May 04, 2010

Marlins had success in '09 vs. Cy Young winners

The Marlins and Giants will kickoff a three-game series tonight at Sun Life Stadium. The story line is pretty simple: Can the Marlins hit the studs San Francisco will be throwing out on the mound? 

Back-to-back Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum (4-0, 1.27 ERA) gets the ball tonight. Then, 2002 Cy Young winner Barry Zito (4-0 with a 2.35 ERA in 5 career starts versus the Marlins) pitches for San Fran on Wednesday. Matt Cain (1-1, 2.84 ERA) goes Thursday. 

The Marlins, one of the best offensive teams in the game, are going in with a confident attitude.  "I think if you get caught up with the names and the hype, it only makes it a little more difficult," Marlins catcher John Baker said. "The guy is already good enough without having to give him an enormous amount of credit... we're just going to go out and play our game."

Florida does lead baseball with a .320 average when runners are on base and hit .286 (fifth-best) when runners are in scoring position. 

"We have to find some holes," manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tuesday. "[Anibal] Sanchez and the guys that are pitching -- [Nate] Robertson and Ricky [Nolasco] -- have to match zeroes. It's going to be a fun series. If we don't make mistakes defensively, add on runs late, we can win. It's pretty simple."

The Marlins are 0-2 this season when facing former Cy Young winners. They lost to Johan Santana in the season opener, producing just one earned run on four hits over six innings while walking twice and striking out five times. Roy Halladay then shut them down for eight innings for the Phillies on April 16th, scattering eight hits and giving up just two earned runs with four strikeouts and no walks before the Marlins mounted a late rally against Philly's bullpen and lost 8-6.

Last year, though, the Marlins actually went 6-2 the eight times they faced former Cy Young winners.  The key wasn't necessarily pounding the star pitcher, but getting to his bullpen.

Marlins '09 vs. Cy Young winners
> April 12: vs. Johan Santana, Mets lost 2-1. Santana charged with loss. 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 13 Ks, 26 ABs
> April 29: vs. Johan Santana, Mets lost 4-3. Santana was given a no decision. 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 26 ABs
> June 5: vs. Barry Zito, Giants won 2-1. Zito earned the win. 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 19 ABs
> June 7: vs. Tim Lincecum, Giants won 3-2. Lincecum earned the win. 7 1/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 24 ABs
> June 8: vs. Randy Johnson, Giants lost 4-0. Johnson charged with loss. 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 22 ABs
> June 9: vs. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals lost 4-3. Carpenter received ND. 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 23 ABs
> June 12: vs. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays lost 7-3. Halladay received ND. 3 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 Ks 12 ABs
> June 21: vs. CC Sabathaia, Yankees lost 6-5. Sabathia received ND. 1 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 7 ABs

HENSLEY RETURNS; WOOD SENT DOWN: Manager Fredi Gonzalez said it was "a tough decision" sending reliever Tim Wood down to Triple A New Orleans on Tuesday to make room for Clay Hensley, who was reinstated from the bereavement list. 

Hensley left the team Friday after learning his father had died. With services still not set and authorities still trying to determine his cause of death, Hensley said he remained in town.

“We kind of lost touch over the last couple of years,” Hensley of his father, who was 60 and died in Jacksonville, Texas. "We spoke over the holidays and stuff. We didn't spend a lot of time together the last couple years. I was on the West Coast and he was in Texas. It's difficult no matter what. Being a new dad now, it hits a little closer."

Hensley threw three scoreless innings in relief, striking out seven, on Friday before learning about his father’s death. He has struck out 13 over five innings in his last two outings.

“I think I’ll feel better playing,” he said. “Sitting around the house, it’s probably just a little better for me to be here.”

Left-hander Hunter Jones of Palm Beach Gardens was called up when Hensley left the team Friday. He threw walked the only batter he faced Sunday on four pitches before Gonzalez removed him from the game. Gonzalez said he thought Jones, who was 0-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts in Triple A, was a little too amped up.

“We feel like we need to get that left-handed situation in the bullpen [settled]," Gonzalez said. "I like to carry two guys. We want to give Hunter Jones the opportunity to be that second guy until Danny [Meyer] comes back. That's the thing about opportunities. You get one, you don't want it to get it to waste.”

