still on the restricted and sitting in the Dominican Republic, the Marlins have had to move on with their plans and it appears Mujica, Oviedo's close friend, will fill his spot at the start of the season.

St. Claire said aside from Mujica the Marlins could also use left-handed specialist Randy Choate to get tough lefties out in the 8th before inserting Mujica after him.

St. Claire said what separates Mujica from other Marlins relievers in that eight inning role is his ability to get lefties out with his split-fingered fastball. Last season, lefties hit .220 against Mujica in 132 at-bats compared to .245 versus righties in 143 at-bats.

"He's going to throw the ball over the plate, we saw that last year," St. Claire said of Mujica, who walked just 14 of the 297 batters he faced in 2011.

"And that's something you got to have out of your guys in the back end of the pen. When you're in a one-run game, two-run game, you can't be putting guys on base. He doesn't. He makes them hit the ball."

Of his 67 appearances last season, Mujica made 40 in the 8th inning, posting a 2.97 ERA in 33 1/3 innings of work in the frame. He struckout 31 and walked two. He was even better in the 7th, posting a 0.96 ERA in 18 2/3 innings with 15 strikeouts and two walks.

If Mujica were out, St. Claire said: "It would be a mix and match type deal, who you got coming up whether they're righties, lefties, that type of deal. You try to mix and match to get through that inning. But when you have that true eighth inning guy, it's usually 'here's the ball.' Just like the closer. You're not usually worrying about matching up because he gets both out the same."

St. Claire said he's asked the Marlins several times this spring for an update on Oviedo, but has been told repeatedly "there's no news."

> Choate will pitch in Grapefruit League play for the first time today against the Tigers. St. Claire said he wants to get him about 20 pitchers -- or an inning of work.

> St. Claire said the only Marlins starter who won't be allowed to go over the 95-pitch mark at the start of the season is Anibal Sanchez, who was held back a start at the beginning of Grapefruit League play because of shoulder stiffness.

St. Claire said the way the Marlins starting rotation is lined up at the moment, Ricky Nolasco will face the Yankees at Marlins Park Sunday and Carlos Zambrano will start versus New York a day later.

The rotation will then reset with Josh Johnson pitching on Opening Day April 4th against the Cardinals and Mark Buehrle (April 5th), Nolasco (April 7th) and Zambrano (April 8th) lined up to pitch versus the Reds in Cincinnati. That means Sanchez, slated to be the Marlins fifth starter, will make his debut April 9th in Philadelphia.

MURPHY WANTS TO FINISH STRONG

> Last year at this time, Donnie Murphy was preparing to serve as the Marlins starting third baseman on Opening Day. Now, he's not sure if he'll have a roster spot on the 2012 Marlins.

The 29-year old veteran utility man has struggled this spring at the plate, hitting just .194 (6 for 31) in 13 games and is receiving stiff competition from 24-year old non-roster invitee Donovan Solano (hitting .375 in 17 games) for the job.

Murphy isn't in the starting lineup today against the Tigers, but he will make an appearance off the bench. He hopes to make the best of it and every other opportunity going forward.

"Obviously this is not where I wanted to be at this point," Murphy said Monday. "But I'm not going to worry about it. Whatever happens, happens. Every year there is always competition. Sometimes you're in a position where you're comfortable and sometimes you don't. I can't control that. Hopefully, I'll use this last week to finish up strong and go from there and see what happens."

MONDAY LINEUPS

> Marlins: 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 4. Gaby Sanchez, 5. Omar Infante 2B, 6. Chris Coghlan LF, 7. Austin Kearns RF, 8. John Buck C, 9. Mark Buehrle P.

> Tigers: 1. Austin Jackson CF, 2. Brennan Boesch RF, 3. Jhonny Peralta SS, 4. Prince Fielder 1B, 5. Delmon Young LF, 6. Alex Avila C, 7. Ryan Raburn 2B, 8. Brandon Inge DH, 9. Audy Ciriaco 3B. Rick Porcello is pitching.