July 30, 2014

Mike Hill: "We're going to do our best to try to upgrade, but we're not going to be foolish."

The Marlins' quest to upgrade their starting pitching figures to lead all the way up to Thursday's 4 p.m. trade deadline. But just because they want to be buyers doesn't mean the Marlins are willing to be foolish.

Mike Hill, whose phone began ringing at 8:37 a.m. Wednesday with trade offers (less than seven hours after he received his last call Tuesday night), made it clear if an opportunity presents itself to upgrade the rotation the Marlins plan on pouncing on it. They've even "dipped their toes in" on potential one-year rentals.

But one thing Hill said he's made clear to other clubs is "we’re not trying to take off our major league club, not key components." 

"We’re trying to add," Hill said Wednesday morning about an hour and half before the Marlins were set to close out their three-game series against the division-leading Nationals at Marlins Park. "But to re-shuffle or rob Peter to pay Paul doesn’t really accomplish what we’re trying to do.”

The Red Sox, shopping left-handed All-Star pitcher Jon Lester, reportedly wanted left fielder Christian Yelich from the Marlins. The Marlins wanted no part of that. So the search for a pitcher continues.

Hill said a rental "is not ideal." But it is something the Marlins haven't ruled out.

"It's something that we've entertained and have dipped our toe in the water," Hill said. "It all depends on the cost to acquire a rental and if it sidetracks what we're trying to do in the long term."

Second base remains an area the Marlins would like to address, but that probably will get tabled to the offseason. With Jordany Valdespin being a solid producer since being called up on July 19 (he came into the day Wednesday hitting .267, 1 HR, 3 RBI) Hill said the Marlins are content with Valdespin splitting the job the rest of the way with Donovan Solano. So upgrading the pitching staff remains the top focus.

"It’s always our pitching and we go as our pitching goes," Hill said. "We made a concerted effort to improve our offense and have been able to put a consistent offensive team on the field and now we go as our pitching goes. The early bullpen questions have settled. Guys have gotten into more consistent roles and performed better. It’s no secret that as we’ve played better, we’ve pitched better. Plain and simple, we pitch, we know we’re giving ourselves a chance every day to win a ballgame.”

Hill said owner Jeffrey Loria remains supportive and connected to every decision the front office makes.

"He's obviously part of the process," Hill said. "We update him on where things are. But he wants to win as badly as anybody. He knows where we're at, and what we're trying to do."

Does Loria want to win badly enough to add payroll? "I would say we're looking at everything," Hill said. "Money deals. Prospects deals. We're looking at everything."

How important is it to make a move to show fans and the team the front office is really going for it?

"I think these guys know we believe in them and believe in the talent in this room," Hill said. "Whether we're able to make a move or not I think they know we have their back and supportive of what they're trying to do. We're going to do our best to try to upgrade, but we're not going to be foolish. We're not going to be short sighted. I think we understand where we're at as an organization but we're also understand where we're trying to go. 

"I think that's the balance you strike at this time of year. We'll see what happens these next two days. But there's been a lot going on and we're trying to work through it and seeing if what we're trying to do makes sense not only the near term but the long term."

> Utility man Ed Lucas, back with the team after being sent down to the minors on July 20 so the team could add an extra arm for a road trip to Houston, had a funny line Wednesday about how the Marlins went 9-1 without him.

"It's awesome to watch. I'm happy. But at the same time I'm thinking, 'Man I must be a pretty bad teammate if as soon as I leave they rattle off 9 of 10.' It kind of makes you question yourself a little bit."

> Former Marlins catcher John Baker, 33, pulled off a rare feat for the Cubs in Tuesday night's 16-inning win over the Rockies. He scored the winning run and picked up the victory as a relief pitcher. That's the first time that's happened for the Cubs, who have been around since 1876.

"That's definitely cooler than picking up seven saves in 10 days," said closer Steve Cishek, one of the few pitchers left on the Marlins staff who worked with Baker. "Now, if I could drive in a run and get the win that would be cooler. I think [Burke] Badenhop did that a couple years ago. I'd take that."

WEDNESDAY'S LINEUPS

> Nationals (57-47): 1. Denard Span CF, 2. Anthony Rendon 3B, 3. Jayson Werth RF, 4. Adam LaRoche 1B, 5. Ian Desmond SS, 6. Bryce Harper LF, 7. Wilson Ramos C, 8. Danny Espinosa 2B, 9. Tanner Roark RHP.

