March 25, 2010

Important starts for Volstad, Hensley loom

FORT MYERS -- With only eight Grapefruit League games left and time winding down this spring, manager Fredi Gonzalez said Thursday morning he'd like to have the two remaining openings in his starting rotation "cleared up" by the end of the week. 

Chris Volstad That means Thursday's start against the Red Sox for Chris Volstad will be huge. If he pitches well, Volstad will probably cement a spot in the rotation. But if he struggles again, he could open the door for a few others. 

The 23-year old right-hander pitched well in his last start against the Nationals Saturday, walking two, scattering six hits and giving up just one earned run over five innings. But one good start out of five won't make Gonzalez or anybody in management feel good heading into the season. 

"He just needs to continue to do what he did against Washington and that's throw his sinker down in the strikezone and stick with that pitch," catcher John Baker said Wednesday. "That's what he did in 2008 when he got into trouble. He threw the ball in the middle of the plate and looked for ground balls. He needs to do the same thing, trust himself and trust his ability. If he does that, he's going to throw five innings and give up one run like he did the other day."

Rick VandenHurk is scheduled to "piggy-back" Volstad for a couple innings Thursday and at this point is likely third among the four players still competing for the final two spots in the rotation. Right-hander Clay Hensley, most believe, is currently in second when you consider he and not left-hander Andrew Miller will get the start Saturday in the big league game against the Cardinals in Jupiter.

Hensley hasn't given up an earned run or walked anybody in 10 1/3 innings and has retired 32 of the 37 batters faced. But he hasn't started either. Miller (1-1, 7.04 ERA) will start the Triple A game Saturday on the backfields at Roger Dean Stadium.

> ROSS STILL NOT READY: When outfielder Cody Ross left Tuesday's game against the Orioles with cramps in his right calf, Gonzalez didn't expect him to miss much time at all. But as it turns out, Ross still isn't even running. Ross said he's simply being cautious and he would be in the lineup if it was the regular season. But considering he's missed time because of a jammed thumb and a groin strain, he said he's considering asking for a few at-bats in Triple A. Ross is 4 for 22 this spring (.182). 

"I definitely need to get out there and I need to play," Ross said. "It's frustrating these little nagging things. These are things if it was the season, I'd be out there. But I don't want to keep aggravating it. So, we're being cautious."

> CARROLL INJURY UPDATE: Outfielder Brett Carroll, who left Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Twins with a strained left oblique, said he woke up Thursday feeling better than he was expecting. At this point, Gonzalez is guessing Carroll will be out at least a week. 

The timing obviously couldn't be worse for Carroll considering he was trying to compete with Brian Barden, Donnie Murphy and Mike Lamb for the final spots on the bench. "I just want to take the right steps," Carroll said. "As eager as I am to put it behind me and get back out there because I know it's an important time, I have to be patient with it."

March 24, 2010

Stanton heads down, but leaves impression

FORT MYERS -- The Marlins sent ultra-talented 20-year old outfielder Mike Stanton back down to Double A Jacksonville Wednesday. But the question isn't why the organization's top prospect is heading back to the minors. Rather, it's how long will Marlins fans have to wait to see him in the bigs.

If you go off manager Fredi Gonzalez's remarks from this morning, it might not be very long at all. 

Mike Stanton "We sent him down, but he'll let us know when he's ready," Gonzalez said Wednesday before his team began warming up to take on the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium. "It's just a matter of him getting some at-bats and putting up some numbers or decapitating somebody down there. Maybe the league president will say get this guy out of here before he hurts somebody."

Stanton hurt a few big league pitchers in his second spring with the big league club. In 24 at-bats, he showed the raw power that made him Baseball American's third best prospect in the game, slugging three home runs and driving in eight RBI while hitting .333 in seven games played. He also made an impression on Gonzalez with his defense and his work ethic.

"Big strides," Gonzalez said comparing Stanton's first spring to this spring performance. "This guy has great recognition of the strike zone. He's gotten so much better in the outfield from last year. It's just a matter now of getting some at-bats, more game time, more experience because he is close to being a major leaguer, real close."

> BAKER IN NEED OF AT-BATS: Catcher John Baker will get four much-needed at-bats this afternoon against the Twins as a designated hitter before getting a start at catcher up the road Thursday against the Red Sox. Baker, hampered by a right forearm strain for most of the spring, has only caught two games to date -- the exhibition opener against the University of Miami and a game against the Washington Nationals Saturday. A few hours after his return, he came down with a strong stomach virus late Saturday night that caused him to drop between 10 to 15 pounds and left him weak when he returned to camp Tuesday.

