June 03, 2015

Jose Fernandez right in the middle of Marlins-Cubs benches-clearing argument

Jose Fernandez still has at least a few minor league rehab assignments to go before he starts for the Marlins, but he was smack-dab in the middle of the best action Wednesday night against the Cubs.

After Junior Lake stood near the plate and admired his towering two-run home run off Marlins starter Dan Haren in the sixth, Lake rounded the bases and shushed the Marlins dugout as he headed for home, prompting a benches-clearing confrontation at the plate between the teams.

No punches or shoves were exchanged and no one was ejected, but Lake and Fernandez -- the first Marlins player to jump out of the dugout and race toward the plate -- shared heated words as plate umpire James Hoye fought to separate the teams.

The Marlins (21-32) jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Chicago (27-23) by scoring four runs off Cubs starter Jon Lester in the second inning. Giancarlo Stanton and Jeff Baker then crushed back-to-back solo home runs in the fifth off Lester.

The Cubs scored three runs off  Haren in the sixth and had the tying run at the plate with two outs when Marlins skipper Dan Jennings replaced his starter with Bryan Morris. The reliever struckout Cubs rookie Addison Russell to end the inning.

The Marlins wrap up their series with the Cubs Wednesday, but play at Chicago July 3-5. Fernandez will probably be back in the Marlins rotation by then.

Cishek picks up a save in Double A; Yelich trying to put frustrations behind him; no draft for Jennings

Steve Cishek pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning and picked up a save Wednesday afternoon against the Montgomery Biscuits, a good first step after the Marlins sent their former closer back to the minors a couple days ago to get him out of the spotlight and back on track. 

Cishek, who has saved 91 games for the Marlins since 2012, has a lot of friends in the Marlins clubhouse pulling for him including the guy who took his job. A.J. Ramos, who took over the closer's duties after Cishek blew his fourth save of the season May 12, said he hasn't had a chance to speak with Cishek since his demotion. But Ramos said he has complete faith Cishek will be back helping the Marlins win soon.

"It's tough to see because you know his ability, he has great talent," Ramos said. "It's just that sometimes this game kind of makes it hard to see that you have the stuff, the tools to succeed. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way. It seemed like for him he had to be perfect. As soon as he made one bad pitch they hit it. Whereas someone rolling good, throw a ball down the middle and they miss it. It's just how the game works. I feel bad, but I know he's going to be back and better than ever."

Ramos said when the Marlins made him the closer, Cishek congratulated him and told him he had his back. 

"Steve's not the type of guy that is going to be resentful or anything like that," Ramos said. "He's a guy that genuinely wants to win. He even told me, 'I don't care if I'm setting up for you the rest of the year, I just want to win.' That's where we both are. Say he comes back and out pitches me -- then that's the way it goes. So, we're all here just to win."

Ramos got a big defensive assist from Giancarlo Stanton in the ninth inning Tuesday to help get him out of trouble and pick up his fifth save in as many tries. But outside of a hiccup here or there, Ramos has been dominant in 2015. Entering Wednesday he had allowed only one run over his last 14 appearances and ranked third in strikeouts (34) among NL relievers, fourth with a 1.03 ERA, and fifth in batting average against (.156).

Why does it feel like Ramos is sharper than last year when he went 7-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 68 appearances? "My arm was killing me most of [last] year," Ramos said. "I was inventing arm angles and things just to kind of get by and I was able to do it. It's a little bit easier when you know where the ball is going.

"This year I'm keeping the same arm angle," he continued. "There's no pain and I'm kind of throwing the ball where I want to."

YELICH BACK TO BENCH

Christian Yelich had a nine-game hitting streak snapped Tuesday and found himself back on the bench Wednesday, a move manager Dan Jennings said was designed to get the more experienced Ichiro Suzuki into a matchup with Cubs lefty Jon Lester

Jennings suggested Tuesday that Yelich, who was hitting .178 before he raised his average 44 points during the streak to .222, might have gotten off to a bad start this season in part because he was still approaching at-bats as a leadoff hitter and needed to adjust into more aggressive run producer. Yelich, though, shot that down Wednesday.