Meyer, who has been on the disabled list with a left calf strain since April 26, has pitched two scoreless innings in Single A Jupiter during his rehab assignment. He has four strikeouts and one walk in two games. He was 0-1 with a 16.20 ERA with four walks and two strikeouts in six games with the Marlins before he was placed on the disabled list.

TASED AND CONFUSED:  In case you missed it, a Philadelphia police officer Tasered a 17-year old high school senior during Monday night's Phillies game when the boy ran onto the field and proved hard to catch.

The Marlins, who were off Monday, saw the highlights of the chase and most had no problem with the way security reacted.

"What if you're at a really nice restaurant and somebody came in knocking plates over and causing a big scene? Police would show up and I think the same thing would happen," catcher John Baker said.

"It's not a difficult set of rules to follow. They're the kind of rules you learn when your a little kid. When somebody says don't run on the field, don't run on the field. When somebody says don't cuss in front of a little kid, don't cuss in front of a little kid. I know they have some problems in Philadelphia because they have rowdy fans. Well, don't throw up on a police officer on purpose. These are not difficult rules to follow. If you break the rules, there are going to be consequences and that's what we learned here. Somebody broke the rules and the police responded with how they felt was appropriate."

April 26, 2010

Gaby Sanchez among top rookies early

He hasn't created the kind of buzz Jason Heyward has in Atlanta. But when you stack Gaby Sanchez's numbers against the rest of the rookies in baseball after three weeks, the Marlins young first baseman is definitely worthy of recognition. 

Gaby Sanchez Sanchez, among a dozen everyday playing rookies in the game early on this season, ranks fourth in batting average (.281) and runs (8), second to Heyward in RBI (9) and leads all first-year players in doubles (7). Not bad for a guy who hit third or fourth nearly his entire life and has had to bat in the eighth hole for the Marlins in 40 of his 57 at-bats this season.

"It has been an adjustment, but only because you have the pitcher hitting behind you," Sanchez said. "When you're up there with one out, two outs, you're the guy they want to swing the bat, to try and create a run or something."

Sanchez, who had 29 major league career at-bats between 2008 and 2009, said he's been extra patient at the plate trying to study pitchers he's never faced before. It's resulted in him taking nine walks (2nd most on the team) and accumulating a .388 on base percentage (third highest on the team).

"Every single outing, I'm seeing a new pitcher for the first time," Sanchez said. "I'm having to take pitches, sliders, change ups to see their movement, depth. I feel like once I get back to facing them again and again it will be a little bit different."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's been impressed with how Sanchez has not only hit, but the way he's played defense. Sanchez has only been credited with one error this season and has done a good job handling throws that often pull him off the bag. 

"I feel like defense has been going very well for me," Sanchez said. "I've been learning the guys throws, what their ball typically does when they throw it and what side they like to throw to. Once it becomes second nature, it will be easier for me on backhand plays."

SANCHES RETURNS, MEYER HEADS TO DL: Brian Sanches provided a huge lift to the Marlins bullpen last season when he was called up from Triple A New Orleans. Now that he's finally over a strained right hamstring injury, the 31-year old right-hander is hoping he can do the same soon.

Sanches was activated from the disabled list Monday and inserted into a pen which ranks 22nd in ERA (4.91) and has struggled at times to defend leads late in games. The Marlins have given up 36 of their 92 runs from the seventh inning on and blown four save opportunities in 10 tries. 

Sanches, who spent 11 seasons in the minors before finally breaking through last season, began 2009 with 25 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings at home, the third longest streak in club history. He was 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA and threw two more innings 10 times in 47 appearances.

"I definitely missed being with the guys, competing with them, the camaraderie," said Sanches, who strained his hamstring in the next-to-last exhibition game of the spring. "I'm not looking at myself as a savior. I just want to be a piece of the puzzle. That's what I'm going to go in there and do, fill my spot. Hopefully, everything kind of molds around me."