> Marlins (53-53): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Jordany Valdespin 2B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Garrett Jones 1B, 6. Marcell Ozuna CF, 7. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 8. Jeff Mathis C, 9. Brad Hand LHP.

July 29, 2014

Marlins super utility man Ed Lucas on his way back up from Triple A

Marlins super utility man Ed Lucas is on his way back up from the minors, the team announced after Tuesday' 3-0 win over the Nationals.

Lucas, 32, was sent down back down Triple A New Orleans on July 20 so the Marlins could add an arm right before they went off on a team-record 6-1 road trip.

The Marlins sent outfielder Jake Marisnick back down to New Orleans to make room.

Lucas was hitting .239 with one homer and seven RBI in 51 games for the Marlins this season. He's played  every position in the infield this season except catcher and both corner outfield spots.

For Redmond Monday night's rally evokes memories of last time Marlins mounted similar comeback in '03

Monday night's thrilling come-from-behind win against the division-leading Nationals wasn't the first time Mike Redmond was on the bench for a big Marlins comeback. 

In fact, the last time the Marlins rallied from a six-run deficit in the seventh inning or later and won prior to Monday was back on June 28, 2003 when Redmond was on the bench cheering his teammates on as they rallied from a 9-2 deficit in the eighth to stun the Red Sox at Fenway Park. 

Pudge Rodriguez had a pair of clutch RBI singles in the eighth and ninth innings before Mike Lowell's three-run home run on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth put the Marlins in front 10-9.

"Thinking back on that it was an amazing night especially after the night before we got hammered 25-8," Redmond said. "I was in that game in the fourth inning because Pudge was done."

Those Marlins -- the last to win a World Series -- improved to 41-41 with that win and climbed to within 11 games of the division-leading Braves that night before going 50-30 the rest of the way to earn the National League's lone wild card berth. 

These Marlins (52-53) climbed to within six games of the division-leading Nationals and 4.5 games back in the wild card race after Monday's thriller. 

So what can a win like Monday's do for a team? 

"It can really be a catapult for your team and definitely something where if it all works out you can look back and say 'Man I remember that game we came back in.' But I just think overall it just shows the character of this ballclub that these guys don't quit," Redmond said. "I know I've said that a lot. But it's the truth. We're playing a first place team and some times you need a big comeback like that to get you going and reinforce the fact we can play with these guys."

Redmond, though, made one thing clear to his players -- they can't stop pushing forward. 

"They're all big," Redmond said. "When you get to this stage of the season and when you have ground to make up -- or even if you're in first place and teams are chasing you -- every game is important. That's what it's all about. That's the beauty of it. 

"What you find out about your team is how you do in pressure situations that are must-win. We just need to continue to focus on trying to win ball games and trying to win series. That's what our focus is right now. Last night was a huge win, huge momentum builder. But we have to go out there tonight and answer the bell as well."

Even after winning eight of their last nine games and a season-high five in a row, the Marlins still remain longshots to make the playoffs. According to ESPN's playoff predictor, the Mets (51-55) actually have a better shot at making the playoffs (13.4 percent) than the Marlins do at 8.5.

STRUGGLING STANTON MAY GET A DAY OFF

Redmond said there's a chance he may give the struggling Giancarlo Stanton a day off soon. Although he hit a pair of home runs in back-to-back games right after the All-Star Break, Stanton has been in a funk at the plate in July.

He came in hitting .316 and has seen his average dip 26 points. He came into Tuesday's game hitting just .205 (17 for 83) with two homers, nine RBI and 32 strikeouts this month. He's whiffed eight times over his last three games.

"I haven't been swinging the way I want to for a month," Stanton said Monday. "[Hitting in the derby] did make me feel better. But I'm still not where I want to be. I'm just out of rhythm out of sync." 

Said Redmond: "He's been hot for so long you're bound to go through a rough patch and maybe this is his rough patch. Now it's just a matter of him getting through it and working through it. We know that he'll get through it. It's just a matter of when. I think we've seen glimpses of him starting to get through it and then these last couple of games in Houston we're struggles for him, swinging at some balls out of the zone. You just got to keep running him out there. A day off, that could happen too here in the next couple days. We'll kind of see that and play it by ear because we need him."

