July 19, 2014

Valdespin Promoted; Penny Sharp; Draftees Signed

Hoping to add a spark to the lineup and find reliability at second base, the Marlins called up 26-year-old Jordany Valdespin and had him hit second in the lineup Saturday against the Giants.

“Our offense has been slow and sluggish so we are looking for a guy that can hit at the top of the order…and get us going a little bit,” manager Mike Redmond said before Saturday’s game.

Valdespin was hitting .277 for Triple A New Orleans this year and had posted a .288 average thus far in July. He logged 160 major league appearances with the Mets over the course of 2012 and 2013, where he hit .219.

Valdespin also comes to Miami with some off-the-field baggage.

He was suspended 50 games last August as part of Major League Baseball’s Biogenesis investigation. Valdespin had previously run into trouble with the New York organization for starting an altercation by showboating after a home run, making a clubhouse scene after being demoted to the minors, and failing to run out ground balls.

“He’s a talented guy and this is a great opportunity for him to get himself back in the big leagues,” Redmond said.

“He has to prove himself and come out here and show the type of player that we’ve all seen glimpses of.”

Valdespin’s opportunity comes at the cost of demoting Justin Bour.

The 26-year-old infielder had been used as a pinch hitter but was hitless in his last nine plate attempts dating back to June 24.

“Bour is not used to coming off the bench, and initially we thought he would be a guy to give us some power off the bench,” Redmond said, “But one thing you keep in mind when you bring in young guys from the minor leagues and put them in a role they are not used to doing, it is tough, and we saw that with him.”

The Marlins also announced Saturday that they were placing Rafael Furcal on the 60-day disabled list.

Penny Sharp in Minors

After 36-year-old Brad Penny logged a quality start for Triple A New Orleans Friday, Redmond was asked about the possibility of calling up the veteran right-hander.

“At this point, we have not ruled anybody out,” he said. “We need quality starts.”

Friday, Redmond announced that Jacob Turner would regain a spot in the rotation after going 2-4 with a 6.38 ERA in nine starts earlier this year.

The Marlins have sent 10 different starters to the mound this season. Miami’s weekend competition, San Francisco, has used just six starters this year.

“We’ve tried a lot of different guys and we’re hoping that the guys we have up here right now step up and take advantage of these starts,” Redmond said.

33 Draftees Signed

By the time of Friday’s signing deadline, the Marlins inked 33 of their 42 selections from the 2014 draft, including their top 22 picks, as well as two undrafted free agents.

“You can call this draft a success in terms of just the amount of players we signed, with the top-20, but I think we also got some athletic players," Vice President of Scouting Stan Meek said in a statement. "We got some athletic players up the middle that really addressed a need for us. Also, in addition to the second overall pick in Tyler Kolek, a big right-hander, we also got a good group of college left-handed pitchers that we feel add a lot of depth to the system.”

SATURDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (44-51): 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. Henderson Alvarez RHP.

> Giants (53-43): 1. Hunter Pence RF, 2. Joe Panik 2B, 3. Buster Posey C, 4. Pablo Sandoval 3B, 5. Michael Morse LF, 6. Brandon Belt 1B, 7. Brandon Crawford SS, 8. Gregor Blanco CF, 9. Tim Hudson RHP.

COMING UP

•  Sunday: Marlins LHP Brad Hand (0-2, 5.26 ERA) vs. San Francisco Giants RHP Tim Lincecum (9-5, 3.66), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

•  Monday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (6-7, 3.99 ERA) vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Julio Teheran (9-6, 2.71), 7:10 p.m., Turner Field.

 --JACOB FELDMAN

July 18, 2014

Marlins "not looking to trade key pieces"; Gregg to DL; Turner returns to rotation

Whether the Marlins are able to dig themselves out of their current hole in the standings remains to be seen. But even if they're unsuccessful in doing so, don't expect them to start unloading players in a massive mid-season sell-off, ala 2012.

"We aren't looking to trade any of our key pieces," said Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill.

