March 15, 2015

It Takes a Thief: Dee Gordon Steals Juan Pierre's jersey

JUPITER -- Dee Gordon caused a lot of double takes during Sunday's batting practice when he showed up wearing the jersey of Juan Pierre, who was hanging out by the cage.

"Just stole it," Gordon said, laughing. "I saw it, took it, and put it on."


Pierre got a big laugh out of the joke. Then again, it takes one to know one -- a fellow base stealer that is.

"He thought it was funny," said Gordon, who led the majors in stolen bases last season. "I was obviously messing around with him because he was here."

Gordon, who wears Pierre's No. 9, has been bonding with the former Marlin base-stealing king, picking Pierre's head for tips and advice.

"We talk all the time," Gordon said. "I ask a lot of questions about hitting, base stealing -- everything. I'm just trying to get everything from him. He's a great guy."

 

March 14, 2015

A year after bad bounce broke nose, changed fortunes, Dietrich working towards spot with Marlins

VIERA -- Derek Dietrich doesn't want to talk about the bad hop that broke his nose and changed his fortunes last spring.

In fact, he doesn't really want to talk about last season at all. That's when the door was open for him to try and cement a place with the Marlins and he  failed, hitting .228 and making 10 errors after starting the season as the primary second baseman with Rafael Furcal injured.

"This is a new season," he said last week. "I've moved on from that [bad bounce to the face] and I don't even want to address that anymore. That's something I couldn't control. It's not even in my mind anymore."

The only thing on Dietrich's mind this spring: finding a spot -- any spot -- on the Marlins roster.

With Dee Gordon firmly in place at second base, Dietrich, 25, is trying to become an infield utility man for the Marlins, working mostly at first and third base. He's starting for the Marlins at third today against the Nationals.

"He's just learning," Marlins infield coach Perry Hill said. "Third [base] he's picking up okay. First [base], there's a lot of little nuances he's got to learn, still has to iron things out. His value to him and to us would be to play all four [infield spots] in the National League."

Before the bad bounce last March 20, Dietrich's defense wasn't much of a concern. He made just two errors in 258 chances (57 games) for the Marlins as a rookie in 2013.

After the bad bounce, it was a different story. He made 10 errors (six fielding) in 202 chances at second last season and it eventually forced the Marlins to plug-in the more sure-handed Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas. The one time Dietrich played third for the Marlins last season -- all of 2 2/3 innings -- he made a throwing error the one time a grounder went his way. 

"I think it took him awhile to get over that. I think he would tell you the same thing," Hill said of the bad bounce which broke Dietrich's nose. "But he's looked really good this spring. He's handled everything really well."

Hill said Dietrich has had a great attitude towards the Marlins asking him to play different positions. 

"He works hard," Hill said. "He takes his balls every day at the different positions. We keep him after [batting practice], take him to the Bone Yard, smooth things out mainly at first base now. That's probably his workest area right now. But the other day in Minnesota he played real well. He's handled everything real well."

A former shortstop and 2010 second round pick out of Georgia Tech, Dietrich said he feels comfortable at third base because he has had some experience there. He's never played first base, though, until now.

"Third base I played on the USA Team in college," he said. "My grandfather was of course a major league third baseman so I started taking balls there at a young age. I played a lot of shortstop so I know that side of the diamond. When you get down to it, even first base, a ground ball is a ground ball. There's some quirks and footwork around the bag. Other than that, it's been a pretty comfortable transition, just getting the work in every day.

"I'm here to make the Major League club -- whatever I can do to help this team at this point. I'm not even thinking about the minor leagues. I want to help this club, make this team. If it's there, then I'll do whatever they ask of me to help this team."

March 12, 2015

With the help of Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart trying to add change-up to arsenal

FORT MYERS -- Marlins right-hander Jarred Cosart has been hearing it from pitching coaches for years: he needs to start using his change-up more often.

