June 05, 2014

Marlins take RHP Tyler Kolek with No. 2 pick

CHICAGO -- Tyler Kolek lit up radar guns outside his hometown in Texas with a triple-digit fastball. The Marlins are hoping the big right-hander, who grew up on a cattle ranch, continues bringing the heat for them in the not-so-distant future.

The Marlins on Thursday made Kolek, a Houston-area high school sensation the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

"You hate to put a tag on these guys, you kind of see some Roger Clemens in his delivery," said Stan Meek, the Marlins' vice president of scouting. "We've seen the fastball up to 102 miles per hour. It's a power body, a power arm, and a power package."

The Marlins selected Kolek after the Houston Astros took another high school hurler, Brady Aiken, with the top pick. Kolek, who is listed at 6-5, 250, struck out 126 batters in 60 1/3 innings this season at Shepherd High School. He walked only eight and had an ERA of 0.35.

"With Houston picking first and him being in that state, you obviously feel kind of nervous," said Meek, adding the Marlins had settled on Kolek with the past few days.

It's not the first time the Marlins have held the No. 2 pick and used it on a Texas high school pitcher. They also did it in 1999 when they drafted Josh Beckett, who became a World Series hero for them. Here's a recent feature piece about Kolek in the Houston Chronicle.

Asked what it was about Kolek that made him appealing to the Marlins, Meek replied: "About everything. He's a big, strong physical right-hander with three pitches. We think for a big guy he has real solid control of his fastball."

The choice of Kolek surprised many experts, who figured the Marlins would likely go for either Carlos Rodon, a Miami-born southpaw out of North Carolina State, or catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, a San Diego-area prep star.

But Kolek was among the top five or six names on most draft boards.

Wrote Baseball America of Kolek: "The biggest worry scouts have with Kolek is his size, as he's bigger than most pitchers at his age. If he maintains his fitness, he has a chance to be a true No. 1 starter."

Check out this video feature on Kolek:

Hechavarria showing signs of growth with his glove

ST. PETERSBURG -- It might not seem like it to the average baseball fan who has seen Adeiny Hechavarria make many a sterling defensive play, but in the eyes of his position coach and those who measure fielding metrics there's still plenty of room for the Marlins' shortstop to grow.

And in Wednesday's thrilling 5-4 win over the Rays, a game where Hechavarria made seven assists and turned three big double plays, Marlins infield coach Perry Hill saw growth were most others probably couldn't.

"There were a couple plays last night where the ball was hit so hard that if he wouldn't have been in the right spot he wouldn't have made the play," Hill said Thursday. "But he moved with the count and adjusted with the location of the pitch."

That's something Hechavarria, in the midst of his second season as the Marlins' starting shortstop, didn't do enough of last year, Hill admitted. But that was mainly because he didn't know National League hitters, Hill said.

Last year, Hechavarria ranked next-to-last in Ultimate Zone Rating among shortstops (-9.0) with at least 935 innings played and was tied for 18th among regular shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved above average (-3). Entering Thursday's series finale against the Rays, Hechavarria has improved in both areas since last year with a -3.5 UZR (24th among shortstops) and plus-1 DRS (tied for 11th).

"It's still a learning process," Hill said. "We're probably still a year away from seeing the really good Hech. But as soon as he learns the league, learns the hitters, he retains all this stuff, he'll get better, much better."

Of Hecharria's six errors this season, five have been throwing errors. 

"We've talked about that too," Hill said. "Those lollygag, puff throws, I don't think you'll see that again." 


You never forget your first time -- and Marlins manager Mike Redmond wants to make sure designated hitter Justin Bour and catcher J.T. Realmuto enjoy their MLB debuts on Thursday.

"Just relax and just have fun," Redmond said he told the rookies. "I got a chance to talk to [Realmuto's] mom in the coffee shop in the morning. This is the fun part of managing, being able to see young guys make their MLB debut. I think we all understand how important this day is and not only important is to them, but their families. We all just want them to go out there and have fun in a day they'll never forget. And get that first hit out of the way as soon as possible. As you guys have seen we've been able to bring a lot of young guys to the big leagues for their first opportunity either pitching or position players with their first at-bats."

