June 22, 2010

New relievers Sanabia, Houser play meet and greet

BALTIMORE -- When Jacksonville Suns pitching coach John Duffy told Alex Sanabia Sunday he was being called up to the show, the 21-year old right-hander had nearly the same reaction he had when he was drafted by the Marlins in the 32nd round in 2006: He couldn't believe it. 

Alex Sanabia "My jaw dropped to the ground," said Sanabia, who a year ago was 9-5 with a 3.45 ERA for Single A Jupiter. "I wasn't expecting it. I was just going day by day and next thing you know they let me know. It was awesome."

The Marlins aren't necessarily looking for Sanabia or fellow newcomer James Houser to be awesome. They just want them to do what they were doing in the minors -- throw strikes.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez, who watched his bullpen walk 11 in a loss Saturday, said Sanabia (5-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 14 starts for Double A Jacksonville this season) will likely be used in a long relief role. Houser, a left-hander with a submarine delivery who was 0-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 11 relief appearances for Triple A New Orleans, will be used as a situation lefty.

Both pitchers, the 16th and 17th relievers for the Marlins this season, kept themselves busy Tuesday meeting their new teammates. Houser, who was in the Rays system until last season, said he hasn't been a submarine pitcher for very long. "I've been playing with it for a couple years," Houser said. "Last year I did it part time. This year I'm doing it full time. Xavier Hernandez, my pitching coach in Durham, saw me last year when I was throwing it in the pen. It was just something I thought could be a little nitch for myself."

Marlins Baseball President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest said the Marlins will "ease Sanabia in." "We're not going to throw him right into the fire," Beinfest said. "We'll try to stay away from back to back [outings], which is important. He's a strike thrower, which is important given the way we've been challenged out there throwing strikes. He's a winner and a good kid, we like his stuff and we'll give him a shot."

Beinfest says starting pitching provides "a lot of hope"

BALTIMORE -- Larry Beinfest has kept himself busy trying to solve the Marlins bullpen woes for the past month. Before Tuesday's night game against the Orioles, the team's President of Baseball Operations was in the clubhouse introducing himself to his two newest relievers and getting them to sign contracts. 

Larry Beinfest While Beinfest admits he never would have imagined the Marlins needing to call on 17 different relievers before the end of June, he isn't ready to give up on the team by any stretch. After all, the Marlins were 33-36 after 69 games last year, too. And, he believes the starting pitching could ultimately be good enough to carry the team through. 

"A year ago we were trying to get the starting pitching organized at this point," Beinfest said Tuesday. "The previous month of May a year ago was really challenging because we were trying to find people to start and give us five innings. Now, the bullpen has taken a step backwards. We just need to keep going and I think it will be OK. I think the starting pitching gives us a lot of hope. It will take pressure off the bullpen and it has."

Still, with the July 31st trading deadline a little more than five weeks away, he said its time for the team to turn the corner.

"The clock is ticking toward the 31st and that's when teams talks business and make decisions," Beinfest said. "As they say, it's not early anymore. It's important for this team. I think we've gone through a real tough stretch, a lot of tough road opponents, tough interleague opponents. I think we need to start playing good baseball, and try winning a little more consistently.

"We just haven't found that area where we can just perform, win series, win a couple in a row. We don't seem to be streaky at all. Streaky teams can be worrisome.

"I know there's a lot of attention on the bullpen, but there's other parts that have struggled. Runners in scoring position, whatever. But that happens over 162 games. Hopefully, we'll get hot and start knocking some people in, have a few blowouts. It's been a challenging stretch, but no challenging than any other season."

"I still think there's a lot of confidence that if the starting pitching continues the way it has, we have a good shot to win games."

Beinfest shed some light on a few other topics...

> Although the Marlins released Hunter Jones on Tuesday to make room on their 40-man roster for Alex Sanabia, Beinfest said the left-handed reliever is still in their plans for the future. Beinfest said Jones, who suffered an elbow injury pitching for Triple A New Orleans on June 5th, was in Alabama Tuesday meeting with Dr. James Andrews to see if he'll need to have Tommy John surgery. 

"We've already made an offer to resign him. We just haven't heard back," Beinfest said. "It looks like he's hurt, let's kick him to the curb. It's not that. It's just the way it is sometimes. We needed the spot. He'll probably be out for a year. Nothing against the kid at all. We like him. He just got hurt."

