June 16, 2010

Marlins designate Pinto; Ramirez talks struggles

Get out your vuvuzelas Renyel Pinto haters. The left-handed relief pitcher who makes your blood pressure rise in the late innings of Marlins games is on his way out of South Florida. 

Renyel Pinto The Marlins designated Pinto for assignment after Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Rangers. Pinto gave up a solo home run to Josh Hamilton in the ninth in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list. 

I'm not trying to defend Pinto here. But was this move really necessary? Or was Pinto just the fall guy after another tough loss, which sent the Marlins to three games under .500 and 6 1/2 games back of the Atlanta Braves (the deepest ditch they've been in all year)?

The home run, after all, was the first Pinto had given up all season and dropped his ERA to 2.70. Pinto, who was supposed to be the Marlins new long relief pitcher, has never been great against lefties (they were hitting .255 lifetime against him coming in). But he didn't appear to be the biggest problem in a struggling pen.

Tim Wood, who is collecting plenty of frequent flier miles between here and New Orleans, will replace Pinto. Wood wasn't exactly Dennis Eckersley when he was here before. When he was sent back down to Triple A on June 6th, he was 0-1 with a 5.60 ERA.

HANLEY SAID HE FEELS GREAT: It wasn't too long ago Hanley Ramirez told us he felt like his timing was off. In fact, it was only a little more than a week ago when the Marlins were swept in New York. 

Despite going 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, Ramirez maintained he's feeling better at the plate. "Just because I didn't get a hit tonight doesn't mean I don't feel good," Ramirez said. "I feel great."

Hitting coach Jim Presley and manager Fredi Gonzalez both said Ramirez appeared a little too anxious at times this season. Wednesday, he saw just five pitches in his last three at-bats. He grounded out on a fielder's choice on a 1-0 pitch with the bases loaded and one out in the third. He flew out to left on a 1-0 pitch with a runner on third in the fifth. And he grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw with runners on the corners and nobody out in the eighth. 

If that doesn't smell of an anxious hitter I don't know what does. Ramirez by the way is hitting .200 (13 for 65) with runners in scoring position this season. He hit .373 in those situations last year.

June 06, 2010

Hanley Ramirez back in leadoff spot

NEW YORK -- Fredi Gonzalez said after Saturday's 6-1 loss to the Mets he was going to tinker with his lineup. He sure did.

Hanley Ramirez Hanley Ramirez is back in the leadoff spot for the first time since the final game of the 2008 season. Gonzalez said the move isn't permanent, but Ramirez, who is struggling to produce with runners in scoring position in the No. 3 hole, could still be hitting in the top spot when the Marlins open their next series in Philadelphia Tuesday.

"It's nothing permanent," Gonzalez said. "Usually what I've done in the past is give him the day off, give him a little breather. But with a day off tomorrow [why?] We'll see how it goes today."

Ramirez, a career .313 hitter in the leadoff spot, is hitting .286 with 8 home runs, 29 RBI, 25 walks and 29 strikeouts through 56 games. Last season through 56 games, he was .332 with 7 HRs, 19 RBI, 19 walks and 33 strikeouts. The biggest difference between this year's Ramirez and last year's is batting average with runners in scoring position. A year ago, he was one of the best in the game, hitting .373 for the season in those situations. So far in the two games in New York, he's gone 0-for-4 in those situations to drop his season average with runners in scoring position to .236 (13 for 55).

"I don't think its the pitchers pitching him any different," Gonzalez said. "The pitch selection might be different."

No reporters were able to nab Ramirez before the game to ask him about being moved up in the lineup. But Gonzalez said he had no problem with it. He said he also spoke with Chris Coghlan, who was moved down No. 2 in the order after turning up his play in the leadoff spot. Gonzalez said he told Coghlan not to change his approach at all.

"He's a big part of that middle of the lineup," Gonzalez said of Ramirez, who won the batting title a year ago with a .342 average in his first full season as the team's No. 3 hitter. "He knows he's scuffling a little bit right now. He wants to stay in the lineup, which is a good sign... It's one of those things we talk about that happens. But at the end of the year, the water always reaches its level. I think that's what we'll see with him."

MARLINS LINEUP: 1. Hanley Ramirez SS, 2. Chris Coghlan LF, 3. Dan Uggla 2B, 4. Jorge Cantu 3B, 5. Ronny Paulino C, 6. Cody Ross RF, 7. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 8. Cameron Maybin CF, 9. Ricky Nolasco RHP.