The last time two Marlins rookie position players made their debuts in the same game -- last July 23 when Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick took the field together at Coors Field in Colorado. Yelich had two hits and Marisnick went hitless in four at-bats.

Redmond said the hard part for Realmuto on Thursday will be slowing things down.

"You're naturally going to be uncomfortable because you haven't had the time with the bullpen guys and the starter and all that stuff," Redmond said. "The best thing you can do is trust your abilities and do as well as you can and have fun. Just allow your abilities and talents to come forward. Sometimes its easier said than done."

Bour, Realmuto to debut as Marlins go for 12th interleague win in a row Thursday

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Marlins will send Jacob Turner to the mound Thursday afternoon in search of both the team's first season-series sweep over the Rays since 2005 and the club's 12th interleague victory in a row.

And Turner will have two rookies in the lineup making their MLB debuts trying to help guide him there.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto, called up for the concussed Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Sunday, will start behind the plate and bat eighth. Justin Bour, a power-hitting left-handed bat called up to take the vacated spot of Derek Dietrich, will hit seventh and serve as the designated hitter.

"More excited than butterflies," Realmuto said Wednesday knowing he would probably start Thursday. "I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, kind of what you dream about growing up as a kid. Hopefully I can go out there and play well and help the team win."

The Marlins' current 11-game interleague winning streak is the longest active in the majors and 2 shy of the all-time mark of 13 by the Yankees (2003-04) and Rays (2004) and is the longest by a National League team since St. Louis won 12 in a row from 2004 to 2005.

During their streak, the Marlins beat the Royals twice on the road, swept the Tigers to end the 2013 season in three games, swept the Mariners at home in April in three games and now have taken three from the Rays in the annual Citrus Series.


Tom Koehler was wearing the look of relief on his face after Wednesday's 5-4 victory at Tropicana Field. 

His first inning of work was flat out miserable. He only threw four of his first 15 pitches for strikes. Two of those strikes ended up in the cheap seats. Ben Zobrist put one beyond the right field wall for a two-run homer. Longoria then drilled another over the left field wall -- a solo shot -- five pitches later. 

"I wish I could tell you [what happened there] if I knew I would have fixed it," Koehler said. "Just missing to the lefties a little bit up and away. I think we were just trying to be a little took quick and a little too fine instead of just challenging them, allowing the stuff to play. You're facing a big league lineup and when you fall behind guys it makes it little bit easier to hit and that's what happened there."

Koehler needed 37 pitches in all to get through the first -- only 51 fewer pitches than Henderson Alvarez used to toss a complete game shutout against these same Rays on Tuesday.

The rest of the night wasn't any easier for Koehler, but he battled through it. 

After giving up a pair of leadoff walks to the last two Rays hitters in the fourth, he struckout David DeJesus swinging and then got Zobrist to bounce into an inning-ending double play. He used another inning-ending double play off the bat of Desmond Jennings to get through the fifth.

"Just got to credit the way the guys played behind me defensively," Koehler said. "They made some great plays at short, turned some real quality double plays. We were able to combat a walk with a double play. It allows you the chance to win a ballgame by at least stretching it to the fifth.

"Obviously not an ideal game. But games like this are sometimes a little bit more rewarding than when you go eight shutout because you kind of realize you got to put everything you have out there and just try to keep the team in it."


> Marlins (31-28): 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. Justin Bour DH, 8. J.T. Realmuto C, 9. Adeiny Hechavarria SS. RHP Jacob Turner.

June 04, 2014

Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez shares emotions, memories after passing of friend and mentor Don Zimmer

ST. PETERSBURG -- As a son of Tampa who began his professional coaching career with the Rays, Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez not only grew to knew Don Zimmer as a mentor, but as a close friend.

So after learning of Zimmer's passing during the middle of Wednesday's game the 53-year old Marlins assistant naturally took the news hard.

"He was a friend. He was a mentor to me," Hernandez said after the game before his voice trailed off and he took a moment to compose himself. "He fought a hard long fight as would be expected. He's going to be in a good place tonight. All my thoughts are with his family, [his wife] Soot and his son. Just a great guy. What an impact on so many people for so long. We're going to miss him."

