July 02, 2015

Marlins announce signing of 1st round pick Naylor

The Marlins have signed Canadian first baseman Josh Naylor, the 12th overall pick in last month's 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft, and have assigned him to the Gulf Coast League.

Naylor, 18, is a graduate of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario and played his baseball over the last four years with the Canadian Junior National team and the Ontario Blue Jays amateur baseball program.

It was the first time the Marlins selected a Canadian player in the first round, and the first time overall since INF Terrence Dayleg (Surrey, BC) in Round 22 (#668 overall) in 2009.

With the Junior National team, Naylor traveled to play in Korea, Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, Cuba, Italy, the Dominican Republic, and the United States over the last four years. Traveling to the United States with Ontario to play against Division 1 & 2 college programs in the fall of 2013 and 2014, he combined to hit .449 (83x185) in 56 games, with 23 doubles, 15 home runs, 62 RBI, a .518 on-base percentage, and an .838 slugging percentage.

Naylor was named a 2015 Perfect Game 1st Team All-American this year, as well as a Canada/Puerto Rico All-Regional 1st Team selection. Last year, he was named to the Perfect Game Underclass 1st Team, and in 2013 he was an Underclass High Honorable Mention. He participated in the 2014 International Power Showcase Home Run Derby at Marlins Park, where he won the “Spirit of Babe Ruth” Award, presented to the participant who shows “Ability, Strength, Leadership, Passion and Respect for the game of baseball.”

Miami also announced the signings of RHP Reilly Hovis (Round 9, #266 overall) out of the University of North Carolina, and C Matthew Foley (Round 40, #1196) out of Rhode Island College. The Club has now signed 30 of the 40 players it selected in last month’s Draft, including its top 15 picks.

July 01, 2015

The return of Jose Fernandez; Jarred Cosart returning to rotation

When last we saw Jose Fernandez doing what he does best, throwing a baseball, he was serving up a grand slam in San Diego, his golden arm throbbing with pain and numbness.

It turned out to be his final big-league pitch before undergoing surgery to replace the elbow ligament -- Tommy John surgery. Now, some 414 days later, he returns.

Fernandez will take the mound Thursday at Marlins Park for the first time since injuring his arm May 9, 2014. He’ll have a new elbow ligament, a clean slate -- the bases will be empty for him when he steps on the rubber the first time -- and a stomach full of butterflies.

“I know I have to stay calm,” Fernandez said on Wednesday. “But probably it’s going to be really hard. I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’ve got to control my emotions as best I can, but there’s going to be emotions.”

Fernandez said he thought he would have a hard time sleeping Wednesday, the night before the game.

“No chance,” he said. “I don’t think I will. I think it’s going to be a tough night’s sleep.”

Manager Dan Jennings refused to disclose whether Fernandez would be kept to a strict pitch count, saying only that “he’ll be on the common-sense count.” But common sense in most cases involving players returning from Tommy John suggests the Marlins’ 22-year-old phenom won’t be going nine innings. Not initially.

The most pitches he’s thrown in any of his minor-league rehab starts were the 90 he threw Saturday in Jacksonville, and Fernandez said he expects to throw anywhere from 90 to 95 pitches Thursday, depending on the situation.

“Tomorrow should be a fun day for everybody,” Jennings said. “For South Florida, for this organization, for this team, but most importantly, for Jose. He’s worked extremely hard to get back to this place, this opportunity, and I think it’s great for baseball. He’s truly one of the faces of the game with his energy.”

Fernandez has never lost at Marlins Park, where he has gone 12-0 with a 1.09 ERA in 20 career starts there. Partly as a result, and with an off day looming, Jennings said that Fernandez would likely make his second start July 9 -- on six days’ rest -- at Marlins Park when Cincinnati arrives for a four-game series.
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When Fernandez is activated Thursday, the odd man out in the rotation could be rookie Jose Urena. Jennings revealed that Jarred Cosart would return to the rotation Saturday in Chicago.