> Beinfest said left-hander Sean West, who went 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA last season for the Marlins in 20 starts, has done really well in his four starts for Triple A New Orleans since coming back from injury. "He's throwing strikes," Beinfest said of West, who is 3-1 with a 1.90 ERA, 22 Ks and 6 walks in 22 1/3 innings.

Still, manager Fredi Gonzalez said West likely needs more time before being recalled. "Yesterday was only on his fourth start in Triple A," Gonzalez said. "Right now, he's not ready."

Of the previous relievers to lose their jobs in the Marlins 'pen and get sent down, Beinfest said right-hander Burke Badenhop (0-1, 3.27 ERA in 11 IP for Triple A New Orleans) is likely the closest to making it back. "Badenhop is getting better," Beinfest said. "[Rick Vanden Hurk] is throwing OK. So, we'll see. We'll give those guys time to get it back, get confident and reevaluate them before bringing them back."

June 21, 2010

Sanabia, Houser next on Marlins bullpen try-out list

Manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters Sunday the team's front office is "actively looking" around the league for bullpen help. Until the Marlins make a deal, though, it looks like the team will continue to plug the leaks with minor league help.

The next two young arms on the bullpen try-out list appear to be right-hander Alex Sanabia and left-hander James Houser, who will join the team Tuesday in Baltimore and become the 16th and 17th pitchers to pitch in relief for the Marlins this season. Last year, through June 21st, the Marlins had only used 12 relief pitchers. 

Sanabia, 21, isn't like the other young arms the team has brought up of late. He is the ace of the staff for Double A Jacksonville.  In 14 outings for the Suns, the former 32nd round pick of the 2006 draft is 5-1 with a 2.03 ERA. In 84 1/3 innings, he’s walked 16 and struck out 65 -- the kind of strikeout to walk ratio the team could desperately use.

Houser, 25, was in Triple A New Orleans for the Marlins and is a former starter and 2003 second round pick of the Rays. The Marlins signed Houser to a minor-league deal this past winter. He went 0-0 with a 3.26 ERA with four walks and 11 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings for New Orleans. He's likely going to help fill the role of long reliever.

Last week, Larry Beinfest, president of baseball operations, said the Marlins had several young options they were looking at in their farm system as potential bullpen arms on the big league club.

June 16, 2010

Marlins designate Pinto; Ramirez talks struggles

Get out your vuvuzelas Renyel Pinto haters. The left-handed relief pitcher who makes your blood pressure rise in the late innings of Marlins games is on his way out of South Florida. 

Renyel Pinto The Marlins designated Pinto for assignment after Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Rangers. Pinto gave up a solo home run to Josh Hamilton in the ninth in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list. 

I'm not trying to defend Pinto here. But was this move really necessary? Or was Pinto just the fall guy after another tough loss, which sent the Marlins to three games under .500 and 6 1/2 games back of the Atlanta Braves (the deepest ditch they've been in all year)?

The home run, after all, was the first Pinto had given up all season and dropped his ERA to 2.70. Pinto, who was supposed to be the Marlins new long relief pitcher, has never been great against lefties (they were hitting .255 lifetime against him coming in). But he didn't appear to be the biggest problem in a struggling pen.

Tim Wood, who is collecting plenty of frequent flier miles between here and New Orleans, will replace Pinto. Wood wasn't exactly Dennis Eckersley when he was here before. When he was sent back down to Triple A on June 6th, he was 0-1 with a 5.60 ERA.

HANLEY SAID HE FEELS GREAT: It wasn't too long ago Hanley Ramirez told us he felt like his timing was off. In fact, it was only a little more than a week ago when the Marlins were swept in New York. 

Despite going 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, Ramirez maintained he's feeling better at the plate. "Just because I didn't get a hit tonight doesn't mean I don't feel good," Ramirez said. "I feel great."

Hitting coach Jim Presley and manager Fredi Gonzalez both said Ramirez appeared a little too anxious at times this season. Wednesday, he saw just five pitches in his last three at-bats. He grounded out on a fielder's choice on a 1-0 pitch with the bases loaded and one out in the third. He flew out to left on a 1-0 pitch with a runner on third in the fifth. And he grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw with runners on the corners and nobody out in the eighth. 

If that doesn't smell of an anxious hitter I don't know what does. Ramirez by the way is hitting .200 (13 for 65) with runners in scoring position this season. He hit .373 in those situations last year.