Zimmer, 83, spent 66 years in the majors as a player, coach and manager and wore 14 different uniforms -- but none longer than the 11 seasons with the Rays. Hernandez spent six years in the minors with the Rays and then two more as the major league pitching coach in 2004 and 2005 when Zimmer had joined the organization after leaving the Yankees in 2003.

"So many memories," Hernandez said. "I go back to him as a kid, growing up in Tampa and going to the Tampa Greyhound track, one of his favorite places. And I was underage and in there and he's teaching me how to pick dog races. We did a lot of that. And then coaching wise -- especially my first year here with the Rays. He'd always sit right next to me on my left and so much knowledge would come out. I would just try to absorb as much as I could. We're going to miss him."

Marlins manager Mike Redmond never coached with Zimmer, but he respected him plenty.

"I was never on the same team with him or around him a ton other than the times I played against the Yankees and here," Redmond said. "But definitely all of our thoughts and prayers from the players, coaches, front office staff are with his family. Not just the Rays organization -- the Yankees, every organization, every person influenced by him throughout his life. Definitely a heavy heart for baseball. We lost a great man tonight."

Dr. Andrews recommends more rest for Carter Capps, not surgery Redmond says

ST. PETERSBURG -- The season isn't over yet for Carter Capps.

The hard-throwing reliever met with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday to have his elbow examined, and the recommendation given was the same as the one Marlins doctors first gave Capps when he went on the disabled list last week with a right elbow sprain -- no surgery and a month's rest. 

"I haven't talked to Capps, but I'm sure he's relieved," manager Mike Redmond said. "He got checked out again and it has to be comforting for him they both [Andrews and Marlins doctors] said the same thing.

"He's going to rest for the next month and then will start playing catch again and start building back up and see where we're at. So there is no surgery or recommendation or anything like that. So it's good news." 

Capps was transferred to the 60-day disabled list Wednesday. The earliest he could return from the DL is July 25. 


Redmond said second baseman Derek Dietrich took his demotion to Triple A New Orleans after Tuesday's game "like any young guy -- it was tough." 

"But I think he understood where we were coming from," Redmond continued. "The focus needs to be not just on hitting. It has to be on defense too. I think he understands that. I felt good walking away... I know he'll go down there and do that and give effort to improve in those areas."

Dietrich's seven errors at second base were tied for the most in baseball at the position. Redmond maintains Dietrich's defensive struggles are a product of what happened to him back in spring training when he was struck in the face by a hard-hit, one-hopper.

"That's all I can say really caused him to go into a defensive struggle," Redmond said. "Because he was so good playing defense last year. We know it's in there. For whatever reason he just needs to go down there, relax and get his confidence back defensively. We know when he does that he'll be back."

In the meantime, Redmond said he would like to get Donovan Solano some more at-bats and playing time at second base along with Ed Lucas. Solano was in the starting lineup at second base for only the fifth time this season Wednesday. He's only had 35 at-bats so far despite being with the team all year. 


With the Marlins playing at American League parks in four of their next seven games, Redmond said he plans on mixing up who he slots into the designated hitter's spot. Redmond said rookie Justin Boar, called up to replace Dietrich, could get the nod on Thursday against Tampa. He also said it's likely Giancarlo Stanton could DH against the Rangers next week.

"DH is tough for us because guys aren't used to that," Redmond said. "It's not an easy role especially when you're used to playing and playing defense, sort of being in that flow of the game.

"It's perfect for Casey to get the DH tonight especially after taking that bat in the ribs. I know he's fine. But at the same time too he has to be a little bit sore whether he admits it or not. Really that bat hit him a lot harder than I originally thought. But he's fine. We'll just kind of mess around with that spot, see who can give us good at-bats."

> Redmond said he's leaning toward starting rookie J.T. Realmuto behind the plate Thursday but hasn't made a final decision yet.

McGehee on broken bat that hit him Tuesday night: "I dodged a bullet"

ST. PETERSBURG -- Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee has had a lot of broken bats come flying at him over the years, but Tuesday turned out to be the first time one actually hit him.