John Baker "My stomach feels much better today than yesterday," Baker said Wednesday. "Yesterday I was having a tough time just sitting on the bench, my stomach was bothering me.

"I'm definitely ready to feel healthy and play baseball. This spring training has sucked for me... I've been really frustrated. This is what I love to do and I haven't been able to play."

Baker estimates between simulated games and a few in the minors he's been able to put together 17 at-bats. According to his Grapefruit League stats, he's two for four. He said he'd like to play in six to seven of the Marlins final spring games so he can get to about 50 at-bats, the same number he had a year ago.

"It's more about getting your timing down," Baker said. "I spent three days a week in the offseason catching with Tim Cousins. It's not like I showed up not having played since the season ended. I feel comfortable behind the plate... And it's just all about making sure I'm ready to play nine innings. That's where I want to be, not frustrated, out on the field, playing pain free baseball that's my goal."

March 16, 2010

Marlins set for split squad vs. Nats, Braves

VIERA -- The Marlins are playing a pair of split squad games today -- one against the Nationals here in Viera and the other in Lake Buena Vista against the Braves. I'll be in Viera for the game against the Nationals, where manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to closely watch the pitching outings of Rick VandenHurk and Hayden Penn. Ace Josh Johnson will be pitching against the Braves.

"I just want to see good quality pitches, see them get ahead in the count," Gonzalez said. "No walks, pound the strike zone."

A couple notes from Gonzalez this morning...

> Outfielder Cameron Maybin appears to be ahead of schedule in his return from a groin injury. Gonzalez said Maybin, who pulled his groin trying to score from first on March 7th, could play as early as Wednesday "He's doing the full scale running and everything looks good," Gonzalez said. "So maybe tomorrow he'll get a couple at-bats." 

> Right hander Chris Volstad had a rough day Monday and his ERA isn't very pretty, but Gonzalez said he saw things he liked from the 23-year old -- specifically the way his sinker was moving. "I thought yesterday the linescore was worse than he pitched," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes, walks bother you. But yesterday, the four walks didn't bother you quite as much because you saw that ball running. You saw the depth on the sinker, which is a good sign. You saw him getting some ground balls, which was a good sign."

> Outfielder Mike Stanton stayed back in Jupiter Tuesday instead of following the team to Jupiter. Gonzalez said Stanton had a little soreness in his left elbow, but it was nothing serious. "It happened from hitting the ball too hard," Gonzalez joked. "I think this guy works so hard and takes so many swings he probably irritated it a little bit."

> As expected, shortstop Hanley Ramirez made the trip to Lake Buena Vista Tuesday after sitting out of Monday's game with tightness in his groin.

> Catcher John Baker (strained right forearm) made the trip to Viera and will get a pinch hit opportunity. "We won't play him in a game until he throws to the bases," Gonzalez said. "He might do that later this week."

Outfielder Cody Ross, who doubled Monday in his first start since March 4th, will play against the Nationals Tuesday before getting a day off Wednesday. Consider it precautionary for his sore groin. 

> Third baseman Jorge Cantu (stomach virus) worked out in the morning in Jupiter and is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. First baseman Mike Lamb (stomach virus) was scratched from Tuesday's lineup against the Braves and was replaced by Gaby Sanchez.

March 15, 2010

Wild West sent down; Ceda heads to Double A

JUPITER -- The battle for the final two spots in the Marlins rotation now has one fewer competitor. 

Sean WestLeft-hander Sean West, who shined at times last season as a rookie, was optioned by the club to Triple A New Orleans Monday morning after he struggled through the first two weeks of the spring with control issues. West, 23, was 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA last season. 

Officially, he was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA, three walks and one strikeout in one start in the spring. Unofficially, he was a little worse than that. On Saturday, in a 'B game' played in Sarasota against the Orioles, a wild West walked seven in 1 2/3 innings. 

"[We want West to] just pitch and get his command down," manager Fredi Gonzalez said Monday morning. "He came up and won eight games as a young pitcher last year. He will be back -- there's no question in my mind. He's going to be a big part of our rotation. Sometimes, young kids put stuff on themselves. He can get it worked out again and help us out."

West's departure leaves Andrew Miller as the only left-hander who could potentially earn a spot in the rotation.

