September 03, 2009

Nick Johnson to return to lineup Thursday

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez told 790 The Ticket this morning during his daily show that he expects first baseman Nick Johnson to be back in the lineup tonight versus the Braves.

Nick Johnson Gonzalez said Johnson felt good in his two at-bats Wednesday night with the Single A Jupiter Hammerheads and might be given a day or two off between starts until he returns to full health.

Johnson doubled in his only Single A at bat Monday and struckout twice Tuesday. He hasn't played since the first game of a double-header against the Rockies Aug. 16 when he tweaked his hamstring running the bases.

> Left-hander Andrew Miller had a strong start in Triple A New Orleans Wednesday night and might be called up soon. Miller tossed six scoreless innings with eight strike outs and gave up three hits to go with two walks. It was Miller's first minor league start since July. 

> Right-handed reliever Brendan Donnelly gave up one hit in one inning down in Jupiter. Donnelly will return from the disabled list on Monday.

July 28, 2009

Carlos Tosca managing the opener; starting lineups

Hey Fish Byters, Andre Fernandez filling in for Clark and Manny tonight from the LandShark.

Marlins bench coach Carlos Tosca will manage tonight's opening game of their three-game series against the Braves, while Fredi Gonzalez serves a one-game suspension handed down Monday. The game will not count toward Tosca's managerial record, however. Tosca managed the Blue Jays from midway through the 2002 season to the latter part of the 2004 campaign, compiling a 191-191 record.

Reliever Burke Badenhop will serve out the three-game suspension he received following Sunday's game against the Dodgers when he hit Orlando Hudson with a pitch following Hanley Ramirez getting hit by Dodgers pitcher Jeff Weaver. Although Badenhop remains a likely possibility to head a "bullpen" start in Saturday's game against the Chicago Cubs, Gonzalez said he has yet to name a starter.

Here are tonight's lineups:

- Marlins: 1. Coghlan lf; 2. Bonifacio 3b; 3. Ramirez ss; 4. Cantu 1b; 5. Hermida rf; 6. Uggla 2b; 7. Ross cf; 8. Baker c; 9. Nolasco p.

- Braves: 1. Nate McLouth cf; 2. Martin Prado 2b; 3. Chipper Jones 3b; 4. Brian McCann c; 5. Garret Anderson lf; 6. Yunel Escobar ss; 7. Casey Kotchman 1b; 8. Ryan Church rf; 9. Jair Jurrjens p.

July 03, 2009

Marlins enjoying "late" first-place feel

Fourth of July weekend has a different feel for the Marlins this year -- a first-place feel.

Prior to this weekend, the latest the Marlins held at least a share of first was in 2004 -- when they were 41-37 and tied with the Phillies on June 30th.

Don't think the Marlins haven't noticed either. Catcher John Baker said that although there are still three months left in the season, scoreboard watching is happening more often in the dugout.

"Guys are noticing when the Phillies are down two and we're up one," Baker said. ‘‘I think guys are saying ‘Let's get this thing going.' I know its only July. But this is why we play baseball. I think it makes it that much more fun to know everyday there is something on the line."

The Marlins began the season 11-1 then to as far as eight games back in the standings on June 11 before regrouping behind improved starting pitching, the reemergence of former 15-game winner Ricky Nolasco and a red-hot streak by shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who has thrived driving in runs after some early adjustments in the No. 3 hole.

"I think we're a little bit lucky to be where we are with how we played in May," third baseman Wes Helms said. "But I think it just shows how hard this team has worked to get back on track. I still don't think this team has reached its peak. We can get better and do better things."

THE INJURY REPORT

Manager Fredi Gonzalez usually brings a cheat sheet with him to remind himself of all the injury news he has to share with the media.

Friday's cheat sheet had more scribbled on it than usual. Most of it, however, should be considered good news:

> Utility man Alfredo Amezaga, examined Thursday by a knee specialist in Vail, Colo., for a bone bruise in his left knee, was told he does not need to have surgery according to Gonzalez and just needs "more rest." Gonzalez said there is still no timetable for Amezaga's return. "Guys heal differently," Gonzalez said.

