Marlins will give rookies Nicolino, Urena a good look before finalizing rotation

The Marlins are planning on setting their starting five-man rotation soon, and when they do, Jarred Cosart and Jose Fernandez will be rejoining it “in a permanent way,” manager Dan Jennings said Thursday.

But before anything is finalized, rookies Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena will get at least one more good look in the big leagues. Jennings revealed Thursday that Urena – and not veteran David Phelps -- will be making Sunday’s start against the Dodgers.

Urena tossed five innings and received a no decision in Tuesday’s loss to the Cardinals, but he’s gone at least six innings in four of his last five starts and has posted a 2.66 ERA over the stretch.

Nicolino, who tossed seven scoreless innings in his debut last Saturday in Cincinnati, will take the mound in the series opener Friday.

Could one rookie – or possibly both -- stay in the rotation moving forward? It certainly appears there’s a chance.

Saturday starter Tom Koehler was already sent to the bullpen once this season, and the Marlins are well aware of Koehler's struggles the second time through an opposing lineup. So they could opt to send Koehler to the bullpen and keep either Urena or Nicolino in the rotation.

Then, if Mat Latos or Dan Haren are traded (both have expiring contracts at the end of this season) it could open up another spot for a young arm to continue to develop on a team that clearly faces long odds of reaching the playoffs.

“It would be huge,” Jennings responded when asked if he would like to have a left-hander in the rotation. “I think some of the teams you see – especially these teams like the Cardinals with [Jason] Heyward and [Kolton] Wong [who homered Wednesday] night – if you've got that lefty starter, it can certainly neutralize a lot of things.”

Nicolino said he was nervous before his start in Cincinnati, but the butterflies quickly faded. He’s expecting to feel the same way in his first start at Marlins Park Friday.

“It’s the same game,” said Nicolino, who is 42-17 with a 2.67 ERA over five seasons and 102 starts in the minors. “After I got the first pitch out of the way [Saturday], that’s what it seemed like – the same game just with a lot more fans.”

FERNANDEZ SET FOR FINAL REHAB START

The next time Jose Fernandez returns to Marlins Park, he’ll be preparing for his next big league start against the Giants on July 2. Fernandez is set to fly out to Double A Jacksonville Friday afternoon where he’ll make his final rehab start following Tommy John surgery.

For Fernandez, who has never pitched above Single A Jupiter when he was in the minors, it will be his first trip to Jacksonville.

“Obviously it’s my last [rehab start], but it feels like it’s just another start, another step,” Fernandez said Thursday. “I’m just looking forward to getting out of it healthy, hopefully get to 95 pitches or higher. I thought I was going to be a little more like, ‘I can’t wait!’ I guess because I probably haven't realized yet that I’m that close [to returning to the big leagues I haven’t felt that way].”

MINOR LEAGUERS TOSS PERFECT GAME

Three Marlins minor leaguers -- including recent second round pick Brett Lilek -- combined to toss a perfect game Wednesday for the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League.

It’s only the third perfect game in league history according to Marty Scott, the Marlins vice president of player development who was there and watched the game.

“The leadoff hitter in the ninth hit a shot between first base and second,” Scott said. “Our first baseman dove, but it went his off glove and caromed to the second baseman, who got it and fired to [closer Steven] Farnsworth who covered first. It was a hell of a play. I was worried going into the ninth, not about the perfect game because of a lucky hit, but because we could lose the game up only 1-0. But when that first play happened to lead off the ninth, I knew fate was with us.”

Lilek struckout the side in the eighth inning after starter Gabriel Castellanos whiffed 12 over the first seven innings in the 1-0 win over the Mahoning Valley Scrapers. Farnsworth pitched the ninth to pick up the save.

The win improved the Muckdogs, who play a short-season of rookie ball, to 1-5. They lost their first five games and gave up 66 runs combined, Scott said.

Castellanos, a 21-year-old Dominican left-hander, was 7-21 with a 5.15 ERA in his career prior to Wednesday's start. For Lilek, a 21-year old lefty out of Arizona State, it was his first minor league appearance for the Marlins. Farnsworth, a 23rd-round pick in 2014, was 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 22 appearances before Wednesday.

“For the kids, it was special to see,” Scott said. “For a lot of them it was their first team win. Thirteen of the guys on the team, it’s their first year on that club. The team we played the first three games only had three 2015 draft picks. The team we played last two nights had four. So we're going to take our lumps once in a while. So if we get a couple more perfect games it will balance out.”

May 16, 2012

After "The Catch," Stanton tweaks shoulder trying to make another one

ATLANTA -- Nobody knows how much pain Giancarlo Stanton will be in when he wakes up Thursday morning, but his left shoulder was "freaking" hurting him Wednesday.

