September 27, 2014

2nd place would be no small consolation to Marlins

WASHINGTON -- Don't tell the Marlins second place doesn't count for anything. They're not ashamed to admit they'll gladly accept finishing in the runner-up's spot in the National League East, even with a losing record.

The Marlins entered Saturday tied for second with the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.

"Basically, it's a two-game season to see who's the second-best team," said backup infielder Jeff Baker.

Said Marlins reliever Mike Dunn: "It means a lot, especially to the guys in this clubhouse. From the beginning, we were predicted to be dead last. Nobody believed in us except for ourselves. So it definitely means a lot to the guys in here, and I think it sends a message to the division for next year, that's we're definitely going in the right direction."

The Marlins, who have never won the division, have finished second three times previously: in 1997 and 2003 when they captured the wild card and went on to win the World Series, and in 2009 when they ended up 87-75 but failed to win the wild card.

At worst, the Marlins will finish with a 14-game improvement over last season's 62-100 team. At best: a 16-game improvement if they win their final two games.

 

September 25, 2014

Heaney looking forward to his last start Friday, competition this spring

Andrew Heaney's first go-around in the big leagues hardly went the way he wanted it to, but he's happy the Marlins are giving him a chance Friday to finish the season right.

The organization's top prospect, who went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA in four starts back in June and early July before the Marlins sent him back down to the minors, will be starting the second game of Friday's double-header against the division-winning Nationals. And he said Thursday he's happy he's getting the opportunity.

"Anytime they give you innings obviously it's up to you to go out there and get outs," Heaney said. "I want to prove to them that I can get outs and do a good job. So next year I can hopefully try to win a spot."

Heaney, who went 9-6 with a 3.28 ERA in 23 starts between Double A and Triple A this season, knows there's going to be a lot of competition to earn a spot in the Marlins rotation next year. Outside of All-Star right-hander Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart, nobody else will probably be assured a spot in the rotation when players reconvene in Jupiter for spring training in February.

"I'm going to take some time off, relax a little bit and then start working out and take advantage of a full off-season," he said. "I want try to get bigger, stronger, come back ready to pitch in spring training.

"[The 2014 season] was good. Obviously, any time you get called up and get to be in the big leagues you can't say it was unsuccessful season by any stretch of the imagination. For me, I went to Double A again. I went up to Triple A, hadn't done that. Got called up, hadn't done that. So for me it was a lot of different experiences, moving around, more than I normally have, getting used to flying in Triple A, flying here -- different things you don't really think about."

Heaney said the competition in February will be good for everyone including the Marlins.

"What they talk about building an organization that's competitive and stuff, that's part of it," Heaney said. "It starts in spring when guys are competing against each other for a job. That's only going to make your team stronger and make everybody feel better about what they've done -- if they can know they earned a spot rather than they just walk into camp knowing they've got a spot. Obviously with about the exception of three or four guys, everybody knows that last spot is up for grabs."

> After losing 100 games last year, manager Mike Redmond said the most enjoyable part of this season was just winning games and being in the playoff race up until last week.

"To think after last year that we could still be talking about the playoffs up until like a week ago, that’s what it’s all about," Redmond said. "I felt that excitement this year that I felt when I played when you’re trying to make the playoffs. To feel that adrenaline and to feel that passion to get back to the playoffs, I haven’t felt that in a while. That's what it’s all about. That’s why I manage and why I love this group of players. Because a lot of them felt that for the first time in their career. That’s going to only make us better."

> Redmond said the development of the bullpen this year was a huge step forward for the team and he especially cited the growth of rookie Sam Dyson (3-1, 2.01 ERA).

"To see the stuff that he has and the ability to throw multiple innings and get guys out is huge going forward," Redmond said. "He’s got the ability to be a setup guy and pitch some big innings for us going forward. 

"We lost a couple guys there last year and the guys that we brought in early just didn’t work out. It was a great opportrunity for some young guys to fill those innings and step up, and we did it. [Chris Hatcher] did it and Dyson did it. With the help of AJ [Ramos] and [Mike Dunn], I feel great. If we have a lead from the seventh inning on I feel like we have a chance to lock down that game. We did that the second half a lot. Going forward its nice to know you have those guys down there, and we’ll keep all those guys together for the start of next year."

Marlins have interest in Cuban second baseman, Hector Olivera

WASHINGTON -- While the pickings are slim for a second baseman on the pending free agent market, the Marlins might now have a fresh alternative worthy of consideration: Hector Olivera, a Cuban star who has recently defected.

