May 02, 2015

Yelich set to play three rehab games in Jupiter, return to Marlins lineup Thursday in San Fran

Christian Yelich said his back is feeling better and the Marlins left fielder is hoping he'll be back in the lineup when the team opens a four-game series in San Francisco Thursday.

That's assuming all goes well once he begins a three-game, three-day rehab stint Sunday in Jupiter. Yelich said he's been hitting in the cages for the last three days and hasn't felt any discomfort. He's been on the disabled list since April 20.

> Jeff Baker picked up his first hit of the season Friday in his sixth pinch-hit appearance and earned himself his first start of the season Saturday against Phillies ace Cole Hamels.

With first baseman Michael Morse struggling (.202, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and the left-hander  Hamels on the mound, manager Mike Redmond opted to use Baker over left-handed first baseman Justin Bour, who is 6-for-7 since he was called-up to replace Yelich on April 24.

"Bake’s hit left-handed pitchers, so we’ll get him out there and let him go," Redmond said of Baker, who is 8-for-17 versus the Phillies over his last eight games. " We’ve been trying to get our bench guys in there, but with the off-days we’ve had, it’s been tough. But those guys have been good, they’ve been patient. Baker got a big hit last night off the bench. Mo, he’s scuffling a little bit, so give him a day off. It’s nice to have guys that can step in and play and contribute."

> Mat Latos, who injured his left hamstring in Wednesday's win over the Mets, threw a bullpen before Saturday's game. He said his knee was still sore, but if he got through the bullpen fine it's likely he'll stay on schedule to make his next start Tuesday in Washington. 

> Justin Nicolino continues to put up zeroes down in the minors. The left-handed prospect tossed six scoreless innings Friday night in Triple A New Orleans and hasn't given up a run since his first start of the season on April 9. That's a span of four starts and 24 innings. 

> Dee Gordon has hit .607 (17-for-28) over the first seven games of the homestand is on pace to shatter the record set by Miguel Cabrera (.517, 15-for-29) for average over a nine game homestand May 22-31, 2006. 

OZUNA'S SWING IMPROVING

Marcell Ozuna admits it's hard for him to ignore the fact he hasn't hit a home run yet through his first 21 games. But he's not discouraged.

"This is the first time in my career I haven't hit a home run in over 20 games," he said Saturday. "But I'm not dwelling on it, I just keep looking ahead, keep working hard and I know the home runs will come. 

"I thought the one I hit [in the ninth Friday] was going to be the first home run, but it went foul. After that, I just thought about putting the ball in play. That's my mindset -- hit the ball hard."

Ozuna did and doubled home Giancarlo Stanton with the winning run moments after his near miss home run. After starting the season 6-for-31 with 13 strikeouts and only two RBI in his first nine games, Ozuna has gone 17-for-42 (.405) with six doubles, three RBI and 10 strikeouts over his last 12 games.

"His last week, his at-bats have gotten much better," manager Mike Redmond said. "I know you guys talk about the power, ‘when is he going to hit a homer?’ or whatever, but those will come. We just need him to continue to get big hits in the middle of that order. When he’s able to do that, that’s a good sign for us because we’re scoring runs. We need him to hit in the middle of that order."

REALMUTO TALKS FLIP

When he was a shortstop in high school J.T. Realmuto practiced flipping the ball to second base all the time. As a catcher, the opportunity to flip the ball back to the pitcher covering the plate doesn't happen often, and when it does it doesn't usually result in tremendous success.

But it worked out for Realmuto and the Marlins Friday. Tom Koehler's wild pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth inning ended with Realmuto throwing a perfect ball back to Koehler, who applied the tag to Ryan Howard for the final out of the frame.

"It's not like we work on it religiously but every now and then we'll practice balls to the backscreen, sliding on your knees, grabbing it and throwing them out at home plate," Realmuto said. "I would say its definitely less than four or five times in a game where I've actually been able to get that guy out. That was definitely the first time it happened on this stage. So it was nice."

The Marlins designated veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia for assignment Monday in part because of how well Realmuto has developed. Redmond loves the way his young catcher is playing and said after Friday's win part of the reason the pitching staff is performing better is Realmuto's doing.

Said Redmond of Friday's flip to Koehler for the out: "That’s one of those plays where, really, you’ve got to get a great bounce off the backstop. In here, there’s not a whole lot to bounce off of, just the fish tank. At the same time, these are things we work on in spring training, the pitchers covering home plate. You might see that once or twice a year, maybe, but it’s always nice to execute it like we practice it. And it worked. Saved us a run."

