May 12, 2015

Mayday! Latest Cishek meltdown has Marlins searching for answers

LOS ANGELES -- Don't expect to see Steve Cishek in another ninth-inning save situation the next time the situation arises. Without saying so directly, manager Mike Redmond gave every indication he's ready to pull the trigger and try something new after Cishek blew his second save in as many days in the Marlins' 5-3 loss to the Dodgers on Monday.

“Anytime you have leads late and you can’t hold onto them, it crushes you,” Redmond said. “You’ve got to win these games. (Cishek) has done a tremendous job for us. But at the end of the day, it’s about winning games. We can’t keep blowing late leads."

The Marlins have spoken to agent Scott Boras about free agent Rafael Soriano. But sources told me "nothing is close" on that front. And the Marlins could look around to make a trade. But it's only the middle of May and even bad teams don't normally throw in the towel this early.

While Redmond said he could "mix and match" relievers in the ninth inning, the most likely in-house scenario is A.J. Ramos, who has been the team's best reliever (1.06 ERA) by far so far this season. While Ramos hasn't been used in that capacity in the majors, he came up through their minor-league system as a closer and recorded 83 saves.

But the Marlins don't want another repeat of 2012 when they mistakenly waited until the All-Star break before finally giving up on Heath Bell. (Ironically, it was Cishek who inherited the role in the wake of the Bell fiasco).

While Cishek's issues this season have been pronounced (four blown saves in seven save opportunities), including Monday night's catastrophe when he gave up a 3-run, game-ending homer in the ninth to the Dodgers' Scott Van Slyke, there is still reason to think the Marlins can get him back on track by using him earlier out of the bullpen. Cishek had the third-best save percentage in the majors the previous two seasons.

But they can't wait until July -- like they did with Bell -- to make that decision. And, unlike Bell, whose personality and on-field performance eventually cost him the respect of his teammates, Cishek is well-liked inside the clubhouse and is the team's union representative.

He's crushed. 

“This is about as low as I can get,” Cishek said after Monday's episode. “This is a huge trial in my life right now. I’ve always found a way to get out of it. Just waiting for that time to come.”

How has Cishek gone from a closer with a greater than 90 percent success rate in save chances to one who has managed to convert only three of seven save opportunities this season?

“I honestly can’t explain it, I really can’t,” he said. “All I needed to do was get three outs, and I just continued to let the team down."

May 10, 2015

Slumping Stanton sits, Gordon back in lineup, Yelich dropped to No. 5 spot

SAN FRANCISCO -- The last time Giancarlo Stanton was a healthy scratch from the lineup was on May 18 last season, on the last day of a four-game series right here at AT&T Park. He eventually made it into that game as a pinch-hitter.

History is repeating itself.

Stanton isn't in the lineup for today's series finale. Call it a mental health break. Stanton has gone 4 for 25 on the road trip with 11 strikeouts. He whiffed four times Saturday.

"Just a day off," Stanton said. "Have a day off, get to L.A. Same time I had a day off last year."

Manager Mike Redmond said he "planted the seed" with Stanton four or five days ago -- even before his slump worsened -- that he was thinking about giving him the day off Sunday.

"I was looking at the schedule thinking this would be a good day, not even thinking result-wise," Redmond said. "This was what I was planning. He's had a good, solid stretch of games he's played. Hopefully we'll get him the full day."

Stanton has not looked comfortable with either his approach or his swings during the road trip.

"It happens with all hitters, not just him," Redmond said. "Sometimes it's good just to take a day, sit back and relax. It's tough to take him out of the lineup because he has the ability to hit a homer at any time. At the same time, we need him for the long haul, and we need him fresh, and we have the ability to give him a day off. The fresher we can keep him, the more productive he can be."

 Ichiro Suzuki will take his place in right field and bat third.

While Stanton will be on the bench to start the game, Dee Gordon returns to the lineup after missing the two previous games with a tight hamstring.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto is also sitting for a Sunday day game following a night game. And Christian Yelich slides down to the No. 5 spot as the Marlins go for the series win.