The Marlins placed left-handed reliever Dan Meyer (0-1, 16.20 ERA, 6 games) on the disabled list with a strained left calf, retroactive to Sunday. Meyer said he strained his calf against the Reds on April 13th, before the Marlins went on a nine-game road trip. He said the injury had nothing to do with his struggles, though. He's given up six earned runs and 10 hits with three walks over two innings in his last three appearances.

"I'm not heloing the team out there trying to fight through it," Meyer said. "I wouldn't say anything is too serious. I just have to do what's good for the team, try and stay healthy and not try to work it too much."

COGHLAN FEELING BETTER AT THE PLATE: Chris Coghlan's struggles this season have been well documented. But the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year said he feels like he's close to breaking out of his 10-for-65 slump (.154) to start the season.

In his last two games, Coghlan has gone 3 for 8 and hit several balls hard enough to convince manager Fredi Gonzalez that the end is near. "When you only have 60 plate apperances, all you need is a 5 for 12 week and you're back up to .290 or .300," Gonzalez said. "I'm seeing signs."

"I feel great," Coghlan said. "I couldn't have said that when we played L.A. here," Coghlan said. "I was just missing pitches, striking out more, swinging at pitches out of the zone. I don't feel like that now at all. I feel normal."

Coghlan lost his job as the Marlins leadoff hitter in part because of his struggles, but also the consistent play and speed of Cameron Maybin. Coghlan said it doesn't matter in his eyes if he is batting first or second.

"When you're at the top of the lineup, you're a table setter," Coghlan said. "That's our job. Whether Cameron Is hitting first or I'm hitting first, our job is to be table setters, get on base for Hanley [Ramirez], Jorge [Cantu] or [Dan Uggla], score runs. It doesn't matter if it's leadoff or two hole. Whatever helps the team, that's what I want to do."

> Marlins top prospect Mike Stanton had yet another breakout performance for Double A Jacksonville on Monday. The 20-year old outfielder slugged three home runs and drove in seven runs in a win over the Carolina Mudcats.

Over his last two games, Stanton has hit five home runs and driven in 11 runs, raising his batting average from .263 to .338. He now has a minor-league leading nine homers and 20 RBI, tied for third-most. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez was well aware of those stats. He informed reporters of Stanton's two-day totals as they walked into the clubhouse.

"Five homers, 11 RBI in two games," Ramirez said. "Amazing."

April 18, 2010

Phillies believe Marlins "can be a threat"

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies might be everybody's pick to repeat as National League Champions. But after losing two of three to the Marlins and five straight series to the Fish at Citizens Bank Park, the Marlins can move onto Houston knowing they've gotten the Phillies attention.

Burke Badenhop I didn't get a chance to head into the Phillies' locker room after Sunday's game, but came across some interesting quotes courtesy of the Philadelphia Daily News tonight.

"I think the team that you saw out here today is young, and the last two years they started to get a lot of confidence and experience," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "If they're pitching holds up, they definitely can be a threat."

The Marlins showed the Phillies they could pitch this weekend. If not for Jayson Werth's two-out, solo home run in the ninth Saturday, Ricky Nolasco and his Sunday cohorts (Nate Robertson, Burke Badenhop and Leo Nunez) would have combined to shutout the best hitting team in baseball twice in a span of 24 hours. Instead, they left having allowed just one run in 18 innings to a club that came into Saturday leading baseball in batting average (.315), runs (77), RBI (76) and slugging percentage.

The Marlins used to be an organization rich with pitching and defense. But the last couple years have been rough to say the least. Even after these last two games, the Marlins team ERA (4.16) ranks 16th in baseball, the 52 walks allowed rank 9th and the 15 errors (Hanley Ramirez had one Sunday) rank No. 1 in the game. If the Marlins can get Nolasco and Josh Johnson to pitch to their abilities consistently and have Chris Volstad, Robertson and Anibal Sanchez provide adequate starts, the Fish definitely have the offense to be a legitimate contender.

As it stands after two weeks, they're hitting .275 (8th in baseball) as a team. They've produced 68 runs (6th best) and produced 67 RBI (2nd to the Phillies) despite striking out 102 times (4th most). With a little bit of improvement on defense and pitching, who knows how good this team could really be.

