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Sizing up Marlins pitching staff; Fins, UM NFL Combine notes; Heat limited by NBA rule

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

We’ve been here before, with the Marlins believing they had the makeup of a rotation that could keep them in contention for years. But Josh Johnson kept getting injured and regressed; Ricky Nolasco mixed quality starts with atrocious ones; Chris Volstad and Andrew Miller never fulfilled expectations; and Anibal Sanchez was dealt months before free agency. All, of course, are long gone from Miami.

Perhaps this group will be different. Besides a young rotation with the potential to be very good, the Marlins boast at least four starting pitching prospects who should be in the big-leagues by 2015, if not sooner: left-handers Andrew Heaney (the top left-handed prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com), Adam Conley (rated seventh among left-handers) and two former Blue Jays: lefty Justin Nicolino and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani.

“It’s the start of my 12th season here, and I can't remember the last time we had upper-level starting pitching depth,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “The fact we were able to improve our roster without losing our depth helps us so much.”

Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said "our pitching was coveted" all winter and "still is."

Sizing up this pitching staff:

### There’s a legitimate ace in Jose Fernandez, who ranked second in baseball in earned-run average (2.19) and first in batting average against (.182) and is now in better shape, having dropped from 242 to 225 pounds after cycling all offseason. “You think about the Cy Young,” he said. “Hopefully I can do it.”

Tampa manager Joe Maddon said he could envision Fernandez being the top pitcher in baseball over the next few years.

### There’s hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi, who lowered his ERA to 3.39 last season, averaged 96.2 miles on his fastball (well above average for a starter and topping Fernandez’s 94.9), hit 100 on the radar gun in the sixth inning of one game, and allowed only four hits in 35 at-bats in the clutch (two outs and runners in scoring position).

But he missed the first 2 ½ months with a shoulder injury, and an opposing general manager worries that his delivery is overtaxing on his shoulder. “The stuff is there, but he’s got to refine it more,” a National League scout said.

Hill believes Eovaldi, who threw fastballs 71 percent of the time in 2013, has turned the corner because “he has worked hard to be more consistent with the breaking ball, and that opens up so much more for him.”

### Henderson Alvarez, who ended the season with a no-hitter, looks like he might be a better pitcher in the National League. He allowed a ridiculous .290 average and 270 base-runners in 187 innings for Toronto in 2012, but just 117 in 102 – and a .237 average – for Miami last season, finishing 5-6 with a 3.59 ERA in 17 starts. He was especially effective against right-handers (.206).

“We always knew the stuff was there to be a frontline starter, a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, but there were too many extra pitches, too many deep counts [in Toronto],” Hill said. “That's something [Marlins pitching coach] Chuck Hernandez addressed last year when we got to spring training. That's what made him efficient.”

### The projected fourth starter, Jacob Turner, isn’t assured a rotation spot if he flops this spring but is out of minor league options, which means it's likely he makes the team.

Hill said “we couldn’t be happier with the progress he made” in 2013, but he still allowed too many base-runners (170 in 118 innings) and a .262 average. The positive: He held hitters to a .161 average in the clutch and his ERA (3.74) was exactly at the National League average last season.

“His velocity was supposed to be good, but I haven’t really seen it,” a National League scout said. “And his command isn’t consistent. I’ve seen nothing to make you think he’s more than a bottom end starter.”

### There are decent options for the fifth spot in Brad Hand (out of minor-league options; the Marlins have been talking him up), Tom Koehler, Brian Flynn and Heaney.

### The bullpen figures to be Steve Cishek (begins 2014 with the longest active streak for consecutive save conversions, with 29); Mike Dunn (2.66 ERA, .212 average against), AJ Ramos (.201 average against), Carlos Marmol, Carter Capps and perhaps Arquimedes Caminero or a long reliever.

Capps and Marmol have power arms, but Capps allowed 96 base-runners in 59 innings for Seattle in 2013, and Marmol 80 (including 40 walks) in 49 innings. But the Marlins believe both will be better because of mechanical adjustments.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins, needing two new starting tackles, likely will add at least one in free agency (Kansas City’s Branden Albert figures to draw interest) and potentially one in the draft. The Dolphins hadn't reached out to free agent Bryant McKinnie's agent, as of early this week, to express interest or arrange a meeting --- unlike agents for several other of their free agents.

ESPN's Mel Kiper said Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin, who can play every line position, would "be a real good pick for Miami” at No. 19. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Martin or Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio would make sense at 19, but both Kiper and Mayock said Kouandjio was inconsistent, with Mayock noting his last appearance in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma "was a really bad game."

“You can go three, four rounds deep and get a starting offensive tackle,” Mayock said, listing Morgan Moses (Virginia), Jack Mewhort (Ohio State), Brandon Thomas (Clemson) and Joel Bitonio (Nevada) as second-round options.

