April 19, 2015

Is Mike Redmond on the hot seat?

NEW YORK -- Reeling from a four-game sweep to the New York Mets that left the Marlins with the second-worst record in the majors at 3-10, manager Mike Redmond's job may be in jeopardy as the team heads to Philadelphia for a series with the Phillies that could dictate his fate.

According to sources who have heard rumblings, Redmond is on the hot seat and the the organization is already bouncing around possible replacements. One possibility: Wally Backman, the Mets' Triple A manager.

History has shown that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria isn't shy about making managerial changes, as he canned Jeff Torborg in May of 2003, replacing him with Jack McKeon, after that eventual World Series team got off to a poor start. He also dumped Fredi Gonzalez in June of 2010 for Edwin Rodriguez when that team was struggling. He fired both Joe Girardi and Ozzie Guillen after just one season.

But would Loria go so far as to fire a manager less than 20 games into the season?

Sources said Loria is not happy with the team's play, and Giancarlo Stanton's post-game comments Friday suggesting the team lacked "fire," while in no way directed at the more laid-back style of Redmond, might have had the unintended effect of creating that impression. Loria has always had a strong preference for fiery managers. McKeon fit that bill, and Loria courted the demonstrative Bobby Valentine, as well as hiring Guillen, for those reasons.

So we'll see.

Following an offseason in which the front office revamped the roster with trades and free agent signings, many projected the Marlins to contend for a playoff spot. Now that they're off to a terrible start, everything is on the table, including Redmond's job. Even though Redmond was given a contract extension at the end of last season that takes him through 2017, it doesn't mean his job is secure. Guillen was fired after only one year of a four-year contract. The Marlins are still paying him.

Dropping the upcoming series to the Phillies -- a team that pretty much everyone has pegged for last in the N.L. East -- could carry major ramifications. Whether those involve Redmond remains to be seen.

Dee Gordon's 5-hit game puts him in select company

NEW YORK -- With five hits on Saturday, Dee Gordon became only the 10th player in Marlins history to record five hits in a game going nine innings or less. While it wasn't Gordon's first 5-hit performance -- he had five hits against the Marlins last season -- it was the first by a Marlin since Giancarlo Stanton went 5 for 5 on Aug. 11, 2010.

Here's the complete list of 5-hit efforts by Marlins players in 9-inning games:

1. Dee Gordon -- 4/18/2014

2. Giancarlo Stanton -- 8/11/2010

3. Miguel Olivo -- 6/16/2007

4. Miguel Cabrera -- 4/21/2007

5. Dan Uggla -- 9/11/2006

6. Juan Pierre -- 5/8/2005

7. Gary Sheffield -- 9/17/97

8. Terry Pendleton -- 5/29/95

9. Gary Sheffield -- 7/24/94

10. Chuck Carr -- 5/23/94

On the flip side of Gordon's outstanding performance Saturday was Christian Yelich's night at the plate. Yelich wore the "Golden Sombrero" for the first time in his major league career, whiffing four times in five at bats. He singled his other time up.

April 18, 2015

Poor start by Marlins prompts players-only clubhouse meeting

NEW YORK -- One day after Giancarlo Stanton questioned what he perceives as a lack of “fire” on the Marlins, the clubhouse was closed Saturday for a players-only pre-game meeting to air out issues.

The Marlins are off to a lackluster 3-8 start and, early or not, it’s not sitting well with some on the team.
“If they felt like they needed to hash some things out, then I think it’s good,” said manager Mike Redmond of the 30 minute pow-wow that took place Saturday before batting practice.

Redmond and the coaching staff were not involved in the meeting.

Following Friday’s loss, Stanton was unusually pointed in his concerns.

“We’re not giving ourselves a chance, it feels like,” Stanton told reporters. “We’ve got a positive vibe, but (something) is just not there. The fire is not there, it seems like.”

Stanton seemed to indicate the Marlins aren’t playing hard and focused for all nine innings.

“The game is nine innings,” said Stanton, who homered in each of the first two games of the series against the Mets, both of which resulted in losses. “It’s not two, three (innings). It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth through the seventh, or the seventh through the ninth. It’s not two innings. It’s nine. We’re not playing nine. There’s no campfire to sit around and reminisce on things. We’ve got to play every night.”

When players showed up Saturday, it wasn’t long before media members were ushered out and the doors were closed.

“I think it’s always good for players to talk amongst each other and motivate each other,” Redmond said. “It’s up to the players to go out there and motivate themselves. If they don’t like something that’s going on, they work that out among themselves. I think sometimes meetings like that can be productive and hopefully it is for us.”