"You're not going to be on fire the whole year and you're not going to suck the whole year," Yelich said. "As much as people want to believe that you're terrible and never going to find it again, you always know you're going to. That's kind of just going back to believing in yourself and trusting the process, knowing that you have the ability to do it.

"I did the same thing in May 2014 [when I hit .217], but no one noticed because of the month before it [.292]." 

Yelich said he's been frustrated too by the reaction from the outside. 

"You go out and people just let you know how terrible you're doing," he said. "You can't really let that get to you. You run out on the field, you get booed. When you strike out, get booed. Fans are fans. You let them do what they want. At the same time, you have to understand you're here for a reason, you're able to do it. You're going to come around. You've just got to find it, got to work for it."

NO DRAFT FOR JENNINGS

Monday's draft will be the first time in 30 years Jennings won't be involved with the Major League Draft and he said it's going to be weird.

"It feels very funny because I know what's coming and for any of us that have been involved in scouting its like Christmas," Jennings said. "It's that day you look forward to in the year. So for me personally this will be the first time [without it]. It's going to have a different feel to it, but I know the men in that room. I've worked with most of them over time and am very confident that they'll do a great job and we'll add to the depth that we have in this system."

What position does he want to see the Marlins address?

"Everything is about pitching," he said. "That's one area that to be successful and have a successful farm system you have to grow your own pitching. I'm sure they're will be an emphasis placed on that."

> First baseman Michael Morse, who has been on the disabled list since May 26 with a right ring finger sprain, will begin taking "dry swings" soon. 

"Once he begins that then he'll go down, have some at-bats," Jennings said. "Right now the finger we've avoided anything  so it doesn't aggravate. I think once he begins the dry swings, the progression of getting in some games, he should pretty close to just a few days after his time is up [to return]."

> Jennings said Mat Latos will pitch in an extended spring training game Thursday in Jupiter and throw about 60 pitches.

June 02, 2015

Marlins notes: All-Star voting update; Flores called up; Mathis-Cishek reunion; new approach for Yelich

There's still a month to go before fan voting ends for the 2015 All-Star Game, but if the polls had closed Monday the struggling Marlins would still have to two players in the National League's starting lineup: second baseman Dee Gordon and right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.

Gordon maintained his lead in the second round of voting results released Tuesday with 1,531,048 votes. The Cardinals' Kolten Wong (1,185,972 votes) is the only player within earshot of the major league leader in hits.

Stanton, meanwhile, remains in third place among outfielders with 1,210,108 votes. He trails only Washington's Bryce Harper (2,323,186 votes) and St. Louis' Matt Holliday (1,654,428). San Francisco's starting outfield of Nori Aoki (1,012,117 votes), Angel Pagan (782,876) and Hunter Pence (692,922) follow Stanton.

The Marlins have only had two starters in the All-Star Game: third baseman Gary Sheffield in 1993 and shortstop Hanley Ramirez from 2008 to 2010. 

Adeiny Hechavarria, who ranks seventh among NL shortstops in OPS (.724) and is having an All-Star caliber season batting .300 with 20 RBI, is not ranked in the top five at his respective position.

FLORES CALLED UP

The Marlins opted on Tuesday to call up right-hander Kendry Flores, one of two minor league pitchers acquired from the Giants last December in the Casey McGehee trade, to help bolster their bullpen as a long reliever after the demotion of closer Steve Cishek on Monday night.

Flores, ranked the 11th-best prospect in the Marlins organization according to MLB.com, was 3-3 with a 2.06 ERA in nine starts for Double A Jacksonville. Flores pitched for Marlins bench coach Mike Goff when Flores was in low-A ball in 2013 with the Giants. Flores went 10-6 with a 2.73 ERA in 22 starts for the Augusta Giants before moving up to High-A ball the following season where he went 4-6 with a 4.09 ERA in 20 starts.