> Couple more tidbits: Catcher John Baker (on the disabled list with a strained right flexor muscle) went 2 for 2 with 2 walks as a designated hitter in Jupiter Saturday night. Gonzalez said he expects Baker to catch a few innings on Thursday. 

Left-hander Renyel Pinto (on the disabled list with a strained left hip) pitched 2/3 of an inning, walked two and struck out two. He'll pitch two more innings and likely rejoin the team when he comes of the disabled list June 11th when the Marlins are in Tampa.

May 25, 2010

Hanley only Marlin receiving early All-Star love

The first batch of All-Star Game voting results were revealed for the National League Tuesday, and the results don't show much love for the Marlins. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, a two-time All-Star, was the only Marlin to rank in the top five in voting according to their position.

Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu and Cody Ross, who are all doing considerably well at their respective positions were nowhere on the list. Here it is compliments of MLB.com

2010 MLB All-Star Balloting : National League
1st Base
1.Albert PujolsCardinals647,666
2.Ryan HowardPhillies329,673
3.Prince FielderBrewers200,395
4.James LoneyDodgers116,850
5.Lance BerkmanAstros112,589
2nd Base
1.Chase UtleyPhillies687,724
2.Rickie WeeksBrewers169,941
3.Martin PradoBraves134,993
4.Kelly JohnsonD-backs118,342
5.Skip SchumakerCardinals112,365
3rd Base
1.Placido PolancoPhillies309,458
2.David WrightMets236,387
3.Casey McGeheeBrewers185,312
4.Pablo SandovalGiants160,179
5.Chipper JonesBraves143,558
1.Jimmy RollinsPhillies340,747
2.Hanley RamirezMarlins309,244
3.Alcides EscobarBrewers151,710
4.Rafael FurcalDodgers144,209
5.Jose ReyesMets137,321
1.Yadier MolinaCardinals316,795
2.Carlos RuizPhillies259,227
3.Ivan RodriguezNationals247,998
4.Brian McCannBraves203,377
5.Russell MartinDodgers160,698
1.Ryan BraunBrewers423,834
2.Jayson WerthPhillies365,402
3.Shane VictorinoPhillies348,841
4.Andre EthierDodgers316,383
5.Matt HollidayCardinals309,463
6.Jason HeywardBraves304,547
7.Matt KempDodgers249,554
8.Raul IbanezPhillies248,450
9.Manny RamirezDodgers217,694
10.Jason BayMets191,181
11.Alfonso SorianoCubs177,061
12.Jim EdmondsBrewers162,130
13.Justin UptonD-backs154,502
14.Carlos GomezBrewers140,145
15.Colby RasmusCardinals139,519
Results updated: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 18, 2010

Helms hopes Ramirez's benching sends message

Hanley Ramirez wasn't in the Marlins lineup Tuesday, but he was spotted in the duguout, celebrating with his teammates in the sixth inning after Cameron Maybin belted a three-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Wes Helms That's a good sign Ramirez, at the very least, apologized to his teammates or at least made some sort of peace with them after unleashing some venom to reporters this morning about manager Fredi Gonzalez and his decision to bench him Monday for "a lack of effort."

Whether Ramirez apologized or not, he is going to get a visit from veteran clubhouse leader Wes Helms, who was more than supportive of Gonzalez's move after he witnessed Ramirez jog after a ball he accidentally kicked in the outfield in the second in Monday. 

Helms told reporters Tuesday he was angry with Ramirez, but glad to see his manager do something about it. Gonzalez hasn't been one to be very critical of his players publicly over the years. But after a closed door meeting with management, he seemed to be given the green light.

And it seems it scored Gonzalez points with the other 24 players in his clubhouse.

"I commend Fredi for what he did," Helms said. "One guy wasn't doing it and he wanted to show him and the team he's not going to stand for that. That's what makes you respect a manager more is when he does have rules, if he backs them up, you respect him more. Us as players and us as his teammates saw last night, he's not going to stand for that and he did something about it.

"It definitely sets the bar. Hanley is the star on the team. I tell him all the time he could be the best shortstop in the game. He's that kind of player. But it doesn't take talent to hustle. That's one thing you've been taught since you were born by your dad or whoever. It doesn't take talent to run hard or work hard. To do that to Hanley just shows these other 24 guys on this club that this is serious. This is the way we're going to play the game here and this is what the game is all about."