Stanton, who made a diving grab to rob Jason Heyward of a run-scoring extra-base hit that would have tied the game in the fourth, definitely tweaked his left shoulder trying to catch a sinking line drive off he bat of pinch-hitter Eric Hinske in the seventh. His shoulder was rapped in ice after the game and Stanton admitted he was in pain.

"That freaking hurt," Stanton said of the failed attempt to catch the ball off Hinkse. "I lost it in the lights and then I picked it up probably this far away. I don't know how it hurts so bad. But they were saying it looked pretty ugly on film. [My left arm] kind of yanked over. The ground kept it from going. But it will be alright. It just was really [painful]. It really hurt."

Stanton has had some amazing catches this season and some really ugly defensive moments too. Later in the seventh, he was charged with his fifth error of the season when he booted a single to right by Martin Prado. 

"A lot of stupid, stupid mistakes this year," Stanton said of his defense. "Like that ball right there, it snaked on me a little bit. That's about all my errors -- easy plays like that. I've just got to just learn from it and keep improving."

As for his big catch, Stanton said: "I just put my head down and ran -- ran to a spot and popped [my head] back up and dove for it... This was way better than [Tuesday's vs. Pirates]. This one saved two runs and the other one was just a catch."

> Give the normally quiet Austin Kearns credit for the best quote of the night. Told that before Jose Reyes stole home Wednesday, he was the only Marlin on the team who had achieved the feat, Kearns laughed and said: "Not everybody can run like me and Reyes you know."

March 15, 2011

Errors piling up for Ramirez, Marlins this spring (updated)

PORT CHARLOTTE -- Marlins players came into camp this spring wearing black t-shirts that read: "27 Outs, No More." I'm beginning to wonder if that meant how many they were going to give away in Grapefruit League play.

Hanley Ramirez Tuesday, the Marlins committed their 20th and 21st errors of the spring against the Rays, further moving them up the food chain of teams killing themselves with mistakes.

The Marlins entered Tuesday's game with the fifth-worst fielding percentage (.968) in baseball this spring. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez and first baseman Gaby Sanchez only helped make it worse in the second inning as the Rays scored five unearned runs off starter Sean West to build an early 7-1 lead.

Ramirez made the first mistake, booting a routine grounder hit right at him by BJ Upton. Sanchez then made the next mistake when he threw wide of Ramirez, who was covering second base on a pickoff attempt.

It was the second error of the spring for Sanchez and the fifth for Ramirez, who came in one off the lead for all shortstops.

Could Ramirez's added weight be playing a factor with his poor defensive start? Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said before Tuesday's game he didn't think so.

"He's in way better shape now than he was at the end of last season," Rodriguez said. "He's physically ready. He's been making errors. But fielding is the same as hitting, you have to get into a routine. That's why he's struggling defensively. That's the only reason."

If there is good news for the Marlins, it's that about a dozen of the errors have come from players who aren't expected to be on the Opening Day roster.

> Here's a look at the Marlins error totals this spring: SS Hanley Ramirez 5, INF Ozzie Martinez 2, OF Brian Petersen 2, 1B Gaby Sanchez 2, UTL Emilio Bonifacio 1, OF Scott Cousins 1, OF/INF Greg Dobbs 1, INF Ruben Gotay 1, P Brad Hand 1, P Josh Johnson 1, OF Josh Kroeger 1, 1B Vinny Rottino 1, INF Joe Thurston 1, OF Dewayne Wise 1.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> Rodriguez said after Tuesday's 11-2 loss his biggest concern during the Marlins nine-game losing streak has been defense. He also said he's told Ramirez, Sanchez and Omar Infante to expect more playing time over the next couple of weeks.

"We have to start throwing those guys out there more frequently so they can get in a groove," Rodriguez said. "Whatever we're doing right now is not working. It's not a lack of work. They've been working hard. I think I was waiting a little bit longer to put the same guys out there on back-to-back days. But i think they're going to have to go out there. Fielding is the same as hitting -- it's a matter of timing. I already talked to the guys, Hanley, Gaby, Infante and they're willing to do that. What we're trying to avoid is having them in the last week of May already being tired. So, we have to be careful with that. We have to find a happy medium."

> Left-hander Sean West, who made his second start of the spring Tuesday, wasn't able to get to third inning as he was hoping. He lasted just two, giving up six hits, seven runs (two earned), a walk and a strikeout as he faced 14 batters. He stayed positive afterward.