Manager Dan Jennings said the Marlins liked "the great angle" to Flores' fastball and that he showed "a plus curveball at times."

"Goff is obviously our bench coach," Jennings said. "So we had a little insight there to know what he's about makeup wise, and how he showed the ability to use his pitches. 

"With us going to Colorado and then an American League city where we'll have the DH we just felt it was more important to have that extra pitcher." 

WORKING BUDDY

Reliever Steve Cishek will have a familiar face to throw to in Jacksonville as he works out his mechanical issues. Catcher Jeff Mathis is now doing his own rehab assignment there. 

The Marlins moved Mathis down to Jacksonville from Triple A New Orleans over the weekend.

"I think that will be very helpful and beneficial because Matty's caught him so much," Jennings said. "Matty knows what to look for and what to expect. He'll be a good sounding board for him." 

Mathis, on the disabled list since April 13 with a right hand fracture, finally got his first hit in the minors Monday night, going 2-for-4 with a run scored. He started his minor league assignment 0-for-17 at the plate. 

YELICH CHANGING APPROACH

Left fielder Christian Yelich is finally starting to look comfortable again at the plate after a terrible start to the season. He's raised his batting average 44 points from .178 to .222 by going 12 for 36 with a homer and five RBI over a nine-game hitting streak.

"I see a much better mindset," Jennings said. "He's attacking pitches now. I think early he had some of the mindset of last year being the leadoff hitter. So he was working the count. Now he's in a spot where he can be a run producer and we need him to do that because he has that capability. So we're probably getting a little bit of that leadoff mentality out of his mind and letting him be a guy that can shoot the ball line to line and have a little thump in that bat."

> Pitcher Mat Latos said he'll make his first rehab start Thursday in Jupiter. Jarred Cosart will start Saturday in Triple A New Orleans.

> The Marlins are doing 'Back To The Future Night' Tuesday in honor of the hit three-part movie series, which in part II predicted a Marlins-Cubs World Series in 2015.

Asked about the movie Tuesday, Jennings replied: " wish I could be more help. I think the last movie actually saw was Patton. So I'm behind the times as well. But it sounds like a fun night at the ballpark. Back to the Future is good and back to the winning is even better."

June 01, 2015

Marlins send Cishek down to work on mechanics

The Marlins did some major tinkering over the first two months of the season: cutting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia at the end of April, and firing manager Mike Redmond midway through May. 

Monday night, they opened the month of June with a 5-1 loss to the visiting Cubs and ended the day by sending former closer Steve Cishek back to the minors to do some tinkering of his own.

“This was an organization decision… to take him out of the spotlight of the major leagues and let him go get mechanically ironed out, so when he does come back in a short time that he'll be ready to go and ready to help,” manager Dan Jennings said.

“[Steve took it like] a pro. He's always a pro. He's upbeat. He's positive. And he feels like he's very close to mechanically to getting ironed out to where he can help. We still believe in him and who he is and what he's done.”

With Triple A New Orleans out on the West Coast, Jennings said, Cishek (1-5, 6.98 ERA, four blown saves) is headed to Double A Jacksonville where the team (20-32) is hoping pitching coordinator Charlie Corbell, Cishek’s minor league pitching coach, can help him find his groove.

Jennings said Cishek’s velocity, down earlier in the season, was at his usual 91 to 93 miles per hour over the weekend in New York. Jennings said this is simply about Cishek executing pitches better and added, “it’s easier to do that and extend innings down there for him in the minor leagues.”

“There's just a couple mechanical things that some of our people have looked at, feel like that it is very correctable,” Jennings said. “I think in Steve's mind he realizes that as well.

“He pitched a great inning for us in Pittsburgh [last week]. He came into a 3-3 game in the seventh inning [Sunday] in New York, threw the ball outstanding. Thought we had a check-swing strike out and it turned into a base hit… I don't see this being a long-term deal. And I think he'll come back and be the same Steve Cishek that we've known in the past.”