Two factors are at play in the decision to lower Yelich in the order: his hitting slump and the production the Marlins are getting at the very top of the lineup from Gordon and Martin Prado.

Yelich is hitting just .170 with only one extra-base hit -- a double -- and has gone 0 for 8 since coming off the disabled list with a back injury.

The decision to drop Yelich to the fifth spot didn't come about overnight. Redmond was planning to move Yelich there weeks ago. In fact, Yelich said he was told he was going to bat fifth on the day in Philadelphia his back tightened up on him during batting practice and he landed on the DL.

"He's going to be fine," Redmond said. "He needs to play. He needs to get at bats. Hit him a little bit lower, get him going, and we'll figure out where the best spot going forward is. I think Yelich can hit anywhere. I would have no problem hitting him in the cleanup spot, either."

Plus, Redmond likes his 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup with Gordon and Prado.

"Prado's done great," he said. "When guys are hitting well in a certain spot in the lineup, it's nice to keep them there. You don't want to mess around too much with that, and him and Dee are pretty good up there at the top."

One interesting side note: Yelich met Barry Bonds on Sunday and spoke to him on the field about two hours before the game. Did Bonds offer Yelich any advice on hitting in the middle of the order? Not really.

"It was just cool to hang out and talk to him," said Yelich, who remembers watching Bonds and the Giants as a young teenager when he was growing up in L.A. and attending games at Dodger Stadium. "Honestly, we didn't really talk a whole lot about baseball."

As for batting fifth for the first time, Yelich said "it's no big deal."

"Really, when you think about the batting order, you're hitting leadoff that one time, you're hitting second that one time," Yelich said. "Your approach doesn't really change according to the spot where you are in the batting order. It's what the situation dictates. I feel like I'll be comfortable there."

The Marlins have won 14 of their past 18 games at AT&T Park.

The lineup:

1. Dee Gordon, 2b; 2. Martin Prado 3b; 3. Ichiro Suzuki rf; 4. Marcell Ozuna cf; 5. Christian Yelich lf; 6. Michael Morse, 1b; 7. Adeiny Hechavarria ss; 8. Jhonatan Solano c; 9. Mat Latos, p. 

May 08, 2015

Dee Gordon out of lineup with "sore muscle" in right leg

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Marlins are taking no chances with the majors' top hitter, opting to err on the side of caution by leaving Dee Gordon out of Friday's lineup due to a sore muscle in his right leg.

"It's just precautionary," said Marlins general manager Dan Jennings. "We're just making sure it doesn't lead into anything significant."

Gordon tweaked his leg while scoring in Thursday's ninth inning. Gordon stepped awkwardly on the plate while eluding catcher Buster Posey's swipe tag, and appeared to limp back to the dugout. But he went back on the field to play second in the bottom of the ninth.

"If I had just slid, we wouldn't even have this conversation," Gordon said. "I should have slid. It's my fault. It's no one else's fault."

Afterward, manager Mike Redmond said he thought Gordon would be "all right" and didn't seem concerned that it was anything serious. Gordon appeared to be walking normally inside the clubhouse on Friday -- even did some jumping jacks for reporters -- and said he could have played.

"It was a decision as a group, to do the smart thing," Gordon said.

Gordon had three hits on Thursday, lifting his average to .437.

Donovan Solano started at second Friday while Christian Yelich returned from the disabled list and was installed in Gordon's leadoff spot.

The uncertainty surrounding Gordon is why the Marlins decided to keep Solano on the roster and designate infielder Reid Brignac for assignment in order to make room for Yelich. The Marlins feel Solano is better suited to play second. Brignac could opt out of his minor league contract and become a free agent. But the Marlins are hoping he remains in the organization.

May 06, 2015

Tuesday night's ninth-inning error aside, Hechavarria and Gordon forming a special duo up middle for Marlins

WASHINGTON -- If you missed the ninth inning Tuesday night, you missed one of the rare moments this season when Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria weren't on the same page.

With a runner on first base and nobody out, Ian Desmond sent a tailor-made double play ball to Gordon. But instead of turning two, Hechavarria dropped the throw from Gordon, committing only his second error of the season and opening the door for a potential rally by the Nationals.