Dan Uggla HIS NAME IS DAN UGGLA!: I'm pretty sure nobody in Las Vegas put money on Dan Uggla being the team's leader in batting average among starters after two weeks. But that's exactly where the second baseman is after today.

His third three-plus hit game of the season raised his average to .346. He's also tied with Jorge Cantu for the team lead in homers (3) and ranks second to Cantu on the team with 9 RBI. Uggla is a career .259 hitter, who hit a career-low .243 last season. His career average in April was is .236. But if he can keep it up and finish above .300 for the month, it will be the first time that's happened for him since May 2008 when he hit .347.

"I'm definitely not going to complain," Uggla said after he homered and drove in both runs in Sunday's win ""I'm not going to get too high or think about it and or get too happy about it because I know this game is a crazy game. I'm just gonna try to keep it simple and battle."

IS THE HOPPER THE NEW GO-TO GUY IN THE PEN?: Leo Nunez is the closer. But Burke Badenhop is the Marlins new Mr. Reliable. 

Sunday, when manager Fredi Gonzalez took Robertson out of the game with runners on first and second and only one out in the seventh, he handed the ball to a guy who used to be just the long relief pitcher last year. Badenhop didn't disappoint. He retired Placido Polanco and then got Chase Utley, a player with a .333 average against him, to fly out to the warning track in right to end the seventh inning.

With Renyel Pinto warming up in the pen, even Badenhop thought Gonzalez was going to replace him with the lefty after he got Polanco out. But to Gonzalez's credit, he stayed with Badenhop, who later retired Ryan Howard (who was 3 for 5 against him), Jayson Werth and Ben Francisco without a hiccup in the eighth. 

Badenhop was Gonzalez's man on Wednesday too if you remember. He picked up his first save with two scoreless innings against the Reds. Although he was the losing pitcher in Monday's game, Badenhop's numbers have been wicked good this season. His ERA is 0.93 (1 ER in 9 2/3 innings) and opponents are only 3 for 29 against him (.103).

"You expect good things and you go out there and you want to pitch," Badenhop said. "This is the first time I've really experienced that in terms of coming out of the pen. In the minor leagues [when I was] starting, I built confidence from start to start. This is the first time in the bullpen, I've felt like that."

COGHLAN PLAYING GREAT DEFENSE: Chris Coghlan's slump is not over and neither is his desire to keep making amazing catches. Sunday, he made two. First, he made a running catch against the railing in left field to end the second with the bases loaded. Then, he tumbled to the ground making another catch in foul ground later in the game.

"I know he ain't swinging the bat," Gonzalez said. But he has the mentality right now that if he's not going to get a hit, nobody is going to get one either. Good for him. He's plugging away."

April 17, 2010

Meyer eager to bring down 19.31 ERA

PHILADELPHIA -- Friday night's seventh inning was one to forget for reliever Dan Meyer. With a little more than a dozen family members and friends from right up the road in his hometown of Mickleton, N.J. in attendance, the 28-year old left-hander had his worst outing in a Marlins uniform.

Dan Meyer It started with a bang when Chase Utley drilled a 2-2 change-up from Meyer into the seats in right field for a leadoff home run. Then, Meyer gave up a single to Ryan Howard, an RBI double to Jayson Werth, a walk to Raul Ibanez and a single Juan Castro before manager Fredi Gonzalez came and yanked him. In all, Meyer didn't retire a single batter he faced and saw his ERA shoot up to 19.31 on the season.

"I had a bad day at work and unfortunately it was in front of 40,000 people and who knows how many else on TV," Meyer said. "My family still loves me, though."

His Marlin family still does, too. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Meyer pitched too good for him last year to discard him after a bad week. "We could always talk about somebody negatively whether it's a pitcher, a starter or a coach," Gonzalez said. "Hitters go 0 for 10 or 0 for 20. Sometimes relievers get themselves in a little funk. For me, that's all it is. [We'll] keep running him out there."

In Meyer's first full season in the majors last year, he made 71 appearances and went 3-2 with a 3.09 ERA. He started this season by retiring four of the first six hitters he faced in three appearances, giving up a single in a win over the Dodgers and walking the only batter he was faced Monday against the Reds.