Health updates on Mat Latos, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria

So how are the Marlins other injured starting pitchers progressing on the disabled list?

Mat Latos threw a bullpen  Monday at Marlins Park and looked good according to skipper Dan Jennings.

"It looks like his knee is definitely feeling stronger," Jennings said. "I think he'll be in a game somewhere by the end of the week and then have a second rehab start and then gauging from there let's see where he is. It's great to see all three guys trending the right way --huge news for us and for them. I know they're definitely ready to get back in here and in this rotation and contribute."

The other guys Jennings is referring to are Jose Fernandez and Jarred Cosart, who both pitched in extended spring training games Monday afternoon in Jupiter (see the previous blog entry for news on that). As for Opening Day starter Henderson Alvarez, on his second disabled list stint this season with shoulder inflammation, it looks like he's much further away from making a return than those three guys.

Alvarez said he's still battling inflammation and likely won't begin playing catch again for another week. 

"[It is] a little bit frustrating, but what are we going to do?" Alvarez said. "We're here working to have the inflammation to go down."

Alvarez denied a report he's pitching with a 90 percent torn UCL in his throwing elbow. 

"The elbow hasn't been feeling bad," Alvarez said. "What it is, is the shoulder. For me, my elbow is 100 percent. The doctors just told me I have to warm-up more and stretch my arm out more.

"I also have to listen to the team and stick with my pitch count when they tell me to only pitch so much. The doctor told me I can't pass a certain pitch count. I have to do things slowly, calmly. I'll come back when I can. I'm in no rush."

> Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria should be back in the Marlins lineup Tuesday against the Cubs. Hechavarria bruised his left shoulder after he and left fielder Christian Yelich collided diving after a ball in Friday's win over the Mets and hasn't played since Friday.

"He could actually play [Monday]," Jennings said. "He went through all of the pregame prep there. We're going to give him one more day just precautionary, let [Donovan] Solano stay at shortstop. Hech should be good and ready to go for sure [Tuesday]. I saw him swing. He looks good. He was letting the bat go. He'll test it now defensively, watch him throw some in pre-game. He looks like everything is pointing toward [Tuesday] making the start."

Jose Fernandez strikes out seven, toys with Marlins minor leaguers in first game back since surgery

JUPITER -- Jose Fernandez's first game back following Tommy John surgery looked a lot like the games he dominated before it.

Throwing against Marlins minor leaguers in an extended spring training game Monday morning, the 22-year-old right-hander pitched like the kid who won the National League's Rookie of the Year award in 2013, striking out seven and registering as high as 97 mph on the radar gun in three quick, no-hit innings of work.

More importantly, though, his arm felt great afterward.

"It's obviously always good to have good results, but I felt great," said Fernandez, who will make his first official rehab start Saturday for the Single A Jupiter Hammerheads in Port Charlotte.

"I felt healthy and I felt like I belonged there on that mound. It was fun to go back out there and compete. It was a real game to me -- it wasn't just a rehab start. I was walking out and felt that game feeling inside my stomach. That's always great."

Fernandez looked in midseason form. Most of his 42 pitches went for strikes and many were of the nasty variety. He threw 16 pitches in the first inning, struck out one, walked one and then got two easy outs. 

Then, Fernandez ended his day by striking out the final six hitters he faced, four with ugly swings and misses. He walked off the mound with a smile on his face and patted teammate Jarred Cosart on the backside with his glove. 

"He looked great man," said Cosart, who also pitched Monday in his first rehab appearance since going on the disabled list with vertigo. "His stuff was good as usual. We pretty much expected similar to how [Mets ace Matt] Harvey came back [from Tommy John]. 

"Jose really didn't look any different. The velocity is the same. The pitches are the same. Everything is the same. We're excited. Hopefully he keeps progressing one step at a time and we get him back here pretty soon."