FIU's Wittels talks hit streak, hair with Marlins

If Garrett Wittels decides to take Dan Uggla's advice, the long locks of dirty blond hair dangling from underneath his baseball cap will still be around when the 20-year old FIU sophomore goes after Robin Ventura's NCAA-record 58-game hitting streak next season. 

Garrett Wittels Wittels, who captured the nation's attention last month and finished two games shy of matching Ventura's record when his season came to an end last week, visited Sun Life Stadium as a special guest Wednesday. Before he went on the Marlins pregame show and sat in with TV announcers Tommy Hutton and Rich Waltz for an inning, Wittels talked shop with several Marlins and Rangers players during batting practice.

"The whole experience was really cool," Wittels said (CLICK ON THE LINK TO LISTEN TO HIS INTERVIEW WITH REPORTERS). "Cody Ross was a really good guy. I talked a little bit with Michael Young from the Rangers. It meant a lot to talk to them and all the coaches and everything like that. It was just a great atmosphere. They all congratulated me and told me no matter what level its at, its a great accomplishment and they wish me well in the draft next year and hopefully I could be playing on the same field with them."

Wittels also got plenty of tips on what to do about his hair. Wittels hasn't cut it since January, one of a few good-luck superstitions he maintained during the hitting streak. But with the season over Wittels said he's considered trimming it.

"Honestly I've thought about it a lot, about cutting the hair and all the superstitions," Wittels said. "Right now, I'm just focused on going up to Alaska on Friday. If I don't get a hit there, I might cut it or I might leave it to go for next year. I haven't made a decision yet. I've got to talk to a few people close to me and my coaches so they can tell me what they think about it."

Wittels said he will play his first game for the Peninsula Oilers, one of six teams in the Alaska College Summer Baseball League, on Saturday. The season ends in July. After finishing the 2010 season hitting .413 with 60 RBI, he hopes to have an even bigger junior season for the Panthers, who won the Sun Belt Conference Title before losing twice at the NCAA Regional Tournament in Coral Gables. One thing is for sure, MLB scouts definitely know about him now. 

"Since I first put on a jersey when I was six years old, this has been the one goal," Wittels said referring to making into the big leagues. "Being here today, being able to spend one day here just fuels the fire and makes me want to work harder and be here on an everyday basis in a couple years."

NUNEZ PUTS BLOWN SAVE OUT OF MIND: Marlins closer Leo Nunez blew past reporters Tuesday night, not long after blowing his third save of the season in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Rangers. But Wednesday, the 26-year old Dominican right-hander was more than happy to share the news that he'd already forgotten about his bad night.

"Those are things that are just part of the game," Nunez said. "It bothered me at the moment. But once I left I was fine. Last night was the 15th. Today is the 16th."

Nunez gave up the decisive two-run triple Tuesday on his first pitch to former Marlins catcher Matt Treanor with two outs and runners on the corners in the ninth.

Giving up big hits on the first pitch was a big problem for Nunez a year ago as opponents hit .370 with three homers off him in those situations. This season, Nunez has been a lot less predictable thanks to the addition of a slider and a much more effective changeup. Opponents are hitting just .214 against him in those situations (3 for 14).

BAKER UPBEAT AND OPTIMISTIC: Catcher John Baker was back in the Marlins clubhouse Wednesday and optimistic he could be back from the disabled list earlier than mid-August. Baker, who was told by an orthopedic surgeon to take four weeks off to rest the strained right flexor muscle in his right arm, said he thinks he could be back in uniform for the Marlins "by August 1st at the latest."

Baker said he plans to work out and do as much catching as possible and hitting from his left side to maintain a sense of timing.

HENSLEY BATTLING NECK PAIN: Right-hander Clay Hensley said he's battling neck pains from an injury he suffered a few weeks ago and is likely going to take a few days off to rest it. Hensley, the Marlins usual set-up man, didn't pitch with the Marlins clinging to a 2-1 lead Tuesday night and was replaced by Brian Sanches.

"It happened during the first game of the last home stand here," Hensley said. "I just had to get up quick and the fifth or sixth throw I felt something yank in my neck. It's progressively gotten worse to the point where it's starting to hurt when I'm pitching and doing normal day stuff. It's time to take a break and get it back to normal."

June 15, 2010

Beinfest says Maybin still "big time" part of future

Cameron Maybin became the odd man out when the Marlins called up top prospect Mike Stanton last week. And while his immediate future remains uncertain, Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest said Tuesday Maybin was still a "big time" part of the team's future moving forward.