In the fourth inning, McGehee was standing in the on deck circle when the barrel of Giancarlo Stanton's bat came zooming at him. The severed, sharp edge grazed and scratched McGehee's left elbow before the barrell hit him on the upper, left side of his rib cage.

"I got as lucky as I could have got," McGehee said Wednesday. "If the barrel hits me more flush it probably wouldn't have been too good. 

"Usually at third base my eyes usually go to the bat. But on that one I was looking at the ball. So I never saw it. Even if I would have [seen it] I'm not sure I would have been able to do anything about it."

McGehee said he wasn't freaked out over how close it came to really hurting him until he saw replays after the game. 

"[Stanton] didn't even know it happened until I told him afterward," McGehee said. "He was messing me with that I should have caught it. Tony Perez was joking saying 'You got a bat in your hand, hit it back to him.' I'm just glad we're sitting here talking about it and making light of it compared to what it could have been. I got as lucky as I could have gotten. I dodged a bullet." 


Derek Dietrich's late Tuesday night demotion -- a reassignment geared at getting the second baseman to work on becoming more consistent defensively -- opened the door Wednesday for the Marlins to get a look at left-handed power-hitting first baseman Justin Boar.

Acquired in the Triple A phase of the Rule 5 draft last December, Boar was hitting .330 with nine homers and 36 RBI for Triple A New Orleans this season.

With the Marlins playing four of their next seven games at American League parks, it's likely Bour will get a few shots to either serve as a designated hitter or even start at first base. Bour said he's only played "three or four innings in left field" in the minors so he won't be playing anywhere else.

Bour, who spent six years in the Cubs' minor league system and 23 homers in 2011 in Single A and then drove in 110 runs 2012 in Double A, said he was pleasantly surprised by Wednesday's call-up. He said Zephyrs manager Andy Haines took him out of the lineup pre-game on Tuesday and didn't explain why until after the game.

"I knew something weird was going on. I didn't know if it was going to be a trade or something like that. So I just kind of sat in the dugout the whole game wondering what was going on," Bour said. "Afterward [Haines] called me in and said, 'Sorry to lie to you, but I had to a little bit.' Then he said, 'It's June 3rd. As of June 4th you're a big leaguer. Come here, I want to give you a hug.' It was awesome. All the guys were real excited."


> Marlins (30-28): 1. Reed Johnson LF, 2. Ed Lucas 3B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee DH, 5. Marcell Ozuna CF, 6. Jeff Baker 1B, 7. Donavan Solano 2B, 8. Jeff Mathis C, 9. Adeiny Hechavarria SS. RHP Tom Koehler.

> Rays (23-36): 1. David DeJesus DH, 2. Ben Zobrist 2B, 3. Evan Longoria 3B, 4. James Loney 1B, 5. Desmond Jennings CF, 6. Matt Joyce LF, 7. Yunel Escobar SS, 8. Kevin Kiermaier RF, 9. Jose Molina C. LHP David Price.

Alvarez climbing up the Marlins record book with shutouts, scoreless innings streak

ST. PETERSBURG -- Henderson Alvarez's third complete game shutout of the season Tuesday night put him into some elite Marlins company. 

Only four other Marlins pitchers have ever made at least three consecutive starts without giving up a run -- earned or unearned: Chris Hammond (4 in 1994), Javier Vazquez (3 in 2011), Dontrelle Willis (3 between 2003-04) and Pat Rapp (3 in 1995).

Alvarez's string of 21 consecutive scoreless innings ranks sixth in club history for a starting pitcher. He still has a ways to go to set the club record owned by Josh Johnson (31 innings in 2010). 

What was arguably the most impressive thing about Alvarez's start Tuesday was how efficient he was. He set a club-record by throwing only 88 pitches in Tuesday's nine-inning complete game shutout. He's now managed to throw fewer than 100 pitches three times in a complete game shutout for the Marlins.

Only two other Marlins are on that list with him: Kevin Brown (98 pitches in his no-hitter against the Giants in 1997) and Dontrelle Willis (97 pitches in a 9-0 win overt the Nationals on April 8, 2005).