"I was pissed," Gordon said of his throw. "The ball was a little wet. I didn't want to throw it away so I gripped it a little harder and threw the crap out of it. Thankfully we survived it. [Closer Steve] Cishek picked us up. So we owe him."

The truth is Marlins pitchers probably owe their middle infielders a lot more than Hechavarria and Gordon owe them. Together, entering Wednesday's series finale against the Nationals, Gordon and Hechavarria have combined to make only three errors in 251 chances. They've turned 17 double plays and  made countless web gems. 

Gordon had another Tuesday making a pivotal diving stop up the middle in the seventh inning to prevent what would have been the game-tying hit. Afterward, Gordon gave all the credit to infield coach Perry Hill for putting him in the right spot.

"Bone's been great for me," Gordon said. "Before Bone, I didn't know to [move to different marks on different counts]. I was just being athletic and catching a baseball. He's taught me a lot."

When the Marlins last won the World Series a dozen years ago they had one of the best defenses in baseball, a unit anchored up the middle by the double play tandem of Alex Gonzalez and Luis Castillo.

Hill, who coached that tandem, feels like the Marlins have formed another special pair. And now even the sabermetric geeks -- who have never been fans of Hechavarria or Gordon -- are starting to agree.

A month into the season, Hechavarria ranks second only to Braves Gold Glove-winner Andrelton Simmons in defensive runs saved among shortstops (Hechavarria has four to Simmons' nine). A year ago,  Hechavarria had a defensive runs saved rating of minus-3 and a total zone rating of minus-13. His total zone rating this year is plus-3, tied for sixth-best among all shortstops.

Gordon, meanwhile, leads all second basemen in defensive runs saved with a rating of plus-5 and also leads in terms of total zone defense with a rating of plus-8. A year ago with the Dodgers, Gordon had a defensive runs saved rating of plus-2 and a total zone defensive rating of minus-5.

So what's changed? Both have become a lot better at positioning themselves before each pitch, Hill said.

"Hech is figuring out the hitters and moving with the counts and that's something he hasn't done much before," Hill said. "It's what our system is designed to do -- use the marks, play the counts. Dee picked it up immediately. You watch him, he's probably moving now three, four times in the count to one hitter.

"Things aren't always going to go as planned, but they are such great athletes they'll make it look like it was planned that way. It's amazing."

PRADO PLUNKED AGAIN

Third baseman Martin Prado is nowhere near the top 100 in active players hit by pitches, but Tuesday night he was hit for the second time in four days.

Prado was plunked on the back of his left arm by a 95-mile per hour heater from Aaron Barrett in the ninth inning. It took Prado a few moments to gather himself, but he remained in the game. Wednesday morning, the back of Prado's left arm was bandaged up. The bruise on the back of his left thigh after being struck there Saturday also remains pretty fresh.

"Nothing I could do [about the Barrett fastball], it was right at me," Prado said. "It's part of the game, man."

> First baseman Michael Morse, benched for the third straight day Wednesday, will receive his World Series ring from the Giants after the Marlins arrive in San Francisco Thursday. He's not sure which day the team will present him with the ring.

"It's beautiful," Morse said. "Three diamonds on top, five on the bottom for three [titles] in five [years]. Inside it says some of the big moments of the playoffs, the scores of the games and stuff. It's pretty cool."

May 05, 2015

Morse, benched for third time in last four days, said he'd tell Marlins to play Bour too

WASHINGTON -- The Marlins signed Michael Morse to a two-year, $16 million deal in December with the idea he would be able to provide them with what Garrett Jones couldn't last season at first base -- power, defense and consistency.

So far that hasn't been the case, and Tuesday Morse found himself on the bench again for the second day in a row and the third time in the last four days. 

Is Morse angry? Apparently not. 

"I'm always just about winning and I'm happy for anybody that gets a chance to play -- especially [Justin] Bour," Morse said. "He's swinging the bat awesome. [Monday] that [go-ahead] home run [in the seventh inning] was big for us. Even if I was in there today I'd probably run into manager's office and tell them 'Better play that guy.' Like I said, I'm all about winning man."