He knows the pitch will help him navigate through a lineup the third and fourth time through, get him deeper into games and make him a better starting pitcher overall. He just hasn't really ever trusted it enough to throw it in games.

"You get out here and Joe Mauer is in the box and you're kind of like 'Do I really want to do this?'" Cosart said following his second spring start Thursday. "I told myself today, 'You're just going to throw it.'"

Armed with a new grip -- one that he sort of copied off teammate Henderson Alvarez -- Cosart said he threw his change-up about five to six times against the Twins Thursday and got mixed results. He said the plan is to amp up the usage even more in his next start. 

"I got two swings and misses and then [gave up a] ground ball hit," Cosart said in recounting how the day went with his change. "I threw one for a strike to [Twins center fielder Aaron] Hicks on the first pitch. 

"It's going to be a huge pitch for me when we're getting in late in-game situations, sixth, seventh inning. If I get into a 2-0 count I can throw one for a strike and then get a groundball for an out. I'm really happy with the progress."

Cosart, 24, has one of the better fastballs in the game (8.0 value according to Fangraphs ranked 23rd among 87 starting pitchers in 2014). But he uses it a ton (70.1 percent) and ranked as the fifth-most fastball reliant pitcher in baseball last season, using his curveball 25.6 percent of the time and change-up only 4.2 percent of the time (62nd out of 80 starters who threw it with any frequency). 

So, adding the change-up to his arsenal this spring could be pivotal to his success as he makes more and more starts in the majors. He's made just 40 in two seasons and is 14-12 with 3.26 ERA.

"As you can see in the big leagues, you can't just fire heaters," manager Mike Redmond said. "You have to have off-speed pitches and have an out pitch to get these guys out."

In Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Twins, Cosart faced 10 hitters. He gave up four hits, three earned runs, a walk and a home run in two innings of work. He's not too worried about those results because he knows he's experimenting with the change-up and throwing it in pitch counts he normally wouldn't. But at the same time, Cosart said, he wants to grow and progress and not give up runs either -- even if it's just spring.

"Watching any of the great ones, they throw it," Cosart said of the changeup. "Hamels is one of the best in our division. [Max] Scherzer uses it way more now than when he got roughed up a couple times [when he first started throwing it]. It's just a matter of trusting it."

> Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon got a chance Thursday to catch up with his younger half-brother Nick Gordon, the Twins' 2014 first round pick.

A shortstop, Nick, 19, was practicing on the backfields at the Twins spring training complex Thursday morning. After his older brother's game, he was in the Marlins clubhouse hanging out.

"I walked over this morning [to the backfields] and I didn't realize how close we were to [our] stretch [time] and I almost showed up late," Gordon said. "t was my first time seeing him in a professional uniform. It was good."

The elder Gordon said he talks to his brother everyday. "Facetime, text, he doesn't let me breathe," Gordon said. "But that's what a little brother is supposed to do."

Hechavarria to see first action in a week; Marlins say double play tandem has plenty of time left to mesh

FORT MYERS -- Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who hasn't played since the Grapefruit League opener against the Cardinals on March 5th, is back in the lineup for the first time in a week.

The Marlins say Hechavarria, 26, is over his dead arm issue and can now get back to working with his new double play partner Dee Gordon

"He probably could have played two days ago, but like I said, we had the time to give him to make sure he's feeling good," manager Mike Redmond said. "Hech is a huge part of our team and our defense and we need to make sure he's 100 percent. If you have the time to be able to give him that's only going to help him. That's why we gave him the extra couple days off."

Hechavarria has battled dead arm issues in the past. What exactly is dead arm? Marlins infield coach Perry Hill described it as weakness is the arm after a player has rested it from soreness.

"Basically, you can't put oomph behind the ball," Hill said. "It just doesn't feel like it's coming out. There's nothing behind it. [The arm] doesn't hurt any more, but there's no strength because you've babied it, gone through a rehab and thrown only so many balls per day, nothing less, nothing more. So you lack the strength. There's no more hurt, but the strength isn't there yet."