Giancarlo Stanton: "Fire is not there" with Marlins

NEW YORK -- Giancarlo Stanton is a man of few words, and those that do come out of his mouth are typically guarded and rarely revealing. But after the Marlins lost Friday to the Mets, Stanton could contain his displeasure with the team's 3-8 start no more. The pointed criticisms came gushing out.

"We're not giving ourselves a chance, it feels like," Stanton told reporters, including MLB.com. "We've got a positive vibe, but (something) is just not there. The fire is not there, it seems like. You always want to leave it. But you're out there, and it's game time, it's just nothing there -- it seems like."

Stanton has homered in each of the first two games of the Mets series. But that did nothing to quell his anger over the team's disappointing start.

"The game is nine innings," Stanton said. "It's not two, three. It doesn't matter if it's the fifth through the seventh, or the seventh through the ninth. It's not two innings, it's nine. We're not playing nine. There is no campfire to sit around and reminisce on things. We've got to play every night. We've got to go. The work is there. The process, we need to pick up."

The task gets even tougher for the Marlins the next two games of the series when the face the Mets' two best hurlers in Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey.

"We've got to get it done," Stanton said. "There is no, 'Hey, this is going to make us click now. This is going to do it for us now.' We've got to go. There is no time for that."

April 17, 2015

Salty on benching: "Am I mad? Yeah, I'm mad. I want to play."

NEW YORK -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia isn't a happy camper at the moment, and the reasons are obvious. He's lost his starting job to a rookie catcher -- J.T. Realmuto -- and would prefer to be in the lineup, not on the bench.

But that's where he found himself Friday for a third straight game as manager Mike Redmond continued to stick with Realmuto, who went 0 for 4 on Thursday, but missed a grand slam by no more than 10 feet.

"Am I mad?" Saltalamacchia asked. "Yeah, I'm mad. I want to play."

But Saltalamacchia said he's not so angry that he'll allow it to become a distraction by pouting over it.

"I can't control this," he said. "I can't grab the lineup and put my name on it. Do I want to be in there? Yeah. There's not a day I don't want to be in there. I'm not going to sit here and complain. I want to play. But I'm not going to hurt this team. I'm not going to be the reason."

Saltalamacchia, who struggled last season and got off to a slow start by going 2 for 22 with 11 strikeouts, said he feels it's a little too soon to be making sudden lineup changes, such as the one that finds himself in a secondary role -- at least, for the moment.

Does he think six starts behind the plate is too quick to be pulling the trigger?

"In my opinion, yeah," he said. "But I don't get paid to make those decisions. I can only do what I can do, which is show up and play when I'm in there."

When he's not, Saltalamacchia said he'll do whatever he can to help Realmuto, either by helping him with pitch-calling, or in facing opposing pitchers at the plate.

"I can help the team," he said. "J.T.'s still new at this. He hasn't caught Phelps too much, so I can help him get through that. A few of these guys I've faced a lot, so I can help him with that. So I can help the team."

Saltalamacchia said Realmuto "looks good."

"I watched some of the pitches he called last night, and he was definitely on the same page I was on," he said. "He looks really relaxed and not pressing too hard, which is really big for young guys. I think he's doing a good job, and I hope he continues doing it."

April 16, 2015

Giancarlo Stanton moves to top of Marlins' all-time HR list (video)

NEW YORK -- So long, Dan Uggla.

Giancarlo Stanton moved to the top of the Marlins' all-time home run list on Thursday -- one ahead of Uggla -- with a first-inning shot off the Mets' Dillon Gee at Citi Field.

Stanton's 155th career blast with the Marlins landed in the Mets bullpen and gave him sole possession of first on the team's all-time list. The two-run homer was Stanton's first of the season, and first since Sept. 8 of last season, days before being struck in the face with a pitch.

Stanton's milestone home run came in his 644th game with the Marlins. By comparison, it took Uggla 776 games to compile his total of 154 homers.

Upon returning to the dugout after reaching the milestone, Stanton received the silent treatment from his teammates.

Realmuto, Yelich return to lineup; Phelps set to start Friday

NEW YORK -- If there were any thoughts of putting Jarrod Saltalamacchia back behind the plate after rookie J.T. Realmuto went 2 for 3 in his season debut, manager Mike Redmond put them to rest Thursday when he posted his lineup for tonight's game at Citi Field.

Realmuto was back in for the Marlins as they prepared to open a four-game series against the Mets. What degree of permanency there is to the catching situation remains to be seen. But with Saltalamacchia off to a poor start and Realmuto receiving high accolades from Dan Haren and Redmond following Wednesday's performance in Atlanta, there seems no hurry to go back to the norm just yet.

Meanwhile, Christian Yelich was back in the lineup after missing two games in Atlanta with tightness in his lower back. Yelich said his back is feeling much better.