Morse, who is hitting .193 with only two homers and eight RBI in 23 games, has struck out 28 times this season. He struckout three times in four at-bats the last time he started on Sunday. Still, Morse remains optimistic things will turn around.

"Last time I started out bad I had the best year of my career -- so I'm pretty excited," said Morse, who after a dreadful April in 2011 (.211, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 21 Ks) finished the season with career-highs in batting average (.303), homers (31) and RBI (95).

"I've never met a baseball player whose had a career where they haven't gone through some rough patches. I mean, I've had times like this my whole career. To me, I'm not worried about it. I know what I can do and hopefully I get a chance to do it."

Redmond, who inserted Bour into the starting lineup for the second day in row, reiterated Morse remains in the Marlins long-term plans. But he's also taking things "day-to-day" with Morse.

"Sometimes resting a guy for a couple days and getting his mind clear and free is exactly what they need," Redmond said. "We need this guy. We’ve got to get him going."

RAMOS WAS UNAVAILABLE MONDAY

The Marlins bullpen had a night to forget Monday, blowing leads in the seventh and eighth innings in a 6-4 loss to the Nationals. Turns out they were a little short-handed.

Redmond said pitcher A.J. Ramos was unavailable with a neck injury after he took a misstep on the mound Sunday.

Redmond said he likely would have turned to Ramos  to face Jayson Werth with two outs and the tying run on third in the seventh inning. Instead, Sam Dyson surrendered the tying run when Werth smacked an  0-2 pitch to center.

The Marlins retook the lead 4-2 in the top of the eighth, but the Nationals rallied for four runs against Bryan Morris in the bottom half of the frame.

"We just want to give [Ramos] a couple extra days to make sure everything is all right," Redmond said. "[Morris] has pitched a couple of days in a row too, and a lot of pitches. So Might have to use a couple different guys out there tonight."

> Left fielder Christian Yelich will play one more rehab game Wednesday in Jupiter before likely rejoining the Marlins in San Francisco. Yelich, on the disabled list since April 20 with a back strain, played seven innings in his second rehab game Monday and had a stolen base and a hit.

"He's taking [Tuesday] off and will play nine innings -- the goal is to play nine -- [Wednesday]," Redmond said. "We'll evaluate him. But he's probably not far off."

Marlins can't find trade partner, release Saltalamacchia outright

It was a long shot they would find a trade partner to begin with. 

Tuesday, the Marlins finally cut ties once and for all with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, eating the $14.2 million remaining on his three-year, $21 million contract.

Saltalamacchia, designated for assignment April 27, played poorly last year and lost his starting job to J.T. Realmuto less than two weeks into this season.

Any team can now sign Saltalamacchia for a prorated share of the $507,500 major league minimum. What the Marlins owe Saltalamacchia will be reduced by that amount.

Saltalamacchia hit .222 last season and committed 15 errors, the most by a catcher since 2003. This season he is 2 for 29 (.069) with 12 strikeouts and one home run.

May 04, 2015

Dee Gordon's .645 batting average over Marlins recent homestand second only to Barry Bonds

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the son of a Major League All-Star, Dee Gordon enjoyed some perks as a kid.

In 2004, he and his brothers got a  backstage pass at the All-Star Game in Houston and got autographs from as many players as they could. The last All-Star to sign his baseball, Gordon said, was eventual home run king Barry Bonds.

Now, Gordon finds himself in his Bonds' company.

His .645 batting average (20 for 31) over the Marlins most recent homestand is the second-highest for a homestand of at least nine games since 1914. The guy in front of him? Bonds, who posted a .684 mark (13 for 19) over a 10-game homestand from April 12-22, 2004. 

"Let's just be honest about it, I’m not going to be as good as Barry Bonds, ever," Gordon said with a smile Monday in the Marlins clubhouse. "Yeah [my hits] were all singles."

Gordon, who spent his first four years in the big leagues out on the West Coast with the Dodgers, said he's always admired Bonds.