>Right-hander reliever Kiko Calero will pitch an inning in Single A Jupiter Saturday and again Monday. "If everything goes well," Gonzalez said. "we'll reevaluate him and he'll probably join us in Arizona."

>Former closer Matt Lindstrom played catch Friday on flat ground for the first time since he went on the disabled list with a right elbow strain June 23. Lindstrom wasn't expected to throw for four weeks.

Anibal Sanchez, on the disabled list since June 3, threw a "light bullpen session'' his first since leaving again with a right shoulder sprain.

June 11, 2009

Marlins bracing for Halladay & more

Another day, another Cy Young winner to try and take down.

Roy Halladay That’s the way the Marlins are approaching the task of facing Roy Halladay in Toronto Friday night, the fifth Cy Young winner Florida will try and beat in a week.

Halladay, however, might be the toughest of any the Marlins have encountered. The 32-year old right hander is 10-1, leads baseball in wins, is second in complete games (3) and ranks third in the AL in strikeouts with 88.

The Marlins aren’t exactly familiar with Halladay either. Only seven players have faced him before. First baseman Jorge Cantu (2 for 11, .182 vs. Halladay) is the only player with more than three at-bats.

“The way I look at it is he’s got the same scouting report on us that we do on him,” said outfielder Cody Ross, who went 1 for 3 against Halladay in 2006. “His is thin and ours is thin.”

At least the Marlins have history on their side, having beat Halladay the only time they faced him in 2006. The Marlins actually hit him pretty well, scoring four earned runs on eight hits over six innings. Not counting utility man Alfredo Amezaga, who is out with a knee injury, the seven healthy Marlins who have a history against Halladay combined to go 10 for 27 off him (.370).

“What makes him tough is that he throws strikes,” catcher John Baker said.

“He has a lot of different pitches, keeps guys in and out and off balance. He’s probably the best pitcher in baseball. It will be a test for us, but no greater test than I think some of the arms we’ve seen. Lincecum, Randy Johnson. We’ve seen a lot of Cy Young award winners. It’s just another one to try and beat.”

The Marlins have fared well against Cy Young winners this season. After losing to San Francisco’s Barry Zito 2-1 last Friday, they’ve won three straight over Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson and Chris Carpenter.

TALES FROM A BEATUP CATCHER: Baker sat out his second straight game Thursday, the fallout of being struck with a bat over his left temple Tuesday night by St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols.

Baker is hoping to be in the lineup Friday in Toronto. But there’s a good chance he could he miss his third straight game. Thursday, he woke up with more swelling and yet another headache.

Baker said he won’t take any medication for the pain. “I don’t want to mask anything,” Baker said. “I prefer to know what I can and can’t do. With pain medication sometimes you think you can do something and then you go out and do something stupid. I wasn’t raised by my parents taking a lot of medicine for things. If it hurts and you can play with it, then that’s what you do.”

“Hopefully the swelling will start going down. But I took a pretty wicked impact.”

Baker tried catching a few balls in the bullpen with a hockey mask Wednesday but has ordered a different one he hopes to use in Toronto. He said once the stitches are removed (possibly by the time the Marlins in Boston), he’ll go back to using his regular catcher’s mask.

Baker, who was as a pitcher and first baseman in high school, didn’t start catching until he was handed the equipment upon arrival at the University of California. He’s taken his fare share of blows over the years since putting on the gear.

“I took one in the head earlier this year that knocked a nice little golf ball in the side of my head,” Baker said. “In 2005, we were in Omaha and I took an elbow to the artery in my neck. I had trouble swallowing for a while. Another time, we were playing against West Michigan in Single A and I got hit with an elbow in the jaw, got knocked out at home plate cold.

“There’s a reason we wear the catcher’s gear. I’ve deal with it before, but not like this with stitches. This one is the worst residual effect, keeping me out for a few games.”

> Chris Volstad, who had the worst outing of his career Wednesday (6 ER, 10 H), said the reason his sinker was not dipping against the Cardinals was because he wasn’t following through on all his pitches.

“My mechanics were definitely a little off,” Volstad said. “It was just one of those things where I’d do it right one time and then wrong the next. I’ll have it fixed for Boston.”