Hill did not distinguish "key" players from those who aren't considered as such. But you can be sure the hands-off list includes Giancarlo Stanton, whose name is constantly thrown around in trade rumors around this time every year. Christian Yelich, Casey McGehee, Adeiny Hechavarria and Marcell Ozuna likely fall into the same cartegory as Stanton.

And given the starting pitching issues that now confront the Marlins, it's hard to imagine Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler being traded before the July 31 deadline, either.

Though no one on the Marlins has said so specifically, it's realistic to think the Marlins will do anything NOT to finish last for a fourth straight season, which is why I believe Steve Cishek isn't going anywhere, either.

For now, the front office is holding out hope the team can make a run.

“This [trade] market has been interesting because there are no real sellers,” Hill said. “I don't know if it will truly be defined until we get closer to the deadline. I would not say we are aggressively in ‘buy’ mode. But we’re aggressive in trying to find deals that will help us in the short term and the long term."

_________________

Kevin Gregg and A.J. Ramos swapped placed on the disabled list on Friday. Gregg was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 14, with right elbow inflammation while Ramos was brought off the DL to fill his spot.

Gregg had been dealing with elbow soreness heading into the All-Star break, according to manager Mike Redmond, and notified team personnel on Thursday that the condition hadn't improved.

_________________

Redmond announced Friday that Jacob Turner would return to the rotation after being banished to the bullpen. Turner will get the start Tuesday in Atlanta.

_________________

The Braves released Dan Uggla on Friday, but don't expect the Marlins to seek a reunion with their former second baseman. Uggla's numbers have taken a nosedive over the past 1 1/2 seasons, forcing him out of his starting job.

After Uggla clears waivers and becomes a free agent, any acquiring team would only be responsible to pay him the league minimum. The Braves would be on the hook for the rest of the $18 million still owed to him  through 2015.

The Marlins have stated an interest in obtaining a fast second baseman, and Uggla is not that.

July 16, 2014

VIDEO: Stanton talks All-Star Game experience

MINNEAPOLIS -- Giancarlo Stanton finished 0-for-3 in his first All-Star Game, but came away with lasting memories including watching Yankees captain Derek Jeter play in his last Midsummer Classic.

Pitcher Henderson Alvarez didn't get to pitch in the game. Alvarez is  slotted to start Saturday at Marlins Park against the Giants. 

July 15, 2014

Stanton, NL teammates already looking for next year's home run derby; when will Marlins Park host the All-Star Game?

MINNEAPOLIS -- Giancarlo Stanton didn't leave Target Field Monday as the Home Run Derby champion,  but that doesn't mean he's done trying.

The Marlins' 24-year-old slugger said Tuesday he's already looking forward to getting another chance in next year's derby at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, baseball's most prolific launching pad for home runs.

"I was already talking about that yesterday," said Pirates outfielder and reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, who on Monday night got about as excited as anyone at Target Field watching Stanton launch baseballs into the upper deck in center field and left.

"Cincinnati, there's going to be stuff going out of the entire stadium," he continued. "Center field, probably right center, left -- and it won't only be Stanton. That's going to be a fun place to do the derby. I might try to hop in and get in on that one."

Said Stanton: "There won't be any three home run rounds in that place."

Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes, who joined Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players to win the derby in back-to-back years, said he definitely felt like the long layoff Stanton and Jose Bautista had after winning Monday's opening round and earning a bye played a factor in the outcome. 

Stanton waited one hour and 10 minutes between at-bats. Bautista waited an hour and 56 minutes. Neither reached the final.

Commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday there needs to be some tweaks to the derby, but also admitted "television wants a three-hour program. So there are things that make it difficult [to speed it up]."

Stanton, who didn't hit any home runs in the National League final, said he felt like he had a good approach at the plate. He said if he has to change anything for the derby next year it's "not to get the bye."

Even though Stanton didn't win the derby, many of his National League teammates said they enjoyed the show he put on in Round 1. Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon said Stanton's upper deck shot to center field is the furthest he's ever seen a ball hit and the ball that nearly left the field took his breath away.

"We do this for a living and for us to get as excited as we got says it all," McCutchen said. "We're jealous of his teammates because they get to see that all the time. I've never seen anything like that in my life. That's why I was so excited."

WHEN WILL MIAMI HOST?