"Nobody wanted to make it a bigger issue than it had to be," Yelich said of his back, which has given him problems in the past. "Take a few days instead of a few weeks to make sure this thing is squared away and I'm 100 percent. (It's a) way milder version of what I had last year."

Yelich landed on the DL last season with a lower back strain.

________________

David Phelps missed the birth of his third child on Monday, arriving to the hospital about 40 minutes after his wife delivered their third child, a boy. But Phelps didn't miss his scheduled bullpen session on Tuesday and is set to make his first start for the Marlins on Friday.

Phelps said that while he was in Pittsburgh to be with his wife and new child, he took time out on Tuesday to throw a bullpen with a local college team.

The question is, how much can the Marlins expect out of Phelps after is only two relief appearances so far totaled one inning?

"I go out and worry about getting outs, not so much what my role is," Phelps said. "That's the biggest thing for me, not trying to make too much of it."

Phelps is no stranger to starting. He made 40 starts during his time with the New York Yankees, going 12-11 with a 4.34 ERA. He made 17 starts last season for the Yankees, the last coming on July 28, and boasts a record of 9-5 with a 3.13 ERA in games started in New York (all at Yankee Stadium).

The Marlins will likely have Brad Hand and Jose Urena waiting in the wings Friday night if Phelps is unable to go more than a few innings.

April 15, 2015

Realmuto impresses Haren, Marlins in first start of 2015 behind plate

ATLANTA -- With Jarrod Saltalamacchia hitting .091 at the plate this season and coming off a rough 2014 campaign, many Marlins fans have been clamoring for change at the catcher position.

J.T. Realmuto only made that chorus grow louder Wednesday. Making his first start since being called up to replace the injured Jeff Mathis, the 24-year-old Realmuto finished 2-for-3 at the plate, drew a walk, and scored twice. He also got some hefty compliments from starting pitcher Dan Haren after the Marlins 6-2 win over the Braves.

"J.T. did a great job back there," said Haren, who gave up two runs over seven innings. "I have a pretty thorough game plan I have to go over. I'm not out there throwing 95 mph. I have a pretty detailed game plan I went over with him the last few days because I thought there’s a decent chance he was going to catch me.

"He did outstanding calling pitches, very rarely shook. He’s only caught one bullpen that I’ve thrown [thus far], didn’t catch me at all in spring training. I thought it was going to be really tough for him because I throw a lot of pitches in a lot of different counts to different sides of the plate -- and he did really, really good. I was impressed."

Skipper Mike Redmond had some love for Realmuto too.

"For him to come up and contribute both defensively and offensively, that’s a big spark for us and did a good job with a veteran pitcher," Redmond said. "I know Danny had been talking to him over the last couple of days, preparing him for the start, I thought he did great. He caught really well, had some key at bats, was a nice spark for us."

Realmuto, who went 7-for-29 (.267) with nine RBI in 29 at-bats and 11 games for the Marlins last season, said he was happy he could "contribute to a big series win."

"It was nice to get back in there and get a couple of knocks," said Realmuto, who started the fifth inning with a double and scored on Adeiny Hechavarria's two-run home run. "I had a good at-bat early and was able to get some confidence off that. The rest of the lineup was hitting as well. It's easy to get in a groove when everybody else is getting on base.

"[Haren] did a great job of preparing me. He came to me two days ago when we had a good idea we were going to work together. We've been going over pitches and what he likes to do to certain hitters for the last two days really. He did a great job preparing me for that."

> After the game, the Marlins decided to keep Jose Urena on the team and send down Carter Capps to make room for David Phelps, who will rejoin the team in New York Thursday. Redmond said the team wanted to keep an extra pitcher who could provide long relief.

"But at the same time too, we’ll find ways we can plug him in there," Redmond said of Urena.

Jackie Robinson Day has special meaning for Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon

ATLANTA -- It was Jackie Robinson Day in ballparks across the country Wednesday, which meant it was a great day for new Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon.

Having spent his first four seasons in the big leagues with Robinson's old team, the 26-year-old Gordon gained a special appreciation for the man who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. It's part of the reason Gordon has become more and more involved in MLB's push to revive baseball in black communities.

He's already met with players from the Marlins Reviving Baseball in the Innnercity's program, and hosted a free baseball camp in his hometown of Avon Park, Fla. last December.

"I try to help the kids were I’m from just to show them I’m from the same place and I made it to professional baseball and my dad did as well," said Gordon, whose father Tom was an All-Star relief pitcher and whose younger half-brother Nick, 19, was taken fifth overall in the 2014 draft by the Twins. 

"More than anything I want to show kids you can do more than just the things you see in front of you."

Gordon, who was recruited by Louisville and other basketball powers as a standout 5-11 guard, chose to dedicate himself to baseball over hoops his senior year of high school. It's a decision he has not regretted -- and one baseball hopes plays out more often with other talented young black athletes.