Alvarez's three shutouts this season are now tied for the third-most in a single season in Marlins history with Brown (1996). A.J. Burnett (2002) and Willis (2005) each had five in one season.

What makes Alvarez so good and so efficient?

"He's just got a good fastball and it moves and creates a lot of ground balls," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think when he's pounding the zone with his fastball he's able to make guys miss. That's the key. The little bit of trouble he got into [Tuesday] he got out of it whether it's him fielding his position or a perfectly timed double play. He gets a lot of ground balls and doesn't give up a lot of hard contact and that's huge for me."

Marlins to promote Justin Bour; Furcal, Tejada heating up on the back burner

Justin Bour, a 26-year-old first baseman who has been crushing it of late at Triple A New Orleans, will be joining the Marlins in St. Petersburg today when they re-engage with the Rays at Tropicana Field. Bour, who gives the Marlins a lefty power option off the bench and could also serve as a designated hitter the coming two games, is tearing it up in the minors, where he is hitting .330 with nine homers and 36 RBI.

Over his previous nine games, he's gone 15 for 38 with three home runs. The Marlins acquired Bour in the Triple A phase of the Rule 5 draft in December. Bour had been with the Cubs organization, which means he could face his original club this coming weekend when the Marlins invade Wrigley Field.

Meanwhile, the Marlins have a couple of veteran infielders warming up in the wings. Rafael Furcal, who has probably set some sort of Marlins record for expending the most newspaper ink without ever playing a single game for them, has gone 6 for 13 over his past four games at Single A Jupiter and is headed up to Double A Jacksonville to continue his rehab assignment.

And Miguel Tejada, whom the Marlins recently signed to provide veteran infield depth in their system, has gone 4 for 12 with a double in his first three games with Jacksonville. Tejada, who is serving a MLB drug suspension, isn't eligible to return to the majors until June 11.

Bour will fill the roster spot vacated by Derek Dietrich, who was demoted to New Orleans on Wednesday. The Marlins will have to find room for Bour on their 40-man roster, which is presently full. One possibility: Carter Capps could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list if the decision is made today for him to have Tommy John surgery. Capps is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews.

June 03, 2014

Marlins option 2B Derek Dietrich back down to Triple A to work on his defense; could Furcal be on his way up?

Second baseman Derek Dietrich has been optioned back to Triple A New Orleans, the Marlins announced after Tuesday's 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Despite starting 36 games at second base this season and producing some pop at the plate against right-handers (.256, 5 HRs, 16 RBI), Dietrich has had plenty of defensive struggles. He's committed seven errors at second, tied with the Braves' Dan Uggla for the most in baseball.

"We're just in a situation where we want to make sure he plays," manager Mike Redmond said. "There's some defensive things we obviously want him to work out. It doesn't do him any good to [sit]. He needs to play.

"He's still a young guy. We love him. We love what he can do. He just needs to be a little more consistent. I think he understands that. We know he'll go down there and work hard not just on his defense, but all aspects of his game. This guy is a big leaguer. It's all about consistency up here in the big leagues. But I know he'll go down there and do what he needs to do to get here as soon as possible."

Redmond said the team will announce a corresponding move on Wednesday.

Could veteran Rafael Furcal be on his way up to join the Marlins in Tampa? There's definitely a chance. Redmond said Monday Furcal is supposed to go to Double A Jacksonville on Thursday. But he's played well thus far in five minor league games for Single A Jupiter and left after playing only seven innings Tuesday night. He was 2-for-3 with a run scored in that game.

> Count Redmond as somebody very thankful third baseman Casey McGehee wasn't hurt in Tuesday's win. McGehee was standing in the on-deck circle when Giancarlo Stanton broke his bat on a lineout to short in the fourth inning. The barrel of the bat hit McGehee in the ribs.

"Man that was scary," Redmond said. "I think that kind of hit him in the ribs and elbow. I saw the bat break. A lot of times you watch the ball, but my eyes never left the bat. It was coming at me, but clipped Casey. Thankfully he was alright. If that was a foot up he's in trouble. It was scary."