Rather than move Urena to the bullpen and use him in long relief, the Marlins would prefer keeping him stretched out as a starter, which likely signals a return to Triple A New Orleans.

Cosart last started for the Marlins on May 13 before landing on the disabled list with vertigo.
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June 30, 2015

Bryan Morris returns, Michael Morse nearing return, Henderson Alvarez working toward return

With Jose Fernandez scheduled back on Thursday, the Marlins began the process of re-shaping the roster, optioning rookie starter Justin Nicolino to Triple A New Orleans and activating reliever Bryan Morris from the disabled list.

More moves are on the way.

First baseman Michael Morse returned to Miami from a rehab stint with Triple A New Orleans and could be activated "within a few days," according to manager Dan Jennings. Morse tweaked his back on Sunday with the Zephyrs, but the injury is not believed to be serious, and Jennings said Morse could rejoin the club when it opens a weekend series in Chicago on Friday.

When Fernandez is activated Thursday, the Marlins will also have to clear a spot on the roster -- and one of the current members of the rotation -- David Phelps, more than likely -- will move to the bullpen.

Meanwhile, Henderson Alvarez (DL-shoulder) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday. Jennings said Alvarez could begin a rehab assignment right after the All-Star break.

June 26, 2015

Giancarlo Stanton to have X-rays on injured hand

Just the kind of troubling news the Marlins don't need at the moment. Giancarlo Stanton, one of the few bright spots on what is becoming an increasingly dismal season, will have X-rays taken on his left hand on Saturday. The majors' leading home run hitter said he began noticing pain in the hand during his swings in Friday's 7-1 loss to the Dodgers.

Stanton struck out swinging three times during the loss, with the pain becoming increasingly worse as the game progressed.

"On the swing, my bat dug into my hand a little bit," Stanton said. "Didn't feel the greatest. Will just get it checked out and know for sure what's going on. My level of concern will be when I know exactly what's up."

Stanton said the pain became "worse and worse" during the game.

"It's on my hand where I grip the bat," Stanton said. "The bat rotates in my hand, and that's what it was."

Stanton said it's too early to know whether he'll miss any games.

"It wasn't a good day for us," Stanton said of the Marlins, who lost their fifth straight and struck out a season-high 16 times in the process.

June 25, 2015

Marlins will give rookies Nicolino, Urena a good look before finalizing rotation

The Marlins are planning on setting their starting five-man rotation soon, and when they do, Jarred Cosart and Jose Fernandez will be rejoining it “in a permanent way,” manager Dan Jennings said Thursday.

But before anything is finalized, rookies Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena will get at least one more good look in the big leagues. Jennings revealed Thursday that Urena – and not veteran David Phelps -- will be making Sunday’s start against the Dodgers.

Urena tossed five innings and received a no decision in Tuesday’s loss to the Cardinals, but he’s gone at least six innings in four of his last five starts and has posted a 2.66 ERA over the stretch.

Nicolino, who tossed seven scoreless innings in his debut last Saturday in Cincinnati, will take the mound in the series opener Friday.

Could one rookie – or possibly both -- stay in the rotation moving forward? It certainly appears there’s a chance.

Saturday starter Tom Koehler was already sent to the bullpen once this season, and the Marlins are well aware of Koehler's struggles the second time through an opposing lineup. So they could opt to send Koehler to the bullpen and keep either Urena or Nicolino in the rotation.

Then, if Mat Latos or Dan Haren are traded (both have expiring contracts at the end of this season) it could open up another spot for a young arm to continue to develop on a team that clearly faces long odds of reaching the playoffs.

“It would be huge,” Jennings responded when asked if he would like to have a left-hander in the rotation. “I think some of the teams you see – especially these teams like the Cardinals with [Jason] Heyward and [Kolton] Wong [who homered Wednesday] night – if you've got that lefty starter, it can certainly neutralize a lot of things.”

Nicolino said he was nervous before his start in Cincinnati, but the butterflies quickly faded. He’s expecting to feel the same way in his first start at Marlins Park Friday.

