July 12, 2014

Henderson Alvarez named to All-Star team as replacement; first time since 2010 Marlins have two reps

NEW YORK -- Henderson Alvarez won't be going back home to his native Venezuela for the All-Star break after all -- and he's not the least disappointed.  

Saturday morning, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny selected the 24-year old Marlins right-hander as a replacement on the National League All-Star team for the Nationals' Jordan Zimmerman, who injured his right biceps in a loss to the Phillies on Friday.

The decision made Alvarez an All-Star for the first time in his career, and gives the Marlins a pair of representatives in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic for the first time since 2010.

"I'm happy, content to earn this honor, to go and play alongside so many superstars," said Alvarez, who even after giving up a season-high six earned runs in a 7-1 loss to the Mets Friday still has an All-Star worthy 6-4 record and 2.63 ERA (sixth-lowest in the NL).

"I had a trip to Miami scheduled [after Saturday's game] so I could go to Venezuela on Sunday. But they told me [Friday night] not to do it, to wait because something might happen. God only knows why things like this happen. When I was in the minor leagues I went to all the All-Star games, and the only one I was missing was the big leagues. Thankfully, I earned it."

Alvarez's teammates were obviously happy for him and quite a few shouted 'Hendu!' when manager Mike Redmond made the announcement in the clubhouse prior to Saturday's game.

"I know last year everybody talked about Jose [Fernandez] and rightfully so. He was amazing. But it's great to see these guys step up and get recognized for their work," Redmond said. "It's been fun to watch Henderson go. You think back to the no-hitter at the end of the season. I think that's been a catapult for him and has led to the first half he's had this year."

Said third baseman Casey McGehee: "What he's done the first half, he deserves it. I wish he didn't have to wait until now to find out, but he deserves to be there for sure."

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said having two All-Star representatives probably isn't enough for the Marlins considering the season McGehee has had, but he said it also represents the growth the Marlins have shown since losing 100 games last season. They entered the day Saturday only 5 1/2 games back of the first place Braves and Nationals in the division.

"It means a lot because it represents what this organization is doing and what this team can do," Saltalamacchia said. "It's not just Stanton. It's a lot of guys on this team that are doing really well this year that are helping us be in the position were in right now."

McGehee, tied for the NL-lead in hits and leading the league with a .398 average with runners in scoring position, could still end up going to Minnesota if another player were to go down with an injury. But McGehee said he's "not counting on it and not even really hoping for it because you never want to see anybody go down."

Alvarez, who would be on five days rest by the time the game rolls around Tuesday night at Target Field, said if he doesn't get to pitch in the game he won't be heartbroken over it. 

"Just making the team is enough for me," he said. "I'd love to pitch, but to be there next to those superstars you've admired from a far is going to make me happy."

> Redmond said the team should finalize it's starting rotation for post-All-Star break by Sunday. Redmond said the Marlins were waiting to see if Alvarez was going to make the All-Star team. Redmond said it's likely Nathan Eovaldi will be the first pitcher to go when the team opens a three-game series against the Giants Friday at Marlins Park.

SATURDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (44-48): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Donovan Solano 2B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Garrett Jones 1B, 6. Marcell Ozuna CF, 7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 9. Tom Koehler RHP.

> Mets (43-50): 1. Cutris Granderson RF, 2. Daniel Murphy 2B, 3. David Wright 3B, 4. Lucas Duda 1B, 5. Travis d'Arnaud C, 6. Kirk Nieuwenhuis LF, 7. Juan Lagares CF, 8. Miguel Tejada SS, 9. Diasuke Matsuzaka RHP.

July 11, 2014

Cishek hoping round of golf, better location with slider resolves struggles

NEW YORK -- Thursday's off day for the Marlins provided closer Steve Cishek an opportunity to accomplish two things: get in a round of golf at Bethpage State Park in Long Island (host of two U.S. Opens and 2019 PGA Championship) and to forget about blowing his third save of the season Wednesday against the Diamondbacks.

"That last game in Arizona was probably one of the toughest ones for me to get past just because we had a two-run lead," Cishek said. "I got a chance to get my mind from baseball a little bit and take my frustrations out on a little white golf ball."

Cishek went right back to work early Friday. After breaking down film, he and pitching coach Reid Cornelius were in the bullpen at Citi Field working on pitch location and arm slot for his slider.

Cishek said his arm feels fine. In fact, his fastball velocity has gone up over the past two months -- a result he says of a steady workload and arm strengthening.It's the slider, he said, that hasn't been right over his last three or four appearances. It's forced him to rely on his fastball way too much and given hitters an advantage. 