Selig, speaking to the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday morning, said he plans on picking sites for the next two or three All-Star Games after Cincinnati (2015) before leaving the commissioner's office in January.

Is Marlins Park a legitimate candidate for any of those three years? "Yes," Selig told The Miami Herald as he was leaving the meeting.

Selig said although he would like to continue to alternate between American League and National League cities year to year he's not necessarily married to it especially in light that there are more new parks in the NL than the AL. 

Baltimore's Camden Yards is considered the favorite to land the 2016 midsummer classic with Nationals Park, which opened four years before Marlins Park, as a possible 2017 location. But it would be odd for baseball to award the game to the same area in consecutive years. 

Tropicana Field (Rays), Citizens Bank Park (Phillies), PETCO Park (Padres) and the new Yankees Stadium were also built before Marlins Park and have yet to host the All-Star Game.

Marlins President David Samson reached by phone Tuesday said the Marlins would love to host the All-Star Game "as soon as possible."

"We are ready, willing and able," Samson said. "But it's Minnesota's day today. When the commissioner says its the right time for us to host we'll be more than happy to do it."

Stanton puts on first round show, then a goose egg after long layoff at home run derby

MINNEAPOLIS -- The rest of the country found out what the Marlins have known for years now -- watching Giancarlo Stanton take batting practice can be breathtaking.

On the eve of the 85th All-Star Game, the Marlins' 6-6, 250-pound muscle-bound right fielder put on an epic display of power at the Home Run Derby -- the kind few rarely see because of his team's relative obscurity.

He hit a line drive shot off the batter's eye in center field an estimated 430 feet and bashed two bombs into the third deck. One of them nearly flew out of the park at Target Field and ESPN estimated it at 510 feet.

The only thing Stanton didn't do? Win.

After smacking six homers in the first round to earn a bye into the semifinals, Stanton's power ran dry. Really, though, he got cold.

Stanton didn’t swing for more than an hour as the rest of the field fought to stay in contention, and he eventually lost to the Reds' Todd Frazier 1-0 in stunning fashion in the National League final. Frazier went on to lose to defending champion Yoenis Cespedes of Oakland 9-1 in the final.

“It made a bigger difference than I thought it would,” Stanton said of the layoff. “I kind of have to find something to do in that time, stay warm. It's definitely a speed bump I couldn't get over in this one. But it was still fun.”

The Cuban-born Cespedes stayed warm throughout. He had to win a swing-off with A’s teammate Josh Donaldson to advance past the first round and slugged 28 homers total on the night en route to capturing back-to-back home run derby crowns.

Afterward, Cespedes said the new derby format definitely affected Stanton and Toronto’s Jose Bautista, who earned the American League’s bye with 10 homers in the first round. Bautista waited an hour and 55 minutes before he batted in the competition again. He only hit four homers in his semifinal loss to Cespedes.

“You usually don't do that for anything [during the regular season],” Stanton said of the long break. “I can't believe I goose-egged the second round.”

For Stanton, 24, it was a disappointing end to what started out as his big show.

His mammoth blasts drew the biggest reactions from the crowd of 40,558 in attendance. All-Stars on both sides were in disbelief when Stanton’s third-deck shot nearly left the park. He averaged 412 feet on his homers 

“That was the gold ball, the charity ball too,” Stanton said. “So you don't know how they're going to fly. It's tough to pick them up.”

Former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates came out to hug Stanton after his longest shot of the night. Stanton played up to the crowd, too, waving his arms up and down to try and get them louder.

“It was cool,” Stanton said of his moment. “It's what they're here for. It's what it's about.”

The start of the derby was delayed nearly an hour by rain in the area. Stanton was the fourth National League hitter to bat.

Marlins manager Mike Redmond served up the meatballs to Stanton. The two embraced on the field shortly after Stanton's stellar first round.

Despite the disappointing loss, Stanton said he isn’t ruling out a return to the derby next year.

“For sure,” Stanton said when asked if he would want to come back. “I’ve got to bring it back to the NL.”

July 14, 2014

Redmond on pitching to Stanton in derby: "I'm not nervous."

