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."

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 28, 2010

Who is better in a pinch: Helms or Stairs?

One of the interesting story lines we haven't seen play out very often during this series is the pinch hit work of the Marlins' Wes Helms and Padres' Matt Stairs, clearly two of the best at their craft in this game.

Wes Helms Among active pinch hitters, the pair rank first or second in nearly every important offensive category. Stairs leads with 88 overall pinch hits in his career; Helms ranks second with 79. Stairs leads in home runs with 19; Helms is second with seven. Helms leads with 20 doubles; Stairs is second with 18. Stairs leads in RBI with 78; Helms is second with 51.

Stairs, 42, has been doing it a little longer. The Padres are the 12th team he's played for in 18 seasons. Helms, who will turn 34 on May 12th, is in his 12th major league season and with his fourth team. 

"I think we're both kind of different in our own way," Helms said. "He comes off the bench more with what I call a softball approach. He's trying to jack the ball until he gets two strikes. Then, when he gets two strikes, you see him go into that approach of putting the ball in play, just like that at-bat the other night. He got two strikes against [Josh Johnson] then hit the sacrifice fly to drive in the run. He's a professional hitter.

"I'm more the guy when I get in there, I like to see a pitch here and there. I like to work the count, but also in a situation with a runner or second and third and less than two outs, I'm up there to try and get them in. I'm not up there trying to hit a homer. I'm up in there to get him in with a hit or a double in the gap. So, we're different in our way. But we've both had success."

Helms said he actually spent a season playing with Stairs during winter ball in Mexico. He said they've become friends over the years and doesn't expect Stairs to hang it up anytime soon.

"From playing against him and with him, he's a baseball guru," Helms said. "He's one of those guys that you're probably going to have to rip the jersey off him. He's going to stick around as long as he can. If you have success off the bench, there's always going to be a team that can use you."

Former Marlin Lenny Harris owns the record with most career pinch hits. Harris had 212 in 804 career pinch-hit at-bats. Former Yankee Cliff Johnson owns the pinch-hit home run record with 20.

SENDING COGHLAN DOWN 'A LAST RESORT': Listened to Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez or Jorge Sedano's radio show this morning as I was driving into the stadium and heard Gonzalez say he still hasn't seen Chris Coghlan struggle enough to consider sending him to Triple A.

Gonzalez said Coghlan hasn't show him "signs" of being defeated at the plate, something that would tell him it was time for the second-year player to head back down and work on his swing. Coghlan produced a hit for the fourth consecutive game Tuesday to raise his average to .162 to on the season.

He also struck out three times and now has 21 strikeouts in 74 at-bats this season. Last year, he didn't have that many K's until 109th at-bat, 33 games in. 

CARROLL'S BIG THROW... The only reason Brett Carroll started Tuesday's game was because Cody Ross came down with a bad case of the flu. In the end, the Marlins kind of caught a break as Carroll was able to use his strong arm in right field to throw out the Padres Nick Hundley at the plate in the second inning.

It was Carroll's first assist of the season and ninth of his career. But the way the ball was hit to him by Tony Gwynn Jr., Carroll thought he had no chance -- especially since he said he wasn't able to "get much behind it."

Catcher John Baker caught the throw on the right side of the plate and did a good job sweeping his glove to left to tag Hundley for the third out. 

"When it was initially hit, I knew it was hit hard. But I was moving to my left and I was deep," Carroll said. "I felt good when I let it go. I knew it had the right trajectory, but it was hit or miss. Usually when I just grab it and throw it is when things happen, not when I try to manipulate it."

> Ross by the way said he's feeling better even though he's not in the lineup.

> Helms won't get an opportunity to pinch hit Wednesday because he's starting for the Marlins at third. Brian Barden is getting his first start at shortstop with Hanley Ramirez getting his first day off this season. 

MARLINS LINEUP VS. PADRES: 1. Cameron Maybin, CF; 2. Chris Coghlan LF; 3. Wes Helms 3B; 4. Jorge Cantu 1B; 5. Dan Uggla 2B; 6. Ronny Paulino C; 7. Brett Carroll RF; 8. Brian Barden SS; 9. Nate Robertson P.

April 27, 2010

Barden's catch saved JJ's complete game

Brian Barden hasn't had many opportunities to swing a bat this season. Then again, it wasn't his offense that earned him a spot on the Marlins roster this season.

Brian Barden It's his defense manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca have long admired. And it's what was Gonzalez was praising yet again Tuesday, a day after the 29-year old defensive specialist helped Josh Johnson finish off the fourth complete game of his career. 