Helms said he planned to speak with Ramirez Tuesday in "a mature manner."

"I want to talk to him in a manner more of to just let him know you need to be the leader of this team and to be the leader of this team, you have to lead by example and if you don't lead by example, you won't be a leader," Helms said. "I will definitely talk to this guy because I want him to be a leader. He deserves it because of his talent and the way he plays the game. Guys will follow if he leads."

Helms recalled how when he was in Atlanta several years ago, Braves manager Bobby Cox sent a strong message to his team when he benched outfielder Andruw Jones for being lazy in the middle of an inning. Gonzalez said Tuesday he never thought about doing the same to Ramirez because he didn't want to embarrass him.

"I'll never forget that as long as I live," Helms said of Jones' benching. "I came up with Andrew. I'll tell you one thing, you never saw him do it again. Sometimes, you aren't going to have perfect players. But the way you handle your players can help them in the long run and that happened to Andruw. Hopefully, this will help Hanley.

"I think this can have two effects. You look at your star as 'Hey this can't be happening,' and this can hurt the chemistry of the team. But you also look at it, the way Fredi handled it, it can also pump a team up because it shows the other 24 guys it's not going to be something we commend here and we're going to take care of it. It gives the other guys the extra fire to play harder and to run balls out and to go hard. I think it can hurt and help the team. The way it was handled last night, I think it's going to help us."

ROSS SAYS HANLEY PLAYS GAME "HARD, MAJORITY OF THE TIME"... Monday's benching, of course, wasn't the first time Hanley Ramirez has had his desire questioned. Last season, second baseman Dan Uggla wondered aloud in the clubhouse if Ramirez was fighting through a pulled hamstring tough enough.

Right fielder Cody Ross, another outspoken player in the Marlins clubhouse, said Tuesday he thought Ramirez's lack of hustle was simply because he was hurt. 

""Hanley plays hard the majority of the time," Ross said. "He plays without question as hard as anybody. I just feel like sometimes when he's not being Hanley, getting three or four hits a game, he might [loaf]. I don't know if he's frustrated right now or was really hurt. I'm not questioning fact whether he's hurt or not, but seeing Fredi step up and get as upset as he was, Fredi and the coaching staff felt he shouldn't [play]."

Ross said where Ramirez made his mistake was staying in the game despite the injury.

"I just thought he must be really hurt," Ross said of watching Ramirez jog after a ball Monday. "I just felt like if you can't go, you need to let the manager know you're not capable of it. When you're hurt, you don't want to go out there and do more damage for your team. I've been in the situation I don't know many times where I'm thinking to myself 'Should I go because I don't want to go out there and hurt my team by going 50 percent?' Is it better for me to stay out of this game and not play today. I think you need to be honest with the manager when you're hurt if you can go or not. I guess he tried to tough it out and stay in there and it ended up costing us a few runs. It's pretty much all I can say."

Unlike Helms, Ross said he didn't need to hear an apology from Ramirez for his actions. But he did support Gonzalez's move. 

"You see it a few times every year -- not on our team, I'm saying around the league," Ross said. "Guys have been pulled out of games for not hustling. It happened in Tampa with Upton. It happened with Soriano. It sends messages to guys that this is a team effort, it's not just about one guy. It's about 25 guys. That's what we're about. We're about the Marlins. It's a touchy subject, but something that has to be addressed. If I was in that situation and I was dogging it, I would hope somebody would put me in my place.

"I have the upmost respect for Fredi. I know it's a tough situation for him to do. Hanley is one of our stars, he is our star player, the face of the franchise and there is a fine line, a boundary. You don't want to lose a guy for a couple weeks. You don't want to get him so upset he doesn't want to play. It's tough. He's in a tough situation. He has to handle it the best way he can. I think he's doing it the right way."

Ross said he hopes the situation resolves itself soon because he said the Marlins need Ramirez in the lineup.

"I think he'll be alright," Ross said. "I think it will take him a couple days. He's a sensitive guy. Everybody knows that. He takes things and wears it on his shoulders. We'll support him 100 percent. We need him. He's a huge part of this team and we need him."

Ramirez's replacement at SS playing on bad ankle

With Hanley Ramirez out of the Marlins lineup indefinitely, Brian Barden should get the majority of action at shortstop. But if he were to need to a break, manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tuesday Wes Helms or backup catcher Brett Hayes could play shortstop for a few innings if needed.