Volstad’s next scheduled start is Tuesday night against former Marlin Josh Beckett at Fenway Park. Volstad and Andrew Miller are the only Marlins pitchers who will face both the Red Sox and Yankees.

> Manager Fredi Gonzalez gave his No. 3 and No. 4 hitters the day off Thursday – first baseman Jorge Cantu because of dizziness and shortstop Hanley Ramirez because of a sore right groin.

Gonzalez said Ramirez tweaked his back Wednesday night beating out a double play ball. Gonzalez said he entertained the idea of pulling Ramirez, but his shortstop refused to be taken out – much like he has with just about every other injury this season.

“He’s played 11 games in a row [coming back from the groin]. He’s dealt with it pretty good,” Gonzalez said. “There were some days where you thought he wasn’t going to make it. My hats off to him.”

June 10, 2009

Baker recovering, will likely rest two days

Hey may still look like he got decked by Mike Tyson, but Marlins catcher John Baker is feeling at least a little better a day after Albert Pujols' backswing cut him near his left temple.

Baker, who received six stitches after leaving Tuesday's game in the sixth inning, said the swelling has gone down considerably and he no longer has a headache.

John Baker Just don't expect to see him Wednesday -- or Thursday (the Marlins would prefer to rest him twice) -- against the Cardinals. While manager Fredi Gonzalez said Baker could be available in an emergency situation, look for Wes Helms to catch if something happens to Ronny Paulino. Normally, Alfredo Amezaga would also be available. But Amezaga, who has been out with a knee injury since May 17, is on a rehab assignment in Jupiter.

As for Baker, he said he asked Gonzalez if he could stay in the game Tuesday. But trainers couldn't stop the bleeding. Baker also refused medication afterward.

"I don't like to take medicine, never have," Baker said. "My mom used to give me ice chips and I'd suck on them and sit in bed until the pain went away. I did that last night."

Baker could end up using more of a hockey style mask as the injury heals. He prefers a regular catcher's mask.

> Speaking of Amezaga, he still has yet to fully participate in baseball drills. According to Gonzalez "he's just swinging a bat right now." Amezaga and reliever Renyel Pinto will not be going on the road with the Marlins when their 11-game homestand ends Thursday afternoon.

Gonzalez said Pinto, who has been out with elbow inflammation since May 25, will pitch in rehab stints in Single A Jupiter Friday and Sunday before pitching in Triple A New Orleans. "He could end up meeting us in Boston or when we come back for the next homestand," Gonzalez said.

> Instead of just using Wes Helms or Ross Gload during the Marlins' trips to Toronto and Boston this coming weekend, Gonzalez said he plans to use the designated hitter slot to give several regulars days off from fielding. Helms, Gload and Alejandro De Aza will then play the field.

"We’d like to give [Jorge] Cantu a breather from the field and let him just DH," Gonzalez said. "Hanley [Ramirez] still has his [groin] issue, so we'll probably give him one of those days. [Dan] Uggla will probably get another day and we'll run [Emilio] Bonifacio out there [at second]. I know when Amezaga was here last year, he played six different positions the last time we went on the road [in the AL]. Not having him here might make it a little more difficult."

> Dolphins Executive Vice President of football operantions Bill Parcells, a big fan and friend of Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, visited with Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez and several Marlins during batting practice before Wednesday's game.

June 03, 2009

West struggles, Penn released and more

Sean West doesn't need to read any newspapers or blogs to know the Marlins starting rotation could find itself in an interesting situation when 15-game winner Ricky Nolasco is ready to return from Triple A. He knows his third career start in the big leagues didn't go well Wednesday night against the Brewers.

All he is hoping for is that manager Fredi Gonzalez is willing to give him another chance. By the sound of Gonzalez's voice in thre Marlins locker room moments ago, it looks like the 22-year old left-hander will get that chance.

"I think his command wasn't as sharp as the first two outings," said Gonzalez of West, who lasted just 4-1/3 and gave up four hits, three walks and three earned runs in his first big loss. "That happens with young pitchers. Hopefully, he'll bounce back, have a good side in a day or two and get back to being the Sean West we saw the first two times out."

> Hayden Penn won't be so lucky.