May 01, 2015

Latos not ruling out making next start; Alvarez has target return date of May 17

Mat Latos isn't ready to rule himself out of his next scheduled start Tuesday in Washington. But if his sore left hamstring doesn't get better, its likely the Marlins are going to have to dip down into the minors to find a spot starter.

Latos, who strained his left hamstring coming out of the batter's box in Wednesday's 7-3 win over the Mets, said an MRI performed on his hamstring showed "no structural damage, just some inflammation and swelling."

"It's one of the hamstring tendons that is back there," Latos said. "Normally it takes me a lot to miss a start -- like a missing limb. So I'm not ruling myself out. I don't think they are either. It's just more of getting in heavy treatment to try to get everything to calm down. The good thing is I'm up walking around. It's sore, not tight, not restricting the flexibility in my knee. That's a good step."

The next step, Latos said, is to throw a bullpen in the next couple of days. Friday, Latos played catch while the Marlins took batting practice. He showed no signs of discomfort and remained out on the field shagging balls.

In the event Latos has a setback, the Marlins (10-12) will likely call-up either Justin Nicolino (2-0, 0.79 ERA in four starts) or Jose Urena (1-0, 0.90 ERA in two starts) from Triple A New Orleans to take his spot in the rotation.

Brad Hand, who would normally be the guy for that spot spot, hasn't pitched for the Marlins since April 19. His arm might not be stretched out enough to go deep.

ALVAREZ HAS TARGET DATE

Henderson Alvarez threw his first bullpen Wednesday since going on the disabled list April 13 and said he felt no discomfort in his arm or shoulder.

So if things continue to progress positively, Alvarez said he'll throw an extended spring training game next Thursday, do a minor league rehab assignment May 12 in Jupiter and then return to the Marlins rotation May 17 when the team closes out a three game series against the Braves at Marlins Park.

"Everything until now in my arm has felt fine," Alvarez said Friday. "The MRI said it was inflammation and tendonitis. My shoulder was overworked because I was pitching to make up for [the elbow]. But I feel good now."

Alvarez said he threw 20 pitches Wednesday -- 17 fastballs and three change-ups. Saturday, in his next bullpen session, Alvarez said he'll use his full arsenal of pitches and throw 50 pitches.

"It's looking good," Redmond said of the All-Star's potential return. "He says he feels great, arm feels good. So, he's progressing well. It's a good sign. Knowing he's not far off is good -- and Jose [Fernandez] too."

Fernandez faced live hitters Thursday in Jupiter for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May. He threw 15 pitches, struckout two batters and forced the other to pop out. Fernandez said he threw everything but sliders.

"I had all the adrenaline going," Fernandez said. "I felt like I wanted to keep throwing, but it's a process and we've got to follow it.

"My arm feels like it was an off-day yesterday. I don't feel anything, pretty normal. I know eventually I'm going to have to feel something. Everybody does. But it hasn't happened yet."

Fernandez said he'll ramp up his workload to 30 pitches the next time he faces live hitters on Monday. He said the next big step will be a simulated game on May 10.

"It's not going to be different until I get a chance to pitch in an actual game, compete with another team, even in the minor leagues," Fernandez said.

Left fielder Christian Yelich, out with a lower back strain since April 20, is in line to play in a rehab game Sunday in Jupiter, Redmond said. 

"We'll know more when he goes out and plays and see how he does in those games," Redmond said. "It's more on how he feels.  But it's good that he feels good and is ready to go out and start playing."

April 30, 2015

Marlins enjoy best month on FoxSports since July 2012

According to FoxSports Florida, Marlins viewership has gone up 10 percent from last year through the same number of games and the team enjoyed its most-watched month of baseball since July 2012 averaging a 2.0 household rating ten times on the network.

Wednesday night’s 7-3 victory over the Mets notched a 2.8 HH rating average surpassing Opening Day (2.6 HH) to finish as the most watched game of the season to date.

The Fish (10-12) have won seven of their past eight games and open a three-game series Friday at Marlins Park against the Phillies (8-14) before heading off on a 10-game road trip.

Dee Gordon's April was one for the record books

Ichiro Suzuki grabbed the spotlight on Wednesday with his late-inning homer, which he said nearly reduced him to tears due to the emotion from fans and teammates that surrounded it. Without a doubt, it was a spine-tingling moment given the 41-year-old Suzuki's stature and the respect he commands from fans and players alike.

Not to be forgotten in the haze of Suzuki's feel-good moment, though, was the April completed by Dee Gordon, who merely turned in one of the best months ever by a Marlin. Gordon collected two more hits on Wednesday, bringing his total for the month to 38. Only Mike Lowell in 2002 had more hits in April -- 40.