"If the game is on the line and we need to pinch hit for him, we could run Wes Helms for him. You can get at-bats with him and you don't know if the ball is going to get hit there," Gonzalez said ."We were almost there last night, but it never materialized. One old coach said you can guarantee a hitter four at-bats, you can't guarantee a ball being hit there for a few innings."

Helms, a veteran corner infielder, has never played shortstop in the majors. Hayes, who also has never played shortstop in the pros, supposedly played the position some in high school.

For what it is worth, Barden is playing shortstop with a bum left ankle. He said he sprained it making attempting to make sliding catch in the series final against the Mets.

"Once you get out there honestly and get that adrenaline going you don't really feel it," Barden said before getting the start Tuesday. "It was kind hard to push off and go side to side on defense. Luckily they didn't hit any ground balls, just the first one [Justin] Upton had when I first went into the game."

"I'm excited to be out there. Obviously it's just bad timing. Hopefully, I could get some knocks today."

Fredi says Hanley needs to talk to his teammates

Hanley Ramirez will not be starting at shorstop today against the Arizona Diamondbacks. And manager Fredi Gonzalez said he didn't know if Ramirez, who was benched Monday for not hustling after a ball he booted in the outfield, would play at all he works out his issues.

For the complete interview, check out our Marlins audio section. Here is part of Gonzalez's transcript from moments ago...

Is his injury why he isn't in the lineup?

No. I think he's fine. I'm sure he's a little bruised up or banged up. But he's not in the lineup.

And the reason for that is...

I think he needs to take care of some problems. I think he needs to take care of the situation and when he handles that the right way, we'll be fine. It's one of those things that could be good. It could be good. 

Will he pinch hit?

I don't know.

What do you think he needs to do?

I think he needs to talk to his teammates a little bit. You know what I mean? I think whatever feelings he has with me or not has with me, it's fine and dandy. We don't need to get along. But I think he needs to get along with the 24 other guys in his team and when that happens, we'll run him back in there. I think if he sets his ego aside, this could be good.

Does he need to apologize to his teammates?

I think he needs to talk to his teammates.

Did you speak with him?

I've spoken to him, yes. Within the last 10 minutes. 

Is he suspended?


How was he in the discussion? He was pretty angry.


Did he seem like he was going to heed your advice?

Not sure.

We asked him if he was going to and his first words were 'For what?'

Well, what are we going to do then?

You don't want this distraction do you?

If it's handled the right way I think it could be good. If not, it could be a distraction. It could grow into some ugly stuff. Let's wait and see what happens. Let's not make a mountain out of a molehill just yet. 

Handled by him?

I think so. There's not a date or an hour or the third inning of today's game. We'll wait and kind of let this thing work itself out a little bit. I think sometimes when the ego gets in the way and the ego kind of deflates a little bit and you see the forest and the trees, I think it would be good.

He said some said unflattering things about you not playing in the majors...

He's right. But I know how to play the game. I played six years in the minor leagues and I know what it takes to play this game and I know the effort it takes to play this game and I know it's hard to play this game. Believe me, I know it's hard. That's it.

He said 'It's your team, you can do whatever the f--- you want.'

It's our team. I'm just a guy who makes the lineup. It's our team. 

How disappointed are you with his comments?

I'm not disappointed. Sometimes it takes a little time. But that's what you want to hear. You want this to turn around and be a positive. And that's all it takes. It takes a little bit of responsibility and we could take off. It's not the first time it's been done in the major leagues, not the first time I've done this in the major leagues. We'll see how this develops. My job as the manager -- as the f---ing manager is to make sure 25 guys play together and the effort is there. I can't control everybody going 4 for 4. But you can control the effort. 

Hanley Ramirez blasts Fredi Gonzalez for benching

Hanley Ramirez is not a happy Marlin. And he made his feelings pretty clear about it Tuesday morning in the team's clubhouse, ripping manager Fredi Gonzalez for pulling him from Monday's game for "a lack of hustle."

The Marlins haven't posted a lineup yet. But it will be very interesting to see if Ramirez's name appears on it. Here is what Ramirez told reporters moments ago (click on this link for the raw audio). We also have sound bites from teammates Cody Ross and Wes Helms. Helms said he thought Ramirez needed to apologize. Doesn't look like it is going to happen.