Salty still showing post-concussion symptoms, stint on DL could last longer than 7 days

Jarrod Saltalamacchia still isn't feeling right and it is looking more and more likely he's going to spend more than a week on the disabled list.

The Marlins' catcher took a foul tip to his face mask in Saturday's loss to the Braves and is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms, manager Mike Redmond said Tuesday. Redmond said Saltalamacchia, who is currently on the 7-day concussion disabled list, can't resume baseball activities until he is symptom free for three to four days. 

"It could go to the 15-day disabled list, but I don't know for sure," Redmond said. "He needs to make sure he's symptom free. When I say that I mean headache free, dizzy free... as of right now he's still resting."


Redmond said Tuesday he isn't sure how quickly the Marlins will be able to insert Kevin Gregg into the bullpen, but the 35-year old reliever, signed to a minor league deal on Tuesday, has told the team he does not think it will take long for him to be ready.

Redmond said Gregg was expected to throw a bullpen in Jupiter Tuesday and that the reliever would likely begin to "pitch competitively in a couple days."

"I think it's great, exciting to add another piece," Redmond said. "The plan is for him to go out and pitch whether it be in Jupiter or somewhere else in the minor leagues. I know he's been throwing, but he hasn't been throwing competitively against hitters. We'll just kind of monitor how long that will take [to get ready]. But we're excited to have him and see how he continues to progress."

Getting the ball to closer Steve Cishek with a lead has been a struggle this season. Gregg's signing is obviously intended to help address that. Redmond said Gregg, who saved 33 games for the Cubs last year, could also end up closing games on the nights Cishek needs a break.

Asked if he thinks Gregg's signing can help put some relievers into more defined roles, Redmond responded: "Roles are nice, but you pitch yourself into roles. If you pitch well we'll find roles for you. The better you pitch the later you end up pitching right? That's just kind of the way it goes."

"Really we've been looking for guys to step up and take advantage of the late inning opportunities and we'll just keep continuing to plug these guys in there," Redmond continued. "I know they can get outs. I've seen them get outs. I've seen them get out of big situations. I was pumped for AJ yesterday to get those big outs. We'll keep plugging those guys in there because we need them. I know they can do the job. We just got to keep getting them in those situations. That's big for those guys to know we all believe in them and need them."

Catcher Jeff Mathis spent parts of two seasons with the Angels as Gregg's teammate in 2005 and 2006 and believes his experience will help the pen.

"He's been around, closed, been in different roles. Just a good veteran presence that could definitely get us some outs in the bullpen," Mathis said. "If I remember correctly he throws three, four pitches. I remember him having really good command of three of them. That's a really good weapon to have three of them you can throw for strikes. If you're closing out ball games for somebody then you have pretty good stuff. His track record speaks for itself. He's been a good pitcher. Hopefully he can come in here and help us."


Count Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos as one of the few college baseball fans in South Florida Monday to hear that Texas Tech had eliminated the hometown Miami Hurricanes from the NCAA Tournament.

Ramos grew up in Lubbock, Texas and played for Texas Tech for three seasons before the Marlins drafted him in the 21st round in 2009. 

"I talked to a couple players, called them texted them," said Ramos, who works out at Texas Tech in the off-season. "I told them how proud I was of them and how it fun it is to follow them and stuff. They're pretty excited. I'm just excited for them man. It's just amazing what they're doing. I'm just proud."

Ramos is also a huge San Antonio Spurs fan. But if he had his choice he said he would prefer to see the Red Raiders win a national title than see the Spurs knock off the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

"The Spurs don't pay me," Ramos said. "But I do bleed Red Raider blood."


> Rays (23-35): 1. Kevin Kiermaier CF, 2. Ben Zobrist 2B, 3. David DeJesus LF, 4. Evan Longoria 3B, 5. James Loney 1B, 6. Matt Joyce RF, 7. Yunel Escobar SS, 8. Yadier Molina C, 9. Chris Archer RHP.

> Marlins (29-28): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Ed Lucas 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. Henderson Alvarez RHP.