The Marlins aren't worried that Gordon and Hechavarria haven't had a lot of in-game action together yet.  

"We have a month to go," Hill said. "Our system is so structured we know when we're going to flip it, throw it. I don't think it's going to be a big deal."

Hill said he's been impressed with Gordon's athleticism and isn't the least bit worried he and Hechavarria will mesh by the time the season starts against the Braves at Marlins Park on April 6.

"Some of the terminology we're still working on, but Dee will figure things out," Hill said. "He's such a good athlete he's demonstrated a couple times he can make it up because he's so talented."

Redmond said the plan with Hechavarria is to get him two at-bats and four or five innings of defensive work Thursday. All position players will start ramping up their workload with about 10 days left in the spring, Redmond said.

THURSDAY'S LINEUP

> Marlins (5-2): 1. Dee Gordon 2B, 2. Christian Yelich LF, 3. Marcell Ozuna CF, 4. Justin Bour 1B, 5. Reed Johnson DH, 6. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 7. Jeff Mathis C, 8. Don Kelly RF, 9. Donovan Solano 3B. RHP Jarred Cosart

> Twins (3-3-1): 1. Brian Dozier 2B, 2. Shane Robinson LF, 3. Joe Mauer 1B, 4. Kennys Vargas DH, 5. Torii Hunter RF, 6. Miguel Sano 3B, 7. Eduardo Escobar SS, 8. Josmil Pinto C, 9. Aaron Hicks CF. RHP Phil Hughes.

 

March 11, 2015

Ichiro has the final word with T-shirt

JUPITER -- To the surprise of Japanese journalists, Ichiro Suzuki showed up Wednesday morning wearing a plain white t-shirt, at least on the front. Every day since spring training started, Suzuki had arrived wearing a different t-shirt, some of them with humorous sayings or inside jokes written in Japanese.

Photos of Suzuki wearing his t-shirts began showing up in Japanese newspapers, creating a fashion craze that prompted fans to rush out and buy those that could be purchased. But when he showed up Wednesday to Marlins' spring training camp, he brought the fad to an end.

150311Ichiro3"There's been a photographer every morning just to take that picture, to get the t-shirt, because everyday it was going in the papers," said Suzuki's translator, Allen Turner. "It's been a big thing in Japan. The t-shirts that he’s worn, they’ve scrambled and tried to make more, because people want to buy them."

Suzuki's teammates on the Marlins had no idea about any of it, but found it comical when informed about his daily t-shirt ritual.

"It’s like the Ichiro t-shirt watch?,'" asked Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler. "That's hysterical. I had no idea." 

But Ichiro brought the fad to a clever end on Wednesday, and getting the last laugh in the process. While the cluster of Japanese reporters on hand to chronicle Suzuki's every move were surprised at first to see him wearing a plain t-shirt, even they had to laugh when he turned his back to reveal another message.

Written in Japanese were the words: "This is the last one."

So what does Suzuki wear next?

“This is the last t-shirt, so maybe I'll be like Stanton and paint something on," he said with a grin.

March 10, 2015

Marlins interested in Cuban infielder Hector Olivera

JUPITER -- Count the Marlins among teams interested in Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, a 29-year-old impact player who is now regarded as the best available free agent.

According to sources, the Marlins have had discussions with Olivera's representatives. Whether the Marlins can afford Olivera given reports that the price tag could be anywhere from $50-70 million is unclear. While many believe Olivera is major-league ready, the Marlins are set at second base with Dee Gordon and third with Martin Prado. So finding room on the infield for the Cuban star is another question.

OliveraThere was yet another development on Tuesday when it was reported that Olivera had changed representatives, going from Rudy Santin to Greg Genske. The Marlins had had conversations with Satin, so whether the switch impacts the Marlins in any way is also unclear.