Stanton has played in all 105 games this season and started 104 of them. The only game he didn't start was May 18th at the Giants. he still came into that game in the eighth inning.

HECHAVARRIA TALKS CLUTCH PLAYS

When it comes to big hits with runners in scoring position the only Marlins regular who has had more struggles than shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria this season (.194) is catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.164).

But on Monday night, Hechavarria delivered big, battling through an 11-pitch at-bat against closer Rafael Soriano and delivering the game-tying triple. Hechavarria then came into score the game-winner moments later on Jeff Baker's line-drive shot off the left field wall.

Still, it was Hechavarria's at-bat most Marlins were talking about on Monday and Tuesday. After starting off with a 2-2 count, Hechavarria fouled off five of the next six pitches offered by Soriano before crushing the 11th pitch into the gap for a triple.

"When it was my turn to get up in the ninth inning with Ozuna at first, I kind of just went up there thinking it was my moment, my turn to provide for the team," Hechavarria said. "When Ozuna got to second base [on the wild pitch], I kind of closed my stance a little bit, concentrated of working the middle of the field. I just sat through all those fouls, kept myself closed and composed at the plate and then I got the pitch and drove it to right for the triple."

Hechavarria said he believes he's a better hitter with two strikes "because I concentrate more on driving the ball up the middle or to the opposite field." But the the numbers don't back it up. In 142 at-bats this season in which he's had two strikes, Hechavarria is hitting only .218 with six RBI. He's been a .329 hitter (85 at-bats) when he's been ahead in the count. 

As big as hit was Tuesday, Redmond said nobody on the team forgot his eighth inning diving stop which helped prevent the Natonals from scoring a 7th run. With one out and Bryce Harper on third, Hechavarria dove to his left, caught the ball, stared Harper down before throwing a perfect strike to first for a big out.

It more than made up for his sixth inning error when he made a great play to stop a ball on a bad bounce, but had the ball slip out of his hands as he tried to rush a flip to second base for an out.

"There's more to one way to win ball games and maybe he did it two ways last night with the big hit and the big defensive play," Redmond said. "He's getting better. He's improving. He's a much better hitter this year than he was last year. I think we talked about that -- how much room offensively he had to grow. And he still does. He would he admit he can eliminate some strikeouts, be more selective in the zone. But he's still a young guy and that comes. I remember Alex Gonzalez kind of had the same stuff when he came to the big leagues too. It does take some time. But he's a huge part of our team and a huge part of our defense and it's fun to see him go out there and get better."

> According to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB network, the Marlins are among a group of teams who have expressed interest in Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester.

TUESDAY'S LINEUPS

> Nationals (57-46): 1. Denard Span CF, 2. Anthony Rendon 3B, 3. Adam LaRoche 1B, 4. Wilson Ramos C, 5. Bryce Harper LF, 6. Ian Desmond SS, 7. Danny Espinosa 2B, 8. Nate McLouth RF, 9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

> Marlins (52-53): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Jordany Valdespin 2B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Marcell Ozuna CF, 6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 7. Jeff Baker 2B, 8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 9. Henderson Alvarez RHP

July 28, 2014

Mike Hill said don't put Marlins in seller category at trade deadline

Thanks to a franchise-best 6-1 road trip through Atlanta and Houston, the Marlins don't look like they'll be shipping off any pieces to save money at Thursday's trade deadline.

But if there's a chance to upgrade the team -- like adding a starting pitcher -- they're still very much interested in doing that.

"I would say you can take us out of the seller category," Marlins President of Baseball Operations Mike Hill said Monday as the visiting first-place Nationals were taking batting practice. "We're just looking for ways to build on what has been a very positive year for us. We're continuing to try to build, upgrade our talent and make decisions that help us in the short term and the long term."

Did the 6-1 road trip change things?

"I don't think we ever saw ourselves as a seller," Hill continued. "We've always felt like this club can do good things, can win a lot of games. Had [the road trip] gone differently it might have changed your idea of where you're at. But this club is capable of doing those things. Hopefully it doesn't stop with the road trip. Hopefully we come home and keep it going."

Before the road trip, the Marlins (51-53) were receiving plenty of inquires about their bullpen including closer Steve Cishek and left-hander Mike Dunn. But now that they're back home and only seven games back of the Nationals and 5 1/2 out in the National League Wild Card race it appears the front office is no longer listening to those trade scenarios.