Did you give less than 100 percent effort?
Ramirez: I don't know. It looked like it. The example starts with me. If you don't hustle, hopefully, he does it with everybody. That's OK. He doesn't understand that. He never played in the big leagues. That's OK. That's fine. That's an example and it starts with me and let's see how far it can go.

Did the foul ball off your shin affect your running?
Ramirez: A little bit. Yeah. I had a little bit of tightness.

Did you think you could keep playing?
Ramirez: For him, I don't think so.

How much pain were you in?
Ramirez: A lot. I was trying to stay in the game. I wasn't trying to get out of the game.

What was reaction when he said he was taking you out of the game?
Ramirez: I just said 'I'm going to go home. I just wanted to go home. It's brutal. It's fine. It's OK.

Did you want to stay in the game?
Ramirez: Yeah. I could've. But I think I would have been in a little bit of pain. It's his team. He do whatever the he [f---ing] wants. There's nothing I could do about it.

Could your bat help the team?
Ramirez: Not right now. I think that's why I got kicked out of the game.

Are you angry?
Ramirez: It's brutal like I said. I'm just going to play the game and he's just going to have to leave me alone.

Did you lose respect for Gonzalez?
Ramirez: A little bit. We got 24 more guys out there, hopefully they can do the same things I do. That are wearing the Marlins uniform. There's nothing I can say.

Are you going to apologize to your team for dogging it?
Ramirez: For what? Do what? We have a lot of people dogging it after ground balls. They never pull guys.

Are you going to talk to Fredi today?
Ramirez: I don't think so and I won't. I don't know when I'm going to be back on the field.

Do you feel you're healthy enough to play?
Ramirez: No [mentally and physically].

Have you ever been this angry?
Ramirez: It's happened a couple times, but it's happened underneath the table. So, I know why I'm angry.

You aren't the first All-Star shortstop to get benched...
Ramirez: It can happen to anybody. 162 games.

Do you want to play for Fredi?
Ramirez: It's over. I'm done. No more [questions].

Was it the shin or ankle?
Ramirez: The shin.

Do you hold yourself accountable for not running?
Ramirez: That was as hard as I could go right there. I wasn't trying like I gave up. That was the hardest I could go after the ball.

Did you see the replay?
Ramirez: No. Everybody has a different mind. I can't control what you think about that. I can only control what I do on the field, off the field. I know some people are going to think I gave up or was a little bit hurt. It's going to be fine.

Do you respect Fredi?
Ramirez: I respect everybody. But I don't know if I get the same respect back. That's why sometimes you sit down and think about it. Why respect someone who isn't going to respect you back?

How much did it hurt you to hear some of the things he said?
Ramirez: I haven't heard anything, but I had a couple people who told me. I don't want to hear what he said. That's fine. I just want to sit down because I'm so mad right now, I don't want to do something stupid. Hopefully, I can talk to my kids so they can keep me down and forget this and go forward.

How many games do you think you'll miss?
Ramirez: I don't know. I haven't talked to him. I just got here. Let's see what they bring on the table.

Do you want to see your name in the lineup?
Ramirez: Everyday.

May 17, 2010

Is it time to question Hanley Ramirez's heart?

It's a subject nobody in the Marlins' organization really wants to talk about. But maybe it is finally time they do. Does Hanley Ramirez have enough heart to play this game the way it should be played every day?

Hanley RamirezAs most of us suspected, the Marlins' two-time All-Star shortstop and the National League's reigning batting champion didn't leave Monday's 5-1 loss to the Diamondbacks in the second inning because he fouled a pitch off his left ankle in the first. No, the Marlins' $70 million player left according to manager Fredi Gonzalez for a lack of hustle.

"We felt whether he was hurt or not hurt, we felt like the effort wasn't there that we wanted," Gonzalez told reporters moments ago after having a closed door meeting with Marlins management including owner Jeffrey Loria, who listened to every word Gonzalez said carefully.

"There are 24 guys out there that are busting their butts. Cody Ross got hit with a ball, 95 milers per hour. It wasn't thrown any slower. He stayed in the game making diving plays and battling, got two hits and an RBI. There's some injuries there [with Ramirez]. But we expect an effort from 25 guys on this team and when that doesn't happen we have to do something."