Larry Beinfest - Courtesy of Palm Beach Post "He's a talented kid," Beinfest said (CLICK ON THE LINK FOR THE COMPLETE AUDIO INTERVIEW). "I think he did a good job fighting through some stuff this year. He was fighting for awhile and then he had that run where he started to come back and show what he could do. I think we need to get Cameron playing and playing everyday. I'm not sure that's going to happen right now. But definitely in the future."

Maybin, acquired along with pitcher Andrew Miller in the Miguel Cabrera-Dontrelle Willis trade with the Tigers before the 2008 season, hasn't played since Stanton was called up. He went 1 for 3 with a double in his last game June 6th against the Mets to raise his season batting average to .225. Beinfest said the Marlins didn't feel a demotion to Triple A was "warranted." 

"We're just going to take it day-by-day and series by series and figure out what's best for the team and what's best for him," Beinfest said. "I'm not sure I have a good answer. But again, we didn't want to send him down... we want to be as fair to him as we can and do what's right for the team on the other hand. But he's handled it well. I commend him for that."

> ON THE RACE: With the Marlins (31-32) 5 1/2 games back of Atlanta in the division, Beinfest said he saw glimpses of the team breaking out more offensively last weekend in Tampa, a sign he thinks will lead to a turnaround in the standings. 

"I think the spark really when you look at it is what Chris Coghlan has been doing in the leadoff spot," Beinfest said of Coghlan, who is hitting .425 since May 25th. "Maybe that's something we didn't have the first two months. Hanley [Ramirez] is going to knock in a bunch of runs and we're going to score a bunch of runs. I think we're relatively confident we're going to get going and really score some runs."

As for the bullpen, which ranks 21st in baseball with a 4.48 ERA, Beinfest he believes its only a matter of time before things "settle down." "As long as the starting pitching continues to perform, it will take some pressure off the bullpen," Beinfest said. "We understand some of the challenges in the bullpen. But those guys can hopefully fit into roles and things will settle down. When you talk about the puzzle and playing winning baseball a lot has to fit together. I'm not sure we've totally fit together so far. I know its cliche and B.S. But that's the best I can come up with so far."

Beinfest mentioned several minor league players as potential bullpen call-ups later on this season. The first name out of his mouth -- 21-year old hard-throwing right-hander Jhan Marinez, who was recently promoted to Double A Jacksonville after posting a 1.48 ERA in 24.1 IP for Single A Jupiter. "97-99 mph, all power, big arm, very big arm," Beinfest said of Marinez. "He's a young guy and wetill need to polish him up a little bit. But his slider has come a long way, which he'll need up here. But he's got big-time power stuff."

Other pitchers Beinfest mentioned: "Jose Ceda has been on rehab in Greensboro and threw today. He was 95 [miles per hour]. I think we'll see him back up in Double A soon. Sean West is pitching and pitching well in Triple A. [Dan] Jennings (3-1, 2.16 ERA in Double A) has really settled down. Steven Cisheck (1-1, 8.31 ERA in Double A) threw the ball well. I saw [Tom] Koehler [7-1, 3.34 ERA] pitch and Andrew Miller pitch. Andrew still has some issues, which he's working on. But again, the stuff is there. It's always been there. He just needs to throw strikes. So, we're hopeful the light will come back on and it will click."

> IMPRESSED BY STANTON: As for Stanton, Beinfest said he's been impressed by the 20-year olds first five games in the big leagues. "You want him to relax. You want him to kind of get it going and I think he's done a nice job of that," Beinfest said. "He's an intense player by nature. I think there are expectations for him to hit home runs. He hasn't done that yet. But the two base hits up the middle [Sunday], that shows a lot of maturity. He got those RBI on Sunday in Tampa and those are the positive things we're looking for, for him to settle in and I think he's done a nice job so far with that. So, all in all, we're pleased with what we've seen and how he's handled himself, which can be just as important as the performance."

> NO TRADES FOR CATCHING: With John Baker out until mid-August, Beinfest said the Marlins plan to rely on Ronny Paulino and Brett Hayes to handle the catching and won't be looking to acquire anyone. "Ronny has played everyday before," Beinfest said. "I think Brett could do a good job. He's shown he can handle the pitchers up here fine. He does a nice job defensively."