His last two outings have been much rougher. Tuesday, he picked up the loss in the Marlins' 11-inning defeat to the Reds, giving up three hits, two earned runs and two walks in one inning. Friday's implosion followed. Meyer said his cutter was "a little flatter" in both of his last outings. But Saturday, when he threw a bullpen session with pitching coach Randy St. Claire, Meyer said his go-to pitch was working again "like it was last year."

"Everything is there," Meyer said. "It's correlating that to the game. I hope Fredi and those guys still have confidence in me. I'm still going out there giving it all for these guys."

> Right-hander Chris Leroux, who relieved Meyer Friday and promptly got out of the bases loaded jam he was given, got to live out a childhood dream in his second appearance since being called up from Triple A New Orleans on Wednesday. 

Among the six outs in his two scoreless innings of relief, the 25-year old Toronto native was able to strike out former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. Leroux said his mom asked him before Friday's game to get an autograph from Halladay, who spent 11 full seasons with in Toronto and won the Cy Young award in 2003 before being acquired by the Phillies in a multi-team trade last December.

"I've always watched him and somewhat idolized him," Leroux said. "Just seeing him step into the [batter's] box was cool."

As for the autograph, Leroux said he's counting on a clubhouse attendant to get it for him. "Hopefully, he won't take the strikeout personally," Leroux said.

> Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after Friday's 8-6 win he thought Gonzalez wanted umpires to delay the game because of the rainy conditions, which might have meant avoiding Halladay, who would not have come back to pitch if the delay was long enough.

“You’d have to ask Fredi, but I think he wanted to stall and see if they would stop the game before five innings and we wouldn’t get the game in," Manuel told Phillies writers. "But, whatever. I don’t know. You have to ask him.”

When asked about it by Marlins writers before Saturday's game, Gonzalez had a little fun. "Where is he? Let me at him," Gonzalez said before motioning as if he was going to dart off the Marlins bench to chase Manuel down. "I wasn't stalling. I was trying to get the field ready."

> Left fielder Chris Coghlan is back in the lineup after missing three games with sore ribs thanks to a diving catch in the outfield Tuesday. Gonzalez said Coghlan would have been used in a pinch runner situation Friday night had John Baker reached base in the ninth inning. 

Gonzalez said Friday he thinks Coghlan and Cameron Maybin, who hit leadoff when Coghlan was out, are "interchangeable" at the top of the Marlins lineup. 

Maybin is pretty good in the leadoff spot. He's a career .304 hitter in 46 at-bats with three stolen bases, five walks and .373 on-base percentage. Maybin also is a .325 hitter in the No. 2 hole, with nine doubles, 7 RBI and a .367 on-base percentage.

"I think before it's all said and done, he could hit in the middle of the lineup," Gonzalez said of Maybin. "He's got some power that's going to develop late. I don't see him like a [Astros outfielder] Willy Tavares type guy. He's a guy who chops the ball and runs. [Maybin] is a guy that can juice the ball."

April 11, 2010

Short Hops with Burke Badenhop

The first thing Marlins relief pitcher Burke Badenhop told me when he agreed to talk about his life outside of baseball during spring training was, "You're going to find out that I'm not really that interesting."

Burke Badenhop The 6-5, 220-pound, 27-year old right-hander might be more of a dork than Joe Cool, but he's proving to be invaluable again in a struggling Marlins bullpen -- at least early on. In the 17 innings Marlins relievers have been serviced out of the pen, Badenhop has provided five scoreless innings. His teammates have combined to give up 13 runs in the other 12 innings.

But talking baseball isn't what this blog is about. It's about getting you closer to the The Hopper, who has agreed to provide his thoughts on off beat stuff throughout the season. Although his bio says he was born in Atlanta, Badenhop said he considers himself from Perrysburg, Ohio, which also produced former Marlins World Series winning manager Jim Leyland

"It's right outside of Toledo, which of course is the glass city and an hour south of Detroit," explains Badenhop, who graduated from Bowling Green with a degree in economics and is smarter than your average baseball player. "The thing is, though, I didn't really grow up in Perrysburg. I grew up in Greensboro, N.C. and my favorite thing to do growing up was playing Little League Baseball. I played basketball all the way through high school. I could have played for D-2 or D-3 schools, but I was already signed to play baseball."