According to this story in Baseball America, Olivera ranked as the sixth-best prospect in Cuba. And according to sources, the Marlins, who would like to upgrade at second base, definitely have interest in the 29-year-old player.

Olivero comes with questions. He sat out all of last year due to thrombosis in one of his biceps, but returned to play in Cuba this season, splitting time between second and DH. He hit over. 300.

Olivero still must go through the usual process of first establishing residency in a third country before becoming a free agent. But the belief is, according to Baseball America, he could be available during the upcoming offseason.

September 23, 2014

All quiet at the top for Marlins as season enters final week

As the season winds down and underachieving teams begin to dole out pink slips (see Frank Wren in Atlanta), the Marlins aren't planning any such major moves. Manager Mike Redmond will keep his job, as will president of baseball operations Mike Hill and general manager Dan Jennings.

Ordinarily, that wouldn't merit a mention or second glance. Except this is the Marlins we're talking about, and it's been four years since one of their seasons ended without either their manager or a top front office executive being canned.

That's right, 2010 was the last year the Marlins kept things as they were with regard to their manager and top front office executive, as both Edwin Rodriguez and Larry Beinfest stayed put. After that, it became a constant cycle of change.

Rodriguez resigned during the '11 season and replaced on an interim basis by Jack McKeon, who kept the dugout seat warm until the Marlins were able to hire Ozzie Guillen, whose reign lasted all of one terrible year. Redmond took over in 2013. But owner Jeffrey Loria fired Beinfest at the end of '13.

So, yes, there is peace in the land in Miami.

Wren, meanwhile, didn't escape the chopping block, with most pointing to his disasterous signings of Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton as the primary catalysts for Monday's dismissal. While the Upton signing is fair game for second guessing, it's much harder to assign blame to Wren for the Uggla trade and subsequent offer of a 5-year deal. Remember, the Marlins offered Uggla a 4-year deal -- which he rejected -- before dealing him to the Braves for Mike Dunn and Omar Infante. So, clearly, the Marlins didn't foresee Uggla's sharp decline.  Wren certainly didn't, either.

As ESPN Grantland writer Jonah Keri noted on the Wren firing: "This marked the first time the team had dismissed a GM or manager in 24 years, a shockingly long time given the transitory nature of pro sports."

Given the constant upheaval in Miami, he ain't lying.

September 19, 2014

Jose Fernandez talks October rehab, Marlins pose for team photos and more

Friday afternoon was team picture day for the Marlins and the only player not around to pose for the camera was All-Star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who still isn't ready to show the world his smile after being beaned in the face last week. 

No need to worry, though, "I'm sure they'll Photoshop him in," manager Mike Redmond said before taking a moment to reflect on the turnaround the Marlins have made from being a 100-loss team a year ago to being still mathematically alive for a wildcard berth with 10 games to go in 2014.

"I think the team picture for me is always one of those things you look at down the road and remember different things for different reasons," Redmond continued. "This year, without a doubt, a lot of different memories when you look at that picture for sure."

The what-ifs start with staff ace Jose Fernandez, who was back in uniform Friday for the team photo. Lost for the season back in May after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Fernandez flew back from Los Angeles Thursday night after receiving the all-clear from Dr. Neal ElAttrache to begin a throwing program on Oct. 1. 

"A lot of good news came out of that going up there and seeing him," Fernandez said. "Really excited and feeling great. I feel like I didn't have surgery, so that's the good news."

Fernandez said his rehab will begin with throwing from 30 to 45 feet for three to four minutes and ramp up from there. He said ElAttrache and the Marlins have only put forth a plan through December and he will be doing all of his early rehab work  here in South Florida under the watchful eye physical therapist and trainer Ron Yacoub.

Fernandez said he gained some weight in the six weeks he was inactive after the surgery, but says he has since dropped about 10 pounds and is weighing between 219 and 221. 

As much as he would like to return to the mound as soon as possible, Fernandez said he's taking a smart approach to his comeback. He said he doesn't want to set a target date for a return either because he doesn't want to disappoint himself if he doesn't reach that goal. President of Baseball Operations Mike Hill said the team remains hopeful Fernandez will be back midseason, around the All-Star break.