“It’s the same game,” said Nicolino, who is 42-17 with a 2.67 ERA over five seasons and 102 starts in the minors. “After I got the first pitch out of the way [Saturday], that’s what it seemed like – the same game just with a lot more fans.”

FERNANDEZ SET FOR FINAL REHAB START

The next time Jose Fernandez returns to Marlins Park, he’ll be preparing for his next big league start against the Giants on July 2. Fernandez is set to fly out to Double A Jacksonville Friday afternoon where he’ll make his final rehab start following Tommy John surgery.

For Fernandez, who has never pitched above Single A Jupiter when he was in the minors, it will be his first trip to Jacksonville.

“Obviously it’s my last [rehab start], but it feels like it’s just another start, another step,” Fernandez said Thursday. “I’m just looking forward to getting out of it healthy, hopefully get to 95 pitches or higher. I thought I was going to be a little more like, ‘I can’t wait!’ I guess because I probably haven't realized yet that I’m that close [to returning to the big leagues I haven’t felt that way].”

MINOR LEAGUERS TOSS PERFECT GAME

Three Marlins minor leaguers -- including recent second round pick Brett Lilek -- combined to toss a perfect game Wednesday for the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League.

It’s only the third perfect game in league history according to Marty Scott, the Marlins vice president of player development who was there and watched the game.

“The leadoff hitter in the ninth hit a shot between first base and second,” Scott said. “Our first baseman dove, but it went his off glove and caromed to the second baseman, who got it and fired to [closer Steven] Farnsworth who covered first. It was a hell of a play. I was worried going into the ninth, not about the perfect game because of a lucky hit, but because we could lose the game up only 1-0. But when that first play happened to lead off the ninth, I knew fate was with us.”

Lilek struckout the side in the eighth inning after starter Gabriel Castellanos whiffed 12 over the first seven innings in the 1-0 win over the Mahoning Valley Scrapers. Farnsworth pitched the ninth to pick up the save.

The win improved the Muckdogs, who play a short-season of rookie ball, to 1-5. They lost their first five games and gave up 66 runs combined, Scott said.

Castellanos, a 21-year-old Dominican left-hander, was 7-21 with a 5.15 ERA in his career prior to Wednesday's start. For Lilek, a 21-year old lefty out of Arizona State, it was his first minor league appearance for the Marlins. Farnsworth, a 23rd-round pick in 2014, was 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 22 appearances before Wednesday.

“For the kids, it was special to see,” Scott said. “For a lot of them it was their first team win. Thirteen of the guys on the team, it’s their first year on that club. The team we played the first three games only had three 2015 draft picks. The team we played last two nights had four. So we're going to take our lumps once in a while. So if we get a couple more perfect games it will balance out.”

June 24, 2015

Marlins minor leaguers -- including 2nd round pick -- combine on perfect game

Three Marlins minor leaguers -- including recent second round pick Brett Lilek -- combined to toss a perfect game tonight for the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League.

Lilek struckout the side in the eighth inning after starter Gabriel Castellanos whiffed 12 over the first seven innings in the 1-0 win over the Mahoning Valley Scrapers. Closer Steven Farnsworth pitched the ninth to pick up the save.

Castellanos, a 21-year-old Dominican left-hander, was 7-21 with a 5.15 ERA in his career prior to Wednesday's start.

For Lilek, a 21-year old lefty out of Arizona State, it was his first minor league appearance for the Marlins. Farnsworth, a 23rd-round pick in 2014, was 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 22 appearances before Wednesday.

Here's a link to the boxscore.

Cosart to make initial return as reliever, not starter; Hockey prospect goes deep at Marlins Park

When Jarred Cosart is activated from the disabled list Thursday he'll be going to the Marlins' bullpen, not the starting rotation.

"Right now he’ll start out in the bullpen and gradually ease back [into the rotation]," manager Dan Jennings said before Wednesday's game against St. Louis.