If not for Barden's diving catch down the third base line and powerful throw to first to get Oscar Salazar for the second out in the ninth, Gonzalez said he likely would have pulled Johnson who finished Monday's game with 117 pitches. Instead, Johnson remained in and struck out Chase Headley looking to set a new career-high for strikeouts (12) in a game. 

"As soon as JJ went out in the ninth, [Brian Sanches] got up [in the bullpen. We weren't going to extend [Johnson] anything," Gonzalez said. "I hope JJ takes him out to dinner, buy him a burger, something."

Barden earned the No. 1 WebGem on ESPN's Baseball Tonight show for his defensive play. "

"I remember the ball being halfway to me and then it was in my glove," said Barden, who extended his body fully to his right to glove the ball on a hard, quick hop. "I was just glad I could help JJ, be a part of his complete game."

Barden said Johnson gave him a smile after the out. He's not expecting anything more from the Marlins ace, who also produced three hits and three RBI in Monday's 10-1 win.

"I'm jealous," Barden said. "He has three more hits than I do."

ROBERTSON READY TO GO ON THREE DAYS REST: Nate Robertson doesn't have a ton of experience pitching on three days rest. But he has more than Ricky Nolasco does.

That's why the 32-year old left-hander -- who along with Nolasco pitched in Saturday's double-header in Colorado -- will get the ball Wednesday when the Marlins close out their three-game series against the Padres. Robertson has done it once in his career. Nolasco still hasn't.

The good news for the Marlins? Robertson won. He pitched five innings, scattering three hits and giving up two earned runs with three walks and seven strikeouts in a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays for the Detroit Tigers on April 14, 2004.

"I'm not looking for him to go out, give me nine innings," Gonzalez said. "He's gives us 6 or 7 [innings], that's good. He'll get an extra day the following time around like everybody else. "

Robertson only threw 84 pitches and four innings in Saturday's 8-1, Game 2 loss to the Rockies. He gave up five hits, five earned runs and walked four in the loss. 

MORRISON HAS MRI ON SHOULDER: Highly-touted prospect and Triple A first baseman Logan Morrison had an MRI Tuesday on his injured left shoulder. Jim Fleming, the Marlins Vice President for Player Development and Scouting, said the results would likely not be known until Wednesday.

Morrison, who struggled this spring and lost the battle for the starting first base job to Gaby Sanchez, suffered the injury during a collision at first base on April 19th and is one the seven-day disabled list. He is hitting .300 with 10 RBI in 12 games.

ROSS SCRATCHED: Outfielder Cody Ross was scratched from Tuesday's lineup with flu-like symptoms. He was replaced in right field by Brett Carroll, who moved into the eighth slot in the batting order. First baseman Gaby Sanchez moved up from eighth to seventh. Ross went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI Monday night. 

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 16, 2010

Lamb gets start vs. Halladay; Coghlan still out

PHILADELPHIA -- The tarp is on the field here at Citizens Bank Park and with rainy, overcast skies it looks like we could be headed toward a rain delay before the Marlins take on the Phillies and Roy Halladay.

LAMB GETS FIRST START: Left-handed hitting Mike Lamb will get the start at first base tonight in place of rookie Gaby Sanchez. Lamb is getting the start in part because he's faced the Cy Young award winner a little more than the rest of his teammates. Lamb is actually 2 for 11 against Halladay with three strikeouts, but has the second most at-bats against him of any Marlin. Jorge Cantu (2-for-13 vs. Halladay) has seen him more than anybody else in the Marlins clubhouse.

"It's not an easy bull when you talk about bull rides," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Lamb's assignment and first start of the season. "I got all the confidence he's going to give me good at-bats."

Gonzalez said he needs to do a better job getting his bench players at bats. But if you look at the stats, he's doing a pretty good job. Through 10 games, other than Ronny Paulino and John Baker who platoon at catcher (and not counting Brett Carroll who is playing for the injured Chris Coghlan), the Marlins bench has collectively had 16 at-bats. Wes Helms leads the way with nine, followed by Lamb (5) and Brian Barden (2). The trio has combined to go 7 for 16 (.363) in pinch hit situations. Both stats lead baseball.

"You can't ask your pinch hitters to go up there in the ninth inning and get an at-bat when they haven't gotten a start in two weeks," said Gonzalez, who hinted Helms would like get a start this weekend. "You have to use your bench, because if not, it's not going to be any good."

COGHLAN STILL OUT: As expected, Chris Coghlan (out since Wednesday with soreness on his left rib area) took batting practice early Friday. But he's still not in the lineup. Coghlan said his goal is to play Saturday.

