March 12, 2014

Nicolino, DeSclafani in first wave of roster cuts

JUPITER -- The Marlins trimmed 12 players from their spring roster this morning, including top pitching prospects Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani.

"The ax came down hard," said one player.

There were no surprises in the first wave of cuts.

Nicolino and DeSclafani were among five non-roster players reassigned to minor league camp. The others: Jesus Sanchez, Colby Suggs and Avery Romero.

Michael Brady and Kyle Jensen were optioned to Triple A New Orleans while Grant DaytonAngel Sanchez, Jose Urena, J.T. Realmuto and Brent Keys were optioned to Double A Jacksonville.

The big-league camp roster now stands at 58 players.

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The Marlins have hired Pat Shine to the team's newly created position of major league administrative coach. Shine, who was associated head baseball coach at Cal-Irvine, will focus primarily on video replay. But manager Mike Redmond, who played with Shine in high school and college, said Shine would also throw batting practice and work with infield coach Perry Hill.

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Injured infielders Rafael Furcal (hamstring) and Jeff Baker (quad) could return to game action as early as Friday.

"Both are feeling much better," Redmond said. "They're going to do some light activity today, and if everything goes well, go through all baseball activies tomorrow. I wouldn't rule out them playing in the next couple of days."

Baker said he slipped coming out of the batter's box in Port St. Lucie on Monday.

"The box was soaked, grabbed, and just kind of gingerly got down to first," Baker said. "Just made sure I didn't blow the thing out and miss significant time. I'd like to play Friday."

March 11, 2014

Flynn regains rhythm, tosses three scoreless innings in first spring start for Marlins against Red Sox

FORT MYERS -- Matt Flynn's first two outings this spring weren't exactly smooth.

He looked a lot better Tuesday against the reigning World Champions.

The 6-7, 240-pound left-hander tossed three scoreless innings, retiring the first eight batters he faced before third baseman Jonathan Herrera singled to left. Herrera never advanced, though, getting thrown out at second on a pinpoint throw by catcher Rob Brantly moments later.

For Flynn, acquired along with Brantly and Jacob Turner in a 2012 trade with the Tigers, it was the kind of day he was hoping to have once someone in the bullpen began reading him the Red Sox lineup. In his first two outings out of the bullpen this spring, Flynn got banged up by the Nationals (2 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 HR in 2 IP) and Cardinals (3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks). Coming out as the starter Tuesday helped, Flynn said.

"It's the first time it's really felt good," said Flynn, who three 33 pitches, 22 for strikes.

"I threw a lot of fastballs, kind of worked downhill, got a rhythm going out of the windup. I was looking forward to [starting]. It definitely paid off today having that comfortable time, getting on the mound, coming out of the dugout. The routine was really comfortable. At the same time if I would have brought the same stuff from the last two outings to today it would have turned out just the same."

Flynn, a darkhorse candidate to win the fifth starter's job, said he's been focused on improving his mechanics. He said his arm had been dragging behind him in his previous appearances. That wasn't the case Tuesday.

"Today was good for me -- I could feel it," he said. "I just wanted to make them quick [innings], didn't want to be on the field for a long time. Whether they were three liners at someone's face, I just wanted to get smooth innings, get some rhythm going."

MARLINS RALLY PAST RED SOX

Leading 3-1 before most of the starters were pulled in the sixth, the Marlins rallied to beat the Red Sox 5-4 Wednesday thanks a two-run home run off the bat of Kyle Jensen in the ninth.

Boston plated two runs off reliever Marlins reliever Josh Spence in the seventh and took the lead in the eighth against Chaz Roe.

Jensen's towering home run to left came off Boston left-handed reliever Drake Britton.

And he absolutely drilled it. The line drive shot cleared the Green Monster in left field at jetBlue Park.

"It felt good to come into the game, see one pitch and close it out," Jensen said. "I was just looking for a pitch to drive. Saw it early."

Chris Hatcher retired the final three Red Sox hitters to pick up the save.

Mr. Versatility Ed Lucas makes way around Marlins infield as utility job competition heats up

FORT MYERS -- During his 10 years in the minors, Marlins utility man Ed Lucas made his way around to every position except catcher.