"Some of the young pitchers have stepped up and certainly have earned the right to go back out [as starters]. We’ll get [Cosart] acclimated back at the major league level and then assess and go from there."

Acquired at the trade deadline from Houston last year, the 25-year-old right-hander began the season in the rotation before an ear infection led to vertigo and he was placed on the disabled list May 18. Prior to Jennings' announcement, Cosart said he assumed he would return as a starter, not a reliever.

"I think I have two years worth of a track record," said Cosart, who went 4-4 with a 2.39 ERA in 10 starts for the Marlins last year before he sputtered to a 1-3 start and 4.08 ERA in seven starts this season.

"Obviously I started off a little slow and then got something I couldn't control with the vertigo. But I feel great. I feel ready to go. Like I said, I feel like I'm a starting pitcher. I know there's a business side of it. There has to be moves made. People are going to be unhappy. But I'm happy to be back in the big leagues and hopefully help us win games and get us on a playoff push we were on when I got here last year."

Cosart's three minor league rehab starts weren't exceptionally sharp. He failed to complete six innings in any of them and walked six in his last start for Double A Jacksonville on Sunday. But he said bad weather and bad umpiring had a lot to do with it. He said he pitched in a monsoon at Round Rock Texas when he gave up seven hits, four earned runs and two walks in 5 1/3 innings on June 16. He said it was 107 degrees in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Sunday." 

"From my understanding my rehab starts were about getting my off-speed back," Cosart said. "I think if you look at most major league rehab starts most of them aren't going to go perfect. I was working on a lot of things. I threw I think 40 off-speed pitches last game -- not something I'm going to do here. But I feel really crisp.

"I've been going nuts for three weeks being in minor league cities, hotels, plus I don't know anybody. My only goal is to help the team win whatever way I can, whatever that role is."

The Marlins will start veteran Dan Haren on Thursday as scheduled. Rookie Justin Nicolino will start Friday against the Dodgers and Tom Koehler will now pitch Saturday against L.A. Jennings said he hasn't decided who will start for the Marlins yet on Sunday.

Jennings said the Marlins are sticking with a five-man rotation for now. "If we need to adjust then we’ll do that," he said.

ALVAREZ TO THROW BULLPEN SATURDAY

Henderson Alvarez, the only starting pitcher left who isn't pitching in rehab games or close to making a comeback, will throw a bullpen Saturday. He's been throwing off flat ground from 120 feet for about a week now.

Third baseman Martin Prado (right shoulder sprain) took ground balls Wednesday, but has not started throwing or swinging a bat yet. He's still in the strengthening phase of recovery. He said he still feels discomfort in the shoulder and it's more likely now he won't be coming off the disabled list as soon as he's eligible June 30.

> Giancarlo Stanton leads the majors in homers (26) and RBI (66). The teammates closest to him in both categories are miles behind him: first baseman Justin Bour has six homers and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has 29 RBI.

"He’s carried a lot," manager Dan Jennings said when asked if Stanton is carrying too much of the offensive load. "It’s up to the rest of us to pick up. I go back to the situational part of the hitting, and that’s huge. We have to get runners in from third base with less than two outs. You’ve got to be able to move the runners, execute the bunt, hit and run – all the things that help you manufacture runs.

"Then when you get that big two- and three-run homer from G, that’s huge and that’s icing on the cake. But we also 1 through 9, part of building this team was to lengthen that lineup and have production from top to bottom."

HOCKEY PLAYERS TAKE BP

Six NHL prospects in town for this weekend's NHL Draft at the BB&T Center in Sunrise took batting practice at Marlins Park about five hours before Wednesday game and one managed to hit one over the wall in right field.

Lawson Crouse, a 6-4, 210-pound 18-year-old left winger from London, Canada, was the kid who took Marlins assistant Lenny Harris deep. Crouse said he played youth baseball until he was 14. 

"It was awesome," Crouse said of the homer. "I really didn't expect it. I was just focused on making solid contact."