According to a study by USA Today, there were 68 African-Americans on opening-day rosters last week (roughly 7.8 percent of the 868 players listed on rosters on disabled list). That's a far cry from 1986 when 19 percent of major leaguers were African American. 

Yet, there are signs an influx of young African-Americans like Gordon's brother are entering the game. Nick is one of 18 African-Americans drafted in the first round since 2012. Seven African-Americans are ranked about the Top 100 prospects in the game by ESPN's Keith Law.

More -- including a few from Miami -- could be among the next wave.

"When I first got here we had the Ayudan week and I got to meet the Marlins [Junior Division] RBI kids who won the World Series," Gordon said. "It was amazing to see that talent these kids have coming from inner city Miami. I didn’t really get to see much of it in LA because they were in Compton and it was tough to get over there. In Miami, I got to see them first hand and that was amazing." 

Gordon said he goes back to his high school in Avon Park often to be around the kids and talk about the game. "I got a lot of cousins who play baseball for my high school now," Gordon said. "It’s getting better."

> Marlins skipper Mike Redmond said he's hopeful left fielder Christian Yelich (back tightness) can return to the lineup Thursday against the Mets, but he's not going to push the Gold Glover back before he's ready.

> Marlins pitching prospect Jose Urena, expected to be sent back down to the minors when David Phelps comes off the paternity list Thursday, was happy he was able to make his big league debut and pitch a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday's 8-2 win over the Braves.

"I felt good, got an inning in, looked good, wasn't nervous," Urena said. "It's been a wonderful experience. The majority of people who get called up go through this, come up for a short time. The important thing is to take a good experience back with you to the minors."

April 14, 2015

Stanton explains why he didn't use face mask in final at-bat Tuesday; Yelich talks back tightness

ATLANTA -- For the first time since a Mike Fiers fastball struck him in the face and ended his 2014 season last Sept. 11, Giancarlo Stanton went to bat Tuesday night without the specially designed protective face mask made for him.

It happened in his final at-bat in Tuesday's 8-2 win over the Braves -- and only because Stanton said he was facing a left-handed pitcher.

So how did it feel? "Fine," Stanton said. "Just like my whole career prior."

Stanton doubled down the third baseline against Braves reliever and former Marlins Rule 5 pick Andrew McKirahan. The hit plated two runs and completed a 3-for-3 evening with four RBI for the two-time All-Star. Stanton walked in his other two at-bats and raised his batting average from .130 to .231.

Stanton had faced a lefty only two other times previously to Tuesday, but opted not to go without the protective mask.

The Marlins face Braves left-hander Eric Stults on Wednesday. Asked if he'll go without the mask again  versus Stults, Stanton said: "Honestly, it's whatever I feel like doing."

Stanton said he'll continue to wear the mask "for the most part" against right-handers.

How did it feel to finally break out of a 3-for-23 slump to start the season and get a win?

"We've got to win, that's the biggest part," Stanton said. "Contributing too is good for us. We need [to win] a series tomorrow."

What did Stanton think of second baseman Dee Gordon laying out the team's bats across the clubhouse pre-game to wake them up?

"At least we keep it loose still," he said. "We're not coming in here like our dogs died. We've got to have fun."

> Gordon, by the way, wanted no part of taking ownership for the little bat display he orchestrated. Instead, he opted to play coy.

"I walked in here today and there were a lot of bats on the floor and I was like, who did it? and nobody knew,' he said with a grin. "It worked I guess. Whoever did that they are pretty smart. It helped. He’s a team player I guess."

Pitcher Tom Koehler, who got the win Tuesday, saw it all go down.

"I actually got here while it was going on and I was really confused," Koehler said. "[Gordon] said, 'Where's your bat? You've got to get a hit today too.' All of a sudden he's dumping out the pitcher's bag. I said, 'Dude man, save the hits for you. I'm not going to get a hit.'

"He got us going. Who knows. When he threw my bag down it probably helped me get that bunt down.' Had he thrown it a little bit more, maybe I would have gotten two bunts down.'"

YELICH ON BACK TIGHTNESS

Left fielder Christian Yelich, scratched from Tuesday's lineup with back tightness, is hoping to feel better and get back in the lineup by Thursday against the Mets. But he's not going to rush back either.

"It kind of hasn't been feeling good for the last few days," Yelich explained postgame Tuesday. "I kind of tried to play through it and it was making it worse. I talked to [head trainer] Sean [Cunningham] and all those guys, Red, and they said 'let's give it a few days and get back out there.' Give it a day or two and hopefully I'll be back at it."

Yelich insists the highlight reel diving catch he made in Monday's game didn't make the back feel any worse. "It was already going on," he said.