Badenhop can ramble a bit. And, take ribbing from his teammates in stride. During this interview, catcher John Baker takes a shot at Badenhop when he rambles on about what he used to do as a kid. "What about playing with Barbies?" Baker shouts.

McLovin The Hopper informs his catcher he never played with Barbies, but admits to me he does look a little little like Superbad's McLovin. Last year, a photo of the famed movie character dancing with a girl at a party (THE ONE TO THE LEFT) was placed on Badenhop's locker in the Marlins clubhouse, a gift from Marlins video man Cullen McRae.

"I don't know if I look like him as much as maybe I'm an unassuming guy who can't find his rhythm," Badenhop said. "But I'd say I'm one of the geekier personas on the team. So, that's why."

Any McLovin moments growing up? "Stealing beer and things like that?," Badenhop asks. "I don't know if this is good enough. I kind of move at a slow pace in terms of getting ready. I'm usually the last one out the door-type thing. I'm not good when I'm rushed. I was at a basketball camp when I was younger and one of the days they let us swim. Well, when my mom came to pick me up my shoes were on the wrong feet and my pants were on backwards. I didn't even know it. I was like seven."

Badenhop, by the way, loves Superbad. He's alternative music fan who listens to XM Radio Channel 46 for the Counting Crows and Blink 182. He's also a huge Duke basketball fan and was thrilled to watch them win the national title last week.

"A lot of people dog me for this, but I could watch Superbad anytime," Badenhop said "I really could. In terms of serious movies, I like a Shawshank Redemption. Baseball movies, you can't go wrong with Major League over Bull Durham. Just because the one-liners in it are unbelievable.

Any Major League movie characters in this clubhouse? "I might be one," he said. "[Renyel] Pinto would absolutely be. He'd be himself. There's no Rick Vaughn here. [Former closer] Matt Lindstrom could have been him. There's no Roger Dorn either. I could be Nuke Laloosh [from Bull Durham]. Yeah, I'm still trying to find it."

Badenhop, by the way, will not be available to pitch Sunday. But he will be on Monday.

April 02, 2010

Reliever Brian Sanches suffers hamstring injury

JACKSONVILLE -- The Marlins dropped a 4-3 decision to their Double A affiliate the Jacksonville Suns Friday night but might have lost something much bigger in the process -- right-handed relief pitcher Brian Sanches.

Brian SanchesThe 30-year old suffered what manager Fredi Gonzalez described as what could be a "severe" hamstring injury when he came out to warm-up on the mound in the seventh inning.

"The top of my hamstring kind of grabbed on me," said Sanches, who said he was on his second-to-last warm up pitch he sustained the injury. "I felt it kind of pop a little bit. I went to kind of throw another one and it wouldn't let me do it.

"I don't have a lot of experience [with hamstring injuries]. But when it rolls like that or pops like that, it's definitely something to worry about. Hamstrings are kind of nagging like that anyway. If it ends up being a strain, it will take 10 days to heal. There's no good time. But this is a really bad time."

Sanches went 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 47 games last season after being called up from the minors and proved to be a valuable addition to the bullpen. He said he would be re-evaluated Saturday morning after the Marlins arrived in Greensboro, N.C. for their final exhibition game before heading to New York for Monday night's season opener. Sanches said he was looking forward to his first Opening Day.

"We'll check to see how bad it is tomorrow, but it was up in the buttocks area," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Usually when it is high or up, it's more severe -- or can be more severe than when it is in the middle of the hamstring or lower."

> Second baseman Dan Uggla was hit with a 92-mile per hour fastball on the knuckle of his left index finger during his first at-bat and left Friday's game almost immediately. But it was "precautionary" according to Gonzalez. Uggla said he would have remained in the game if it was a regular season game.

March 23, 2010

Marlins make moves in bullpen

JUPITER -- The battle for jobs in the Marlins bullpen just got less crowded.

Mike MacDougal Reliever Mike MacDougal, who converted 20 of his 21 save opportunities last season for the Nationals and was brought in as a fall back plan at closer for Leo Nunez, was released by the Marlins Tuesday morning. Left-handed reliever Hunter Jones was optioned to Triple A New Orleans.