But Hill said the team is still very much interested in upgrading their starting pitching with a controllable piece.

"I guess if you would say a rental is [no control] beyond this year I would say anything beyond a rental [is what we're interested in]," Hill explained. "If we think it's an upgrade and depending on the cost to acquire that particular player then we're looking at everything. Which is what most of the clubs are doing at this point -- to see if a deal makes sense for what they're trying to accomplish.

"As you know the starting pitching market is quite difficult a market to be in. I couldn't be happier with the strides Brad Hand and Jacob Turner have made in the rotation. If we're giving them the ball every fifth day then we have the confidence they're going to give us a chance to win every time they step out there. But if we're able to upgrade one of our five starters we'll look to do so."

> Although manager Mike Redmond said Monday second baseman Derek Dietrich told him he could be close to going on a rehab assignment soon, Hill didn't sound as optimistic. Dietrich has been on the disabled list since July 2 with a right wrist sprain.

"He's not swinging," Hill said. "I don't consider that close. I don't think any of [the injured players] you can say will be back to help us."

> Reliever Carter Capps, who has been out since the end of May with an elbow sprain, is expected to begin a throwing program soon but is still a month away from a return. 

POSTERIZING GONE WRONG

From kicking soccer balls around in the outfield to putting on funny outfits or even the clothes of teammates, the Marlins have had their fare share of pre-game shenanigans this season.

Sunday, pitcher Tom Koehler tried to partake in a little pre-game dunking -- or what the players refer to as "posterizing" -- and things didn't go well. Instead of "posterizing" teammate Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Koehler jumped up, grabbed the roof of the visitors dugout in Houston and whiffed as he tried to wrap his legs around his catcher. The pitcher ended up on his back side and his teammates broke out laughing.

Thankfully, nobody was injured.

"Koehler tried to be sneaky and dunk on Salty when he was walking away and it just turned into a complete mess," closer Steve Cishek said. "He dunked, slipped  fell on his backside and made a complete fool of himself basically. They happened to get in on camera."

Joked Saltalamacchia: "That's what happens when you mess with your catcher. Things go wrong."

Koehler was unavailable for comment.

Said Saltalamacchia: "I think he's going to lay low for a little while."

MONDAY'S LINEUP

> Nationals (57-45): 1. Denard Span CF, 2. Anthony Rendon 3B, Jayson Werth RF, 4. Adam LaRoche 1B, 5. Ian Desmond SS, 6. Bryce Harper LF, 7. Wilson Ramos C, 8. Danny Espinosa 2B, 9. Jordan Zimmerman RHP.

> Marlins (51-53): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Jordany Valdespin 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. Nathan Eovaldi RHP. 

Cishek's six saves in eight days most productive run by a Marlins closer ever

The best seven-game road trip in franchise history did more than  put the Marlins in position to be buyers instead of sellers before Thursday's trading deadline.

It also turned out to be a nice showcase for closer Steve Cishek, who could be one of the pieces the team decides to move if things go south against the division-leading Nationals at Marlins Park over the next three days.

Cishek, 28, picked up six saves in an eight-day span. That's the best stretch by a Marlins closer ever (Kevin Gregg picked up five saves in six days in 2008) and the second best in the majors this season.

Only the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez has put together a longer and more fruitful run with no more than one day of rest between saves. He picked up nine saves in 11 days from April 18-29. The Brewers played 10 games during the stretch.

Cishek, now 26 of 29 on save opportunities this season, is tied for the eighth most saves in the majors this season.  His save percentage (90 percent) ranks 10th among all closers with double digit saves. All that -- and the fact he's under club control through 2017 -- makes him a hot commodity on the open trade market. 

The Marlins believe they can get more than what the Padres got from the Angels for Huston Street (four minor league prospects, two ranked in their Top 20 by MLB on their respective franchises) and what the Rangers received from the Tigers for Joakim Soria (reliever Corey Knebel and prospect Jake Thompson).

Of course if the Marlins play well against the Nationals and continue to climb the standings -- they are seven games back in the division and 5.5 back in the wild card race -- this all becomes moot. 

Either way, Cishek, making $3.8 million in his first year of arbitration, is set for a pretty nice pay day at the end of this season if he keeps this up.