While not to diminish Lowell's achievement, it's worth nothing that the season that year began on April 2. The Marlins didn't play their first game this year until April 6, giving Lowell a 4-day head start.

Perhaps more impressive about Gordon's April is this: he finished the month with a .409 average, thus becoming only the fourth Marlin ever to hit .400 or better in a single month (minimum 50 at bats). Take a look at the select list:

Player                            Year/Month                           Avg.

Preston Wilson                1999/ July                            .431

Hanley Ramirez               2007/July                            .424

Dee Gordon                    2015/April                            .409

Justin Ruggiano              2012/June                            .400

All of the news wasn't good for the Marlins in their 7-3 win over the Mets. Mat Latos came out of the game in the fifth with a left hamstring strain after reaching on a single. Latos said he would undergo a MRI on Thursday.

While Latos remains winless and hasn't lived up to expectations for the Marlins, losing him for any length of time would place further stress on a rotation that is already without Henderson Alvarez (15-day DL, shoulder inflammation) and awaits the return of Jose Fernandez in six weeks to two months.

April 27, 2015

Miami Marlins throw in the towel on Jarrod Saltalamacchia

The Marlins are about to take a bath on Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and not because they failed to close the ballpark roof during a pop-up rain shower. On Monday, the Marlins cut ties with the catcher, designating him for assignment and deciding the liability he brought to the club wasn't worth the more than $14 million still owed to him on the remainder of his contract.

But given how poorly Salty has been at the plate and behind it, it was a sacrifice they were clearly ready to make.

The Marlins have 10 days in which to either trade or release Saltalamacchia. Either way, the Marlins figure to absorb the bulk -- if not all -- of the remaining $14.23 million still owed to him.

"I don't have a disappointment list of poor signings, but it's one, unfortunately, that didn't work out," said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. "It took deep, long hard consideration if this was the direction we wanted to go, because he still has almost two years left on his deal."

Saltalamacchia has been a major disappointment for the Marlins since they signed him to a 3-year, $21 million deal before last season. He hit .220 and led the team in errors last season, and was off to another poor start with a .069 average and a team-leading two errors.

He surely ranks -- along with Heath Bell -- as one of the biggest free agent signing busts in Marlins history.

With rookie J.T. Realmuto proving he belongs at the major league level, Saltalamacchia became expendable.

"The emergence of J.T. definitely made it easier," Hill said.

With Realmuto showing he can perform at the big-league level and backup Jeff Mathis due back in about a month from a broken finger, the Marlins decided it was time to move on. With Saltalamacchia gone and Mathis on the disabled list, the Marlins have Jhonatan Solano serving in a backup role to Realmuto. Solano is out of options.

April 25, 2015

Fernandez to face live hitters Thursday; MRI reveals Yelich has 'slight bulge' in disc

Jose Fernandez is ready to take the next step in his comeback from Tommy John surgery.

The National League 2013 Rookie of the Year will face live hitters for the first time on Thursday when he throws 15 pitches during batting practice, manager Mike Redmond said. 

Is this a sign Fernandez could be back before July -- the initial anticipated return date? 

"Way too early [for that]," Redmond said. "Let's let him get through the 15 pitches first."

> Opening Day starter Henderson Alvarez (shoulder inflammation) is expected to throw his first bullpen since going on the disabled on Wednesday. Alvarez will likely be out at least another two weeks.

YELICH HAS SLIGHT BULGE IN DISC

An MRI performed on left fielder Christian Yelich Friday revealed what he said trainers thought he had -- a slight bulging disc in his lower back.

Yelich said the pain is similar to the kind he had last year when he went to the disabled list for 15 days in mid-June.

"It should be alright after a few days if I just stay on it and take care of it," Yelich said. "We didn't really know what it was last year, what was causing it. We kind of had an idea. The MRI kind of confirmed what everybody was thinking.

"It's pretty much the same thing, slightly less [pain] this time compared to last year. It's not nearly as bad, but there's still discomfort, not a whole lot of range of motion. It just takes time. This is about day five or six now. It's starting to get a little bit looser, feel a little bit better. I have to go through all the progression stuff that will get me back on the field."

Yelich said the only remedy and preventative measure for future back pain is strengthening his Gluteal muscles and lower back. He said the best-case scenario right now is he'll be able to come off the disabled list on time -- when the Marlins head off on their next road trip May 4. 

"I think it's something attainable," he said. "I'll just go to go day-to-day with it and see how it feels. It's feeling better everyday and it's encouraging."

CISHEK PICKS UP FIRST SAVE

The Marlins became the last team in the majors to pick up a save Friday night. The 17-game wait matched the franchise's longest set twice before in 2005 and 2013.

