Marlins will give rookies Nicolino, Urena a good look before finalizing rotation

The Marlins are planning on setting their starting five-man rotation soon, and when they do, Jarred Cosart and Jose Fernandez will be rejoining it “in a permanent way,” manager Dan Jennings said Thursday.

But before anything is finalized, rookies Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena will get at least one more good look in the big leagues. Jennings revealed Thursday that Urena – and not veteran David Phelps -- will be making Sunday’s start against the Dodgers.

Urena tossed five innings and received a no decision in Tuesday’s loss to the Cardinals, but he’s gone at least six innings in four of his last five starts and has posted a 2.66 ERA over the stretch.

Nicolino, who tossed seven scoreless innings in his debut last Saturday in Cincinnati, will take the mound in the series opener Friday.

Could one rookie – or possibly both -- stay in the rotation moving forward? It certainly appears there’s a chance.

Saturday starter Tom Koehler was already sent to the bullpen once this season, and the Marlins are well aware of Koehler's struggles the second time through an opposing lineup. So they could opt to send Koehler to the bullpen and keep either Urena or Nicolino in the rotation.

Then, if Mat Latos or Dan Haren are traded (both have expiring contracts at the end of this season) it could open up another spot for a young arm to continue to develop on a team that clearly faces long odds of reaching the playoffs.

“It would be huge,” Jennings responded when asked if he would like to have a left-hander in the rotation. “I think some of the teams you see – especially these teams like the Cardinals with [Jason] Heyward and [Kolton] Wong [who homered Wednesday] night – if you've got that lefty starter, it can certainly neutralize a lot of things.”

Nicolino said he was nervous before his start in Cincinnati, but the butterflies quickly faded. He’s expecting to feel the same way in his first start at Marlins Park Friday.

“It’s the same game,” said Nicolino, who is 42-17 with a 2.67 ERA over five seasons and 102 starts in the minors. “After I got the first pitch out of the way [Saturday], that’s what it seemed like – the same game just with a lot more fans.”

FERNANDEZ SET FOR FINAL REHAB START

The next time Jose Fernandez returns to Marlins Park, he’ll be preparing for his next big league start against the Giants on July 2. Fernandez is set to fly out to Double A Jacksonville Friday afternoon where he’ll make his final rehab start following Tommy John surgery.

For Fernandez, who has never pitched above Single A Jupiter when he was in the minors, it will be his first trip to Jacksonville.

“Obviously it’s my last [rehab start], but it feels like it’s just another start, another step,” Fernandez said Thursday. “I’m just looking forward to getting out of it healthy, hopefully get to 95 pitches or higher. I thought I was going to be a little more like, ‘I can’t wait!’ I guess because I probably haven't realized yet that I’m that close [to returning to the big leagues I haven’t felt that way].”

MINOR LEAGUERS TOSS PERFECT GAME

Three Marlins minor leaguers -- including recent second round pick Brett Lilek -- combined to toss a perfect game Wednesday for the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League.

It’s only the third perfect game in league history according to Marty Scott, the Marlins vice president of player development who was there and watched the game.

“The leadoff hitter in the ninth hit a shot between first base and second,” Scott said. “Our first baseman dove, but it went his off glove and caromed to the second baseman, who got it and fired to [closer Steven] Farnsworth who covered first. It was a hell of a play. I was worried going into the ninth, not about the perfect game because of a lucky hit, but because we could lose the game up only 1-0. But when that first play happened to lead off the ninth, I knew fate was with us.”

Lilek struckout the side in the eighth inning after starter Gabriel Castellanos whiffed 12 over the first seven innings in the 1-0 win over the Mahoning Valley Scrapers. Farnsworth pitched the ninth to pick up the save.

The win improved the Muckdogs, who play a short-season of rookie ball, to 1-5. They lost their first five games and gave up 66 runs combined, Scott said.

Castellanos, a 21-year-old Dominican left-hander, was 7-21 with a 5.15 ERA in his career prior to Wednesday's start. For Lilek, a 21-year old lefty out of Arizona State, it was his first minor league appearance for the Marlins. Farnsworth, a 23rd-round pick in 2014, was 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 22 appearances before Wednesday.

“For the kids, it was special to see,” Scott said. “For a lot of them it was their first team win. Thirteen of the guys on the team, it’s their first year on that club. The team we played the first three games only had three 2015 draft picks. The team we played last two nights had four. So we're going to take our lumps once in a while. So if we get a couple more perfect games it will balance out.”