"Barry bonds was sick, man," Gordon said. "Now that I’ ve played in San Francisco, you see where he hit his record home run, nobody don’t hit the ball out there ever."

Not even Giancarlo Stanton? "Right handed yeah," Gordon said. "But lefty, that’s a long way. I hit one last year and thought yeah that’s gone. Didn’t even get to the warning track. I took the triple."

At least Gordon could dunk better than Bonds, right?

"I’ve never seen Barry Bonds dunk," Gordon said. "He might be able to. Yeah, he looked like he was pretty athletic to do everything."

Gordon, who gave up basketball to pursue baseball his senior year of high school, said Monday he did "hold his own" against some of the NBA's current players when he played hoops. 

"I played against Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons, Michael Conley," he said. "In AAU, I played against Kevin Durant. He was not that great yet, but he was still pretty good. I was all right, I could hold my own with those dudes."

COUNSELL NAMED BREWERS MANAGER

Former Marlins second baseman Craig Counsell, known best for scoring the winning run in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, was named the Brewers' new manager on Monday. 

He becomes the fourth former Marlins player to manage in the big leagues joining Marlins current skipper Mike Redmond, Rockies manager Walt Weiss and former Cubs manager Rick Renteria.

Counsell, now 44, spent three years with the Marlins before embarking on the rest of his 16-year career with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Brewers.

"He's was always a very smart, heady player," former Marlin and current analyst for FoxSports Florida Preston Wilson said Monday. "He definitely paid attention to everything that went on -- not just the positions he played. The length of his career proved that he's a guy that cared about the game and wanted to be around the game."

Counsell retired in 2012 with the Brewers and took a job in the front office, serving as a special assistant to general manager Doug Melvin. But he's never managed a game in his life until now.

"He has a baseball mind and I think as long as he's surrounded by the right people he'll be just fine," Wilson said. "I don't think any manager knows everything. A lot of managers, you rely heavily on your bench coach, you're pitching coach to fill in the voids of knowledge that you don't have. I think if he's surrounded with good people he'll be absolutely fine. He's a good baseball man."

BOUR RETURNS HOME

With left fielder Christian Yelich on the mend and expected to come off the disabled list as early as Thursday, Justin Bour could be heading back to the minors soon. 

But the 6-4, 250-pound first baseman and Chantilly, Va. native will get to start at least one more game for the Marlins tonight near his home and in front of his family and friends.

Michael Morse, who finished 3-for-28 (.107) during the Marlins' last homestand, is sitting for the second time in the last three days.

"Mo's scuffling," Redmond said. "All we can do is give him some breaks and try to get him going, get him some time to get with [hitting coach Frank Menechino] until he can get that feeling back. So, we'll just go day-to-day with him, see how he's doing, how he's feeling. This guy is a big part of our team and we need him. Right now, he's going through a tough patch."

Bour was just 1-for-17 as a pinch hitter last year and was much better as a starter (20-52, .351 average). He's 4-for-6 as a pinch-hitter this season and finished 2-for-3 in his one previous start.

"You’ve got to be able to get these guys up," Redmond said. "When they come from the minor leagues they've been getting consistent at bats. So you've got to get them in there and let them play.

"He’s done a great job. I know this is a tough role for him coming up from the minor leagues and hitting off the bench. It’s not an easy role, especially for young guys. But he’s done a great job. His at bats have been really good.

"We need to get Mo going. Hopefujlly if we get him a day off here or there, then that’s going to help. It’s a confidence thing. He just needs to go out and put a couple of good at bats together and get going. The rest will take care of itself."

May 02, 2015

Yelich set to play three rehab games in Jupiter, return to Marlins lineup Thursday in San Fran

Christian Yelich said his back is feeling better and the Marlins left fielder is hoping he'll be back in the lineup when the team opens a four-game series in San Francisco Thursday.

That's assuming all goes well once he begins a three-game, three-day rehab stint Sunday in Jupiter. Yelich said he's been hitting in the cages for the last three days and hasn't felt any discomfort. He's been on the disabled list since April 20.