Baker won't return until mid-August at earliest

Marlins catcher John Baker doesn't need to have surgery on his strained right arm flexor muscle, but will still be out until "mid-August at the earliest" according to manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Baker, who went to see Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. last week, was told he needs four weeks of rest before being reevaluated. "It's better than getting snipped, cut on you know," Gonzalez said before Tuesday night's game against the Rangers.

That means Ronny Paulino will continue to see the bulk of the heavy lifting behind the plate for Florida. Paulino is fourth among major league catchers with .303 batting average. His 25 RBI rank 12th among backstops.

Baker has been on the disabled list since May 12th. He hit .218 with six RBI in his first 23 games.

NEW ROLE FOR PINTO: Reliever Renyel Pinto, used primarily as a situational left-hander for the Marlins late in games for most of his career, will be now be used primarily as a long reliever according to Gonzalez.

Pinto, who came off the disabled list Monday, was 0-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 15 2/3 innings with eight walks and 16 strikeouts before he strained his hip and groin in a 7-3 loss to the Braves on May 26th. 

ONCE A SOCCER STAR: Nobody has been hotter for the Marlins in June than Chris Coghlan, who received a congratulatory hug from special assistant Jeff Conine in the clubhouse before Tuesday's game.

Conine didn't let the hug last long, pretending for a second Coghlan was so hot he was burning him. So far this month, Coghlan is hitting .489 (22 for 45) with four RBI, six walks and 12 Ks.

Of course, had things been different, the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year could be in South Africa right now. According to Coghlan, he was quite the soccer star growing up and played the sport until he gave it up at age 13 for baseball and football. He led his AAU team, the Countryside Lightning, to a third place finish in the state at age 13.

"It was my favorite sport growing up," Coghlan said. "I was a forward when I was younger, but I moved to midfielder when I got older because I could kick with both feet. I played center-mid a lot. I was also a place kicker in football. But I don't like thinking of myself as a kicker. I was more of a receiver and safety."

Coghlan claims his longest field goal in a game came from 43 yards. "I could kick it farther. But we didn't kick many field goals," Coghlan said. "We usually went for it on fourth down."

May 11, 2010

Is Leo Nunez on his way to becoming a shut-down closer?

CHICAGO -- There was a time last season when opposing hitters actually knew what Leo Nunez was going to be throwing them. They're looking a little more lost these days.

For the second time in as many nights, the Marlins closer put the finishing touches on a victory by retiring the side in order in the ninth for a save. It may not seem like much, but Nunez is now for seven for nine on the season (77.7 percent). That's not necessarily a better average than what he did last year when he was 26 of 33 (78.7 percent). 

But he is pitching better and not getting jumped on as often as he did a year ago for big home runs. Nunez has only allowed four hits to the 48 batters he's faced this season, the best batting average against in the majors (.087). And he's only walked five. 

Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire talked a little about Nunez before Tuesday's 3-2 win and believes he could be on his way to becoming a shut-down closer.

"He's been attacking the strikezone. His walks are way down. Except for the walks in New York, he's maybe walked two guys. He's being aggressive. That's a key to success," St. Claire siad. "If you're ahead of the hitters in the zone, they start chasing pitches out of the zone. If you're behind, they don't swing at those pitches that are borderline because those aren't the pitches they want to hit because maybe they're balls.

"To be a shut-down closer, you have to show people you're consistent. Time in and time out, you get the job done. That takes time. I think he's on his way. But he has to do that through the whole season and throw up 45 saves. That's when people say he's there. Then, do it another year and the next year. Then, you get that closer type of [reputation]."

Catcher John Baker said Nunez has been effective because of the addition of his slider. "He's keeping guys off balance," Baker said. "I think last year, guys could jus so one kind of speed and now he has three speeds going. That, and he's getting ahead of hitters."

> Of course, Nunez wasn't the only Marlins hero Tuesday. Ricky Nolasco rebounded from back-to-back losses with seven strong innings of five-hit ball. It was the 10th consecutive outing by a Marlins starter without giving up three runs and the 20th quality start on the season. The Marlins came in tied for 6th in baseball in quality starts and the fifth-lowest ERA by starters in the National League. Nolasco brought it down to 3.91.


Steal of home was "roll of the dice"

CHICAGO -- Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez isn't one to reveal many trade secrets. So when asked about the Marlins' double steal in the seventh inning of Monday's come-from-behind win against the Cubs on Tuesday afternoon, Gonzalez made sure his answer was short and sweet.