"Whatever day it is -- I would love for it to be a home game," Fernandez said. "I would prefer that. But if it's in Canada I don't mind either. I just want to be pitching and help my team and give my team a chance to win. In the end, I have to be really careful because I really don't want to come back for three months. I want to come back for 13, 14 years."

How would this season have turned out if Fernandez was healthy?

"You think about it... maybe a little different, but I don't think it'd be such a big difference," Fernandez said modestly. "They're playing incredible baseball and guys are doing what they're supposed to do. They've been fun to watch. But now with Stanton getting hurt like that -- it's [been] a really hard right punch for us, a killer."

SHUTTING DOWN MORRIS

The Marlins decided Friday to shut down reliever Bryan Morris, who has been battling a groin injury, for the rest of the season. Morris hasn't pitched since Sept. 9 at Milwaukee.

"He had to field a couple bunts and I think him making those quick steps off the mound sort of tweaked it even more," Redmond said. "He was not feeling 100 percent anyway. But that sort of just irritated it even more. Sometimes when you have a  sore groin and you try to fight through it, it leads to something else -- a sore shoulder or sore elbow -- and I think that was our biggest concern."

Morris is under club control through 2018 and isn't arbitration eligible until 2016.

> Carter Capps, sidelined for a little over three months with a right elbow sprain this season, joined Vic Darensbourg Thursday as the only relievers in club history to strike out all four batters they faced in an outing according to the Marlins.

"I'd never faced the Nationals before so I was facing all those guys for the first time," said Capps, who has given up two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings of work since coming back from the disabled list on Sept. 2. "[My arm] feels pretty good right now. No pain. The rest really helped it out as far as I could tell."

September 18, 2014

Stanton reunited with Marlins, talks waking up with blood and chunks of teeth in his mouth and more

Giancarlo Stanton isn't sure when he'll step into a batter's box again or how it's going to feel, but one thing the Marlins' All-Star slugger is relieved to know is that his budding young career is far from over.

StantonA week after a Mike Fiers fastball to his face ended his season, Stanton was reunited with his teammates Thursday night at Marlins Park. They shared hugs and smiles -- even though Stanton himself is still missing some teeth.

"It was just good to see them all, just hug them and talk to them a little bit and send them out there to do a good job," said Stanton, who didn't want TV cameras or photographers to partake in his 15-minute conversation with reporters outside the Marlins clubhouse moments before his teammates took on the division-winning Washington Nationals.

"I'm good. I feel alright," he continued. "The swelling is way down -- much better than I envisioned. I've just got to get the grill fixed and go from there."

Stanton, who met with team trainers Thursday, said he has a lot of dental work ahead of him. Doctors told him it will take six to eight weeks for his facial fractures to fully heal and it took "at least 10 stitches" to close the gash created when his teeth broke though his skin with the impact of the ball.

Stanton said with all the blood trapped up in his sinuses he still has to have another CT scan of his head performed before he's cleared to fly on commercial flights. The only reason he was able to fly home from Milwaukee was because the private jet owner Jeffrey Loria paid for was able to fly at lower altitudes.

Stanton said five teeth of his were damaged in all. "One is completely knocked out. One is halfway chipped. The others are about 30 percent," he said.

Stanton said he's seen the replays of what happened to him, but he's avoided seeing any of them in slow motion. He doesn't think he could stomach it.

So what does he actually remember about the pitch that struck him? "I remember just kind of his arm action," he said. "I wouldn't even say I remember the ball [hitting me] -- maybe just seeing it halfway [to the plate]."

Stanton said he blacked out and when he woke up with his ears were ringing. He said when he began moving his tongue around in his mouth all he could taste was blood and "chunks of teeth."

Stanton said at first he was worried his career might be over, but "once I found out my orbital [bone] wasn't shattered I was all right." His vision, he says, has not been affected.

"The way I looked at it my jaw could be broken, I could lose my teeth, but as long I’ll be able to see,” Stanton said. “That was the big thing for my career."

Stanton said once he does get back into the batter's box he will be wearing a protective face guard -- much like Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who had his jaw broken last year by a pitch.

Stanton said Heyward was among the many people in baseball – hit by a pitch in the face -- who reached out to him to share their experience.

Fiers did too. They exchanged text messages. “He just said obviously it wasn’t on purpose and how sorry he was and that it was tough to sleep for the first few nights and stuff,” Stanton said. “It was a good message.”