August 11, 2008

Olsen and Favre ready to go

Scott Olsen has never missed a start because of an injury, and he’s not planning on missing his next one Thursday against the Cardinals.

            “I’m good to go,’’ said Olsen after he threw a bullpen session at Dolphin Stadium Monday afternoon. “I’ll be out there Thursday.’’

            Olsen injured his ankle covering first base Saturday and there was some concern if he would be ready to make his next start, but both Olsen and the Marlins believe he will be fine.

            Olsen has made every start since coming to the big leagues. He made 31 starts in 2006, 33 last season and has started 24 games this season.

            Olsen does have a new jersey. It’s fresh off the rack: a Brett Favre New York Jets jersey was hanging in Olsen’s locker when the club began a home stand Monday. The jersey is from New York, where the Marlins just played a three-game series against the Mets, and it’s from Luis Gonzalez, who seems to be everywhere this team needs him to be.

“He (Luis) said he was going to go try and find a Favre jersey, and I told him if he found one, pick one up for me, too,’’ Olsen said. “Two days later, ding, ding, ding, there it is.

“I was never a Packers fan,’’ said Olsen, who grew up in the Midwest. “But I’ve always been a Brett Favre fan.’’

June 29, 2008

Olsen off to a fast start

Guess Scott Olsen was ready for Sunday's game against Arizona.

Olsen opened the game by striking out the side on 13 pitches in the first inning. He struck out Stephen Drew on three pitches to start the day. His first four pitches were strikes, and 8 of his first 11 were in the strike zone.

May 17, 2008

Olsen's velocity

Is there a problem with Scott Olsen's velocity.

After three innings, Olsen has yet to throw a pitch in the 90s. He is relying on a lot of off-speed stuff and hitting the corners with a fastball that has topped out at 88-89 mph.

May 11, 2008

Mother's Day Matinee -- LIVE from D.C.

ArodWASHINGTON -- Everyone seems to be doing the Fish once more, South Florida's pro baseball team doing quite well in case you haven't heard.

The Marlins are winning games on the field and making winning deals off it, locking up Hanley Ramirez to a six-year deal. Good feelings about the deal in the Marlins clubhouse on Saturday, players saying they are happy to see this organization make a commitment to the future.

Sure this news also quiets some of the low payroll talk these guys face in every city (including Miami Gardens) they visit. The Marlins are playing well right now, helped along by a favorable schedule, sure. But, as a guy who covers the Florida Panthers can attest, wins early in the season count just the same as ones in the final weeks.

The Fish are eight games over .500 and they have the pitching and the offense and right now even the defense to keep up these winning ways. You have to think the Marlins are going to win a good portion of their next eight (today with Olsen throwing against the Expos, four games at WKRP in Cincinnati and three at home against the KC Royales with Cheese) before the NL West leading D-Backs come to South Florida.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. No local television on today's game, and not sure if you can catch it at your local watering hole on Center Ice, err the MLB Package, or not. If not, catch Dave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner on the radio and remember to check back here throughout the day. Will be working Fish Bytes old school for those without a radio but with a laptop handy.

-- Come on, call your Mom. Tell her we all send her our best.

-- Fish Bytes and On Frozen Pond send out congratulations to San Diego's Greg Maddux for getting his 350th career victory last night. Think he's a Hall of Fame candidate now, or does he need to do more?

-- Do you realize the Marlins .611 winning percentage coming into today is second only to the D-Backs in the National League, and third overall (Boston is at .615). Florida's 22 victories rank them fifth in baseball. That's pretty heady stuff there.

-- Couple changes on the lineup today. As planned, Alfredo Amezaga back in center, leading off. Mike Rabelo also behind the plate (Matt Treanor played past three games and it's a night-day dealio). For the Expos, old pal (unless you're a Red Sox fan) Aaron Boone starting at first and batting fourth. He pinch-hit last night and was robbed thanks to a terrific catch in left by Brett Carroll.

THE LINEUPS

Olsenbat Florida: CF Amezaga; RF Hermida; SS Ramirez; 3B Cantu; 2B Uggla; LF Gonzalez; 1B Helms; C Rabelo; P Olsen.

Montreal: SS Lopez; 2B Belliard; 3B Zimmerman; 1B Boone; CF Milledge; LF Pena; RF Dukes; C Flores; P Hill.

