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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.

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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.

           

Comments

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NYMiamialum

When your hoop squad is only 6 deep with Kelly hurt it's impossible to play up tempo. Next year Canes hoops will be 10-11 deep with quality.

billb

Glad some UM team has hope for next season. Football looks as dismal as ever.

sflafan

Barry. I read on Bleacher Report that stud OL Reilly Gibbons decommitted today and is now headed to Stanford. Can you confirm that? If that's so, that would be a huge blow to what appeared to be a bonanza of top recruits on the O Line this year.

green

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20140128/SPORTS02/301280107/1028/rsslink&nclick_check=1?nclick_check=1

one U of L trustee said both an expanded schedule (9 conference games) and a TV network appear to be imminent, and no one seems to be denying it.

“An ACC network has to be an inevitable thing at this point,” U of L trustee Jonathan Blue said, citing recent trends in sports business. “There’s too much money involved for it not to be.”
-- courier-journal

get out of my dreams ...

GET INTO MY CAR

green

In the upcoming Winter Meetings the ACCNetwork will be discussed. One of the key points that is presently making the rounds is that the ACC BBall is far better than the SEC's and other conferences...and BBall provides a significantly greater number of games to watch than football. Bball has easily 3X more games than football and as such can provide more viewing and content for an ACCNetwork than football can. Now when compairing the ACC to the SEC it is being thought that ACC football is better than SEC BBall and ACC BBall is as good as the SEC Football...and which game provides more content...bball.
-- arbitragegls

i think the better argument is ACC football is closer to SEC football than SEC basketball is to ACC basketball.
-- jgeorge322

the closer I get to U ...

THE MORE U MAKE ME SEE

Barry Jackson

SFlaFan: Yes, Gibbons de-committed Saturday. I wrote about it Saturday night; please see my post with the headline "UM adds key recruit, reportedly loses one" from a couple days. You will see that post listed on the left side of this blog. Thanks.

green

The @_DukeBasketball vs @syrbasketball game on ESPN rated a 2.9 overnight; tied for 4th highest on record (since 2002) for ESPN.

Cuse-Duke 2.8 rating in NYC is ESPN’s highest overnight for reg-season men’s hoops game in NYC on record (2002).
-- Keri Potts ‏@MsPotts_ESPN

JIMMY SWAGGART

sflafan

Thanks Barry. I see your initial story now. I should have figured you'd be reporting the news! You always do. Thanks again. Keep up the good work.

[]_[] got to be kidding

Barry is definitely on top of UM recruiting news! His blog is updated so much faster and more frequently than Manny's and Susan's Eye On The U blog.

However, I do wish some journalist would follow up with Jon Drummond's tweets about Duke and Tracy telling Valentine not to come to Miami.

[]_[] got to be kidding
SKY WALKER

[]_[] t[]_[]ne in tonight @9 on ESPN with Dickie V. now []_[] here ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RQtrN4LB98

Reality Bites

There you go again lil' green pea babbling about the ACC network and other such trivial things. How's traffic at "theacc.com" website going? Is the little
sign hanging at Yankee Stadium moving the needle?
There is no question ACC basketball is tops, just like there is no question SEC football is the best.

2013 Louisville
2012 Kentucky
2011 Connecticut
2010 Duke
2009 North Carolina State 2008 Kansas
2007 Florida .
2006 Florida
2005 North Carolina 2004 Connecticut

In the past 10 years the SEC was won the tourney 3 times, the ACC 3 times, UConn two times, Kansas and Louisville one time each, this is before UL joined the ACC.
So while the ACC is the better conference overall they hardly dominate in number of NCs.
In contrast with football in the past 10 years:
2004 USC
2005 Texas
2006 Florida
2007 LSU
2008 Florida
2009 Alabama
2010 Auburn
2011 Alabama
2012 Alabama
2013 FSU
7 SEC, one each USC, Texas and FSU
Big difference
So while your conference may be better in basketball, it doesn't translate to dominating the tourney and the championship. But in football the dominant conference dominates in championships.
Notice that in both football and basketball there is not a whiff of the sorry canes in the past decade.