Stanton said he feels like he’s in a great mental state considering what has happened to him, but getting into a batter box will be the next tough hurdle. He’s happy, though, it won’t happen until spring training. In the meantime, he said, he’ll go home to California and train.

As for Stanton's teammates, relief pitcher A.J. Ramos, who is Stanton's roommate, said he was happy to see him Thursday morning. Ramos was the first teammate who got to see Stanton before he showed up at the ballpark in the evening.

Ramos said Stanton was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he's received not only from his teammates, but fans and others from outside the organization. Stanton echoed those sentiments and said it was cool his teammates hung up his No. 27 jersey in the dugout last Friday night in Philadelphia.

“It shows what kind of a player he is and how good of a guy he is,” Ramos said. “He is a superstar, but he’s also a really humble guy that people like.”

Stanton said the support he received "meant the world" to him. He said he sent out a before-and-after photo of himself on social media a couple days ago because he wanted fans and people who cared about him to see the progress he was making.

He also thanked everyone who has helped take care of him. His father has been staying with him and caring for him in the team.

Stanton, still very much in the National League MVP discussion, said what hurts him most is that he won't be able to finish the season. He had made it a personal goal to play in all 162 games. But he says he feels better knowing this injury was out of his control.

"If it would have been a muscle or something that had been previous I would have been extremely upset about it," he said. "But this isn't one of those [situations]. As far [as the MVP], that's not up to me. It's the voters and whatever. There's nothing I can do."

Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos got a chance to catch up with Stanton this morning

Giancarlo Stanton hasn't had a chance yet to reunite with his teammates since they returned home from their 10-game road trip early Thursday morning, but he should get a chance to see them real soon.

The Marlins, who have not seen Stanton since he was decked by a pitch and hospitalized with facial lacerations, fractures and chipped teeth in Milwaukee a week ago, said they are expecting the National League MVP candidate to stop by the clubhouse at some point over the next couple days. 

One teammate, though, has seen him: Stanton's roommate and relief pitcher A.J. Ramos.

"This morning he knocked on my door, woke me up," Ramos said before using a deep voice to impersonate Stanton. "He was just like, ‘Hey, man, wake up.’ We just had a little conversation before he had to leave [for a doctor's appointment]. 

"[His left cheek] was still a little swollen, but it wasn’t as bad as the picture. You can tell a lot of the swelling went down. So it’s progressing."

Ramos and a few teammates said Stanton, who will miss the rest of the season, has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he's received not only from his teammates, but fans and others from the outside. 

"That was something we talked about through text," Ramos said. "He was talking about how many people were texting him and sending him gifts. It just helped with the process, helped it go a little easier... It kind of tells you that he is a superstar, but he’s also a really humble guy that people like."

Ramos said Stanton's father has been staying at their apartment and caring for his son since Stanton returned home from Milwaukee. Asked if he would lend a hand too, Ramos joked: "I actually got a nursing outfit." 

Ramos was of course referring to the naughty nurse's outfit left fielder Christian Yelich wore over the weekend in New York when he and a few rookies were being hazed by veterans and had to wear them out on the streets.

"My booty was a little too big for it," Ramos joked of the outfit. "I got a little bit more curves than Yelich. But [Stanton is] into it... whatever he needs help with all of us are going to accommodate him the best way we can." 

Asked how Stanton's teeth looked Ramos responded: "Tell all the girls out there his smile will be alright."

KOEHLER SEARCHING FOR WIN NO. 10

Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler, tied for 19th in Wins Above Replacement rankings (2.7) in the National League, is hoping to notch his 10th victory of the season Friday night against the Nationals. 

He's been stuck on nine wins since Aug. 17 despite posting a 3.19 ERA and failing to give up more than three runs in any of his last five starts. 

"It would be nice," said Koehler, who has far exceeded the expectations set for him when the season began and he was tabbed the team's No. 5 starter. "Winning a big league game isn't an easy thing to do. You saw last year it took me nine starts to get my first win. But at the same time, that's not main my focus when I go out there. I'm just trying to go out there and pitch as much as [Mike Redmond] and [Chuck Hernandez] allow me to. And if I'm in the position to win the ballgame that means I did a good enough job."

Even though he's hit a new career high for innings pitched this season (179 1/3), Koehler (9-9, 3.71 ERA) said he feels great. 

"My body, I actually feel really good," he said. "I was telling somebody the other day that I can't believe it's ending because of how I feel right now, which I guess is a good thing going forward."