Said Harris: "It surprised me, especially the power he’s got. I know he can hit the crap out of a hockey puck, the strength that he’s got. Try to get in front of those pucks when he’s swinging it would definitely be difficult to stop."

The five other high-end prospects included Conner McDavid, the projected No. 1 overall pick, Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Noah Hanifan and Jack Eichel. Hanifan hit a hard line drive that went right between Crouse and Marner as they were running the bases.

"Marner behind me said, 'Heads up. I looked and it was coming right for me," Crouse said. "Whizzed right by me." 

June 23, 2015

Marlins plan on activating Cosart from DL soon; Nicolino will make at least one more start

The Marlins have yet to announce what they’re going to do with their starting rotation beyond Thursday’s series finale against the Cardinals, but here are at least two things we learned on Tuesday:  the team plans on activating Jarred Cosart from the disabled list soon – possibly as early as Thursday – and rookie Justin Nicolino will make at least one more start.

“You look what Nico did the other day [tossing seven shutout innings in Cincinnati], he certainly pitched good enough to earn another start… definitely he’ll get another start,” manager Dan Jennings said before Tuesday’s series opener against St. Louis at Marlins Park.

"[Cosart] had a nice outing [Sunday]. He [threw 104] pitches, walked six, which is a little more than we wanted. But he threw the ball very well. He too utilized all of his pitches and made sure that he had quite a few changeups and a lot of curveballs – some very good curveballs. So I think you could look to see him to be activated Thursday."

Cosart, though, could be headed to the bullpen.

As it stands, the Marlins have Mat Latos and Dan Haren scheduled to pitch Wednesday and Thursday, and Jennings said Tom Koehler, who missed his last start Saturday with a sore neck opening the door for Nicolino, would start on Friday against the Dodgers.

If that’s the case, that leaves Nicolino, David Phelps and rookie Jose Urena (Tuesday’s starter) as starting options for Saturday and Sunday.

> Jose Fernandez, scheduled to make one more rehab start Saturday for Double A Jacksonville, had his most impressive rehab start yet Monday for Single A Jupiter. He gave up four hits and one earned run over seven innings, walked one and struck out nine. He threw 90 pitches and fell great afterward. 

“From everything that we were told and the way Jose punctuated it in my office it was very impressive,” Jennings said. “Not only the fact that he stretched himself out to that 90 pitch mark, but also the quality of what he did. To hear him talk about the quickness and the depth of his curveball was huge and the fact that he used the change up as much as he did. He’s working towards July 2nd, he’s utilizing all his pitches to get there. If the confidence factor is anything to do with it, he’s real close to ready.”

> Jennings said it still looks like third baseman Martin Prado (right shoulder) will be coming off the disabled list as scheduled. He slated to come off when the Giants come to town for a three-game set June 30. “Until he goes out and tests it we truly won't know,” Jennings said. “But the range of motion is going well so that’s step No. 1 before he tests it with throwing.”

> First baseman Michael Morse, shipped up to Triple A on Monday, could be coming off the disabled list soon Jennings said. Morse hit a home run Sunday for Double A Jacksonville and drove in three runs.

“He had like five hits over those [last] three games,” Jennings said. “We thought we’d take him to the next level. He should be getting real close now. It’s just a matter of him getting the at bats and getting the timing.”

> So why didn’t the Marlins call on Nicolino earlier this season?

"It was a case where we’ve tried to slow down the clock on when these guys arrive," Jennings said. "It was very important for us to give he and Urena that full year last year in Double A and try to get them through as much as we could this year in Triple A. I don’t know that there is a true timetable, it’s just about taking advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself."

Stanton back among top vote-getters, projected starters for All-Star Game

Giancarlo Stanton, baseball's leader in home runs and RBI, is back among the top vote-getters and projected starters for next month's All-Star Game.

Stanton, who a week ago fell into fourth place among outfielders behind the Giants' Nori Aoki, moved into second place this week in the National League behind only the Nationals' Bryce Harper, who continues to lead the NL with over 9.2 million votes. 