> The Marlins on Monday recalled outfielder Jake Marisnick (.220, 5 steals in 13 big league games in 2014) from Triple A New Orleans and optioned catcher J.T. Realmuto (.200, 5 RBI in 7 MLB games in 2o14) back down to Double A Jacksonville.

July 26, 2014

Marlins winning the replay game; Jeff Baker's unique hitting streak & more

HOUSTON -- When it comes to overturning calls using baseball's new replay rules, no team is doing it better than the Marlins. The Marlins have been successful on 17 of their 21 challenges this season, giving them an 80 percent success rate that is tops in the majors.

[The folks at baseballsavant.com have all it broken down here.]

So far this season, 657 calls have been challenged in the majors, with 345 -- or 52.5 percent -- getting overturned. The Marlins, clearly, are doing much better than the average. Their 17 overturns are also tied for first with the Royals and Giants. By contrast, the Cardinals have had only two correct challenges (out of 13 attempts) while the Reds are just three for nine.

If one assumes that the number of close plays from one team to the next equals out over the course of a 162-game season, it's clear some teams are doing a much better job of it than others. In the name of Don Denkinger, how in the world have the Cardinals only managed to get two calls overturned this season when the league average is 11.5?

"I think it's become a big weapon," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of the new review system.

In Pat Shine, the Marlins have someone who is focused on the job. And it's not an easy one. During games, Shine sits inside the clubhouse carefully scrutinizing not just every single play, but anywhere from 12 to 15 camera angles on each and every one. Whenever there's a close play, Shine doesn't have a lot of time to a) examine the replay, oftentimes more than once; b) determine whether a challenge is in order and c) call the information up to the dugout.

"He's done a great job of seeing those plays and making a 15-second judgment," Redmond said. "It's not easy. He's been a huge weapon for us, for sure. We buy him as much time as we possibly can. But, still, he's got to be in on every play, and he's got 10 or 15 seconds to make a judgment, safe or out."

One night after getting a call at first overturned in Atlanta, the Marlins challenged a safe call on Jose Altuve's stolen base in Houston. Replays showed Donovan Solano had made a swipe tag on Altuve, who was ultimately ruled to be out.

"He's been all over it and really become a big part of the team," Redmond said of Shine. "When he gets them right, it fires everybody up, too. You think back to the one in San Francisco when (Brandon Hicks) missed first base, that was all him."

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Jeff Baker has a 10-game hitting streak, which might not sound like a big deal. But not only is it the longest hitting streak of Baker's career, he's done it the hard way.

Baker came through with pinch-hits in four of those games, which puts him one away from matching the Marlins' franchise record for consecutive pinch-hits, shared by Wes Helms (2008) and Greg Briley (1993).

"Obviously, the first month of the season for me was extremely rough," Baker said. "But just staying with my approach, not trying to change and do too much because the stats aren't exactly where you wnted them..."

________________

Though he's worked in five of the past six games, earning saves in each, Steve Cishek said he'll be available again Saturday.

"You doubting me?" Cishek asked.

After a rough patch, Cishek said he's made a couple of minor adjustments to get back on track.

"It's just one little adjustment that I had to make, which was driving the ball down in the zone," he said. "Everything I threw in those other games were bad pitches, especially against Oakland. Everything was up. It wasn't so much the approach as much as it was the location and execution of the pitch. Just battled to get that feel back. I'm sure it won't be the last time I struggle."

Jacksonville manager Andy Barkett leads the charge in benches-clearing, baseball-throwing brawl

HOUSTON -- For your viewing pleasure, a video of last night's brawl in Jacksonville between the Suns and Birmingham Barons. It's a good one. Suns manager Andy Barkett turned in a top performance, going into a baseball-throwing tizzy after being ejected by umpires.

Check it out for yourself:

July 25, 2014

Casey McGehee dealing with first "slump"; Salty stinks as DH

HOUSTON -- Players generally aren't grilled after they've gone three games without a hit. Three-game drought? No big deal. It's not uncommon and happens to the best of them.

But Casey McGehee opened up about his first such "slump" as the Marlins prepared to open a weekend interleague series against the Houston Astros.

"It's going to happen," said McGehee of his mini drought, which covered the final three games of the Marlins' series in Atlanta. "I'm a little frustrated the last couple of days because I feel like I haven't been swinging the bat like I've wanted to. But I think maybe I was just a little overanxious."