"I'm not driving it like I usually do," he said. "I'm kind off falling off trying to make movement before it's out of my hand -- overdoing it basically instead of trusting it. I'm trying to get back on track with that."

STANTON TALKS LEBRON, DERBY

Even though he's from Los Angeles and grew up a Lakers fan, Giancarlo Stanton has never passed up an opportunity to go watch the Heat since LeBron James has been in town.

So what was Stanton's reaction to Friday's news about James heading back home to Cleveland?

"That's obviously the biggest thing in sports down here in awhile," Stanton said. "It takes a lot of guts to do that. I know he wanted to go home. It means a lot more to do that, to win in a place you grew up rather than just one of the teams you ended up on. The thing is he didn't go with the big press conference like he did last time. He did what he was going to do, stayed quiet and did it the right way."

Although he never personally got to know James, Stanton said he enjoyed going to see James play because he never got to see Michael Jordan in his prime. Stanton said he's always liked to study the greats.

"When you see the best guys on the planet at their particular craft win and lose, be on top of the world and the bottom, and at the same time it helps you as a competitor learn from that," Stanton said. "You pick things up that maybe you won't have to go through yourself because you learned from something like that."

With James leaving one could argue Stanton is now the most exciting professional athlete in town. His tape-measure home runs and raw power have made him a household name in baseball and Monday his talent will be on display for the entire country to see in the Home Run Derby.

Friday, in an early warm-up for the festivities, manager Mike Redmond said Stanton belted several home runs at Citi Field into the second and third decks.

Asked Friday if he wants to win the derby, Stanton smiled and said: "It's a competition man. If I wanted to stand there and look pretty I'd just stand there and take selfies all day and post them up."

> Redmond said reliever A.J. Ramos, on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation since June 28, is scheduled to pitch in his first rehab assignment Monday for Double A Jacksonville. Redmond said the team expects him to be ready to rejoin the team after the All-Star Break.

Bovada says Stanton a 2-1 favorite to win Monday's HR Derby

Just got this email from Bovada in Las Vegas with the odds for Monday's Home Run Derby:

2014 Home Run Derby - Odds to Win     
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins - 2/1
Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics - 5/1
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays - 5/1
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers - 6/1
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies - 13/2
Josh Donaldson, Athletics - 10/1
Adam Jones, Orioles - 12/1
Brian Dozier, Twins - 12/1
Todd Frazier, Reds - 12/1
Justin Morneau, Rockies - 15/1

July 10, 2014

Despite late Twitter push, McGehee doesn't win vote for final NL All-Star roster spot

NEW YORK -- The Marlins and their media relations staff hit the social network scene hard Thursday afternoon begging fans to help third baseman Casey McGehee rally and win the fan vote for the final spot on the National League All-Star team.

But alas, the #VoteHitsMcGehee tweets weren't enough. McGehee, who came into the day trailing heavily among the five players picked for the final vote, didn't get the nod. 

The final spots on the 34-man All-Star rosters for each league went to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (8.8 million votes) and White Sox pitcher Chris Sale (6.7 million votes). Rizzo attended Douglas High in Broward County. Sale grew up in Lakeland, Fla. and attended Florida Gulf Coast University.

According to MLB.com, over the final six hours of voting up until 4 p.m., tweets using the designated hashtag of each candidate were counted as part of each player's final vote tally. Balloting had begun Sunday night with the presentation of the five nominees per league by All-Star managers John Farrell of the Red Sox and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals.

According to MLB.com's voting map, which actually color-coded every county in the country and awarded it based on the votes received there, Morneau earned an overwhelming 68.6 percent of the tweet vote nationally. McGehee finished fourth in the NL in the tweet vote with 4.9 percent.

McGehee, who leads the NL in hits and average with runners in scoring position, could still make the All-Star team as an injury replacement.

ESPN's Ozzie Guillen, John Kruk talk Stanton, Home Run Derby

NEW YORK -- Ozzie Guillen was only a couple months into his managerial career with the Marlins in 2012 when he told reporters he worried Giancarlo Stanton might actually kill somebody one day -- a pitcher or third baseman -- with one of the laser-shots that come flying off his bat.

Guillen, now working for ESPN and set to broadcast Monday night's Home Run Derby at Target Field in Spanish for ESPNDeportes, upgraded his prediction on Thursday to include shortstops, too.

"I don't want to know how many Giancarlo is going to hit. I want to see how far he's going to hit one," Guillen said during a teleconference with reporters Thursday to preview Monday's derby. "That's what I'm waiting for."

