Thursday night update: The Marlins are signing longtime big-league shortstop Rafael Furcal with the intent of making him their starting second baseman, according to a source with direct knowledge. The news was first reported by Fox's Ken Rosenthal.
Furcal, 36, missed last season after Tommy John surgery and still must pass a physical. He will sign a one-year deal for $3 million, plus incentives.
He hit .264 with five homers, 49 RBI and 12 steals in 2012. The Marlins are still looking for a third baseman and will intensify that search in the coming weeks. Derek Dietrich can play either second or third but the Marlins do not want to go into next season assuming he will be a starter. And they did not want to enter next season with Donovan Solano as their starter at second base, either.
Furcal has played 1554 games at shortstop, just 36 at second. He hasn't started a game at second base since 2004. But the Marlins believe he is capable of handling second.
A .281 career hiter, Furcal spent the first six years of his career with Atlanta, the next 5.5 with the Dodgers and the next 1 1/2 with St. Louis.
He has made the All-Star team three times, most recently in 2012. Furcal ranks 8th among active players in steals, 20th in runs, 23rd in hits and 32nd in total bases.
The Marlins also will strongly consider trading first baseman Logan Morrison, according to two sources, but whether that happens will depend on the quality of the offers they get. Several teams have expressed interest.
Dolphins, Canes, Heat and local radio items:
### Dolphins fans have witnessed a bunch of exasperating things this season: Ryan Tannehill underthrowing or overthrowing Mike Wallace, the offensive line being beaten for sacks, the running game being stuffed in a handful of games.
But here’s one thing they haven’t seen: Opposing receivers beating Dolphins’ defensive backs deep for touchdowns.
And that’s a testament to the work of the team’s top four cornerbacks, who are all allowing less than a 70 passer rating in their coverage area.
To put that in perspective, only 23 cornerbacks in the league are below 70, and Miami is the only team with four of them, according to Pro Football Focus.
In fact, through three quarters of the season, the Dolphins have allowed only one touchdown reception by an opposing receiver – a 14-yard pass from Tom Brady to Aaron Dobson, against Nolan Carroll.
“That’s cool,” said Brent Grimes, who has had an exceptional season. “With the talented receivers in the league, that’s a good [accomplishment].”
That needs to continue in Pittsburgh on Sunday, when the Dolphins face Antonio Brown, who had six touchdowns and 1103 receiving yards on a league-high 85 catches, and Emmanuel Sanders, who has 54 receptions, 604 yards and four touchdowns.
Grimes hasn’t been beaten for a touchdown all season, and quarterbacks have a 62.6 rating in his coverage area – best among cornerbacks with at least 700 snaps. (Grimes has played 853). Plus, he has four picks.
What’s more, Dimitri Patterson, limited to five games by a groin injury, is allowing just a 36.1 rating in his coverage area and leads the league in interceptions-per-snap (four in 229). He returned to practice today.
And Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson have made “tremendous improvement,” according to receiver Rishard Matthews, who has battled both in practice the past two seasons.
Carroll has allowed only 47.7 percent passes thrown against him to be completed, compared with 57 percent last season. Wilson has made very few significant mistakes in coverage all year.
### Mike Wallace told Pittsburgh writers that he has “something in mind” to celebrate if he scores a touchdown Sunday – he wouldn’t give details – and said he plans to eat dinner on Saturday night with Antonio Brown.
“I’m pretty sure AB has a good healthy cook for us. He’s always eating healthy so I’m pretty sure he’ll have a nice meal for us,” Wallace said. “I don’t know how good it’ll taste, he’s a little weird when it comes down to his food but he’s having a great season so I’ll take whatever.”
### Over the first four games, the Dolphins allowed six touchdowns against tight ends, including two against Jimmy Graham. In the eight games since, Miami has allowed two: to San Diego’s Antonio Gates and a one-yard game-winner to Carolina’s Greg Olsen.
This is encouraging: The Dolphins have allowed fewer than 52 receiving yards by tight ends in seven of their past eight games.
On Sunday, the Dolphins face a legitimate receiving threat in Heath Miller, who has 46 receptions for 468 yards. Among linebackers, Dannell Ellerbe has particularly good in pass coverage.
### The recruiting battle is intensifying this week for Central High’s Dalvin Cook, considered one of the nation’s top five running backs in the 2014 class. Cook signed financial aid agreements with UM and FSU on Wednesday and told Rivals.com that “I plan on signing with Florida, too, but I don’t know when.” The agreements are not binding, of course.
He remains a UF oral commitment but is giving strong consideration to the Hurricanes and Seminoles. He will visit UM Saturday, when Miami holds its first bowl practice.
“I'm looking to see how the practice is and things like that,” Cook told Rivals.com. “I want to see how the running backs coach teaches the players and how they use their running backs in their offense."
He also told Rivals.com that the idea of playing with fellow Central running back Joseph Yearby, a UM oral commitment, is appealing.
"I want to play with Joe, just to clear all that up,” Cook said told Rivals. “That's my guy. I've been playing with him for three years and I feel like I've been playing with him forever. It would be a great experience to play with him for the next three or four years."
But Cook also makes no secret of his affection for Florida State. “I really like the program overall," Cook told Rivals.com. "They are doing great things on offense. I like the way they use their running backs. I think Florida State can put me in the best predicament to make plays."
### Palm Beach Dwyer four-star receiver Johnnie Dixon, coveted by UM, will announce his college choice at 7 p.m. Sunday. Alabama, UM and Ohio State are considered the top contenders, with North Carolina State and Arkansas also under consideration. The Palm Beach Post quoted a source as saying Dixon is leaning toward Alabama and also quoted UM oral commitment Travonte Valentine as saying that he is now considering LSU as well. Losing Valentine would be a big blow for UM, if it happens.
### By the way, UM's basketball team lost 60-49 at Nebraska tonight in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. UM (5-4) opens ACC play at 12:30 p.m. Sunday against Virginia Tech at BankUnited Center.
### Deadline.com reported tonight that LeBron James will star with Kevin Hart in a basketball comedy movie, Ballers. Hart will "play a man who lives in the shadow of his NBA superstar brother (James) but gets a chance to prove himself when he and some pals attend a weekend fantasy basketball camp in Miami," according to the web site.
At 5-3, Hart is one foot and five inches shorter than James. Production is expected to start next summer.
### Marc Hochman, who informed 790/104.3 The Ticket a couple weeks ago that he is leaving when his contract expires Dec. 31, e-mailed associates on Wednesday that he and the Ticket have mutually agreed to part ways about three weeks earlier than planned. He indicated that Thursday morning will be his final show on The Ticket.
In the e-mail, he said Thursday's show will not be a "farewell show" and will make no mention of his departure.
Hochman is expected to take a job as WQAM's afternoon-drive host beginning April 1, barring something unexpected. A non-compete clause will prevent him from working on the radio in the market before then.
The Ticket hasn't determined who will replace Hochman alongside Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor on its morning show.