McGehee finds his name atop two disparate statistical categories. He leads the National League in hitting with runners in scoring position (a .382 average) and grounding into double plays (19). McGehee grounded into three double plays in the Atlanta series to increase his major league lead in that category. Next on the list is Kansas City's Billy Butler with 17.

Part of the reason McGehee has been so successful at driving in runs is that he often finds himself at the plate when the Marlins have runners in scoring position. But base runners also create more opportunities for grounding into double plays, and McGehee has had more than his share of those. Being a ground ball hitter doesn't help. Nor does his lack of speed.

"I've always hit into my fair share of double plays," McGehee said. "It's something I don't like to do, obviously. But, yeah, I think it's a combination of getting guys on base and using the middle of the field. It's not like I'm beating out the medium ground ball either, so there's a couple of things that play into it."

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Due to the use of the designated hitter in the Houston series, the Marlins on Friday called up catcher J.T. Realmuto from Triple A New Orleans to give them an extra bat. Pitcher Anthony DeSclafani was optioned back to New Orleans.

DH honors for the first game of the series go to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who asked me to "write about how awful I am as a DH."

The reason? After I wrote about his defensive woes for this morning's paper, a story that was filed before last night's game, Saltalamacchia had his best game in quite a while when he went 3 for 4, drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, and threw out a base runner. Salty figured if I wrote about his poor numbers as a DH, the effect would be the same.

So here they are: Saltalamacchia has gone 16 for 69 (.232) with only one homer in his career as a DH.

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Tyler Kolek, the Marlins' first round draft pick, came out of Wednesday's outing with the GCL Marlins after facing only four batters due to a sore back. Kolek, the second overall pick in the draft, was diagnosed with a lower back sprain, and the Marlins don't feel it's serious.

Kolek is on "no-throw" status until next week when he has another precautionary X-ray to make sure everything's okay.

"It's been improvement and less pain since that time," said Marlins general manager Dan Jennings.

_________________

According to STATS LLC, last night's win in Atlanta marked only the second time in Marlins history that the game-winning run came as a result of a strikeout/wild pitch. Marcell Ozuna reached -- and eventually scored the deciding run -- after Craig Kimbrel struck him out in the ninth, but the ball got away from the catcher.

The other time it happened for the Marlins: the second inning on May 3, 1994, when Ron Tingley scored on a bases-loaded walk by Gary Sheffield to score the first run in an eventual 6-3 win over the Braves.

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Tonight's lineups:

Marlins: 1. Christian Yelich 7; 2. Donovan Solano 4; 3. Giancarlo Stanton 9; 4. Casey McGehee 5; 5. Jeff Baker 3; 6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia dh; 7. Marcell Ozuna 8; Adeiny Hechavarria 6; 9. Jeff Mathis 2. Pitching: Brad Hand (1-2, 4.86).

Astros: 1. Jose Altuve 4; 2. Kike Hernandez 8; 3. Chris Carter dh; 4. Matt Dominguez 5; 5. Jesus Guzman 3; 6. Jason Castro 2; 7. Robbie Grossman 9; 8. L.J. Hoes 7; 9. Gregorio Petit 6. Pitching: Dallas Keuchel (9-6, 3.29). 

July 24, 2014

Errors eating at Jarrod Saltalamacchia

ATLANTA -- The season has turned into anything but a pleasant homecoming for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is struggling at the plate and behind it for the Marlins. When the Palm Beach County native skipped a throw into the outfield on Wednesday, he equaled Miguel Olivo's team record for most errors in a season by a catcher with 12. And there are still 62 games left to go.

"Definitely something I'm not proud of," Saltalamacchia said. "I don't like to make excuses for anything. It's something I've been working on, got to continue to work on."

Saltalamacchia is tied with Cleveland's Yan Gomes for most errors by a catcher, and if matters don't improve for him defensively, he could pile up the most errors by a catcher since Paul Lo Duca was charged with 15 in 2003 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

While defense has never been Saltalamacchia's calling card, the Marlins surely couldn't have imagined him to struggle this badly when they gave him a 3-year, $21 million deal over the winter. He was their most significant offseason acquisition in terms of a dollar commitment. He's already made twice as many errors as he did all last season with the Boston Red Sox, and has never made more than nine in any one season.