> Manager Mike Redmond said staff ace Jose Fernandez was visiting with doctors Thursday to receive final clearance before starting a throwing program on Oct. 1. 

"Time wise he's right on schedule," Redmond said. "This is really a step, another step in him getting back on the field. I haven't talked to him, but I'm sure he's anxiously awaiting this clearance so he can start playing catch and this is really the first step in getting him back on the field."

> With 11 games left and the Marlins seven games back in the wildcard race odds are this season won't end with a trip to October. So what are the Marlins' team goals from here on out?

"The ultimate goal is to make the playoffs. The ultimate goal is to win the World Series obviously, but until we're mathematically eliminated we're not going to completely just can that goal," third baseman Casey McGehee said. "But if that time does come there's still a lot to play for. We've got a chance to jump another team [Atlanta] in the standings. We got a chance to finish above .500. All those things would be nice feathers in our cap. Obviously not the ones we wanted, but with some of the things we've had go on with Jose going down for most of the year, I think there would be a lot more positive than negative to come out of that especially if we're able to do those things. Even if the season were to end today I think there's a lot of signs pointing in the right direction -- things people weren't sure about or even necessarily expecting when Opening Day was rolling around."

September 17, 2014

Miami Marlins join rare company with 13-hit loss

NEW YORK -- What the Marlins managed to pull off in Tuesday's 9-1 loss to the Mets doesn't happen very often. In fact, it marked only the 10th time in major league history that a team scored one or no runs on as many as 13 hits and lost by at least eight runs.

And it was only the second time in Marlins history that they failed to score more than one run while collecting as many as 13 hits. The other time it happened: Sept. 17, 2004, against Atlanta when they lost 8-1 despite totaling 14 hits.

“We gave up big hits,” manager Mike Redmond said after Tuesday's loss. “We had a lot of hits, but we didn’t get any big hits. They got their hits. They made them count."

Here's the full list of the teams since 1916 that have had their heads beat in despite pounding out a bunch of hits (the St. Louis Browns were very good at it, it appears):

Date              Loser/Winner               Score                Loser's Hits

7/26/1919     DET/CLE                      1-9                        13

4/21/1923     SLB/DET                      1-16                       14

10/4/1923     SLB/CLE                       1-9                        13

 9/8/1925      SLB/DET                      1-11                       13

7/10/1928     CLE/WAS                      0-9                        14

 6/4/1939      PIT/BRO                      1-14                       14

6/18/1974     MIN/BAL                      1-10                       13

 8/2/2005     BAL/LAA                      1-10                       13

8/13/2005    COL/WAS                      0-8                        13

9/16/2014    MIA/NYM                       1-9                        13

_________________

The Marlins are expected to announce Wednesday that Giancarlo Stanton will not be returning this season. Redmond said the team will release an official statement and the prospects of Stanton returning "don't look good."

Stanton saw a number of specialists in Miami on Tuesday.

While Stanton was optimistic that he'd be able to return, telling teammates and Marlins officials that he planned to make it back, nobody really thought there was much of a chance of that happening given the severity of the injury and how few games remained.

On a side note, Stanton and his agent, Joel Wolfe, have been impressed with how the Marlins have handled the situation, according to the Herald's Barry Jackson (see his story here).

Wrote Jackson:

“The Marlins have been great --– spared no expense, opened up every possible door,” Wolfe said. “We couldn’t ask for more. David (Samson) had other commitments that day and he spent hours with [Stanton's] father, making him feel comfortable. It was a very decent thing to do.”

Could this make Stanton more likely to consider staying longterm? Wolfe said he doesn’t know yet, saying that decision is “not on his radar.”

________________ 

September 16, 2014

Giancarlo Stanton shows facial damage in photos

NEW YORK -- At least he's smiling. Or at least trying to form a smile. That's the good news in a couple of photos Giancarlo Stanton posted on his Instagram account that reveal the damage he sustained in Thursday's beaning in Milwaukee.

I'm old enough to remember Sports Illustrated's cover photo of Tony Conigliaro after he was drilled.

Stanton's photos are right there with it. Stanton is scheduled to see doctors this afternoon in Miami, at which point he and the Marlins should get a clearer picture of whether there's any chance he returns this season. It doesn't look promising, though:

Screenshot_2014-09-16-13-45-00

September 15, 2014

New Commenting Policy

NEW YORK -- Attention Fish Bytes readers:

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