"In the minor leagues I always tried to talk my manager into one of those nine innings, nine position things," Lucas said. "We were in a pennant race so there was never a real good opportunity for me to do that."

In Monday's 11-1 win over the Mets, the 31-year old former Dartmouth standout did get to pull off something pretty cool -- albeit in a spring training game. He went around the horn for the Marlins, playing third, shortstop, second and first base over the final four innings. It's the first time in his career, Lucas said, that he's played more than three positions in the same game. It might also be the first time a Marlin has ever done it.

According to baseballreference.com, only four players since 1914 have played all four infield positions in the same regular season game. And those four players actually played all nine positions in the same game. No player has ever played just the four infield positions in the same game, in other words.

The players who lined up at all nine positions in the same game: Shane Halter, 2000 (Detroit); Scott Sheldon, 2000 (Texas); Cesar Tovar, 1968 (Minnesota); Bert Campaneris, 1965 (Kansas City).

"[Ty] Wigginton told me he played five [positions] in one game," said Lucas, who usually carries four gloves with him to games (middle infield, third base, first base and outfield). "I have a catchers glove but hopefully I wont use that."

There were times in the minors Lucas said he considered "shutting it down." But last year he got his call-up with the Marlins and is making the most of it now.

Although manager Mike Redmond expects Lucas and Donovan Solano to be in a dog fight for the Marlins' utility job through the end of the spring, it's pretty evident Lucas' ability to both play first base and be the team's emergency catcher gives him a bit of a leg up in the competition. Redmond joked Tuesday that Lucas could even pitch if needed.

Both Lucas and Solano came into Tuesday's game against the Red Sox swinging hot bats this spring. Solano is hitting .375 (6 for 16, 3 doubles, 2 RBI). Lucas is hitting .353 (6 for 17, 1 HR, 4 RBI).

"That's going to be a long, tough [decision] at the end," Redmond said. "But that's good. Those are the kind of decisions we want to have to make. We want guys to come in and make the most of their opportunities and make it tough on us to make a decision. I think every manager would say that."

Redmond said the Marlins know Lucas can play short and wanted to get a better look at Solano there this spring.Lucas played short in six games last year for the Marlins, starting three. He saw most of his action at third base (61 games, 56 starts).

Solano played at short in five games back in 2012. He spent most of last year at second (93 games, 92 starts). Solano said shortstop is his natural position and it's where he spent the majority of his nine minor league seasons (387 games, .951 fielding percentage).

"When [Rafael Furcal] signed the organization told me what they think about me," Solano said. "I've just come to camp this spring with the attitude I had in 2012 when nobody knew about me. I just want to play hard, put my [jersey] number on and play good."

> Redmond said Monday's injuries to Furcal (hamstring) and infielder Jeff Baker (upper quad) aren't bad. 

"I think they both came in [Tuesday] feeling better than anticipated so that's good for us," Redmond said. "They're going to be day-to-day. We'll get them the out there moving around the next couple days. We'll see how they progress.

"This is the time of spring training, those first couple weeks, that two-to-three week period where guys start getting banged up a little bit. We want to monitor that, keep all our guys healthy. We have time to get these guys at-bats and do what we need to do to get them ready for Opening Day. We don't want to push them until they are physically ready to go out there and play."

Neither player was scheduled to head to Panama this coming weekend to face the Yankees. So it's likely they'll be playing in Jupiter if they're healthy. 

"We got a lot of games coming up this weekend with us going to Panama and everything," Redmond said. "It would be nice to see them back out there and playing. We'll just wait and see. We're not going to push them."

TUESDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (7-3-2): 1. Donovan Solano SS, 2. Christian Yelich LF, 3. Marcell Ozuna CF, 4. Derek Dietrich 2B, 5. Casey McGehee 3B, 6. Brian Bogusevic RF, 7. Ed Lucas 1B, 8. Greg Dobbs DH, 9. Rob Brantly C. LHP Brian Flynn

> Red Sox (4-7-1): 1. Grady Sizemore CF, 2. Dustin Pedroia 2B, 3. David Ortiz DH, 4. Mike Napoli 1B, 5. Jonny Gomes LF, 6. Xander Bogarts SS, 7. David Ross C, 8. Bryce Brentz RF, 9. Jonathan Herrera 3B. RHP John Lackey.