Using advanced metrics, he is the only catcher in the majors with a negative defensive WAR.

"The game's different in the National League," Saltalmacchia said of the transition moving from A.L. to N.L. "A lot of things are moving. A lot of different pieces. A lot more strategy. Things I've got to adjust to. Little by little, I feel I am."

Saltalamacchia said it hasn't been just one thing, but pointed out "rushed throws" as one of his downfalls.

"Just slowing the game down, that aspect has been the biggest transition I've had to make," he said. "Sometimes you try to get too big too quick, and that's when errors can occur. For me, I think it's more of a comfort level. You've been in one league for most of your career. You get comfortable. You get used to how guys play the game and you kind of anticipate certain things. The National League is a little different. I'm not used to these guys, so anticipating is a little tougher."

Manager Mike Redmond hinted that backup Jeff Mathis could see more playing time. Mathis caught Brad Hand on Sunday and Jacob Turner on Tuesday. The two pitchers, who have struggled, turned in strong outings to post wins.

"It's hot out there and we're getting late in the season," Redmond said. "(I'm) trying to keep Salty as fresh as we can. So I'll try to get Mathis in there a little bit more to keep those guys fresh as we can for the rest of the season."

July 23, 2014

Marlins win the lottery

ATLANTA -- The Marlins came out winners on Wednesday without ever stepping on the field, as their name was the first drawn in the Competitive Balance Lottery for the 2015 Major League Draft.

As a result, they’ll have the first selection in Competitive Balance Round A, which immediately follows the first round of the draft.

Compensatory picks are the only draft picks that can be traded, and the Marlins did exactly that earlier this year when they dealt one of their two picks to Pittsburgh for reliever Bryan Morris.

Only franchises that are located in one of the 10 smallest major league markets or have one of the 10 smallest revenue pools are eligible to participate in the lottery to determine the order for those compensatory picks.

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Steve Cishek doesn’t have the quickest delivery. And he isn’t one to overly concern himself with base runners, preferring instead to focus most of his attention on the hitter.

But when the Braves put the tying run aboard with no outs in Tuesday’s ninth inning and sent in speedy Jordan Schafer as a pinch-runner, Cishek became especially attentive.

In an effort to hold the runner close, Cishek threw over to first four times. When Cishek finally delivered to the plate, Schafer took off and was thrown out by Jeff Mathis. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria assisted, picking Mathis’ one-hopper and tagging Schafer just before his hand could get to the bag. Cishek then retired the next two batters to preserve a 6-5 win.

“We knew he was running,” said manager Mike Redmond. “So we at least bought ourselves a half a step (by holding Schafer with repeated throws), which night have been enough to get him.”

Braves fans booed as Cishek kept throwing to first.

“I think it’s kind of comical,” Cishek said of the booing. “It’s like, ‘Boo, how dare you hold the runner.’ (And I’m supposed to think) oh, you booed me. I better throw it home now?”

-- For the first time in his career, Cishek posted a save in three consecutive games.
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Donovan Solano stepped to the plate in the eighth inning Tuesday with a chance to become only the 15th player in Marlins history to register a 5-hit game. But he ended up walking on five pitches.

Asked if he thought the pitcher was trying to pitch around him, Solano laughed, noting that Giancarlo Stanton was on deck.

“I don’t think so,” Solano said, rolling his eyes.

The last Marlin to tally five hits in a game was Stanton in August of 2010.
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Henderson Alvarez is good to go for Thursday's scheduled start after being struck in the leg by a batted ball in his previous outing.

Though Alvarez doesn't throw bullpens between his starts like most pitchers, Redmond said he is certain Alvarez is feeling just fine. The reason?

"I saw him out there trying to rob homers during batting practice, so I took that as full green. He's good to go," Redmond said.

Alvarez has had a number of injuries over the course of the season that seemed bigger at the time but always turned out to be not-so-bad.

"I remember Brad Penny back in the day always had something wrong with him, too," Redmond said. "Those were the days you were always excited because you said, 'Man, he's going to have a big day today.' He was either throwing up, or sick as he's ever been. But he always went out and pitched well."

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Speaking of Penny, he was hit around pretty good earlier today in Iowa, giving up eight runs (only three earned) on eight hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. Penny had pitched well in his two previous starts for Triple A New Orleans.