Monday, Gonzalez talked to reporters as if he was already including Anibal Sanchez with Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco as locks to be in the rotation. Sanchez, who had been struggling a little early in camp, pitched four scoreless innings against the Mets Sunday.

That leaves Miller, Rick VandenHurk, Chris Volstad and Hayden Penn battling for the final two spots. Clay Hensley, who pitched in Triple A for the Astros last season, is a long shot, but has been impressive early in camp with six scoreless innings (5 Ks, 1 BB). Gonzalez said recently that Penn, who is out of options, could make the team as a long relief pitcher/sixth starter. 

> The Marlins also optioned relief pitcher Jose Ceda, signed in the offseason to a minor league contract, to Double A Jacksonville. Ceda was wild in his only out of the spring, hitting two batters, and giving up an earned run on two hits.

> Gonzalez said "running the bases will be the last hurdle" for outfielder Cameron Maybin (groin) before he possibly returns this weekend. Maybin will run from first to third on Tuesday. Catcher John Baker (strained forearm) will "throw to the bases " Thursday and could catch for the first time this spring this weekend. Baker could get a few pinch-hit opportunities during the week as well.

"We still have some time left, the biggest thing we want to know [regarding Maybin] are the at-bats," Gonzalez said. "As soon as we get those minor league games going, we can get him all the minor league at-bats we want." 

March 09, 2010

Fredi Gonzalez unhappy with walks

JUPITER -- Seth McClung knew he had the type of outing Monday that could tarnish not just a season, but a career. In just his second appearence of the spring, the 29-year old right-hander gave up six earned runs, three walks, plunked a batter and surrendered as many hits (2) as he got outs before being pulled in the Marlins 11-2 loss to the Mets.

Seth McClung"Man, I sucked today," McClung said Monday. "As a competitor, you want to beat yourself up. But knowing that a spring training process is 30 days long and you got to get yourself ready, you have to look at it in a different aspect. Although everybody wants to win a game, you aren't really ready yet to do some of the things you want to do.

"The best thing about spring is you take it, you say OK this is what I need to improve upon and then tomorrow is another day. I know I want to make an impression here in camp and the impression I want to make is I'm a professional."

McClung, one of four relievers with major league experience that the Marlins signed to minor league contracts in the offseason, is going to want to make sure his next appearance is a lot better. Ditto for other guys battling control issues.

Tuesday, manager Fredi Gonzalez voiced his displeasure about the amount of walks Marlins pitchers have been dishing out through six spring games. 

"I think the only time we haven't been good [this spring] is when we've walked people as a pitching staff," Gonzalez said. "You look at the bad games we've had and look at the boxscores, its been seven, eight walks, two hit batters. Usually those type of numbers cause bad games. I don't care if its the first day of spring training or the second game of spring training, we really don't want to do that."

The Marlins certainly had trouble with walks in 2009. The team gave up 267, second most in the National League. McClung, who has a 32.40 ERA this spring, isn't the only Marlins pitcher to struggle with control. Jose Ceda hit two batters in his only spring appearance. Starters Sean West and Andrew Miller had their issues in their first appearances on Sunday with a combined five walks. Reliever Derrick Turnbow, who has yet to make an appearance this spring, was having his own control issues during workouts because of an infected toe and sore shoulder.

> A FEW MORE TIDBITS... Turnbow threw a side this morning. No word yet on how it went... Outfielders Cody Ross and Cameron Maybin, both battling sore groins, played catch this morning. Gonzalez said the injuries appear to be more of a "four to five day thing" instead of a "four to six week" thing... Catcher John Baker (strained right forearm) hit some balls off a tee Monday and will play catch on Wednesday.

March 07, 2010

Stanton showing signs of growth

Dolphins boss Bill Parcells might think Mike Stanton is a little "too wormy" to play tight end in the NFL, but Marlins hitting coach Jim Presley likes Stanton just the way he is. And it's the stuff Pressley has begun seeing lately from the 20-year old outfielder that he says he really likes.

Mike Stanton Stanton's two-run, opposite field home run that helped beat the Mets in 10 innings Friday is more of what Pressley said Stanton needs to do as he tries to work himself up to the big leagues. 

"He's going to hit his home runs, but I want him to become a better hitter with two strikes, man at second base and two outs and to drive that run in," Pressley said. "We saw that in Port St. Lucie. He's trying to move a guy over, but do it with authority and drive him in that way. That's what he did. He moved him over and in. That's a special player, special talent, unbelievable player."