-- Here are some bonus quotes on the Hanley Ramirez signing from yesterday:

Manny Acta: “He’s special. He’s one of those few guys that you can say that. Hanley can do whatever he wants int the game. It’s that simple. He can hit a home run. He can bunt and steal second and third and score on anything. He’ll take a walk. He’ll hit over .320, almost guaranteed. He can do everything he wants in the game. He’s one of those legit five-tool players. there are a lot of guys a lot of people throw the five-tool guy at them and they’re not. This guy is a five-tool guy – legit.”

Dan Uggla: “I think it’s a great move. He’s going to be one of the best players in the game for a long time. He’s a winner and I think it’s really smart on their part. I’m real excited for Hanley. He plays his butt off.’’

Josh Willingham: “Fans want to be familiar with their players and they want to know the team is going to be commited to them. For him, to know he’s going to be around for a long time, maybe that’ll bring more fans out. I don’t know. It is good.’’

Luis Gonzalez:“It shows people that this organization is committed with the stadium coming. In the past, they’ve had to make moves to accomidate things because of the lack of fans coming out. By agreeing with Hanley, that shows there’s a commitment there where we’re going to do what we have to do to keep players like that and lock them up long time. That’s a commitment to the fans.’’

Fredi Gonzalez: “He’s one hell of a player, a good player. We’ve hit him third the past six, seven days and he gets on base, drove in some runs, walks, steals. His game hasn’t changed from being leadoff now that he’s in the three hole. If he gets on, he’s a threat to score.’’

-- Other news from today: Mike Jacobs still out, could play in the Natti. Josh Willingham will not do anything today, Fredi G saying his back was bothering him in BP yesterday. Willingham will travel with team to Ohio, maybe get in some BP there before getting his minor league rehab assignment.

-- About to get started here at Nationals Park, a number of the Marlins sporting some kind of pink today as park of baseball's annual Cancer awareness day. Some guys are wearing pink sweatbands (good luck breaking a sweat today), cleats or batting gloves. A good number of pink bats coming out as well. The Nats are giving out white caps with the Walgreens W in pink with the Cancer ribbon on the bill.

GAME TIME -- GAME TIME -- GAME TIME

-- First pitch from Shawn Hill (not the former Panthers defenseman) at 1:36 p.m. Alfredo Amezaga took a ball, did not hit the first pitch over the left field wall like Cody Ross did Saturday night...

Ironically, Sean Hill the hockey player is from Minnesota; Shawn Hill the baseballer is from Missasaugua, Ontario (which is outside of Toronto, home of the airport and, more importantly, Woodbine Racetrack.)

-- The US National softball team is here. I did not notice Jenny Finch. I was looking.

T1: Fish go 1-2-3; B1: Very efficient inning by Scott Olsen, puts down Nats in order on a mere six (yes, six) pitches.

T2: Marlins lead 1-0; with one out, Dan Uggla hit by pitch; races to third on bloop single by Luis Gonzalez and scores on sacrifice fly to center by Wes Helms. FLA 1-0. B2: And on pitch No. 9, Aaron Boone ties 'er up, line drive homer to center. 1-1. But, that's it for Nats. Hanley robs Lastings Milledge for the second straight night as Wash goes 1-2-3 after homer. Olsen now at 18 pitches.

T3: Jeremy Hermida and Hanley single with two outs, Cantu ends it by grounding out 5-3. Going on WQAM here for a few minutes, shall return.. B3: Nationals pick up three runs in the inning; Ronnie Belliard's 2-run homer to left makes it 3-1, then Aaron Boone doubles, error on Amezaga in center allowing Zimmerman to score. WASH 4-1.

T4: Marlins go out quietly 1-2-3. Abe Lincoln wins the President's Race (a cool rip-off of Milwaukee's Sausage Race) after Teddy Roosevelt runs into the crowd! That crazy president....B4: Wily Mo Pena walks to lead off the inning, but he didn't go anywhere as Olsen puts the Nats down after that. Still 4-1.

T5: Mike Rabelo singles to lead things off, gets taken out at second on Olsen's fielder's choice; Olsen out at second on Amezaga's fielder's choice for out No. 2; Amezaga makes sure he doesn't get into that mix, steals second before Hermida grounds out to second. Still 4-1. B5: Felipe Lopez walks to open things, moves to second on a Belliard groundout and is caught trying to steal third (larceny!). Zim flies out to deep center. Still 4-1...