The Marlins, off to a disappointing 20-31 start and 8 1/2 games back in the division, would obviously love to get Fernandez (16-8, 2.25 ERA in 36 career starts) back as soon as possible. Fernandez, Cosart, Mat Latos (knee) and Henderson Alvarez (shoulder) make up four-fifths of the starting rotation, and all are on the disabled list. 

But Fernandez and Marlins rehab pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal reiterated Monday Fernandez's return will not be rushed. 

"You have to be careful hurrying up things," Fernandez said. "Obviously I wanted to start opening day with them. But I think the main thing here -- what the team wants and what I want -- they want me healthy and they want me there for the rest of the year, not one or two starts. We're just trying to follow the process and as soon as I can get there I will be."

Rosenthal said Fernandez's pitch count will be ramped up a little Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays’ Florida State League squad. Then, Rosenthal said, Fernandez will throw six days later (June 12) in Jupiter against that same Port Charlotte team. What happens after that has not been determined yet. 

"We have a program that [head trainer] Sean [Cunningham] setup," Rosenthal said. "It's not etched in stone where we're going to follow it perfectly, but we'll see how these two starts go and then go from there."

Could Fernandez only make two rehab starts and then make his Marlins debut soon after?

"I would think he's going to have more starts [in the minors]," Rosenthal said. "One, he's got to go to a higher level. Two, he's got to build up on pitches, pitch count and endurance. 

"You want to try to get him -- especially after surgery -- probably to get him to six, seven innings just to say he can do it. When you get to the big leagues you want to be able to say you can go seven innings. If you go five and hope he can go seven, that's not what you want after surgery."

Still, on Monday, Fernandez was mighty impressive. His fastball was clocked regularly between 94 and 97 mph, and his breaking pitches also had plenty of bite to them. A month ago, when he pitched in his first simulated game in Jupiter, Fernandez's pitches were in the mid 80s. 

Plus, Fernandez admitted it hasn't been easy to sit around the clubhouse and watch the Marlins struggle. So with two more really good minor league starts it might not be hard to convince him or the Marlins Fernandez is ready to go.

"I think we're just going to follow the process," Fernandez said. "I've got to throw a couple more starts, and I think we'll go from there. But today I think was a really good day. I'm actually trying to feel and think about everything that just happened -- the last three innings. But I feel great and just glad to be here, glad to be on the mound again."

> Cosart pitched five innings and allowed one hit, one walk and struckout five over 60 pitches. He's expected to pitch Friday or Saturday for Double A Jacksonville or Triple A New Orleans and then will likely make one more rehab start before rejoining the big league team. 

"He threw well," Rosenthal said. "He kept his pitch count down. He threw strikes with his fastball, stayed relaxed. His curveball was around the plate. I like that he threw changeups. He's ready to go."

Have bats, will travel -- Dee Gordon piling up hits with gift from Ichiro Suzuki

If Dee Gordon somehow threatens Ichiro Suzuki’s major league mark for most hits in a season -- a long shot at this point -- he can thank the player whose record he’s trying to break.

Suzuki presented Gordon with a custom, moisture-free case that preserves bats in perfect operating condition.

“It keeps your bat the same weight,” said Gordon, who leads the majors in hits and swings a 31-ounce bat. “It keeps the moisture out of the wood that makes it get heavier.”

Gordon wanted one of the metal cases the moment he saw Suzuki show up at spring training with one, and asked the Japanese legend where he could get his hands on one for himself.

Suzuki not only ordered one to present to Gordon as a gift, but had it done up in the Marlins’ colors with Gordon’s No. 9 on the end. Gordon brought the case with him on the Marlins’ just completed road trip for the first time.

“I’ve never been on a team before where a guy on my team has this many hits, this early,” Suzuki said of Gordon. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch him get all of those hits.”

Suzuki said Gordon reminds him a lot himself in his prime.

“You take a look at him, and he’s 5-11, 170, just like I am,” Suzuki said. “And he uses his legs a lot to get hits. You can say we’re the same type of players. I’ve never talked batting philosophy with him, but when I see him and the approach he takes, I think there’s a lot of things that are similar to the things that I do.”