But sources said the idea of playing and living in Miami is appealing to Olivera, and the Marlins have sent scouts to look at him numerous times.

Olivera played 10 seasons in the Cuban National Series, hitting .323 with 96 home runs and 433 RBI.

Other teams that have been connected to Olivera include the Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Mariners, Yankees, Giants and A's. The Braves have reportedly made an offer.

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Mat Latos will make his first spring training start on Friday when the Marlins face the Cardinals. Latos was scratched from his scheduled first start on Monday and instead pitched a two-inning simulation game on one of the backfield diamonds.

"We got exactly what we needed out of it," Latos said.

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Adeiny Hechavarria said he was ready to return to game action Tuesday. But the Marlins decided to give the shortstop another day to rest what's been termed as a "tired arm."

"He says he's feeling better," said manager Mike Redmond. "But we want to get him out here, make some throws, go through a full day of activities, before we send him out in a game."

Redmond said Hechavarria, who has missed all but one spring game so far, might be back in the lineup as early as Wednesday.

March 08, 2015

Spring debut put on hold for Mat Latos; Adeiny Hechavarria out with "tired shoulder"

JUPITER -- Mat Latos won't be making his Grapefruit League debut for the Miami Marlins on Monday, as scheduled. Instead, the Marlins have decided to have Latos throw a simulated game Monday against minor leaguers.

The reason?

Manager Mike Redmond was somewhat vague, saying Latos was a "little banged up" and the Marlins only want to "ease him into it." Latos underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee Feb. 14, 2014, and did not make his first start for Cincinnati until mid-June. His season ended in early September due to a bone bruise on his pitching elbow.

Redmond said Latos is not dealing with any arm issues and has done all his bullpen work this spring.

"We just want to make sure he eases into it and make sure he's healthy for the season -- coming off his knee last year," Redmond said. "He's fine. We're just being cautious with him and let him get back on the mound, control how many hitters and how many pitches he throws. He's getting all his work in."

Redmond said that if all goes well in the simulated game, "we're hoping that everything feels good and the next step will be in a regular game."

David Phelps will now get Monday's start in Port St. Lucie when the Marlins face the New York Mets.

On another front, Redmond said shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is dealing with a "tired shoulder" and likely won't play next until Tuesday.

"We're just keeping him back for a couple of days," Redmond said. "It's like a tired shoulder. We have the time to give him a couple of days off to make sure everything's fine. He said he could go out and play if we needed him. It's more important to get him 100 percent, and we have plenty of time to get him the at bats he needs to be ready for Opening Day. He's just not throwing."

Hechavarria has not played since the Grapefruit League opener on Thursday and was charged with a throwing error in that game.

March 07, 2015

Redmond says he can play Ichiro anywhere in Marlins outfield; MLBPA head Clark visits camp

JUPITER -- Odds are the best young outfield in baseball isn't going to be getting any days off, but in case Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna or Christian Yelich need a breather the Marlins won't feel weird about plugging 41-year-old Ichiro Suzuki in at any of their respective positions.

Ichiro, who has played the bulk of his career in right field (1,824 games), was slated to start in center Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium as Ozuna received a break. Last season, Ichiro made only two starts in center for the Yankees compared to 86 in right and six in left. In all, he's made just 15 starts in center over the last three years.

But manager Mike Redmond said he has no problem putting him there this year.

"He can play everywhere," Redmond said Saturday. "Yelich can play center too, but I like Yelich playing left. So, Ichiro could play center field. I know he can play anywhere. I don't know how many games he'll play in each position, but I feel comfortable with Ichiro playing anywhere."

> Even though all signs point to right-hander and 2014 All-Star Henderson Alvarez being the Marlins' Opening Day starter (he's lined up to pitch there based on the rest of the spring schedule), Redmond still isn't ready to officially name him that guy.