Presley has seen a similar, special young talent before. When he was playing with the Mariners from 1984 to 1989, he watched Ken Griffey Jr. make his major league debut at 19. He said Junior is the only player he can think of when he compares Stanton's power to others he's seen in the game. Most figure Stanton will begin the year in Double A Jacksonville, where he'll continue to try and cut down on his strikeouts. But it may not be long before the Marlins feel comfortable about bringing Stanton up.

"He's going to have to learn how to hit in the big leagues," Presley said. "It's not like in Double A where they're going to throw him a hanging slider. They're going to throw him a 2-0 fastball, middle away. They're going to find ways to get him out and he's going to have to adapt to them the way they adapt to him. They're not just going to let him take 2-0, 1-0 swings and let him drive the ball. They're not going to do that. They already know he can hit the ball out of the ballpark. So, he's going to see a 2-0 slider, a 3-1 changeup. He's going to have to learn."

But can he do that? Can he cut down on the strikeouts and continue to drive the ball the opposite way? "Oh yeah. I think this kid is good enough where he can make that adjustment mentally," Presley said. "He's intelligent, he works at it and knows what he wants to do. He works constantly. He's so far ahead of the curb than a lot of guys... we know he can do it because of what he did the other day."

> For the record, Stanton still thinks he could make at least a pretty good college receiver. At Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High (Calif.), Stanton said he caught 14 touchdown passes his senior year and was timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. Former USC coach Pete Carroll, now with the Seahawks, was willing to let Stanton play baseball and football because he was such a talent. 

"I don't know if I could run a 4.5 now," Stanton said Saturday after meeting Parcells inside the Marlins clubhouse. "But I told him if he let me put some pads on I could impress him."

> I didn't get a chance to talk to Presley before I wrote my Sunday feature on Scott Cousins. But Presley seemed just as enthusiastic about him as he did the Marlins other young outfield prospects. 

"I see power, but I see a .300 hitter who is going to have 40 doubles, 20 home runs and play the heck out of whatever outfield position he's playing," Presley said. "He can run now and he does have juice. He can hit the ball the other way. He can defend and he can run. He's another guy that's going to have to learn how to play in the big leagues. But he has all the tools."  

- CODY UPDATE: Outfielder Cody Ross, who has been resting a swollen right thumb he injured during batting practice, told reporters his batting practice session went well and he expects to play Monday against the Mets. Ross played Thursday against the Nationals and is 0-for-2 in his only spring at-bats.

- HENSLEY IMPRESSES: Clay Hensley hasn't pitched in the major leagues in two seasons. But if he keeps pitching the way he did Saturday it might not be long before he does again. The 30-year old right hander, who spent 2009 in Triple A New Orleans after being acquired by the Padres, tossed three scoreless innings against the Cardinals, striking out four. 

He also impressed manager Fredi Gonzalez. "He's got three or four pitches and he commands all of them," Gonzalez said Saturday after the Marlins 6-5 10-inning win. "He knows how to pitch. He's an interesting guy. He really is. He can do whatever. He can be a long guy, or he can be a sixth starter, if he doesn't make the club out of spring. He can be a guy in Triple-A, and you don't worry about him coming up.

- SECOND TIME AROUND: Marlins starters will begin making their second appearances of the spring Monday with a pair of split squad games. 

Ricky Nolasco, who tossed two scoreless innings against the University of Miami in an exhibition last Wednesday, will pitch in Viera against the Nationals. Ryan Tucker, who gave up two runs on five hits to UM in 1 2/3 innings, will try to regroup against the visiting Mets.

Gonzalez said the pitch count for starters will increase to about 50 pitches and three innings this week. Gonzalez said he plans to stay in Jupiter to watch Tucker pitch. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire will travel to Viera to see Nolasco. 

Anibal Sanchez and Rick VandenHurk are scheduled to pitch Tuesday against Boston. Chris Volstad and Hayden Penn are lined up to pitch in Kissimmee Wednesday against the Astros.

The tentative lineups for Monday...

vs. Nationals (in Viera): 1. Coghlan LF, 2. Maybin CF; 3. Morrison 1B; 4. Cantu 3B; 5. Paulino C; 6. Peterson RF; 7. Luna 2B; 8. Bonifacio SS; 9. Nolasco P.
vs. Mets (in Jupiter): 1. Cousin LF; 2. Jimenez 3B; 3. Ramirez SS; 4. Uggla 2B; 5. Sanchez 1B; 6. Miller CF; 7. Carroll RF; 8. Davis C; 9. Tucker P.