Last Friday, Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters of the seven available jobs in his bullpen, six had pretty much been locked up.  That group included Nunez, Brian Sanches, Burke Badenhop, Jose Veras and left-handers Dan Meyer and Renyel Pinto.

MacDougal, signed to a minor league contract in the offseason, was considered a serious contender for the final vacant spot along with Seth McClung. Gonzalez said Friday Rick VandenHurk, Hayden Penn and Clay Hensley also would be candidates if they don't make the rotation. Other releivers still in the mix include Scott Strickland, Chris Leroux and Tim Wood.

MacDougal had struggled in five appearances this spring. He had a 9.64 ERA with seven walks and two strikeouts in just 4 2/3 innings. 

Jones actually was pretty effective, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings and retiring 12 of the 15 batters he faced. But with Pinto and Meyer locked in to roles as left-handed relievers, he was sent down to Triple A where he'll get more work.

March 16, 2010

Turnbow's comeback bid likely over

VIERA -- Derrick Turnbow's comeback bid with the Marlins looks like it is probably over.

Derrick TurnbowThe shaggy-haired former All-Star closer, who was hoping to revive his career with the Marlins after a 2008 tear in his right labrum, left Tuesday afternoon's game against the Nationals with severe pain in his throwing shoulder. An MRI is expected to be performed Wednesday, but based on pain alone Turnbow doesn't expect the results to be good. 

"I've pitched with pain plenty of times, aches, like every other pitcher," said Turnbow, who saved 39 games for the Brewers and made the All-Star team in 2006. "But this was something I felt different. I've broken my [elbow] before, this is 10 times worse than a broken elbow."

Turnbow came into Tuesday's game in the eighth inning and  promptly threw his first two warm-up pitches off the back screen. After giving up a walk, Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire came out with a trainer to check on Turnbow. But he quickly waved him off. Turnbow then hit the following batter and slouched over on the mound in pain before manager Fredi Gonzalez came out with trainers and removed him from the game. Turnbow threw 10 pitches, just two for strikes. 

"For a guy that competitive to walk off the mound in that type of pain has to be tough," Gonzalez said. "We'll see. Hopefully, it's not as bad as we think it is."

Turbow said he felt great coming into the spring despite still having a small tear in his labrum. Up until a live batting practice he pitched a few weeks ago, he said he hadn't felt any discomfort. Tuesday, though, he did -- from the moment he started playing catch.

"It just didn't feel good working in the pen -- it was hurting," Turnbow said. "I thought I could go out there and get loose, hoping it would get better. I just felt awful, pain, tightness, it hurt to throw."

"Hopefully, it's nothing serious. But in any case, I'm sure I'll be shutdown for awhile. The chances of me making the big league team are over. We'll see what happens with me here, if they keep me here. Being a free agent is not a good situation. But you can only go until your body gives out."

> The Marlins lost both split squad games Tuesday. The Nationals pounded the Marlins 12-3 and the Braves beat the Marlins 6-3 in Lake Buena Vista.

February 26, 2010

Wood hoping to emerge from crowded bullpen

When Tim Wood made a trip out to California this past offseason to visit teammate Ryan Tucker, he returned home with a new and rather large tattoo on his left arm. The artwork, drawn freehand by a close friend of Tucker's, featured three baby angels and a message: Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil.

Tim WoodThe 27-year old reliever is hoping it provides him with a little luck this camp. Wood is going to need it. Basically, the 6-1, 181-pound right-hander who got his first taste of the big leagues a year ago, is in a battle with 13 other guys for four bullpen slots. 

A year ago, he was called up by the Marlins on four different occasions and finished the year on the staff with a 2.82 ERA, 1.43 WHIP in 22 1/3 innings and 18 appearances. Next to Brian Sanches, who is expected to be this year's setup man, Wood turned out to be arguably the best bullpen arm added to the staff after the start of the season. But now, after the Marlins went out and signed Mike MacDougal, Seth McClung and Jose Veras (who finally arrived to camp Friday), Wood finds himself on the outside looking in and having to prove himself once again.