March 10, 2014

Giancarlo Stanton breaks out the tape measure with mammoth blast (w/video)

PORT ST. LUCIE -- The Marlins pounded out 19 hits in an 11-1 victory Monday over the New York Mets. But the hit that had everyone talking was Giancarlo Stanton's second homer of the season, a mammoth shot to left-center that nearly landed on one of the Mets' practice fields. Mets announcers were in disbelief, saying they had never seen one hit there before.

Stanton nearly homered earlier in the at bat when his long fly ball down the left field line was just foul.

But after fouling off the next two pitches, he went deep off Mets left-hander Jack Leathersich.

"I just wanted to hit the ball hard coming from that," Stanton said of the earlier foul ball. "A lot of times -- I've done it and I've seen other players do it -- you hit a ball like that foul and then you call it a day for the rest of the at bat. I (didn't) want to say, 'I hit a home run foul. Good for me.' That doesn't mean anything. That was more what I was thinking."

Check out the home run for yourself:

The Marlins had managed to make it through the first few weeks of spring training relatively injury-free. But that stretch of good fortune ended Monday when Jeff Baker left the game with a strained left hamstring while Rafael Furcal came out a while later with a strained left hamstring.

Manager Mike Redmond said he doesn't think either injury is serious, but cautioned that he'll know more Tuesday. Baker was scheduled to go to Fort Myers to face the Red Sox, but those plans were altered by Monday's injury.

Counterpunch: Marlins sending "representative" lineup to face BoSox

PORT ST. LUCIE -- Giancarlo Stanton and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be staying behind in Jupiter. But when the Marlins travel to Fort Myers on Tuesday to take on the Red Sox, they won't be playing the payback game with Boston, which sent over a lineup largely devoid of major league talent to Jupiter last week.

Manager Mike Redmond is sending three of his projected starters -- Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Casey McGehee -- to face the Red Sox. They'll be joined on the bus by likely backups Brian Bogusevic, Jeff Baker, Greg Dobbs, Ed Lucas and Donovan Solano.

"What you're doing is for the fans, give them a look at the players who are going to play down in MIami," Redmond said in response to last week's controversy in which the Red Sox had only one projected regular -- centerfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. -- in its lineup against the Marlins. "That's why you bring guys. If there weren't those rules, then nobody would bring anybody on a 3-hour bus ride, right? Nobody wants to take a 3-hour bus ride in spring training. But that's the way it goes. It's always been like that. Guys understand that."

Brian Flynn is scheduled to start against the Red Sox.

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Chris Valaika and Justin Ruggiano, two of the former Marlins who were involved in verbal altercations with former hitting coach Tino Martinez, told the Chicago Sun-Times said they're happy to be out of Miami and with the Cubs.

"After all the things that went on, I wanted to go somewhere else," said Valaika, one of several players that Martinez allegedly abused verbally.

Martinez resigned immediately after reports of the abuse allegations surfaced. But the story didn't end there for Valaika. When the front office decided to promote the utility infielder last September, the move was vetoed by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who had hand-picked Martinez for the job and was bitter about resignation.

"It was unfortunate," Valaika said in his first comments about the end-of-season episode. ""It was just tough at the end of the year. Once the end of the year came, I made the decision I wanted to be elsewhere."

Valaika was signed by the Cubs as a free agent.

As for Ruggiano, who was traded by the Marlins to the Cubs for Brian Bogusevic, the outfielder said he has since spoken with Martinez and patched up any differences they might have had.

"I have no idea about whether that situation played into the fact that we're over here now," Ruggiano told the Sun-Times, "but I dealt with that situation last year, and the awkwardness that it created for the clubhouse, it's something that can put a strain amongst the guys. That's something I don't really want to revisit."