After walking three batters wih the bases loaded to fuel the Brewers' six-run fifth inning, the Marlins designated him for assignment after the game. Penn, acquired in the trade that sent shortstop Robert Andino to the Orioles on April 1, simply wasn't getting the job done as a middle reliever. His ERA after tonight's game is 7.77.

Gonzalez stayed away from bashing Penn and said he hopes Penn stays in the organization and improves. But it's hard to imagine the Marlins are going to bother to bring Penn back. Relief pitching simply doesn't seem like his fortay.

"I wasn't getting it done," Penn said. "That's what you get paid to do, come here and get your job done. I wasn't doing it."

> For those of you wondering how far Dan Uggla's 11th home run of the season went in the eighth, it reached the upper deck in left field and bounced through the tunnel. Uggla still hasn't gotten his 100th caree home run ball from Tuesday's game. You can find out how far that shot went as well as Wednesday's at this cool website introduced to us by Marlins PR man Matt Roebuck.

Burke Badenhop content with his role

Burke Badenhop could have gotten upset earlier this week when manager Fredi Gonzalez told him he was going back to the bullpen. After pitching five strong innings in a win over the Phillies, Badenhop could have asked Gonzalez to give him one more shot at his dream instead of handing the ball back to Anibal Sanchez Tuesday. But he didn't.

Burke Badenhop Instead, he returned to the role the Marlins set out for him in the spring -- long reliever -- and delivered once again Tuesday. He pitched five scoreless innings, giving up just one hit from the fourth through the eighth innings as the Marlins cruised to a 10-3 win.

So why is a 26-year old right-hander who started eight games for the Marlins in 2008 ok with taking a step back as the Marlins put together a talented young starting rotation? He sees value in his role.

"All my friends say 'You want to start, you want to start," Badenhop said. "I’ve always been a starter. That’s good, great and everything. But in certain capacities you do what you got to do. Hopefully, one day that can happen. But at this point now, I feel like I’m a valuable part of this team in whatever I can do. Whether its an inning here or five innings there, I feel like I’m versatile enough to handle it."

Versatile and valuable might be the best way to describe the sinker ball pitcher over the past few weeks. Since giving up four runs to the Dodgers on May 17th and seeing his ERA rise to 6.00, he's been rather dominant. Including his start in Philly, Badenhop has given up just two earned runs in 11 2/3 innings the last three times he's been handed the ball. His record has improved to 4-2 and his ERA has dropped down to 4.15.

"This is my job – to do what I’ve been doing," Badenhop said. "I’ve been put in a lot of different situations. I welcome those. Anibal [Sanchez] is one of our five starters. For our team to be really good, you need guys to be able to back them up in the bullpen and I hope to be available in whatever capacity."

The biggest problem now for Badenhop? Settling on a nickname. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has been calling him the Hopper since he first got called up to the big league club in April last year. But after pouring in a career-high five innings of relief Tuesday, teammate Ross Gload came up with another -- Dragon.

"In college, everybody called me Bades," said Badenhop, who was 9-2 with a 3.73 ERA at Bowling Green as a senior. "I kind of like Hopper. It's definitely better than Ross' nickname. I'm a skinny white guy with no tattoos and a pretty unsuspecting guy to be called Dragon."

> Expect to see Anibal Sanchez start Sunday -- despite his three innings and 71 pitches on Tuesday. Gonzalez said if it weren't for the fact Brewers fouled so many pitches off Sanchez early, he probably would have thrown fewer than 40 pitches in the first and would have been around longer. Gonzalez said Sanchez will probably be able to throw 85 to 95 pitches in his next start.

> When utility man Alfredo Amezaga first injured his knee rounding third base on May 16 against the Dodgers the feeling was he'd return in a few days. That timetable, however, keeps expanding. Amezaga, who has been on the disabled list since May 17, is nowhere near a return according to Gonzalez.

"We haven’t even spoken about him going any further than he is now, which is getting treatment and see how he feels," Gonzalez said. "We’ve seen improvement there, but nothing significant where you can say he’s going to say he’s going to get groundballs, he’s going to start hitting and he’s going to get a rehab assignment. We’re not even there with him yet. I couldn’t give you a timetable, a target date. It’s a deep bone bruise. Hermida had it two years ago and it took about a month. This may take as long as that. When you are dealing with bones it’s hard to give you a time table with how long it’s going to be."