March 06, 2010

Tuna in the house for Marlins-Cards

JUPITER -- You would think Dolphins Executive Vice President Bill Parcells would be busy at work with the NFL free agent period now in full swing -- or at least celebrating Friday's signing of new inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

Bill Parcells and Fredi Gonzalez chatted during morning stretches at Roger Dean Stadium.Not the case. The Tuna is spending Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium where two of his favorite baseball teams -- the Marlins and Cardinals -- share the spring training facility and face each other twice this weekend. Saturday morning, as the Marlins left the clubhouse to begin stretching Parcells emerged with manager Fredi Gonzalez. Parcells has long shared a friendship with Cardinals manager Tony Larussa. But according to Gonzalez, he's becoming a bigger fan of the Marlins.

"He's close with Tony, but we're trying to convert him," Gonzalez said. "He loves baseball. I brought [Marlins top prospect] Mike Stanton in this morning. [Parcells] wanted to meet Mike. Stanton was a pretty good football player in high school. But Bill said he's a little too 'wormy' for him. Hanley [Ramirez] knows him. The guys just like to pop in and say hi to him. He knows our roster up and down."

Gonzalez, who is close friends with former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy, said he's not shy about picking up the phone and calling Parcells, mentor Bobby Cox, Larussa to pick their brain on how to be a better manager.

"It's all about managing people," Gonzalez said. "We're not hearding cows here. We're managing people. It doesn't matter what sport we're in."

BAKER OUT UNTIL MIDWEEK: Gonzalez updated catcher John Baker's status, saying he has a tight forearm. Gonzalez said Baker won't return to game action until the middle of next week.

> Saturday's Marlins lineup against the Cardinals: 1. Chris Coghlan LF; 2. Jai Miller CF; 3. Hanley Ramirez SS; 4. Jorge Cantu 3B; 5. Dan Uggla 2B; 6. Logan Morrison 1B; 7. Ronny Paulino C; 8. Scott Cousins RF; 9. Josh Johnson P.

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.

February 25, 2010

Josh Johnson impressive in first BP session

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez made his way camp Thursday watching several pitchers toss batting practice for the first time this spring. He saw reliever Tim Wood throw, closer Leo Nunez, Andrew Miller and right-handers Hayden Penn and Rick VandenHurk. 

Josh Johnson  "When I go around, the only thing I want to see is guys throw the ball over the plate," Gonzalez said. "Penn and Vandy threw the ball well. Andrew Miller threw the ball fine."

Gonzalez didn't bother to stop and watch All-Star Josh Johnson throw. But if he needs a quick scouting report on his Opening Day starter, he needs to only ask Wes Helms or catcher John Baker. Both were more than impressed with Johnson, who signed a four-year, $39 million extension this offseason.

"It was JJ's first live BP and I can tell you he is at where most normal pitchers are at midseason," Helms said. "He's just one of those guys who has a gift. He's a freak of nature. He's the Hanley [Ramirez] of pitchers. He looked really good today. His ball was moving really good, exploding. His change up did too. He's keeping it down."

Johnson threw only a combined 30 pitches to Helms, Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan and first baseman Logan Morrison, but was able to mix in several changeups, a pitch he began tweaking last year after meeting with Giants starter and friend Matt Cain.

Baker, who caught JJ's session, said the biggest challenge Johnson faces is bring the speed of his changeup down. He said the plan is for Johnson to work on that plenty in spring training. " When you throw 97 miles per hour, you're in a scary spot when it come to the changeup," Baker said. "If you throw it 88, 89, they may hit it and think its a fastball. If he throws his changeup 84-85, I'll be happy."

> STIRRING SPEECH: New first base coach Dave Collins gave such an uplifting speech before the Marlins first full-team workout Wednesday it left Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria raving. So what did Collins say? Apparently enough to give 23-year old right hander Ryan Tucker chills.

"It was a good speech, motivating," said Tucker, who is trying to rebound from a tough season in which had quad tendon surgery and an oblique tear. 

"It was basically about just to go out there and give it your best because you don't know how long you opportunity is going to last. For me, after having a pretty long off season (his wife gave birth to twins) just hearing that solidified it for me. You really don't know how long you can be out here for. You have to take advantage of it. [My kids are] why I pretty much changed my attitude around. I'll admit, I really wasn't as dedicated at times as I needed to be. Now, I'm ready to give that effort. You don't know how long your going to be here as a person. How long this game is going to be around. I'm appreciative."