"I saw myself today make some really good pitches to some really good hitters," said West, who gave up a two-run home run to Manny Ramirez in the first inning. "I could care less about the runs. The ball is coming out great. Everything else doesn't really matter to me right now.

"The last time I felt this good was probably in '08 when I was pitching in High A. The confidence is there. The health is there. My arm it feels live again. I don't feel like I'm muscling any pitches. Everything is coming out smooth. I'm really looking forward to this season. It's going to be a good one.

"My head is in a very good place right now. Wherever I start, Double A, Triple A, I know eventually I'll get my chance. And when I get there i want to stay up. I'm tired of being the guy that goes up and down. I know I'm better than that. I'm going to show it this year."

May 10, 2010

Fredi Gonzalez wants defense to improve

CHICAGO -- Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez spent a few minutes Monday discussing his team's defense -- or lack of it. The Marlins have committed 30 errors this season, tops in the majors.

Gonzalez said he would like for his team to be a top five defense in the National League. When asked about how his team could potentially become a top five defense, Gonzalez chuckled.

"I think that's a trick question," Gonzalez said. "You know the answer. You know the direction. Two years ago when Tampa Bay went to the World Series they went out and said we have to improve defense. They went and got [Evan] Longoria. They got [Jason] Bartlett. They moved [B.J.] Upton to center. Carlos Pena has always been a terrific defender. The Red Sox did the same thing. They talked about more defense. They went out and got [Adrian] Beltre, [Marco] Scutaro, [Mike] Cameron. Am I leaning you in the right direction now?"

Gonzalez said he doesn't have a problem with his players making "aggressive errors," It is the mental errors that eats at him.

"It's the careless errors that really drive you crazy," Gonzalez said. "If you go backhand in the hole, you try to make a play and throw it away, OK fine. It's the comebackers. It's getting late to cover first base that goes down as a basehit. Everytime that happens, I know [infield coach] Joe [Espada], [outfield coach] Dave Collins and myself, it feels like it takes a chunk out of your heart.

"You guys have been around. You see how much work we do. In four years we have not made the strides we've wanted to..."

Since winning the World Series in 2003, the Marlins have gotten progressively worse on defense. They've made at least 100 errors in each of their last five seasons and actually led baseball in errors in 2007. They finished tied for fifth last season with 106 errors, their best season under Gonzalez.

Last season, Gonzalez said former pitching coach Mark Wiley would chart errors and how many more pitches his pitchers would have to work. This season, Espada is keeping track of errors that hurt the team after the seventh inning and how it affects the game when the are either up a run or down a run.

"I think the mindset we've created here is to keep battling," Gonzalez said. "We've got seven guys who can run you out of the ballpark in a hurry. We can be down three and all of a sudden, single, double, bam we're back in the game... but it's not a good way to win games, it's slow pitch softball style."

April 02, 2010

OF Scott Cousins preparing to start in New York

JACKSONVILLE -- With only 72 hours remaining before the start of the season, the Marlins still aren't sure who their starting right fielder will be when they take on the Mets at CitiField Monday night. But Scott Cousins is preparing like he'll be that guy. 

Scott CousinsWith Cody Ross still battling back from a mild calf strain, Cousins, 25, said the Marlins called him Thursday morning and told him to begin mentally preparing himself for his big league debut.

"They told me to come up here and play for Jacksonville, and travel up with them tomorrow to Greensboro to play for Greensboro and if things have been going the way they've been going with Cody, I'll be in New York. If he's feeling better, like he's ready to go, then I'm going back to [Triple A] New Orleans," said Cousins, who was scheduled to start in center Friday night for the Suns, who are hosting the Marlins one the first of the club's two final exhibition games.

"They said it was very likely [I would be in New York]. They didn't give me a percentage or anything like that. They just said to prepare my mind like I'm going to New York."

Ross, sidelined since March 23rd, played in a minor league game Friday afternoon on a back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter. As a designated hitter, he went hitless in five at-bats against the Mets low Single A affiliate. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said Ross is scheduled to play twice more this weekend in minor league games where he'll test his calf in the outfield.

"The trainers and coaches said he looked OK," Gonzalez said. "But, we'll always lean on the side of caution.

"He hasn't played the field and you have to play the field and stay out there for nine innings and run around. But today was a good sign. I don't mind losing him for four days and playing it safe than bringing him back too early and all of a sudden it's a month in a half."

If Ross isn't ready for the opener, he will begin the season on the disabled list. In that scenario, the Marlins would place him on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 26. The earliest he would be eligible to return would be April 10, when the Marlins host the Dodgers on the first Saturday night at home of the season.