"I feel strong. My arm feels really good, body feels really good -- these games can't come soon enough," said Wood, a 44th round pick who spent 2 1/2 of his first four years in the system out with elbow and shoulder injuries. "[Manager] Fredi [Gonzalez] is going to take the best relievers he has, whether they're right handed, left handed or throw with both hands. He's going to take the best guys he feels he can win with. I strongly support that. It's what you have to do."

Still, that doesn't mean Wood doesn't want to make the team badly. He said he arrived in Jupiter on Jan. 1 and has been working out at the complex daily. The Marlins, he said, asked him to put on more weight (he added seven pounds) and work on his secondary pitches, a changeup and slider. He feels the changeup has gotten a lot better.

"Getting here is the easy part," Wood said. "But I want to stay. I want to do everything I can to make it happen. It's going to be a competitive camp. Now, I just have to go out there and do what I can do, get people out."

WEATHER MAN: Manager Fredi Gonzalez likes to have a little fun with the media every now and then with a little sarcasm. His best line from Thursday involved complimenting camp coordinator Carlos Tosca and his penchant for bringing in "great weather" for the first three days of full squad workouts.

"I don't know if you guys are baseball people or not, but Carlos Tosca -- this guy is good," Gonzalez said. "He goes out there [Wednesday], brings in the rain. We're going to play in the rain during the year. So, he brings in the rain just enough to let the guys know we're going to have to work through the rain through the course of the year. And then [Thursday] we have fly ball priority. So, he brings in the wind, the sun and no clouds. Perfect conditions for flyballs. [Friday] its going to get a little colder. We open in New York in April, so I mean this guy is unbelievable. He's got some pull."

WEDDING BELLS: Turns out there were at least three Marlins who said "I do" this offseason. Pitcher Andrew Miller, 24, said he tied the knot with his high school sweetheart, a Duke graduate, in a small ceremony on Amelia Island near Jacksonville. Miller, who went to North Carolina, joined first baseman Gaby Sanchez, 26, and reliever Dan Meyer, 28, as the recently married Marlins.

August 22, 2009

Donnelly (calf) heads to DL after loss

The Marlins lost more than an important 4-3 decision to the Atlanta Braves Saturday night. They lost a valuable member of their bullpen, too.

Brendan Donnelly, who has a 2.04 ERA in 21 appearances since the Marlins signed him July 5th, suffered a right calf strain in the eighth inning and is being placed on the disabled list.

The Marlins will make the announcement of who they are calling up Sunday morning, but it's likely either Tim Wood or Cristhian Martinez, who have done fairly well when they've been up in the big leagues.

Donnelly was the news. Chris Volstad's early troubles and home run woes continue to be the story. He gave up two long balls and four runs on four hits in the first inning, before settling down for the next three innings as the Marlins tried to play catchup.

Volstad said he can't put a finger on why he's given up 26 home runs this year when he was so good at not allowing many a year ago (three Hrs in 84 1/3 innings).

"I don’t know. It’s just the way the year is going I guess," Volstad said. "I don’t know how else to explain it. I don’t feel like anything has changed. Pitch location, I guess, I just haven’t been able to locate as well."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said both of his home run pitches were up in the zone. But Volstad said he saw it on replay and says they weren't. "I watched both of them," Volstad said. "First one he did a good job getting on top of the pitch. It would have been a ball. The second one was a changeup down. Escobar did a good job keeping his hands back. It wasn’t my best changeup. It just kind of floated in there."

Here's an interesting Volstad stat I discovered during the game: He has given up 39 earned runs during within his first 30 pitches in 43.2 innings (8.03 ERA). But once he gets past 30 pitches, he's has been better, giving up 39 earned runs in 103.2 innings (3.40 ERA).

> Jorge Cantu got into Saturday's game and came up with a clutch two-run single during the Marlins rally in the sixth. But he still isn't over his neck pain.

"I’m just trying not to think about it. Even though I’m hurting a little bit, I’m just trying not to think about it and do the job," Cantu said. "I drove him in, but it doesn’t change the fact I’m not 100 percent yet. Hopefully, I’ll come back tomorrow and this thing will be gone. It’s tough to battle."