This isn't the first time Ramirez has had his desire questioned. Last September, teammate Dan Uggla questioned it after Ramirez sat out a couple games with a hamstring pull. It turned into a bit of an ugly feud in the clubhouse and Gonzalez immediately held a closed door team meeting. Ramirez, who signed a six-year, $70 million contract in 2008, eventually mended the fences with Uggla. 

But this latest bit of drama -- for not hustling after a ball he kicked away in the outfield in the second inning -- could present bigger issues. This, after all, was the first time Gonzalez called Ramirez out for a lack of hustle. And with Loria present in the room, it felt like Ramirez would likely receive a stern message from management too.

Ramirez has a reputation for being playful. But at what point does it become a lack of focus? As a side note, before Monday's game I was in the Marlins dugout with another reporter waiting for Ramirez for an interview. It never happened because Gonzalez had to come over to remind his star shortstop he was late for a team meeting in the clubhouse. "Nino," Gonzalez called Ramirez in Spanish. "Did you forget the meeting? Let's go."

Ramirez, who had been interviewed by a female reporter from Telemundo several minutes earlier but was still sitting with her, promptly got up and followed his manager to the meeting. Gonzalez didn't bring up the fact Ramirez was late for a meeting after the game, but did say his star player offered "no excuse" for not hustling.

"You guys call him the marquee guy," Gonzalez said. "I got 25 guys that are all wearing the same uniform, wearing all the same Marlins insignia in the front and I think it's disappointing if anybody [doesn't hustle], not just one guy."

When asked if Ramirez could see future disciplinary action, Gonzalez said: "You need more embarrassment than being taken out of a major league game? We'll see [if he plays tomorrow]."

May 11, 2010

Steal of home was "roll of the dice"

CHICAGO -- Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez isn't one to reveal many trade secrets. So when asked about the Marlins' double steal in the seventh inning of Monday's come-from-behind win against the Cubs on Tuesday afternoon, Gonzalez made sure his answer was short and sweet.

"We rolled the dice," Gonzalez said with a chuckle. 

Truth is there obviously was more game-planning put into Cody Ross' game-changing steal of home and the Marlins simply don't want to tip their hand. Either way, the play was rare and provided a huge lift for the club. Nobody seemed to be more relieved about it a day later than rookie first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

The former University of Miami standout was responsible for the routine pop-up turned basehit off the bat of Aramis Ramirez which fell right behind the mound in the sixth inning and the Cubs used to retake the lead.

Sanchez, who had never played at Wrigley before Monday, said he felt terrible about the gaff. "It was just one of those situations where once it started drifting, I didn't want to keep going after it just in case there was somebody there -- in case they were trying to catch it," Sanchez said. "It was just a tough ball."

"I think all of us in the infield in that situation were thinking the same thing, we shouldn't have let it happen. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to come back, score a couple runs and win that ball game."

Sanchez then started to talk about how the Marlins had been practicing the double steal since spring training. But before he got into the good stuff, Ross, a few lockers away, made sure to shush the rookie up. "Don't be giving our plays away man," Ross said with a smile.

MARLINS STEALS RARE THESE DAYS... Monday's four stolen bases marked the first time since a 10-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 15, 2007 that the Marlins stole more than three bases in a game.

The Fish swiped five against the Rockies on that day, but have since managed to steal three bases only three times in each of the past two seasons.

"I just think that's not the nature of our club," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We are not built to steal bases, which I like to do at times. You look through our lineup we probably have two legit stolen base guys. [Cameron] Maybin, [Hanley] Ramirez and [Chris] Coghlan."

The Marlins entered the Cubs series with only 10 steals on the season, tied with the Phillies for fewest in the National League. Last season, they swiped 75 as a team one fewer than in 2008. The last time they stole more than 100 was in 2007 when Ramirez had 51 of the team's 105 steals.

Ramirez, who moved to the No. 3 spot in the order last season, has been the Marlins primary base stealer in each of the past five season. But as he's become a more dangerous hitter, his stolen base attempts have gone down. And that's fine with Gonzalez.

"I'd rather him win the batting title every year than be the stolen base king," he said ."I want him to win the batting title and drive in 100."

Gonzalez said he thinks stolen bases are a misleading stat. He said he prefers to flash the green light when a steal is needed.

"Some guys steal 40, 45 bases and 25 are meaningless," Gonzalez said. "For me, steal the bag when you have to steal a bag. Two outs in the ninth inning or in a tie game or one out in the ninth inning of a tie game, to me that's when stolen bases count more."

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.