Going into Monday, Gordon had 78 hits, a 9-game hitting streak, and a .377 average. As hot as he’s been,

Gordon would still fall short of Suzuki's record of 262 hits -- set in 2004 -- if he continued at the same pace.

“That’s a whole lot of hits,” Gordon said of Suzuki's record. “That’s tough.”

Suzuki said if the case he gave to Gordon helps him pile up even more hits, the more the merrier.

“Obviously, the bats inside are what’s going to make the hits, not the case itself,” Suzuki said.

May 31, 2015

Dan Jennings explains "creative" lineup configuration with pitcher batting 8th

NEW YORK -- The last time a pitcher for the Marlins was positioned anywhere other the ninth spot in the lineup was in 2005 when Jack McKeon penciled Dontrelle Willis into the seventh (two times) and eighth (two times) spots.

Now new manager Dan Jennings is getting in on the act.

Jennings' lineup for today's game against the Mets and Bartolo Colon has starter David Phelps batting eighth and catcher Jhonatan Solano in the No. 9 spot.

The reason?

"It's a little bit of putting more meat on the bone for the top of our order, give RBI opportunities for two through five (in the lineup)," Jennings said.

Jennings said the the lineup wrinkle also provides better double-switch possibilities, and gives Phelps a better chance of dropping down a successful sacrifice bunt with the speedier Christian Yelich hitting in front of him rather than the slower Solano.

Jennings also has Ichiro Suzuki batting in the fifth spot based on his prior success against Colon (.317 average in 102 career plate appearances).

"We just looked at it in the perspective of today knowing that Johnatan was going to start," Jennings said. "Trying to be a little creative with the personnel we had playing today. We'll see how it unfolds."

Here's the lineup as the Marlins go for their first road sweep since July of last season: 1. Dee Gordon 4; 2 2. Martin Prado 5; 3. Giancarlo Stanton 9; 4. Justin Bour 3; 5. Ichiro Suzuki 8; 6. Donovan Solano 6; 7. Christian Yelich 7; 8. David Phelps 1; 9. Jhonatan Solano 2.

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Jennings said Adeiny Hechavarria is available to come off the bench, if necessary. Hechavarria sat out Saturday, one day after bruising his left shoulder in an outfield collision with Yelich.

"He's ready," Jennings said of Hechavarria. "We're just trying to give him a little time. He could go today."

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Mat Latos (15-day DL, left knee inflammation) will have a bullpen session on Monday and, if all goes well, may make a rehab start on Thursday.

Jarred Cosart (15-day DL, vertigo) and Jose Fernandez (60-day DL, elbow) are scheduled to square off Monday in Jupiter in an extended spring game.

Henderson Alvarez (15-day DL, right shoulder inflammation) has not started throwing. Jennings said he is going through shoulder strengthening treatment.

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With his Citi Field-record 466-foot home run in Saturday’s ninth inning, Giancarlo Stanton supplanted Cliff Floyd at No. 10 on the Marlins’ all-time list for hits.

The home run was Stanton’s 662nd hit with the Marlins.

Luis Castillo is the all-time franchise leader with 1,273 hits with the Marlins. Just ahead of Stanton at No. 9: Juan Pierre with 682 hits.
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Dan Haren was used as a pinch-hitter Saturday, becoming the first Marlins pitcher to do so since Javier Vazquez in 2011. The Marlins are playing with a short bench, and Haren -- a career .207 hitter -- was the logical candidate among the team’s pitchers to swing the bat.

Haren has had nine plate appearances as a pinch-hitter over his career, going 1 for 4 with a pair of walks. Haren struck out swinging in Saturday’s pinch-at bat in the eighth.

May 30, 2015

Miami Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria out indefinitely with shoulder injury

NEW YORK -- Adeiny Hechavarria was in such pain that he could barely remove his undershirt following Friday's game in which he collided with Christian Yelich on a bloop hit into no man's land. On Saturday, his name wasn't on the lineup card for the first time all season.