Guillen, who managed Stanton the first time he made the All-Star team but didn't go because he had to have knee surgery, said he's been impressed with what he has seen from Stanton from afar over the last two years particularly this season with Casey McGehee, Marcel Ozuna and others providing more protection in the lineup.

"He's matured a lot," Guillen said. "He's learning how to hit. Besides that, I think there's a little more protection now for him than when I was managing him. This kid is still learning the process of the strike zone. But this kid is so powerful even when he makes a mistake hitting he still hits the ball hard.

"If he learns how to strike out less and he learns what it takes not to chase bad pitches, little by little he's going to become one of the superstars in the game."

Like Guillen, ESPN analyst John Kruk, who was also on the conference call, said Stanton is the player he is most looking forward to seeing in the derby Monday. Guillen said he's never seen a batter in the game  hit the ball as hard as Stanton does. Asked for a comparison to a previous great who hit the ball nearly as hard, Kruk could only come up with former Marlin Gary Sheffield as a distant comparison.

"Gary was a guy who hit the ball hard like that too, but he's not as big as Giancarlo," Kruk said. "Giancarlo is a tight end. He looks like Tony Gonzalez. He's built like Tony Gonzalez. He's just a huge man."

For as little attention as the Marlins receive nationally -- except when one of Stanton's mammoth blasts makes SportsCenter -- Monday night might be the first real opportunity many baseball fans get a real glimpse of Stanton up close and personal.

Although the Marlins have repeatedly said they are not shopping Stanton and are interested in signing him long term, a big night at the Home Run Derby and a complete, healthy MVP-caliber season this year is only going to continue to raise his trade stock and asking price.

I asked both analysts what they thought Stanton, who leads the National League in home runs and RBI, could net the Marlins right now if they wanted to trade him.

"Well, what it's going to take probably is a No. 1 starter and I don't think teams are ready to give up a No. 1 starter for a right fielder," Kruk said. "It can't be a No. 3 and a minor league prospect. It's going to take a No. 1. Hypothetical, if the Dodgers called and all of their outfielders were hurt again and they wanted Giancarlo, it would take someone like a Zack Grienke; not a Kershaw. But a Grienke and a a top prospect or two to get some one like him."

Said Guillen: "I think whoever they're going to make the trade with it wouldn't be for a top minor leaguer. It has to be a guy that's on the big league roster helping the team, playing everyday. I'm not saying they should trade him to New York or whatever. But if this kid played in New York or Boston or Texas he would be healthier, he would produce more. Marlins Park is so huge. If he got traded to one of those places he might hit 70 [homers]. Like John said, to make a trade, I don't think anybody is prepared to make a trade with the Marlins because they could get a lot of good players for him."

July 09, 2014

Marcell Ozuna homer was a Marlins first; Brad Penny update

PHOENIX -- Greetings from the desert, where the Marlins will wrap up their series with Arizona this afternoon (3:40 p.m. EST). In case you missed it, Marcell Ozuna came through for the Marlins in a big way in last night's ninth inning, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead with one swing of the bat.

Ozuna connected on Addison Reed's 2-2 fastball with two outs in the ninth to put the Marlins on top.

It marked the first time in Marlins history that a player hit a home run to give the team the lead after being out out away from a shutout loss. Ozuna also became the first player to drive in the game-tying and game-winning runs on a two-strike, two-out home run in the 9th since Mike Lowell did it June 28, 2003, at Boston's Fenway Park. Lowell hit a 3-run homer to overcome a 9-7 deficit.

Ozuna now has 15 homers, owns a 14-game hitting streak, and has the 10th-best WAR (wins above replacement) figure in the National League.

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Following a successful outing Tuesday for Single A Jupiter, the Marlins are sending Brad Penny to Triple A New Orleans for his next start on Sunday.

Penny, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012, went six innings in what was his second start for Jupiter. He allowed two runs on three hits, striking out two and issuing no walks.

The plan calls for Penny to make at least two starts for New Orleans before the Marlins decide whether to bring him up. Penny has a July 31 out clause in his minor league contract that allows him to sign with another organization if he isn’t on the Marlins’ roster by then.

At the moment, the Marlins have only four starters on the roster and don't need a fifth until July 22. If Penny continues on a normal pitching schedule, he could be available to the Marlins on July 23.

July 08, 2014

Stanton: Cespedes one to beat in HR Derby

PHOENIX -- While many are picking Giancarlo Stanton to win the Home Run Derby, Stanton said he feels Yoenis Cespedes of the A's is the one to beat.

"He won last year, so I'd say him," Stanton said of Cespedes, who will be attempting to become the first back-to-back winner of the home run competition since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998-99.