Asked if Alvarez deserves to be the Opening Day starter, Redmond said: "This guy had a great year last year and I know everybody wants to know 'Whose your number one starter?' For me, a number one starter is a guy that goes out there and gives you the best chance to win. And he was definitely that guy last year that went out there every five days and we felt like we had a chance to win on that day. That's what a number one or top of the order type pitcher does. And he was definitely able to do that.'"

Alvarez made his spring debut Saturday against the visiting Mets.

MLBPA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TONY CLARK VISITS CAMP

Baseball's new rules to speed up the game has been the big topic in 2015, but Tony Clark, the  executive director for the players association, said Saturday he doesn't expect it to have an adverse affect on the action. 

"You're not going to see umpires pointing and writing down notes -- that's not what's going to happen," Clark said. "There will be somebody who is not on the field that will be responsible for acknowledging when or if there are violations. At the end of the day the player will be given that information and then he can decide whether he wants to appeal it, not appeal it. That all happens from the game. But in the game itself the idea that we are going to disrupt the game and or create confrontations between players and umpires is not beneficial to anyone. That's why making sure that the understanding between all the parties -- players, MLB and the umpires -- is one that helps move us forward and doesn't take us backward as a result of trying to find a few minutes at the end of the game."

Clark said pitchers and hitters won't be penalized on the field with a ball or strike for taking too much time. Instead, warnings or fines will be given. Baseball's new rules require teams to be ready to go as soon as commercial breaks end (estimated 2 minutes, 25 seconds) and for batters to keep at least one foot in the box when they take a pitch.

"All you try to do [as player] is slow the game down, take your time to execute your game plan," Clark said. "Whether you are a hitter or a pitcher -- when the crowd is screaming and yelling with the game on the line -- I don't anybody is going to be concerned with the hitter or pitcher to take a little extra time to execute what he wants to execute. At the end of the year if we can find a few extra minutes, fantastic. But the fans come to the ballpark to see the players play and if at the end of the day the players can't perform up to their ability because they're thinking about a lot of extra stuff or people are pointing at them or whatever, that's a problem and that's not what the intention is of what was done here [with the new rules]."

> Clark said he's happy new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is pushing to market the game's marquee players toward youth. 

"This is something we've talked about for years," Clark said. "I have a 12-year-old son who absolutely loves Stanton, but the idea every time he turns of the TV he's seeing guys from other sports -- that I hope we can change."

Despite being one of the brightest young stars in the game (MLB ranked him the fourth best player in the game regardless of position recently) and the runner-up in the NL MVP race, Stanton wasn't among the top 20 jerseys sold in the game last year. 

TODAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (1-1): 1. Dee Gordon 2B, 2. Christian Yelich LF, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Martin Prado 3B, 5. Jeff Baker 1B, 6. Ichiro Suzuki CF, 7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 8. Reed Johnson DH, 9. Miguel Rojas SS. RHP Henderson Alvarez.

> Mets (2-1): 1. Juan Lagares CF, 2. Curtis Granderson RF, 3. Michael Cuddyer LF, 4. Brandon Allen 1B, 5. Eric Campbell 3B, 6. Kirk Nieuwenhuis DH, 7. Ruben Tejada 2B, 8. Johnny Monell C, 9. Matt Reynolds SS. LHP Steven Matz.

March 06, 2015

Bench candidates on display for Miami Marlins on Day 2 of the Grapefruit season

FORT MYERS -- One day after Mike Redmond's lineup card closely resembled the one he'll likely fill out for Opening Day, he stuffed Friday's lineup with players vying for what few bench spots are up for grabs.

And so -- with the exception of Marcell Ozuna and Michael Morse -- today's lineup at jetBlue Park is crammed with the likes of Jordany Valdespin, Donovan Solano, Don Kelly, Reed Johnson and Miguel Rojas.

"You look at the lineup today and these are all guys trying to earn a spot on that bench," Redmond said. "When you're trying to make a decision on just a couple spots, you want those guys to be able to go out and compete and get as many at bats as they can."