"He's moving around a lot better," Gonzalez said. "I think he could pinch run. I think he could probably play defense. I'm going to say he's available to pinch hit if it doesn't stiffen up between now and the game. He's progressing well."

Coghlan said he still feels a sharp pinch in his back as he follows through on his swings. But his plan is to play with some discomfort.

"I'm not going to be 100 percent," Coghlan said. "I just need to be as close as I can be. There's probably going to be a day where I'm not going to feel it anymore. But I'm going to be sore. There's a difference between sore and stiff and feeling discomfort and injury discomfort. I know I'm going to be sore and stiff whenever I come back. I just have to make sure it's just that."

Coghlan injured himself making a diving catch against the Reds in an extra-inning loss Tuesday. He's is five for 38 (.132) at the plate through eight games and has just one hit in his last 19 at-bats.

VERAS CLEARS WAIVERS: The Marlins will get to hold onto relief pitcher Jose Veras after all. The 29-year old right-hander, designated for assignment Wednesday after four dismal relief appearances produced a 15.23 ERA, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple A New Orleans.

"I'm glad he cleared waivers and stayed in the organization," Gonzalez said. "Guys could go away and the next thing you know you have the [low Single A Greensboro] Grasshoppers up here pitching. He'll be back up here I'm sure, whether it's injury or [someone] not performing."

FRIDAY NIGHT LINEUP VS. PHILLIES: 1. Cameron Maybin, CF; 2. John Baker C; 3. Hanley Ramirez SS; 4. Jorge Cantu 3B; 5. Dan Uggla 2B; 6. Cody Ross RF; 7. Mike Lamb 1B; 8. Brett Carroll LF; 9. Anibal Sanchez P.

April 03, 2010

'Big Worm' wishes Marlins well in 2010

JACKSONVILLE -- Ricky Nolasco has had about as good a spring as any pitcher in baseball. In seven starts, he compiled a 1.94 ERA, went 4-0, struckout 30 batters and walked just one. In other words, he hardly made any mistakes -- and when he did he didn't really pay for them.

Mike Stanton Friday night, though, 20-year old phenom Mike Stanton made sure Nolasco paid for his only mistake, tomahawking a high fastball well over the left field wall on the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville. The first inning, two-run home run went an estimated 420-feet and landed close to a nearby service road behind the stadium. It drew a standing ovation from the crowd of 10,843 and blew away Nolasco, who couldn't believe Stanton actually caught up to the high fastball.

"As soon as I let it go, I didn't think he was going to swing," said Nolasco, who aside from the two-run homer continued his hot spring by tossing five scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking none. "I was surprised he got that ball. Unbelievable bat speed -- everybody knows that.

"He's a talented guy and we can't wait to have him up here. He's obviously something special. I think a lot of people are really happy to see him developing the way he is. The faster he gets here, the more he's going to help us. He's the exception -- superstar status."

Superstar in the making, yes. But major league superstar in 2010? Probably not. As giddy as Marlins President David Samson and President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest were just listening to Stanton crush balls during batting practice Friday, there certainly appears to be no rush whatsoever to get the "Big Worm" to the big leagues. 

When a Jacksonville reporter asked how long it would be before Stanton got the call-up, Beinfest answered him with a question. "How long would like him to stay?" Beinfest said. "He'll let us know. We like our outfield the way it's set up now with [Cody] Ross, [Cameron] Maybin and [Chris] Coghlan. It's only a matter of time. I don't know when that will be, but he'll show us."

The good news for the Marlins is that Stanton doesn't seem to be very anxious or demanding. Instead, he's rather respectful of the process. Asked if he was bothered by the fact he was sent down even though he was having a hot spring, Stanton said "not really." 

"That wasn't something I really even wanted to think about," Stanton said of making the team out of the spring. "I don't like to predict stuff. As long as it takes, whenever I'm ready, it will show enough. I'm not trying to be like 'In 30 days I better not be here.' The way I see it, anything can happen as long as you do the things you're supposed to."

That patience, humbleness and respect is definitely paying off in the Marlins clubhouse. After Friday's game, Stanton visited the Marlins and wished the club well in 2010. He also stopped by to visit a mentor. 

"He came over to say bye to [Wes] Helms, who kind of took him under his wing and showed him the ropes," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He was with us the entire spring. There was definitely some bonding there."

The bonding didn't just happen with the Marlins. Dolphins boss Bill Parcells fell in love with Stanton too, and refers to him as Wormy. The nickname has stuck. Stanton said he's "cool with it." As long as people refer to him as the "Big Worm."

"He's the whole package," Beinfest said. "The way he handles himself is really impressive."

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."