> Jeff Baker picked up his first hit of the season Friday in his sixth pinch-hit appearance and earned himself his first start of the season Saturday against Phillies ace Cole Hamels.

With first baseman Michael Morse struggling (.202, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and the left-hander  Hamels on the mound, manager Mike Redmond opted to use Baker over left-handed first baseman Justin Bour, who is 6-for-7 since he was called-up to replace Yelich on April 24.

"Bake’s hit left-handed pitchers, so we’ll get him out there and let him go," Redmond said of Baker, who is 8-for-17 versus the Phillies over his last eight games. " We’ve been trying to get our bench guys in there, but with the off-days we’ve had, it’s been tough. But those guys have been good, they’ve been patient. Baker got a big hit last night off the bench. Mo, he’s scuffling a little bit, so give him a day off. It’s nice to have guys that can step in and play and contribute."

> Mat Latos, who injured his left hamstring in Wednesday's win over the Mets, threw a bullpen before Saturday's game. He said his knee was still sore, but if he got through the bullpen fine it's likely he'll stay on schedule to make his next start Tuesday in Washington. 

> Justin Nicolino continues to put up zeroes down in the minors. The left-handed prospect tossed six scoreless innings Friday night in Triple A New Orleans and hasn't given up a run since his first start of the season on April 9. That's a span of four starts and 24 innings. 

> Dee Gordon has hit .607 (17-for-28) over the first seven games of the homestand is on pace to shatter the record set by Miguel Cabrera (.517, 15-for-29) for average over a nine game homestand May 22-31, 2006. 

OZUNA'S SWING IMPROVING

Marcell Ozuna admits it's hard for him to ignore the fact he hasn't hit a home run yet through his first 21 games. But he's not discouraged.

"This is the first time in my career I haven't hit a home run in over 20 games," he said Saturday. "But I'm not dwelling on it, I just keep looking ahead, keep working hard and I know the home runs will come. 

"I thought the one I hit [in the ninth Friday] was going to be the first home run, but it went foul. After that, I just thought about putting the ball in play. That's my mindset -- hit the ball hard."

Ozuna did and doubled home Giancarlo Stanton with the winning run moments after his near miss home run. After starting the season 6-for-31 with 13 strikeouts and only two RBI in his first nine games, Ozuna has gone 17-for-42 (.405) with six doubles, three RBI and 10 strikeouts over his last 12 games.

"His last week, his at-bats have gotten much better," manager Mike Redmond said. "I know you guys talk about the power, ‘when is he going to hit a homer?’ or whatever, but those will come. We just need him to continue to get big hits in the middle of that order. When he’s able to do that, that’s a good sign for us because we’re scoring runs. We need him to hit in the middle of that order."

REALMUTO TALKS FLIP

When he was a shortstop in high school J.T. Realmuto practiced flipping the ball to second base all the time. As a catcher, the opportunity to flip the ball back to the pitcher covering the plate doesn't happen often, and when it does it doesn't usually result in tremendous success.

But it worked out for Realmuto and the Marlins Friday. Tom Koehler's wild pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth inning ended with Realmuto throwing a perfect ball back to Koehler, who applied the tag to Ryan Howard for the final out of the frame.

"It's not like we work on it religiously but every now and then we'll practice balls to the backscreen, sliding on your knees, grabbing it and throwing them out at home plate," Realmuto said. "I would say its definitely less than four or five times in a game where I've actually been able to get that guy out. That was definitely the first time it happened on this stage. So it was nice."

The Marlins designated veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia for assignment Monday in part because of how well Realmuto has developed. Redmond loves the way his young catcher is playing and said after Friday's win part of the reason the pitching staff is performing better is Realmuto's doing.

Said Redmond of Friday's flip to Koehler for the out: "That’s one of those plays where, really, you’ve got to get a great bounce off the backstop. In here, there’s not a whole lot to bounce off of, just the fish tank. At the same time, these are things we work on in spring training, the pitchers covering home plate. You might see that once or twice a year, maybe, but it’s always nice to execute it like we practice it. And it worked. Saved us a run."

