2 p.m. Tuesday: Marlins strengthen bench; UM recruiting; Dolphins; UM hoops; Spoelstra on Seahawks/Heat meeting
2 p.m. Tuesday update: Two weeks ago, the Marlins were considering four players for a right-handed hitting job off the bench: Jeff Baker, Vernon Wells, Reed Johnson and Ty Wigginton.
They ended up signing three of them (Baker, Johnson and Wigginton), with Baker added today on a two-year, $3.75 million deal.
Baker --- who has played the outfield and every infield position except shortstop in the big leagues --- is a career .267 hitter, but has hit .298 against lefties, compared with .236 vs. right-handers. That's key, because Garrett Jones, the Marlins' new first baseman, has hit .160 against lefties the past three seasons. So Baker, 32, could end up playing a lot at first.
Baker, a very good pinch-hitter, hit .279 with 11 homers and 21 RBI in 74 games for Texas last season. The Rangers used him at first base, second base, third base and the outfield last season.
Johnson and Wigginton probably will compete for one backup job, if that, with Johnson the favorite based on last year's performance. (Johnson excelled as a pinch-hitter; Wigginton was cut by St. Louis in July.)
The Marlins have done a good job improving a bench that also will feature catcher Jeff Mathis, outfielder Brian Bogusevic, infielder Greg Dobbs and potentially Ed Lucas and/or Donovan Solano. And they've added four new starting position players (Jones, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, third baseman Casey McGehee and second baseman Rafael Furcal).
### Booker T. Washington five-star defensive end Chad Thomas, who called his trip to Alabama this past weekend his "best visit ever," is reassuring people locally that he plans to go to UM. But he nevertheless tweeted today: "Hardest decision ever."
"I am still committed to Miami, and I am signing with them on Wednesday," he told insidetheu. "I just wanted to get another experience."
### According to rivals.com, North Carolina-based three-star defensive end Lorenzo Featherstone, ranked the nation's 20th best weakside DE, could emerge as a possibility for UM's class if FSU drops him because of how deep the Seminoles' class is.
Some earlier notes from Monday afternoon:
### With official contact no longer permitted before Signing Day, UM can now only wait and hope that four-star Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle Travonte Valentine will pick UM over LSU. (Most of the recruiting experts at rivals.com predicts he will; The New Orleans-Times Picayune says he’s likely going to LSU; his mom says it’s 50/50; and Valentine has said nothing since telling his coaches last week that he preferred LSU’s defensive scheme and felt a tighter bond with the players there)….
And UM can only hope that Immokalee four-star cornerback JC Jackson will pick UM over UF. (JC is said to have a soft spot for UF; his dad really likes UM; his family has spoken of him not knowing which school to pick)…
One weekend visitor to UM who likely isn’t enrolling at Miami, if you believe his coach: Three-star North Carolina defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard, whose coach told canesport.com that he expects Gaillard to stick with his Georgia commitment.
### ESPNU will staff 13 college campuses on its around-the-clock recruiting coverage on Wednesday, and UM is one of them, with Mark Schwartz reporting. Fox Sports Florida will have a UM recruiting special at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, 30 minutes before Al Golden’s news conference.
### That didn’t take long: This morning, Bovada.com released Super Bowl odds for next season, and only five teams have odds longer than Miami’s 50 to 1. Cleveland is 66 to 1; the Bills, Vikings and Raiders are 75-1; and Jacksonville is 100 to 1. Miami is tied with the Jets, Tampa and Tennessee at 50 to 1. Seattle is the favorite, at 9 to 2, with the 49ers next at 15 to 2.
### Some numbers to keep in mind if new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey decides to cut a few veterans:
Phillip Wheeler would have a $6.4 million cap hit if he’s on the team. The 2014 cap hit would be $6.4 million if he’s cut with a post-June 1 designation, $10.4 million otherwise. It would be surprising to see Miami keep him at $6.4 million; he could be cut or asked to take a pay cut.
Matt Moore’s 2014 cap number would be $5.5 million if he’s on the team, $1.5 million if he’s cut.
Dimitri Patterson’s 2014 cap number would be $5.4 million if he’s on the team, 0 if he’s not.
Nate Garner’s would be $1.8 million if he’s kept, $333,334 if he’s released.
This is not to suggest any of the four will be cut. But none are out of the question, either, with Wheeler seemingly most at risk.
### In the wake of Seattle’s Super Bowl victory, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra this morning spoke of his visit last summer to Seattle Seahawks camp.
"I did see an incredible passion and energy and that speed and quickness and toughness, you saw that in practice,” Spoelstra said. “Coach Carroll was incredible to give me the access he did for a full day. I was there from 7 in the morning to after dinner. I was able to sit in all the meetings, film sessions.
“The practices were absolute high intensity. They weren’t long, an hour and 45 minutes, in training camp. It was full tilt, leaving nothing in the tank. The speed, intensity – you saw it last night. The meetings were brief but a lot of energy. It looked from the outside like it was a great environment to be around. I took some valuable things from that.”
By the way, Spoelstra texted Carroll last week after initially worrying about jinxing him. And Carroll has a standing invitation to visit the Heat.
Spoelstra also spoke to Seahawks players that August day, a speech that earned raves from Russell Wilson.
“He talked about how his team was successful and the way they went about their business in terms of sacrifice,’’ Wilson said. “It was the whole idea of sacrificing everything else. That’s what it takes to be great. It clicked with us. Listening to his thoughts was awesome for us.
“The biggest thing that correlates with us and the Heat is the way we practice,” Wilson said last August. “How hard we work is the similarity.”
Spoelstra said of the Seahawks’ performance last night: “To see it done that efficiently was remarkable."
### UM basketball has needed to a play a slow tempo and zone defense this season because of its limited depth and a lack of offensive firepower. But coach Jim Larranaga was candid this afternoon in discussing how he feels about that approach.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “It’s not what I want to do. Our goal is to play to 75, five guys averaging double figures. You have to have that personnel to do that. [Our players] would prefer for us to be playing more man to man defense and running more.”
Larranaga, who believes this approach gives his team the best chance to win this season, said he and his staff have told recruits “we would much prefer an up-tempo game.” That will be the plan next season. UM hosts Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
### Despite Sunday's lopsided score, the 46.4 rating for Sunday's Super Bowl tied last year's rating, and the 111.5 million average viewership made it the most watched program in US TV history, according to Fox. But the 36.7 rating in Miami-Fort Lauderdale was the lowest of 56 metered markets.