As for left-handed pitcher Renyel Pinto, who has been on the disabled list since May 23 with elbow inflammation, Gonzalez believes there's a good chance he'll pitch off the mound before the team's 11-game homestand ends June 11th. At that point, the Marlins will reevalaute him. Pinto began playing catch on Monday.

WEDNESDAY'S LINEUP: Just one change. Cody Ross, who hit a grand slam and a made a diving catch in Tuesday's win over the Brewers, will get the night off and will be replaced by Alejandro De Aza in center.

Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan LF, 2. Emilio Bonifacio 3B, 3. Hanley Ramirez SS, 4. Jorge Cantu 1B, 5. Jeremy Hermida RF, 6. Dan Uggla 2B, 7. John Baker C, 8. Alejandro De Aza CF, 9. Sean West P.

June 02, 2009

Hanley Ramirez will rest groin sooner or later

Just like I suspected last night, manager Fredi Gonzalez told us this afternoon that shortstop Hanley Ramirez and his sore groin are going to get a day off at some point during this 11-game homestretch.

Hanley Ramirez barehands a ball during Monday's 7-4 win over the Brewers. "We’ll see how he handles the next couple days," Gonzalez said. "But there will be a time when we give him a breather because we don’t want it to get worse. We’ll check with him everyday and with the trainers and if it starts getting really, really sore, we’ll give him an evening off."

When exactly that is remains to be seen.

Last night, Ramirez told us he feels his groin tighten whenever he tries slowing down before reaching a base. It's one of the many ailments he's been dealing with this season. After every game, about 30 percent of his body is covered in ice.

Just don't look for Ramirez to ask out voluntarily. He knows the Marlins are 6.5 games back of the Phillies and in fourth place in the NL East. And he knows this homestand is an important time to win games and help the Marlins stay within striking distance.

Last night, Ramirez went 3 for 5 with a double and two runs scored. He's actually hitting .413 against the Brewers lifetime and has a 10-game hitting streak against Milwaukee -- one of four teams he has hitting streaks of 10-or-more games against.

> The Marlins made the last part of their four player move before today's game, recalling outfielder Alejandro De Aza from Triple A New Orleans. Last night, the Marlins sent reliever Cristhian Martinez back to Double A Jacksonville (he got the win Monday) and catcher Brett Hayes back to New Orleans to make room for tonight's starter Anibal Sanchez.

"He can be the first pinch hitter off the bench," Gonzalez said referring to De Aza. "He’s a left-hander. He has some speed. Having Hayes here, it was detrimental to him really. Here’s a guy who we are really high on defensively as a catcher and he spent 9, 10 days here and only got five at-bats. And that’s not fair for him or for the organization. We need those type of guys to go down there and play.

"The other reason we could use De Aza is to give Cody Ross a spell against a tough right-hander. He’s done a good job, too. He came up here and was [3 for 9, 3 runs scored] and got sent down. He’s made the club two years in a row in spring training, played four or five games and hurt himself. I think it’s a good decision for us to bring up De Aza."

> Jorge Julio's rough night Monday cost him his job. The Brewers released the Marlins' former closer Tuesday, a night after he failed to record any of the six batters he faced, laying the groundwork for the Fish's big five-run inning in their 7-4 come-from-behind win. Julio was 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA in 15 games for the Brewers.

> One change to the batting order tonight. Rookie Chris Coghlan will have the night off. Brett Carroll will take his spot, but hit eighth in the order. Gonzalez said its strictly because the Brewers are starting left-hander Manny Parra tonight.

THE LINEUP: 1. Emilio Bonifacio 3B, 2. Jeremy Hermida LF, 3. Hanley Ramirez SS, 4. Jorge Cantu 1B, 5. Dan Uggla 2B, 6. Cody Ross CF, 7. Ronny Paulino C, 8. Brett Carroll RF, 9. Anibal Sanchez P.

June 01, 2009

Helms has viral infection; Hanley leads All-Star voting

When Wes Helms woke up Monday morning he was expecting to still feel sick and achy. But what he wasn't ready for was the absolute lack of strength in his body. When he tried to pick up his daughter, he simply couldn't.