Cousins is pulling for Ross to be healthy. But he certainly wouldn't mind an opportunity to fulfill his big league dreams, too.

A third round draft choice in 2006 out of the University of San Francisco, Cousins fractured his knee cap crashing into the outfield pole in Single A Jupiter with two months to go in the 2008 seasons. After having surgery, he didn't produce on offense like he was expecting to last season, hitting .263 with 12 home runs, 74 RBI and 27 stolen bases for Double A Jacksonville. But this spring with the Marlins, he showed he could swing a stick against big league pitching, hitting .286 with two home runs, four RBI in 21 at-bats and 11 games.

"They told me it could be four days, 10 days, two weeks -- it all depends on how he's doing," Cousins said. "But for me to fullfill a lifelong goal and dream -- Opening Day in New York, it would be unbelievable."

May 03, 2009

Marlins getting burned on the bases

CHICAGO -- Stolen bases. It wasn't the reason the Marlins lost to the Cubs Saturday, but it could become a real problem the Fish have to face all season. So far, the Marlins simply haven't been doing a good job stopping opposing teams from moving into scoring position with their speed.

Ronny Paulino Saturday, catcher Ronny Paulino got lit up in his second consecutive start, allowing three Cubs to steal second base. It was the same story when he was behind the plate Thursday. The only reason Paulino was able to catch a base stealer Saturday -- and end his personal streak at six -- was because Joey Gathright slid past second.

This season, Paulino has been one of the worst at catching potential base stealers in baseball and so are the Marlins, who are second-worst in the NL to San Diego (26). So far, opponents have been able to steal 21 bases while getting caught just five times. Paulino has been burned for most of them, throwing out just three in 19 attempts. John Baker has caught two of the seven potential base stealers who have run on him.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez, however, didn't put much of the blame on his catchers when I asked him about it Saturday. "We got to do a better job holding runners as a pitching staff," Gonzalez said. "We've got guys who are a little slower to the plate and we're addressing that. You don't want to give away bases."

And for what it's worth -- for all the talk about the Marlins' speed -- the Fish are actually middle of the road when it comes stealing bases themselves. Florida has stolen 13 bases and been caught six times.

May 02, 2009

Friday notebook: Hanley will play with pain

CHICAGO -- After going four games without Hanley Ramirez in the lineup, the Marlins look like they will be getting him back full-time beginning Saturday -- pain included.

Hanley Ramirez, injured in Monday's loss to the Mets, returned to action Friday. Ramirez, who couldn't take more than 10 swings off a tee Thursday because of the pain in his right wrist, got two at-bats in Friday's 8-6 loss to the Cubs after entering the game in the seventh.

He walked in his first plate appearance, then batted with the tying run on base and with two outs in the ninth. But he missed an 0-2 pitch from former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg and flew out to center field to end the game.

‘‘It pinches each time I swing, but I've got to go with it," said Ramirez, who was unable to persuade manager Fredi Gonzalez before the game to get back into the starting lineup.

‘‘I feel it every time I grab the bat. But I can swing. The swelling is a little bit better. But I've got to take it. I want to be out there."

Had the Marlins been able to hold on to their 5-2 lead, there was a very good chance Ramirez would have waited until Saturday to play. According to Gonzalez, his plan was to give Ramirez another day off. But after the Cubs took the lead, Gonzalez made the move.

‘‘He's good to go," Gonzalez said. "He had two good at-bats, and he'll be good to go tomorrow."

FANCY GLOVE WORK: After making the game-saving catch in the ninth Thursday, Alfredo Amezaga was flashing his leather again Friday.

First, he denied Derrick Derrek Lee of a single in the third by diving deep in the hole -- about three feet into the grass in left field -- and throwing out Lee by a step at first. Then, with runners at the corners in the fourth, he yanked an Alfonso Soriano grounder around the same spot and got the force out at second to end the inning.

All around, it was a good day for the Marlins defensively. Third baseman Emilio Bonifacio made a leaping snag with the bases loaded in the second, and then a diving stab down the third-base line in the seventh.

‘‘They made some gems over there, and [Jorge] Cantu had one, too, at first base," Gonzalez said. "I'm real pleased with the way Boni is developing. It looks like he's real comfortable over there at third base.

‘‘Amezaga, if it wasn't that we got the loss, he would have won the game again. He's amazing.”

SCORING CHANGE: Major League Baseball made an official scoring change in Jeremy Hermida's favor for the April 28 game at New York.

A sixth-inning play that was originally charged an error to David Wright has been changed to credit Hermida with an infield single and RBI.

Not sure why the notebook didn't get online, but this is what ran in Saturday's local newspaper.