Ray McDonald

Hey Barry thanks for responding to readers questions!

Not our rival

Posted by: Reality Bites | 02/04/2014 at 08:47 AM

Hush nerd, no one cares about your fake internet rivalry, UM doesn't play UF in football anymore.

Mr. B

The recruiting battleground makes the Gators a continuous rival.

Not our rival

Not more so than our actual conference rivals, the Florida State Seminoles, the defending national champions dominating Florida recruiting this year.

You'll see zero comments about FSU on any of the blogs in the Miami Herald and a ton of comments about UF.

This is because for a long time there was a UF blog but no FSU blog on this website.

So all the UF nonsense on this website is clearly based 100% in deep-seeded internet nerdery and 0% on football.

If it had anything to do with football, you'd see FSU fans here.

AnonyMousCane

Howard and Johnson did not tell Valentine to stay away from the U. That is ridiculous and both players denied it!

I like Drummond who played for a National Champion at Western KY. but that tweet is just plain wrong! Drummond is vilified on some Hurricane sites because some think he acted as a street agent for Valentine and encouraged him toward LSU. Don't know the truth to that but Drummond is a stand up guy in my opinion!

AnonyMousCane

Reality bites...not a whiff of the Canes, lol. I guess Reality ignored is more like it when you consider the Canes won the ACC Basketball regular season and conference championship last year in the best BB conference. Not a whiff? Beat thenumber one team in the country 90-63, not a whiff, four in a row over UNC! Yeah Reality Bites when you check the facts. You get more Pinocchios than Obama who gets them on a regular basis. LOL

AnonyMousCane

The ACC did beat the vaunted SEC this year in the title game too, what has the SEC done this year? Oh yeah Vanderbilt won 9 games two years in a row in the very top heavy SEC. LOL

AnonyMousCane

If you compared the SEC to a stripper her act would consist of walking crawling on stage and trying to stand up she is so top heavy!

Reality Bites

Blog policeman you are so fake, you are the one that never speaks football, or any other sport for that matter.
It's not about any rivalry, I gave you the facts.
I was responding to green pea not talking to you, but you can't wait to talk to me, poor lonely loser.
Canes AnonyMous, a support group for a bunch of addicted and embarrassed losers.
Are you really going to bring up the one year, once in a lifetime fluke of nature that was your one and only ACC championship in any sport? Really?
I am talking about NCAA championships, not a paltry ACC ship.
Read it and weep dweebs, for the past 10 years the SEC has dominated football and done as well as the ACC in basketball. Numbers don't lie.
For the past 10 years not a whiff of the sorry canes in either football or BB national ships.
Get some reading comprehension fools.

Not our rival

Posted by: Reality Bites | 02/04/2014 at 12:23 PM

Hush nerd, no one cares about your fake internet rivalry.

Jeff

Isn't it nice to see how some high school recruits have learned not to honor their verbal commitments to various college football programs. I guess they don't believe in the old saying: "My word is my bond". Great parenting! Pathetic.

[]_[] got to be kidding

Do you have any links where Duke and Tracy deny telling Valentine not to come to Miami? They haven't denied it on twitter, to Inside The U or to Canespace. I always thought Drummond was a stand up guy too but he made some remarks before about knowing that some 7 on 7 coaches get paid to drive their buses/rv to college campuses with recruits from their 7 on 7 teams. That raises red flags with the NCAA and doesn't pass the smell test even if the NCAA doesn't look into those 7 on 7 tournments. I don't know... I just wish a journalist would follow up on it even if they only came back with "unable to reach Drummond, Duke, or Tracy for comments".

Marios

I think they should stop using the word "commitment".

These young kids lose respect for one of the most important words in character building.
Also they invented a new word "decommitting"

They should say so and so player "plans" on attending so and so university.

I don't blame the kids because there is also a lot of "decommiting" on the part of coaches too. They pull an offer from a kid at the last minute, but media is not informed of it so no one finds out.

We only find out when a kid does it so they look like they have no "word" or "bond", but coaches do it also - privately.

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