The field for Monday's Derby at Target Field in Minneapolis was announced Tuesday. In addition to Stanton, the National League field will include the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, Reds' Todd Frazier and Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, who is the team captainOver on the American League side, the lineup consists of Cespedes, the Orioles' Adam Jones, Twins' Brian Dozier and Blue Jays' Jose Bautista.

One more player from each league will be added to the Derby field on Thursday.

Most of the national focus for the event appears to be focused on Stanton.

"If I didn't get this guy to participate, I'd be in trouble," Tulowitzki said of Stanton on ESPN.

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A few notes:

-- A.J. Ramos (right shoulder inflammationis expected to throw bullpens on Tuesday and Thursday and, if everything goes well, will pitch Monday, most likely in Jupiter. Ramos is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday, but Redmond said the Marlins will probably wait until after the All-Star break to activate him.

-- Rafael Furcal (left hamstring strain) is beginning to jog again.

-- All-Star talk aside, Casey McGehee is on a roll at the plate. He takes a 14-game hitting streak into tonight's game against the Diamondbacks. His 21-game road hitting streak ranks second on the Marlins' all-time list behind Luis Castillo's 27-gamer in 2002. And he's reached base in 31 consecutive games, which is the third-longest streak this season by a National Leaguer, behind only Carlos Gomez (35 games) and Puig (33).

July 06, 2014

Stanton an angry All-Star after McGehee snub

ST. LOUIS --Giancarlo Stanton is not only going to his first All-Star Game and taking part in the Home Run Derby, but was informed by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny that he'll be in the starting lineup as the National League designated hitter.

Despite all that, Stanton was not a happy man Sunday.

The reason? He's the only Marlin picked for the N.L. team. Neither Casey McGehee nor Henderson Alvarez, two players some felt were deserving of an All-Star spot, were picked by either the fans, players or Matheny to be on the team.

"I'm pretty mad," Stanton said. "It still doesn't make any sense. I know people get gypped every year from it. But this is my first case of being together and seeing the dominance that (McGehee) has been."

Fans voted the Brewers' Aramis Ramirez to be the N.L.'s starting third baseman while the Reds' Todd Frazier was picked by the players as the reserve third baseman.

But what is likely to irk Marlins fans is that Matheny used one of the picks available to him on Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter, who has not had as strong of a season statistically as McGehee has had. Matheny sought out McGehee during pre-game batting practice Sunday and explained his decision.

"He just said it was a tough decision and he had to go in a different direction with it," McGehee said of his conversation with Matheny. "I'm sure it's a lot harder decision to make when you're the one that actually has to put your name on it. So I can respect that. And I did truly appreciate him coming over. I could tell he was genuine in what he was saying. That meant a lot to me."

There is still an outside shot McGehee makes the team. He is one of five players on the "Final Vote" ballot. Whoever receives the most votes by fans in the online voting at MLB.com will win the 34th -- and last roster spot. But given how poorly the Marlins' third baseman fared in the general voting for the All-Star Game (he finished fifth in the voting for third basemen) it's hard to envision him coming out on top for the final spot.

"He shouldn't have to hope for the last spot," Stanton said. "It's not something he needs to promote himself to get there now. It's something that shouldn't be an unfair situation. If you perform the best, you should be there."

McGehee, who had a pair of singles and walked twice on Sunday, leads the league in hits and hitting with runners in scoring position. He also leads N.L. third basemen in RBI and batting average. But he's also hit just one home run, and his WAR (wins above replacement) ranks fifth among N.L third basemen.

Not even Stanton, who has had arguably one of the top first halves of any player in the majors, received enough support in the fan voting to receive the start as one of the N.L.'s three outfielders. He finished fourth in the voting.

But Stanton said Matheny told him he would be in the lineup as the DH.

"Starting is starting," Stanton said.
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Mike Redmond was never an All-Star as a player. But thanks to Stanton, he’ll get a taste of the All-Star experience next week in Minneapolis. Stanton chose Redmond to pitch to him in the Home Run Derby.

Redmond normally throws batting practice to Stanton.

"I was honored when he came and asked me," Redmond said. "Of course I want to be there."
Redmond, a catcher throughout his major league career, laughed when it was mentioned he would be going to his first All-Star game as a pitcher.

"I know when I retired, I didn't think I ever had a vision of throwing batting practice to someone in the Home Run Derby," he said. "I'm going to enjoy the experience as much as anybody else. I'm going to have my kids and wife there."

Stanton said he chose Redmond because of his familiarity with him.

“I didn’t want it to be someone I know is good but I haven’t hit off them in 3 1/2 months. I don’t like that," Stanton said.

Stanton said he also considered having his father pitch to him.