March 09, 2014

Carlos Marmol to make spring debut; Marlins bullpen battles wide open

JUPITER -- The Marlins and manager Mike Redmond will be looking for some clarity to an extremely muddled bullpen picture when Carlos Marmol makes his spring debut this afternoon. Marmol's first outing for the Marlins was delayed due to his return to the Dominican Republic to sort out visa issues.

It's hard to envision any scenario in which Marmol doesn't make the team.

But, outside of Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos and Mike Dunn, the rest of the bullpen picture is unclear.

"We have a bunch of guys fighting for those spots," Redmond said. "We're looking for guys to step up. It's going to be an interesting battle to see who can be most consistent and earn it."

Redmond said he was impressed with Henry Rodriguez's first outing Saturday when the hard-throwing, but erratic, right-hander struck out three in one inning of work.

"From what I saw yesterday -- and I know it's only one outing -- but it was pretty impressive," Redmond said. "He's got an arm. To have a guy coming out of there with 98 (mph) against some right-handed hitters would be pretty nice."

Redmond was more guarded in his comments when asked about Carter Capps, the hard-throwing right-hander the Marlins acquired from Seattle in the Logan Morrison trade. Redmond said Capps is "doing OK."

"He's only been pitching for a few years," Redmond said. "We just need to keep getting him out there and get him comfortable on the mound, and get his innings."

There are essentially a slew of contenders for three spots: a long man, a right-hander and another lefty.

"We lost (Ryan) Webb and we lost (Chad) Qualls, and we need guys to step up and fill those innings," Redmond said. "We've got to replace those innings."

Kevin Slowey looked sharp in his two spring appearance and has re-emerged as a leading candidate for the long spot. The Marlins also turn to bullpen help from among the handful of pitchers who are presently vying for starting rotation spots, including Brad Hand and Tom Koehler.

Others who figure to be in the mix include: Arquimedes Caminero, Dan Jennings, Chaz Roe, Josh Spence and Chris Hatcher.

"These guys have got to earn it," Redmond said. "For me, every outing is big for guys. We have so many pitchers, and we're trying to get a look at so many different guys. Honestly, any time they get the ball it's important. There's just not enough innings out there for guys to kind of ease into it. I want to see what you got. So if guys are holding back for something, it's probably not the time to hold back."

Redmond runs out his "A" lineup for Tigers

JUPITER -- Mike Redmond is going with his projected Opening Day lineup this afternoon when the Marlins face the Detroit Tigers. It marks the first time this spring that Redmond is going with his "A" team, with only the addition of designated hitter Greg Dobbs distinguishing today's starting eight (Tom Koehler, not Jose Fernandez, is starting this afternoon) with the one he'll likely employ against the Colorado Rockies on March 31 in the season opener.

"I think it's important, more than anything, just to have guys be with the guys they're going to be out there with grinding throughout the year, to get them playing with each other as you quick as you can," Redmond said.

1. Rafael Furcal, 2b; 2. Christian Yelich, lf; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 4. Garrett Jones, 1b; 5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c; 6. Marcell Ozuna, cf; 7. Casey McGehee, 3b; 8. Greg Dobbs, dh; 9. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss. Pitching: Tom Koehler.

Miguel Cabrera is in the lineup today for the Tigers:

Tigers: 1. Ian Kinsler, 2b; 2. Trevor Crowe, lf; 3. Miguel Cabrera, 1b; 4. Alex Avila, dh; 5. Austin Jackson, cf; 6. Tyler Collins, rf; 7. Nick Castellanos, 3b; 8. Bryan Holaday, c; 9. Hernan Perez, ss. Pitching: Rick Porcello.

The Marlins have also settled on the travel squad it will be taking to Panama for next weekend's two-game set against the New York Yankees.

Most prominent among Marlins heading down to Central America: Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Adeiny Hechavarria and Garrett Jones. Nathan Eovaldi and Brad Hand look to be the likely starters in the two games on March 15 and 16.

"I had some guys who really wanted to go," Redmond said, adding that Stanton and reliever A.J. Ramos were two who volunteered. "When guys say they want to go on that trip, you want to let them go. I'm sure some guys are disappointed they're not going."