> Gonzalez said Ricky Nolasco will start in the Marlins first exhibition game next Wednesday against the University of Miami. 

September 03, 2009

Coghlan caps record month with rookie award

For Chris Coghlan winning the National League Rookie of the Month award for August on Thursday was "cool." But getting to slam a shaving cream pie in the face of teammate Wes Helms after Wednesday night's walk-off home run to beat the Braves was "priceless."

Chris Coghlan "That was one of the coolest moments I've had in professional baseball," said Coghlan, who tag-teammed with outfield Brett Carroll to ambush Helms after his solo blast in the ninth lifted the Marlins to an 8-7 win. "I would rather him hit a home run and me hit him with shaving cream than me hitting a walkoff home run. Dead honest. Uncle Wes gives us such a hard time all the time... I don't know if we could do it again [because I'm a rookie]. But the one time -- it was special and it was great."

Coghlan was pretty special in August. He established a team record with 47 hits in 28 games and became only the second rookie in the last 60 years to record at least 47 hits in a month. He it .385 with 21 runs scored, four homers, 18 RBI, six doubles, three triples, became the sixth Marlin to earn Rookie of the Month honors and first since Anibal Sanchez won it in September 2006, the same month he tossed his no-hitter.

"It's cool to know you're able to help the team out -- that's what it's all about," the 24-year old former 36th overall pick in the 2006 draft said. "It's an individual accomplishment. Those are things at the end of the year you can look at and realize what you've done well."

Coghlan entered Thursday's game leading all major league rookies in batting average (.302), hits (114) and multi-hit games (33). While Philadelphia's J.A. Happ and Atlanta's Tommy Hanson are considered front-runners to win the NL Rookie of the Year award, manager Fredi Gonzalez believes Coghlan has played his way into the argument.

As a leadoff hitter, Coghlan's .318 average ranks third only to Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (.361) and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (.333) in all of baseball.

"The month he had in August was for the record books," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully, he has a good month like August in September and he can pass those guys."

UGGLA REACHES HISTORIC HR MARK: Lost amid the drama of his pregame spat with infield partner Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla became the first second baseman to begin his career with four consecutive 25-home run seasons Wednesday. Only Ryan Sandberg (1989-92) and Alfonso Soriano (2002-2005) have ever hit at least 25 home runs in four consecutive seasons.

"I just noticed it when I was at home watching ESPN," Uggla said. "It's crazy. Anytime something like that happens with my name in it, it's kind of surreal a little bit, but definitely cool. "I look at all the guys that have played the position over the years -- Ryan Sandberg, Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent and Joe Morgan. It's surreal."

As for his riff with Ramirez, Uggla said it ended Wednesday in the clubhouse. "Ever since we got everything out in the open, we're fine," Uggla said. "I'm fine. Whatever."

Ramirez declined interview requests and remained alone at his locker watching Scarface with a set of headphones on while reporters were in the Marlins clubhouse.

• Gonzalez said Ramirez told him Thursday his tight left hamstring "feels better." Ramirez was unable to take ground balls at Land Shark Stadium with a steady rain Thursday afternoon.

DINGS AND DENTS: The Marlins recalled first baseman Nick Johnson and selected the contract of shortstop Andy Gonzalez from Triple A New Orleans and immediately placed them in the lineup.

Fredi Gonzalez said Johnson, who has not played since suffering a right hamstring injury in the first game of a double-header against Colorado Aug. 16, will be monitored closely.

"Late in games we'll pinch run for him if we need to," Gonzalez said. "We'll see how long we can go with him. Maybe after two or three days we'll give him a breather and let him work himself back into feeling good about that leg."

Johnson, who played in two games at Single A Jupiter and went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts, said he was able to turn a double play Wednesday night -- enough to give him the confidence he could return to the Marlins.

"I'll have to deal with it," Johnson said. "It's not 100 percent. But they told me it wasn't going to be for awhile. I think I'm at a point where I'm able to go and I just have to be smart when I'm out there and not push it and stick to the speed to the have and go from there."

• Gonzalez said the Marlins decided to add more help at shortstop after Emilio Bonifacio was hit by a pitch in his right shin Wednesday night.

• Left-hander Andrew Miller tossed six scoreless innings for Triple A New Orleans Wednesday in his first minor league start in more than a month. Gonzalez said Miller, who suffered an ankle injury in the minors, could join the Marlins this weekend in Washington.

• Right fielder Jeremy Hermida (right rib strain) will be given a couple days off before being reevaluated.