Hechavarria injured his left shoulder in the collision with Yelich, and said the earliest he could possibly play is Monday when the Marlins return home to open a brief home stand with the Chicago Cubs.

He is expected to be seen by a doctor today, so the exact nature of the injury is unknown. But manager Dan Jennings said it appears that the injury is a bruise and Hechavarria should miss no more than a couple of games at most.

"Basically, my shoulder hurts when I do any type of movement, up or down," Hechavarria said through a translator. "I do expect to be in the lineup sometime in the near future."

Hechavarria is having an All-Star caliber season. He's hitting .300 and his defensive play has been outstanding and often breathtaking. If there is any consolation, it's that the injury is not to his throwing shoulder.

"I'm definitely fortunate it was left and not my right," he said.

Hechavarria said he did not think he could have hit had the game continued and his turn come up.

"I knew I couldn't hit," he said. "My shoulder was bothering me. It was tight. And I got the wind knocked out of me, so it was tough for me to breathe."

Hechavarria remained in the game for the final two outs as the Marlins held on for a 4-3 win.

Hechavarria is the only player on the Marlins who has not missed a game.

"It's upsetting for me to miss the game (Saturday), and to miss a game at all during the year," Hechavarria said. "It's always a goal of mine, and everybody's, to be able to play in every single game."

Because the Marlins are carrying 13 pitchers, their bench is already short. With Hechavarria out of the picture, it's even shorter. Donovan Solano will start Saturday at shortstop.

"Pretty ugly collision when you watch it over and over," Jennings said.

Yelich was charging in for the ball as Hechavarria was going out when they collided. Yelich said he was going to dive head-first for the ball until the last moment when he caught Hechavarria coming at him out of the corner of his eye.

"We hit each other good," Yelich said. "It could have been a lot worse. If I dove head-first, we'd probably both be going to the hospital for sure, which I'm glad I didn't do."

May 29, 2015

Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart to square off Monday; Stanton, Morse updates

NEW YORK -- The most compelling pitching matchup of the day Monday won’t be the one at Marlins Park when the Chicago Cubs arrive for a three-game series.

It will be up the road in Jupiter when Jose Fernandez and Jarred Cosart go head-to-head in a split-squad extended spring game.

“It’s a big day,” said Marlins manager Dan Jennings. “It’s a step toward the right direction for both guys, and we’re glad to see that occur because they’ll be welcome additions up here.”

Cosart is working his way back from vertigo while Fernandez is ramping it up a notch on his comeback from Tommy John surgery. It will be the first outing for Fernandez in an actual game setting, and he’ll be restricted to 45 pitches.

The Marlins hope to have Fernandez back by the end of June.

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Giancarlo Stanton’s power numbers are strong. But Stanton said he doesn’t feel he’s played up to his usual high standards.

“I don’t feel like I’ve played as well as I can, or should have, so far,” Stanton said.

Stanton is third in the N.L. with 13 homers and second with 42 RBI.

But he is hitting just .232 and his .828 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) is well below his career figure of .898.

Still, Stanton said it could be worse.

“I’m just happy I’ve been able to survive and get through certain situations and opportunities when I haven’t felt as great as I have before,” he said. “For not feeling as comfortable as normal, I like how I’ve been able to survive.”

Stanton said he is fine physically, but just hasn’t always felt comfortable at the plate.

“I’m not far off,” he said.
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Michael Morse saw a hand specialist in South Florida on Thursday and was diagnosed with a strained ligament.

“Hopefully he’ll be able to start swinging in a week, and then begin to rehab and come back,” Jennings said of the first baseman.
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The Marlins claimed right-handed reliever Chad Smith off waivers from the Angels on Friday and optioned him to Triple A New Orleans.

Smith, 25, has made 12 relief appearances in the majors, 10 last season with Detroit (5.40 ERA) and two this season with Oakland (five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings).
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