Redmond said the staff tried to divide the roster because of the three Grapefruit League games the Marlins will be playing in Florida while the other half of the team is in Panama.

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For those wondering, the Marlins had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball when John Henry owned the team for two years. In response to the weak contingent the Boston Red Sox sent to Jupiter on Thursday and the flap that ensued, Henry on Saturday took a not-so-subtle dig at the Marlins on Twitter by saying it's the Marlins who should apologize for their regular-season lineups.

Henry didn't exactly shell it out when he owned the Marlins. The Marlins ranked 29th of 30 teams in 2000 with an Opening Day payroll of $19.9 million and 27th of 30 teams in 2001 with a payroll of $35.7 million. One notable difference, however: MLB's revenue sharing plan as it currently exists didn't go into effect until 2002, the year Henry took over in Boston and Jeffrey Loria assumed control of the Marlins.

March 08, 2014

Red Sox owner John Henry zings Marlins

JUPITER -- The flap over the extraordinarily thin spring training lineup the Boston Red Sox sent to Jupiter on Thursday is not dying. Not by a mile.

On Saturday, Red Sox owner John Henry fired out this tweet, which is certain to stir things up further:

"They should apologize for their regular season lineup."

Ka-bam!

The Marlins cannot be amused by the latest salvo in the controversy. So far, they're not commenting. But given the growing animosity between the two franchises, it's hard to imagine they'll remain quiet on this. And, given the level to which the spat has now escalated -- team ownership, for crying out loud -- it would not be surprising to see the league become involved.

The Marlins were not pleased when the World Series champs sent over only one regular -- center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. -- for Thursday's Grapefruit League game. And, according to Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, Red Sox G.M. Ben Cherington emailed him an apology that day.

Based on Henry's tweet, which takes a shot at the Marlins, it's not a dead issue.

Stay tuned.

Henry, of course, gave up ownership of the Marlins in 2001, allowing Jeffrey Loria to take over. This isn't the first time Henry has grumbled about Marlins-related issues. He has complained about the lack of spending by low-revenue teams at the expense of the big boys.

Brantly shines, Turner gets tagged, and McGehee homers against Braves

Rob Brantly is likely headed back to Triple A New Orleans when the spring ends, but the Marlins 2013 Opening Day catcher isn't letting that affect his focus.

Saturday, he plated three runs with a double off Braves starter Freddy Garcia in the third inning and finished with two hits. He's now 4-for-8 this spring.

"He looks much more comfortable this year than he did last year," Redmond said. "He'll be fine to be able to go down to the minor leagues, get at-bats and improve his game-calling. Those are things that you need to be successful up here in the big leagues. He can catch. He got better last year throwing, catching and blocking.”

> Jacob Turner lasted only 2 1/3 innings in his second Grapefruit League start Saturday. He gave up seven hits, two earned runs and a walk and threw 35 of his 54 pitches for strikes. He also had a throwing error attempting to pick off Jason Heyward at first base.

“Obviously I gave up a lot of hits and results wise you don’t want to see that,” said Turner, expected to be the Marlins' No. 4 starter. “But I made a lot of good pitches that either found a hole or they put a good swing on it. The biggest thing was [the throwing error] to first. I got quick with the throw.”

Redmond said he thought Turner "did okay."

"He got himself in some trouble, gave up a few hits," Redmond said. "Definitely wasn't as sharp as his last game. It was one of those games where the first couple of innings were slow. Wasn't a great rhythm out there either side. It could have affected him a little bit."

> Third baseman Casey McGehee rocketed a solo home run off Garcia in the second inning.  It was his first home run of the spring.

"It's obviously nice to have a swing match up with what you've been working on," said McGehee, who finished 1-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .333 this spring. "The home run was nice. I was just more happy with the approach. All in all the first two at bats I really liked and the last two not so much. I'm trying to get more consistent and have the same approach for four at-bats instead of two."

> Reliever Henry Rodriguez, shelved in his native Venezuela because he had to deal with visa issues most of the spring, pitched a scoreless inning in his Grapefruit League debut Saturday. Rodriguez walked one and gave up a hit. 