T6: Nothing really happened, except Dan Uggla homered to center to pull Miami within two at 4-2. B6: Boone leads off with single, gets wrapped up in a 6-4-3, then Pena grounds out. Still at 4-2...

T7:  Two outs and Olsen is out; Brett Carroll pinch-hitting; no win for Olsen (6 ip, 6h, 4r, 4ER, 2HR) today...Carroll grounds out, it's uno-dos-tres...Also, a scoring change from the third. No error for Amezaga and a triple for Boonie...Still 4-2. B7: Jesus Flores doubles off Logan Kensing with one out, pinch-hitter Nick Johnson strikes out for No. 2 and Felipe Lopez flies out deep to center as Amezaga tracks it down on the track..

T8: Marlins tie score...Hermida deposits pitch in right field bleachers after Amezaga runs out an infield single...4-4, no outs in the 8th..Marlins lead again...Uggla homers again, puts this one in right field as well...Fish up 5-4 with two outs in the eighth ('The Ocho').....end of the inning, a big one indeed, Fish up 5-4...B8: Renyel Pinto in for the Marlins; gives up a walk to Belliard to start things off, then the slumping Zimmerman grounds into a 6-4-3 double play for outs 1 and 2. Boonie just flew out to right.

T9: Marlins go 1-2-3, here comes Gregg (and the usual 'It Ain't Over' clip from Bluto on the big screen). Here's the full scene, minus the F-bombs courtesy of IMDB.com:

D-Day: War's over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.
Bluto: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Bluto Otter: Germans?
Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.
Bluto: And it ain't over now. 'Cause when the goin' gets tough...
[thinks hard]
Bluto: the tough get goin'! Who's with me? Let's go!
[runs out, alone; then returns]
Bluto: What ---- happened to the Delta I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? "Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble." Well just kiss my [grass] from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this. Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer...
Otter: Dead! Bluto's right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.
Bluto: We're just the guys to do it.
D-Day: Let's do it.
Bluto: LET'S DO IT!

B9: Kevin Gregg in relief to close things out. Milledge up first, takes a free pass to first. Willie Harris has a broken-bat flare caught in right by Hermida for out numero uno. Elijah Dukes pops out to Uggla in foul territory for out number two. Jesus Flores up with two outs and a man on, sends shot back to Gregg how tossed to first for final out.

Your final from Washington, Florida 5-4 over the Nationals. Been fun covering the Marlins these past few weeks. See you all later.

May 07, 2008

Olsen didn't have to wait long

The pic of the night (by Herald photog Joe Rimkus) from Tuesday's 3-0 Marlins victory over Milwaukee came in the ninth after Scott Olsen was lifted after 8 2/3 innings -- one out away from ending the Marlins 213-game drought of not having a complete game.

Olsen pulled his jersey over his head as he waited for closer Kevin Gregg to get the final out. It took one pitch for Gregg to retire Bill Hall on a fly-out to right.

"Everybody was pulling for him to get the complete game,'' Gregg said. "I probably wanted him to get it more than he did. It's a accompishment. He pitched a two-hitter and had given up only one hit going into the ninth. I knew I wasn't going into the game unless he gave up a run or loaded the bases.

"Fredi doesn't want him to be in a position to lose the game,'' Gregg said. "So when the bases were loaded I knew I was going in.''

Cover07_marlins_spts_jwr_2

Olsen did load the bases on his 121st pitch of the night.

Olsen, who threw 120 pitches against the Nationals earlier this season, joked: "Hey, that's a new record for me.''

May 06, 2008

Olsen's no-hit bid died early

There wasn't much buzz in the press box about Scott Olsen's early no-hit bid Tuesday. Olsen didn't give up a hit until the fourth when former UM hero Ryan Braun hit a one-out double.

Usually there's some chatter about a no-hit bid, and there's always a no-hit pool in the press box after the fifth inning. Ollie didn't get us that far.

Luis Gonzalez has changed the Marlins'  clubhouse with his class and leadership. It's night and day since last year. But it;s also nice to see Gonzo get a few hits. He already helped the Marlins win a game with a homer earlier this season, but has had a tough time in his role off the bench.

He had two hits in his first two at-bats Tuesday, driving in the first Marlin run with a single in the second and ripping a double in the fourth. It's still early and those two hits raised Gonzo's batting average from .226 to .250.