MINNEAPOLIS -- Marlins skipper Mike Redmond never got to play in All-Star Game, but he's getting a chance to participate in one because he's pitching to Giancarlo Stanton in tonight's Home Run Derby.

"I'm not nervous. I'm excited. As we get closer to it I'll probably get a little nervous. I'm just more nervous and excited for G," Redmond said. "I want him to go out there and do well. If anything I want to be a part of it and help him out. It's fun. This is an amazing spectacle."

Stanton said he considered picking his father to pitch to him in the derby, but said he hadn't done so in about a dozen years. So he went with Redmond because of familiarity.

"I know what he wants but at the same time, too, it's him being patient and getting his pitch to hit," Redmond said "There's a lot that goes into it. He'll be fine. It'll be fun. At the end of the day it's about enjoying it and having fun. He shouldn't feel pressure and just go out there and do the best you can."

Monday's derby is an opportunity for fans across the country who only get snippet of Stanton highlights on SportsCenter to get a good luck at the 24-year old slugger. He's certainly never played on a stage this big.

"We're so lucky to get a chance to see him play and the things he's able to do," Redmond said. "It would be tremendous for him to do it on the big stage. That's what it's all about."

Redmond had plans to head home to Seattle, but talked his wife and kids into meeting him in Minneapolis. "We're going to enjoy the day as a family," he said ."Got my kids on the field, so they get to meet all the guys. They're having a blast. I haven't even seen them that much they've been all over the place."

Redmond said he'll be taking a red-eye flight back to Miami from Seattle on Friday so he can spend the rest of the All-Star break with his family.

"I get a little bit of both worlds," he said. "I get to watch my kids little league games and throw some BP in the Home Run Derby. This is what it's all about."

Stanton will DH, hit fifth in the National League's starting lineup

MINNEAPOLIS -- Giancarlo Stanton didn't get enough votes to be named an All-Star starter by the fans, but he got Mike Matheny's vote.

The Cardinals skipper named Stanton his designated hitter for Tuesday night's All-Star Game at Target Field, making Stanton the first Marlin since Hanley Ramirez (2010) to make a Midsummer Classic starting lineup.

Stanton, who leads the National League with 21 homers, will bat fifth behind Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt and in front of Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

"He's a pretty impressive guy," Matheny said. "Watching the impact he has on the game and the impact he has on that lineup. You have to give him a great deal of respect not just because of the power, but the ability to get on base and the ability he has to turn the game around on one pitch. I don't think I've seen anybody maybe since [Mark] McGwire hit the ball as hard he does. It's nice to have him on my side for once."

TUESDAY'S STARTING LINEUPS

> AL: 1. Derek Jeter SS, 2. Mike Trout LF, 3. Robinson Cano 2B, 4. Miguel Cabrera 1B, 5. Jose Bautista RF, 5. Jose Bautista RF, 6. Nelson Cruz DH, 7. Adam Jones CF, 8. Josh Donaldson 3B, 9. Salvador Perez C. RHP Felix Hernandez

> NL: 1. Andrew McCutchen CF, 2. Yasiel Puig RF, 3. Troy Tulowitzki SS,4. Paul Goldschmidt 1B, 5. Giancarlo Stanton DH, 6. Aramis Ramirez 3B, 7. Chase Utley 2B, 8. Jonathan Lucroy C, 9. Carlos Gomez LF. RHP Adam Wainwright

July 13, 2014

Hill says Marlins remain in the market for starting pitcher, but don't want a rental

NEW YORK -- Even though the Marlins have sputtered toward the finish line before the All-Star Break and sit a season-worst five games under .500, president of baseball Operations Mike Hill said Sunday he hasn't lost faith in his clubhouse making a run at a playoff spot this season.

And if the Marlins can find the right trade partner, Hill said he plans on making a move to bring in a starting pitcher as soon possible. As it stood Sunday, the Marlins only had four starters in the rotation -- Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, Nathan Eovaldi and Brad Hand -- and hadn't decided who the fifth starter will be coming out of the break.

What the Marlins are looking for in a trade isn't a veteran or rental. With a roster full of players they'll control for the next few years, Hill said the Marlins are looking at sustained winning and not only the present. So they would prefer a pitcher that has controllable years left in the big leagues.