"He threw some really good fastball, nice breaking balls," Redmond said. "It was nice to see him in person."

Former Braves pinch-hitter Reed Johnson ready to face his old team

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The Marlins get their first look at the reigning National League East champion Braves today at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.

For veteran outfielder Reed Johnson it's sort of a homecoming. Reed spent the last two seasons with the Braves and tasted the playoffs for the first time in his career last year.

A non-roster invitee at Marlins camp, Johnson, 37, has to overcome some odds to make the Marlins 25-man roster. The team traded Justin Ruggiano for Brian Bogusevic, who is most likely going to win the fourth outfielder spot.

But Johnson has value. While his overall offensive numbers weren't particularly strong in 2013 (.244, 1 HR, 11 RBI in 74 games), Johnson did perform well as a pinch-hitter. He batted .297 with an .801 OPS in 44 pinch-hit at-bats.

Reed admires what the Marlins young outfield looks like and thinks the team is in for a good season.

"Being in the East last year in Atlanta I got to see them quite a bit," Reed said. "To see those guys from the beginning of the year to the end of last year it was like night and day. It's a team you didn't really want to face. With the pitching staff they had and then having a lead late in the seventh inning with Dunn, Qualls and Cishek to close out the game. It made it tough."

READY FOR REPLAY

Baseball's new instant replay system has been used in several Grapefruit and Cactus League games already, but the Marlins have yet to play in a game where replay has been available. They will Thursday, though, when they travel to Lakeland to face the Tigers.

It's the first of five "replay games" for the Marlins. The others: March 16 at Twins, March 20 vs.  Cardinals, March 23 at Tigers, and March 29 at the Yankees.

In Friday's 7-3 win over the Cardinals back in Jupiter, the Marlins had a bit of a controversial play that could have used instant replay help. In the fourth inning, Jeff Mathis hit a ball off the wall near the right field line. Umpires first ruled it foul. But after manager Mike Redmond ran out on the field, the umpires convened and decided to award Mathis a double.

"We've talked about going out there at times if there is a play that's really close, whether it is a replay game or not," Redmond said. "Just to get used to going out there and the mechanics of [challenging]. That just seemed like a perfect time to go out and see what they saw on that play.

"They were going to meet anyway. I think somebody saw it and knew that was the right call, and they got it right. I think the umpires want to get the calls right. If one of them sees it, I don't think they're afraid to overturn it. They want to get them right. And that's good."

> In order to avoid facing the Mets in back-to-back outings, Redmond said Jose Fernandez will skip his next scheduled start Monday and pitch in a simulated game back in Jupiter.

Right-hander Kevin Slowey, who has faced the Mets in both of his spring appearances, will pitch in a B game against the Mets to also avoid facing their regulars again.

Left-hander Brad Hand will start opposite Bartolo Colin in the regularly scheduled game against the Mets at 1 p.m. in Port St. Lucie.

"We can control the situation back there and the number of pitches and get the exact number of pitches we want out of him," Redmond explained of Fernandez, the Marlins' scheduled Opening Day starter. "There's really no reason for him to go and face the Mets again. He'll get plenty of opportunities to do that during the season. And Slowey too. It just worked out that staying with the rotation he's faced the Mets every single time. We can pitch Slowey in a B game. He gets his pitches. We know what he can do."

SATURDAY'S LINEUPS

> Marlins (6-2-1): 1. Donovan Solano 2B, 2. Reed Johnson RF, 3. Marcell Ozuna CF, 4. Jeff Baker 1B, 5. Casey McGehee 3B, 6. Ty Wigginton DH, 7. Brian Bogusevic LF, 8. Ed Lucas SS, 9. Rob Brantly C. RHP Jacob Turner

> Braves (2-6): 1. Jason Heyward RF, 2. B.J. Upton CF, 3. Justin Upton LF, 4. Ryan Doumit C, 5. Gerald Laird DH, 6. Ernesto Mejia 1B, 7. Tommy La Stella 2B, 8. Ramiro Pena SS, 9. Philip Gosselin 3B. RHP Freddy Garcia.