Alarmed by the sudden loss in strength, he called Marlins trainer Sean Cunningham. By 9 a.m., he was at the doctor's office, having blood drawn. Now he knows what's been ailing him since last Friday night.

"It’s a viral infection that has taken over my joints and my muscles," Helms said. "The doctor's aren't sure why I got it. But they're treating it and I should be good to go in a few days."

Helms hasn't played since he went 1 for 4 Friday against the Mets. He said he won't be available Monday, but expects to be able to pinch hit at the very least by Tuesday.

"Being in New York with the swine flu it scared me," Helms said. "In New York they thought it was a flu bug. It just shows you sometimes you need a few days to find out what you got."

> Hanley Ramirez still isn't 100 percent, but in the eyes of voters he should be the starting shortstop in the All-Star game again.

After falling behind the Brewers J.J. Hardy in the first week of voting, Ramirez moved up into the top spot this week with 586,300 votes, 16,661 more than the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins and 85,730 more than the Hardy. The Mets’ Jose Reyes and Houston’s Miguel Tejada round out the top five.

If Hanley starts in the All-Star game July 14 in St. Louis, it would mark only the third time in franchise history a Marlins player cracks the starting lineup. Ramirez did it last year. Gary Sheffield earned the other spot at third base in 1993.

As for his tight right groin, Gonzalez said Ramirez is improving. But he also said there's a chance Ramirez may have to deal with the injury the rest of the season.

“He really is about 80 percent," Gonzalez said. "He’s running better than I thought he was. He was able to catch ground balls and move. Saturday he had a tough time doing that. But he’s getting better. He may not even be 100 percent the rest of the year. But he’s playing through it and as long as he plays within himself, he’ll be ok."

May 27, 2009

Ramirez likely out until at least Friday

PHILADELPHIA -- While manager Fredi Gonzalez said they could use Hanley Ramirez in a pinch-hitter role Wednesday, don't look for it to happen. The Marlins are more likely to give Ramirez the day off with the idea of having him return for the Mets series on Friday.

Gonzalez said one of the Marlins trainers felt a knot in Ramirez's groin Wednesday.

"It's still tight, pretty sore, which we expected today," Gonzalez said. "Maybe we could use him as a pinch hitter. But if we pinch hit for him, we have to pinch run for him. Hopefully today with the day off tomorrow he gets better with treatment and gets ready for this weekend. That's the best case scenario."

Ramirez was treated Wednesday, but did not swing a bat before the game. "Today, it feels better than last night," Ramirez said. "We’ll see how it feels tomorrow. When I come to the stadium on Friday, we’ll decide whether I play or not."

Bonifacio, who replaced Ramirez at shortstop in the third inning Tuesday, will start there Wednesday for the first time this season. Gonzalez has no worries about either. “That’s his natural position,” Gonzalez said. “That’s what he played coming up in the minor leagues. We’ve seen him take some ground balls. And he even played a couple innings there. It’s going to be an OK transition for him.”

> The Marlins recalled outfielder Brett Carroll from Triple A New Orleans before the game to replace reliever Chris Leroux, who was optioned back down to Double A Jacksonville after last night's game. It was a move made to strengthen the Marlins' bench, which will obviously be without Ramirez tonight.

As for Leroux, who gave up three hits and one earned over two innings, Gonzalez said he was encouraged by the outing.

“I told him I was impressed with what I saw,” Gonzalez said. “Mark Wiley told him there is no reason for you to have a 5.89 ERA in Double A. That was 95 miles per hour with a hell of a changeup. We challenged him to throw strikes and challenge people in Double A. There’s no reason he can’t dominate from what we saw here. He threw a couple of changeups to [Ryan] Howard and [Raul] Ibanez and it was like woah. The fastball has some life to it.”

> Marlins starter Josh Johnson said the blister on his right middle finger which cropped up over the last two three weeks isn't bothering him. “It’s good,” Johnson said. “I just trim it, try to make sure there are no sharp edges, things like that.”

Johnson has been dealing with the blister for the past few starts, but said he didn't think it had anything to do with his recent control problems. After walking six batters total in his first seven starts, he has now issued 10 over the past three. He'll pitch for the Marlins Saturday against the Mets.