"We rolled the dice," Gonzalez said with a chuckle. 

Truth is there obviously was more game-planning put into Cody Ross' game-changing steal of home and the Marlins simply don't want to tip their hand. Either way, the play was rare and provided a huge lift for the club. Nobody seemed to be more relieved about it a day later than rookie first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

The former University of Miami standout was responsible for the routine pop-up turned basehit off the bat of Aramis Ramirez which fell right behind the mound in the sixth inning and the Cubs used to retake the lead.

Sanchez, who had never played at Wrigley before Monday, said he felt terrible about the gaff. "It was just one of those situations where once it started drifting, I didn't want to keep going after it just in case there was somebody there -- in case they were trying to catch it," Sanchez said. "It was just a tough ball."

"I think all of us in the infield in that situation were thinking the same thing, we shouldn't have let it happen. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to come back, score a couple runs and win that ball game."

Sanchez then started to talk about how the Marlins had been practicing the double steal since spring training. But before he got into the good stuff, Ross, a few lockers away, made sure to shush the rookie up. "Don't be giving our plays away man," Ross said with a smile.

MARLINS STEALS RARE THESE DAYS... Monday's four stolen bases marked the first time since a 10-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 15, 2007 that the Marlins stole more than three bases in a game.

The Fish swiped five against the Rockies on that day, but have since managed to steal three bases only three times in each of the past two seasons.

"I just think that's not the nature of our club," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We are not built to steal bases, which I like to do at times. You look through our lineup we probably have two legit stolen base guys. [Cameron] Maybin, [Hanley] Ramirez and [Chris] Coghlan."

The Marlins entered the Cubs series with only 10 steals on the season, tied with the Phillies for fewest in the National League. Last season, they swiped 75 as a team one fewer than in 2008. The last time they stole more than 100 was in 2007 when Ramirez had 51 of the team's 105 steals.

Ramirez, who moved to the No. 3 spot in the order last season, has been the Marlins primary base stealer in each of the past five season. But as he's become a more dangerous hitter, his stolen base attempts have gone down. And that's fine with Gonzalez.

"I'd rather him win the batting title every year than be the stolen base king," he said ."I want him to win the batting title and drive in 100."

Gonzalez said he thinks stolen bases are a misleading stat. He said he prefers to flash the green light when a steal is needed.

"Some guys steal 40, 45 bases and 25 are meaningless," Gonzalez said. "For me, steal the bag when you have to steal a bag. Two outs in the ninth inning or in a tie game or one out in the ninth inning of a tie game, to me that's when stolen bases count more."

May 10, 2010

Baker, Meyer happy for former A's teammate Braden

CHICAGO -- Dan Meyer was on his way to the airport Sunday night aboard a quiet Marlins team bus when his cell phone began buzzing with text messages from his friends. The first one read: "Did you hear about Dallas Braden?"

"The first thing I'm thinking is what did he say about about A-Rod now?" Meyer said.

It didn't take the Marlins reliever long before he figured out his former minor league teammate in Oakland had just pitched the 19th perfect game in major league history. Soon after, Meyer ran over to share the news with Marlins catcher John Baker, who also played with Braden in the Athletics minor league system, and the two watched video highlights of the feat on Meyer's cell phone before boarding their flight to Chicago.

"It was surreal to see," said Meyer, who played three seasons with Braden in A's farm system and was his roommate for most of those seasons on the road. "We were pretty close, hung out a lot. I know him way outside of baseball. For me it is more than a baseball thing.

"I lived with him, played golf with him and used to stay at his grandmother's house on off days, so I even know the grandmother."

Baker was equally thrilled for Braden and sent him a text message with one word "Wow."

"I couldn't be happier for the guy," said Baker, who caught Braden in several spring training games and played against him once he was traded to the Marlins.

"He's just a different character. He almost seems like he doesn't care. But he he does care -- just like you saw with the Alex Rodriguez thing. He's not afraid of star status. It takes a pitcher like that, whose not afraid, to pitch a game like that."

RESPECT FOR PERFECTION... The Marlins have never had a pitcher throw a perfect game, but have had four toss no-hitters including Anibal Sanchez.

But there is at least one Marlin who has thrown a perfect game at the professional level -- reliever Clay Hensley. He threw one for Class A Hagerstown Suns in 2003 on only 81 pitches.

"It takes a lot of luck," said Hensley, who also threw two no-hitters in college. "The stars have to be aligned for you."