Closer Steve Cishek said it's nice to get the first one out of the way. He ended up with 34 saves the last time this happened in 2013.

"The first one is always the toughest I feel like," Cishek said. "[The diving stop Prado made for the first out in the ninth Friday] was an unbelievable play. I hung a slider and it kind of backed up on me. [Yunel] Escobar put a good swing on it. I turned around and saw the ball sitting on the ground after [Prado] stopped it. He picked it up and threw him out. That fires you up."

ICHIRO TIES JAPANESE RECORD

Ichiro Suzuki said he had no idea he had set a record when he scored the 1,967th run in his professional career Friday, tying him with Sadaharu Oh for the most ever by a Japanese player.

Ichiro, who played for Oh on Japan's World Baseball Classic team in 2006, said he found out when he started reading emails from fans.

Ichiro said he's maintained a friendship with Oh over the years and visits him at least once a year.

"Mr. Oh's records in Japan are very special," Ichiro said. "So I'm very honored."

April 24, 2015

Marlins send Yelich to disabled list with lower back strain; Bour recalled

Christian Yelich's strained lower back hasn't been getting better sitting on the bench.

So on Friday the Marlins sent their starting left fielder to the disabled list and called up first baseman Justin Bour, a power-hitting left-handed bat, from Triple A New Orleans to replace him.

How bad Yelich's back really is remains to be seen.

"We're not sure what's going on there," manager Mike Redmond said. "We'll get him checked out and see what's going on. Hopefully it will be just a short term thing."

For Yelich, who signed a seven-year, $49.5 million deal in spring training, its the second time in his career he's gone to the disabled list with a strained lower back. He spent 15 days there in the middle of last June.

After hitting .304 during the team's opening six-game homestand, Yelich began complaining of back tightness after making a diving catch in left field on the first night of the team's recent 10-game, 11-day road trip back.

He finished 0-for-4 that night and was 2-for-22 with nine strikeouts (seven in his last nine at-bats) before he was finally was yanked from the lineup last Sunday. Now, he will not be eligible to come off the disabled list until the team's next three-city road trip gets underway in Washington May 4.

Veteran Ichiro Suzuki, 41, will continue to take the majority of Yelich's starts while he is out. Suzuki came into Friday's game hitting .257 with one RBI in 16 games.

"I was thinking about this today -- all the times in spring training when I was asked how I was going to get Ichiro into the game, and he's played every game," Redmond said with a smile. "I'll never get that time back."

Redmond said utility man Reid Brignac, who has just 4 2/3 innings of career outfield experience, would likely be the first guy off the bench to provide depth in the outfield if needed. Donovan Solano (10 games, two starts, 63 innings all in left field) and Jeff Baker (101 games, 76 starts, 591 1/3 innings) have outfield experience as well.

STANTON'S BLASTOLOGY

Giancarlo Stanton's line drive home run against the Phillies Thursday reached a height of only 46-feet of the ground, the lowest of any of his 158 career homers according to HitTrackerOnline. It came off the barrel at 113.6 miles per hour.

Yet, the one he hit last June off Cubs starter Jason Hammel, which zipped over the wall in right field was still more impressive to Stanton because he went opposite field. That ball came off the bat at 110.7 miles per our and had an apex of 48 feet.

"I don't know if he can hit it any harder [than he did Thursday]," Redmond said. "But he probably could."

> Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who lost his starting job to rookie J.T. Realmuto on the road trip, was placed on the paternity list Friday. Saltalamacchia is expected to miss a few days, Redmond said.

Jhonathan Solano was called up from the minors to serve as the backup catcher. To make room on the 40-man roster for Solano, left-handed reliever Grant Dayton (0-0, 4.05 ERA in five relief appearances in Triple A) was designated for assignment. 

April 23, 2015

Miami Marlins hold odd distinction -- for now

PHILADELPHIA -- In their error-filled 6-1 victory on Wednesday, the Marlins became the first team in 40 years to score as many as six runs while registering one RBI or less. But they're out to change a key scoring ruling, thereby avoiding the distinction.

The Marlins are appealing the official scorer's decision in which Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera was charged with an error on Dee Gordon's bases-loaded fly ball in the eighth. After making a long run with his back turned to the plate, Herrera turned and tried to make the catch. The ball grazed his glove and fell to the ground. Three runs scored and Gordon ended up at third.

The Marlins are trying to get the call changed to a triple, which would credit Gordon with three RBI. (Click here to see the play for yourself).

For now, the Marlins' only RBI belongs to Martin Prado, who drove in Gordon with a single. The last time a team scored as many as six runs with one RBI or less was the New York Mets, who on June 15, 1975, did it in a 6-0 victory over the Padres.