The fact that only a couple of roster spots are available -- specifically, a fifth outfielder and utility infielder -- games such as today's are important for not only those players, but for the Marlins' front office in determining which will survive the cut and open the season with the club.

"These guys are fighting for a spot," Redmond said. "Last year we had several spots open. This year, it's getting tighter. That means we're improving and the competition is getting stiffer, and that's good. That's what you want. You want to have those tough decisions."

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Tom Koehler will be taking the mound for the Marlins this afternoon when they face the Red Sox. And Koehler figures to retain his role as the fourth or fifth man in the rotation. But swing man Brad Hand made the trip over to Fort Myers, as well, and the Marlins haven't discounted the lefty as a potential starter, just in case.

As a result, Redmond said the plan is to stretch out Hand and David Phelps, another pitcher who can start or serve as a long reliever, as possible rotation options. It was only two years ago that the rotation fell apart on the eve of Opening Day, with both Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi landing on the disabled list and Jose Fernandez receiving an emergency call-up to help fill the void.

Redmond said he'll use split-squad and "B" games as a way to find innings for Phelps and Hand.

"We have depth," Redmond said. "The more starting depth you have, the better. We'll try to get those guys as many innings as we possibly can, so that they're prepared in whatever role we have at the end of (spring training). We can sit here the second game and talk about all these different scenarios, and it can change like that, like it did two years ago."

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Today's lineups:

Marlins: 1. Jordany Valdespin, rf; 2. Donovan Solano, 2b; 3. Michael Morse, 1b: 4. Marcell Ozuna, cf; 5. Jeff Baker, 3b; 6. Don Kelly, lf; 7. Reed Johnson, dh; 8. Miguel Rojas, ss; 9. Jeff Mathis, c. Pitching: Tom Koehler.

Red Sox: 1. Mookie Betts, cf; 2. Brock Holt, ss; 3. David Ortiz, dh; 4. Hanley Ramirez, lf; 5. Shane Victorino, rf; 6. Daniel Nava, 1b; 7. Ryan Hanigan, c; 8. Garin Cecchini, 3b; 9. Jemile Weeks, 2b. Pitcher: Justin Masterson.

March 05, 2015

It's Grapefruit League "Opening Day" for Marlins; Jose Fernandez completes 2nd mound session

JUPITER -- Dan Haren will be on the mound for the Marlins this afternoon when they face the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in the Grapefruit League opener for both teams.

Haren, obtained during the offseason from the Dodgers in the trade that also brought Dee Gordon to Miami, will pitch no more than two innings in his first appearance for the Marlins.

Manager Mike Redmond is sending out his "A" lineup for the spring opener, with Giancarlo Stanton hitting in the third spot and Ichiro Suzuki listed as the designated hitter. Redmond said he would like for each of the starters to receive two at bats and play three to four innings in the field.

Redmond said he will likely use a DH through March 17 or 18, at which point he'll begin inserting his pitchers in the lineup.

Here are today's lineups for both teams (the game is being broadcast on WINZ-940 AM).

Marlins: 1. Dee Gordon, 2b; 2. Christian Yelich, lf; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 4. Michael Morse, 1b; 5. Martin Prado, 3b; 6. Marcell Ozuna, cf; 7. Ichiro Suzuki, dh; 8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia c; 9. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss.

Cardinals: 1. Matt Carpenter, 3b; 2. Jason Heyward, rf; 3. Matt Holliday, dh; 4. Matt Adams, 1b; 5. Yadier Molina, c; 6. Kolton Wong, 2b; 7. Stephen Piscotty, lf; 8. Peter Bourjos, cf; 9. Pete Kozma, ss. (Carlos Martinez is starting for St. Louis).

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Jose Fernandez was back on the mound Thursday morning for his second throwing session off the bump in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Fernandez threw 20 pitches on Thursday, five more than he threw Sunday in his first mound experience. 20150305_090834

 

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