May 01, 2015

Latos not ruling out making next start; Alvarez has target return date of May 17

Mat Latos isn't ready to rule himself out of his next scheduled start Tuesday in Washington. But if his sore left hamstring doesn't get better, its likely the Marlins are going to have to dip down into the minors to find a spot starter.

Latos, who strained his left hamstring coming out of the batter's box in Wednesday's 7-3 win over the Mets, said an MRI performed on his hamstring showed "no structural damage, just some inflammation and swelling."

"It's one of the hamstring tendons that is back there," Latos said. "Normally it takes me a lot to miss a start -- like a missing limb. So I'm not ruling myself out. I don't think they are either. It's just more of getting in heavy treatment to try to get everything to calm down. The good thing is I'm up walking around. It's sore, not tight, not restricting the flexibility in my knee. That's a good step."

The next step, Latos said, is to throw a bullpen in the next couple of days. Friday, Latos played catch while the Marlins took batting practice. He showed no signs of discomfort and remained out on the field shagging balls.

In the event Latos has a setback, the Marlins (10-12) will likely call-up either Justin Nicolino (2-0, 0.79 ERA in four starts) or Jose Urena (1-0, 0.90 ERA in two starts) from Triple A New Orleans to take his spot in the rotation.

Brad Hand, who would normally be the guy for that spot spot, hasn't pitched for the Marlins since April 19. His arm might not be stretched out enough to go deep.

ALVAREZ HAS TARGET DATE

Henderson Alvarez threw his first bullpen Wednesday since going on the disabled list April 13 and said he felt no discomfort in his arm or shoulder.

So if things continue to progress positively, Alvarez said he'll throw an extended spring training game next Thursday, do a minor league rehab assignment May 12 in Jupiter and then return to the Marlins rotation May 17 when the team closes out a three game series against the Braves at Marlins Park.

"Everything until now in my arm has felt fine," Alvarez said Friday. "The MRI said it was inflammation and tendonitis. My shoulder was overworked because I was pitching to make up for [the elbow]. But I feel good now."

Alvarez said he threw 20 pitches Wednesday -- 17 fastballs and three change-ups. Saturday, in his next bullpen session, Alvarez said he'll use his full arsenal of pitches and throw 50 pitches.

"It's looking good," Redmond said of the All-Star's potential return. "He says he feels great, arm feels good. So, he's progressing well. It's a good sign. Knowing he's not far off is good -- and Jose [Fernandez] too."

Fernandez faced live hitters Thursday in Jupiter for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May. He threw 15 pitches, struckout two batters and forced the other to pop out. Fernandez said he threw everything but sliders.

"I had all the adrenaline going," Fernandez said. "I felt like I wanted to keep throwing, but it's a process and we've got to follow it.

"My arm feels like it was an off-day yesterday. I don't feel anything, pretty normal. I know eventually I'm going to have to feel something. Everybody does. But it hasn't happened yet."

Fernandez said he'll ramp up his workload to 30 pitches the next time he faces live hitters on Monday. He said the next big step will be a simulated game on May 10.

"It's not going to be different until I get a chance to pitch in an actual game, compete with another team, even in the minor leagues," Fernandez said.

Left fielder Christian Yelich, out with a lower back strain since April 20, is in line to play in a rehab game Sunday in Jupiter, Redmond said. 

"We'll know more when he goes out and plays and see how he does in those games," Redmond said. "It's more on how he feels.  But it's good that he feels good and is ready to go out and start playing."

April 30, 2015

Marlins enjoy best month on FoxSports since July 2012

According to FoxSports Florida, Marlins viewership has gone up 10 percent from last year through the same number of games and the team enjoyed its most-watched month of baseball since July 2012 averaging a 2.0 household rating ten times on the network.

Wednesday night’s 7-3 victory over the Mets notched a 2.8 HH rating average surpassing Opening Day (2.6 HH) to finish as the most watched game of the season to date.

The Fish (10-12) have won seven of their past eight games and open a three-game series Friday at Marlins Park against the Phillies (8-14) before heading off on a 10-game road trip.