“I thought about that, too,” he said. “But I haven’t hit off him forever, and I don’t know if he would be nervous doing that.”

The last time Stanton competed in a Home Run Derby was as a minor-leaguer in 2008, and he lost to a prospect named Michael Burgess. While Stanton blossomed into one of the top sluggers in the majors, Burgess remains at the Single A level in the Orioles’ organization.
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July 05, 2014

Andrew Heaney demoted to minors after rough outing Saturday

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals had Andrew Heaney seeing red on Saturday, blistering the rookie to the tune of five runs - including back-to-back homers -- in only 3 2/3 innings. Afterward, Heaney was seeing pink -- as in a pink slip.

Following yet another disappointing outing by the young lefty, the Marlins demoted Heaney back to Triple A New Orleans.

"I'm not going to feel sorry for myself," Heaney said after receiving the news. "I'm going to try to get better. I want to be back up here. I have stuff I need to work on. That wasn't the best me I can be."

In four starts, Heaney went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA.

Had the Marlins not rallied for the win Saturday, he would have become the first pitcher in Marlins history to lose his first four major league starts.

"This guy was in (Single A) Jupiter last year," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of Heaney, the Marlins' first-round draft pick in 2012. "We want to make sure he's confident and right."

Redmond said that with an off day coming up on Thursday, the plan was to skip Heaney's next turn in the rotation, anyway. Now, the Marlins plan on getting to the All-Star break with four starters, as Tom Koehler is set to rejoin the team on Monday in Arizona following the birth of his first child.

Heaney struggled to throw strikes Saturday, walking three batters in the first two innings while hitting another with a pitch. But he suffered major damage in the fourth when he gave up four runs, all of them scored with two outs.

One pitch after Allen Craig took him deep for a two-run homer, Jhonny Peralta followed with a solo shot that caromed high up the foul pole in left. Despite the poor showings, Redmond said he is confident Heaney will turn out to be a top pitcher in the majors.

"He's going to be a great pitcher in this league for a long time," Redmond said. "He's got great stuff. He just faced probably two of the best teams in baseball (the Cardinals and Oakland A's). It was a great learning experience. He knows he can pitch up here. Are there areas he needs to work on? Of course. You can say that about a lot of guys."

-- Heaney didn't travel alone on his way back to New Orleans. The Marlins also optioned outfielder Jake Marisnick on Saturday in order to make room for sJhortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who will be activated from the disabled list in time to play Sunday in St. Louis.

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Reed Johnson was hit by a pitch for the 130th time on Friday, moving him into 26th place on the all-time list. Though Johnson is far behind the major league record of 285, held by Craig Biggio, his frequency of being plunked ranks near the top of the list.

On average, Johnson has been hit by a pitch once in every 29.92 plate appearances over his career. Of players who have been hit by pitches at least 130 times, only Ron Hunt was hit by pitches more frequently -- once in every 25.34 pitches. By comparison, Biggio was hit about once in every 44 pitches.

While Johnson stands close to the plate, he also said his opposite-field hitting approach has as much to do with getting hit by pitches as anything else.

“My approach and what I’m trying to do at the plate, other teams know that, and they’re going to try to pitch me in a lot,” Johnson said. “It’s the approach of staying on the ball and trying to keep that front shoulder in as long as you can. I think Biggio was the same way. You look at it, and it’s all guys who hit the ball the other way.”

July 04, 2014

Tyler Kolek loses, Blake Anderson hitless, and more on the Marlins' top draft picks

ST. LOUIS -- It's far too soon to be drawing any conclusions on the Marlins' draft picks. But their two top selections -- pitcher Tyler Kolek and catcher Blake Anderson -- have stumbled out of the starting gate in the Gulf Coast League.

Kolek, the second overall pick in the June amateur draft, made his second start for the Gulf Coast League Marlins Saturday and took the loss, allowing a pair of runs over two innings. Without knowing whether the Marlins are having the gas-throwing Texas work on his other pitches, it's still surprising that Kolek -- he of the 102-mile-per-hour heater -- has struck out only two batters in four innings of work so far.

Anderson, meanwhile, is hitless in 21 at bats. The Marlins surprised draft experts when they used their competitive balance pick (36th overall) on Anderson, who wasn't on Baseball America's Top 200 list of draft prospects. But the word on Anderson when they took him was that his defense was ahead of his bat.

Not all of the Marlins' top selections are struggling. Shortstop Justin Twine, the Marlins' second-rounder, has gone 12-for-35 (.343) in the GCL, and second baseman Brian Anderson, their third-rounder, is hitting .316 (12 for 38 with a pair of homers) for Batavia.

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