"It's something we've been looking for since Jose [Fernandez] went down," Hill said. "A rental really doesn't help. It may help you somewhat in the short term, but assuming it cost you your inventory we want something we can move forward with. That's something that will definitely influence which way we go."

Although the Marlins have given prospects Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani opportunities to start in the big leagues this year and could eventually call on the them again, Hill said the organization would prefer to give both pitchers "more seasoning" in the minors should they need it.

Back in May, the Marlins signed veteran left-hander Randy Wolf as soon after Fernandez was lost for the season. But he only made four starts (1-3, 5.26) before being released a month later. 

If the Marlins can't find a trade partner, Hill said right-hander Jacob Turner is an option the club can turn to for starts. Veteran Brad Penny, signed to a minor league deal last month, could be another.

Turner lost his spot in the rotation last month after going 2-4 with a 6.38 in nine starts and sputtered as a reliever (0-2, 5.60 ERA in seven appearances).

Penny, 36, went 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in two starts for Single A Jupiter and was recently elevated to Triple A New Orleans. Hill said Sunday Penny is getting stronger and if the Marlins feel like he can help him they'll give him a shot.

Of course a lot of what the Marlins do in terms of making a trade could depend on how long they stay in the race. But right now Hill very much believes the Marlins are still players for the post-season.

"Hopefully we start playing better, we start winning games and we put ourselves back in this race," he said. "I don't think we're out of it by any stretch of the imagination. I think you've seen clubs that look down get hot and thrust themselves right back into this thing. We still have a number of games against the clubs we're chasing in Atlanta and Washington and we still believe in that clubhouse. We just need to play better, execute better and in the end win more games."

> If starting pitching is at the top of Hill's wish list, finding a second baseman with speed who can hit at the top of the lineup isn't far behind. The Marlins signed veteran Rafael Furcal with that intention, but injuries have sidelined him all season.

"That's still a part of our team we feel is missing and we feel we would like to have," Hill said. "So whatever form or shape that comes in that's still something we would like to have on this team."

There are rumblings former Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla could be designated for assignment or traded soon from Atlanta. But he doesn't seem to fit the description of what the Marlins are searching for.

> Last year the Marlins went into the All-Star Break with a 35-58 record. How does Hill feel about this team?

"I don't think I'd ever say discouraged because you can rewind a year and that was discouraging," Hill said. "So many good things have gone on this first half of this season -- the stories you point to. You look at our first half, you look at [Henderson] Alvarez. You look at a healthy Stanton. You look at the development of young prospects in Yelich and Ozuna and what they're doing. The growth of [Hechavarria] at shortstop. Casey McGehee. There's so many positive things going on.

"It's unfortunate we haven't been able to ride that all the way into the break. We've had some struggles here as we have finished the first half and let some leads get away, haven't taken care of the ball as well as we can take care of the ball. Those are just some things I think the break will hopefully allow us to take a step back, take a breather for a couple days, refocus and get back after it the way we did in April and May."

> Hill said he's been encouraged by the progress 2013 first round pick Colin Moran has been making in the minors and a promotion to Double A Jacksonville appears to be around the corner.

Moran hit .337 with three homers and 10 RBI in 25 games for Single A Jupiter in June and has continued a torrid pace in July (.333, 5 RBI in 10 games).

"Moran has been great," Hill said. "Consistent quality at-bats. Defense from Day 1 at that level he took what he learned from Bone and really took it into his game. He's an above average defender at third base. Offensively had some adjustments early and is really locked in of late. He's hitting .300, driving the ball, doing everything we can ask."

> Hill said he expects the Marlins to sign the last of the two remaining unsigned top 10 draft picks before the July 18 deadline.

"Our seventh rounder [shortstop Anfernee] Seymour is Bahamanian. He needed a work visa. That's the only thing delaying his signing," Hill said. "The 10th rounder [left-handed pitcher Dillon] Peters out of the University of Texas is a surgery player. So we're just trying to get all that logistic stuff wrapped up. But he should be agreed. That will be our Top 10 done. That was our goal."

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.