Stanton, who has received 4,824,989 votes, is bidding for his first career starting assignment at the Midsumer Classic. Last year, he started as the designated hitter when the game was held in Minneapolis. If he maintains a spot in the top three, Stanton would become just the third Marlins player, and first outfielder, to earn a fan election, joining Gary Sheffield (3B, 1993) and Hanley Ramirez (SS, 2008-10). 

With his 25th home run of the season last week, Stanton became the fastest to the milestone in a single season in Marlins history, and now owns four career seasons with at least 25 home runs, tied with Miguel Cabrera for second-most in Marlins history behind Dan Uggla, who did it five times (2006-10).

Rounding out the NL outfield is Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, who has received 4,716,941 votes. Aoki (4,349,685) and Andrew McCutchen (3,542,262) of the Pittsburgh Pirates are next. Holliday, a six-time All-Star (2006-08, 2010-12), has n]been on the disabled list since June 9 with a strained right quad.

Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, who was an All-Star for the first time in 2014, continues to lead his respective position with 5,244,914 votes, more than 1.2 million votes more than the Cardinals' Kolten Wong (4,025,055). The 27-year-old Gordon, bidding for his first fan election, leads the Majors with 104 hits to go along with his .356 batting average. In addition, the speedster ranks second in the Majors with 24 stolen bases.

June 21, 2015

Marlins have decisions to make, but none involve major trades

CINCINNATI -- Though they sit 10 games under .500, the Marlins still have reasons for hope. They play in a weak division in which no team has caught fire. Jose Fernandez is expected to rejoin the rotation on July 2. And management still believes the lineup is much better than it has shown.

“The division is keeping us in it,” said Michael Hill, president of baseball operations. “But the bottom line is we have to win more games. We’ve got to get closer to .500 to really insert ourselves into the playoff picture. You can’t expect that the clubs above you will continue to tread water, keeping you in it.”

Despite their poor record, the Marlins found themselves only 6 1/2 games behind first-place Washington going into Sunday. That’s because the Nationals’ record is the worst of any division leader.

One day after rookie pitcher Justin Nicolino turned heads with a dazzling debut performance, Hill spoke of how the front office has some difficult decisions to make concerning the rotation.

The Marlins have -- or soon will -- far more starters than there are spots in the rotation. Fernandez is scheduled to make his next-to-last rehab start Monday at Single A Jupiter. Jarred Cosart was on the mound Sunday in what could be his final rehab start for Double A Jacksonville.

The Marlins presently have six starters on their roster.

“We’ve always asked for tough decisions and we knew, as guys were getting healthy, we were going to have tough decisions,” Hill said.

But Hill firmly stated that the front office has no intention of trading away “any of our major rotation pieces” in order to alleviate the looming logjam.

“We are fortunate we have some players who are flexible, that we can move to the bullpen,” Hill said. “We have some young players who may have to go back (to the minors).”

Both Tom Koehler and David Phelps could go to the bullpen, for example.

Hill also said that when Fernandez returns, the Marlins could go with a six-man rotation, at least initially.

“It might be something early with Jose that you might look at doing,” Hill said. “It could happen because you might just re-insert Jose into the rotation. But post-All-Star break, it’ll be a five-man rotation.”

The biggest disappointment so far, Hill said, hasn’t been the pitching. It’s been the hitting.

“We have to be a more consistent offense and score runs,” Hill said. “We thought we would have hit our stride by now. You’ve got a guy (Giancarlo Stanton) leading the league in home runs and RBI. And you’ve got a guy (Dee Gordon) close to leading the league in hitting and stolen bases. We’ve shown our youth.”

Hill fended off any suggestion that the Marlins might look to trade veterans such as Martin Prado and Michael Morse before the July 31 trading deadline. Both players are under contract through 2016.

“Any pieces that are under control aren’t even considerations to do anything,” Hill said. “We aren’t building this team for 2015. We’re building this for ’15 and ’16 and ’17. We’re trying to build a perennial contender.”