### Five UM players will be at the Combine. Mayock said offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson “is one of the biggest boom or bust guys in the draft. A year ago, I watched him block [then FSU-standout] Bjoern Werner and pitched a shutout against a first-round defensive end. Then you see him play at that level sometimes and at a completely different and lower level other times. No consistency with this kid at all. From a talent perspective, he's a first- or second-round talent. But he’s probably a fourth-round kid just because you don't know what you're getting.”

Mayock said receiver Allen Hurns “had a breakout year [but] has got average size and average speed. I don't see him separating in man-to-man press coverage easily. He's got to be crafty and run great routes. I want to see what he runs. He'll go late in the draft, fifth, sixth, seventh round.”

Mayock said Stephen Morris has “a big arm, engaging personality, smart kid. Inconsistent senior year. Senior Bowl was a mixed bag." Mayock called Morris a "developmental mid-to-late round pick.”

Morris told us he has explained his erratic senior season to the Dolphins and other teams by noting he “was dealing with an Achilles' strain that changed my throwing motion completely."

### A few postscripts from the Heat's 117-106 win in Dallas tonight: With 42 points, LeBron James reached 40 points for the 50th time in his career. Since he entered the league in 2003-04, the only player with more 40-plus point games than James is Kobe Bryant with 93.... This marks the first team as a member of the Heat that LeBron has scored 35-plus points in three games in a row. Last time he did that? Four straight, for Cleveland, in January 2010....

"I'm in a zone right now," LeBron said. "Hopefully, I can continue it. I'm tired but my body's feeling good." He said Dallas' "bench was telling me I couldn't shoot the ball." He said he shot a three the next time down and naturally made it... LeBron reiterated afterward that the 2011 Finals loss to Dallas is "the reason I am who I am today."

Chris Andersen scored 18 points and has made 35 of his past 44 shots, thanks to the terrific passing of teammates (often LeBron) and his ability to finish... The Heat was outrebounded 50-28 but still won by 11, thanks largely to LeBron and 57.1 percent shooting from the field, compared to 40 percent for Dallas. "It's weird," LeBron said. "We don't discredit [rebounding] but we're so efficient offensively, don't the turn ball over [as much] as earlier this season."... The Heat outscored Dallas by 13 in Greg Oden's five minutes, with Oden scoring five points. 

### Though a lot of names are said to be available before Thursday's trade deadline (Aaron Afflalo, Glen Davis, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, etc.), many teams want first-round picks back, and the NBA tells us the Heat cannot trade any of its first-round picks in the next five years (through 2018) because teams cannot trade picks consecutive years and Miami owes Cleveland one first-rounder in either 2015 (if it’s not in the top 10) or 2016 (if not in top 10) or 2017 (unprotected).

The buyout deadline seems to make more sense if Miami makes a move. Players who have played in the league this season must be released by March 1 to be playoff-eligible for another team.

Comments

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Frank

Excited about Marlins. Could go .500 at least.

Tin

These miami coaches couldn't get anything from seantrel. bring back shannon!

johnnie j

What a dynamic in Birdman and LeBron late in the game to pull away.Great theatrics and the Bird s got really good hands.Anthony would go up and often lose the ball .....or miss the shot.Just saying.LBJ was amazing last night.Only was able to catch the last 5 minutes of the game but the Heat looked very energized as the game wound down.

Marge Schott

Excited about the Marlins? I'm excited that terrible deal negotiated with Loria keeping him as owner is 1 year closer to expiring. Terrible owner...

[]_[] know it

If throwing motion meant looking like Jacory Harris back there then yes his Achilles injury changed his throwing motion.

Hnk

Interesting tid-bit about the Heat not being able to trade their 1st round picks. I don't think there's another league that mandates that sort of thing.

Reality Bites

Marlins?
Who cares.

Fins?
O lineman in the first round again.
How exciting.
How has that worked out the past?
Another Miami team that looks good in the offseason and then falls apart when it counts.


Canes?
The sorry canes?
Another year with no first round draft picks.
Henderson has not developed in 4 years?
How shocking.
Reminds of the former cane WR who plays corner for Green Bay, forget his name.
Or the current Dolphin DE who did nothing in college as a cane, was drafted in the 4th round and took a whole year as a pro to learn football and now is balling.
What a black hole for talent is that University of Mediocre. Time after time players waste their college years at Dah U and have to wait until they get to the NFL for real coaches to develop their talent.

Heat?
Thank God for the Heat.
Only sports team in Miami worth a dang.

Go Heat!!

Not our rival

Posted by: Reality Bites | 02/19/2014 at 09:49 AM

Hush nerd, no one cars about your fake internet rivalry, go find a chatroom if you want to troll strangers on the internet.

Not our rival

Posted by: Reality Bites | 02/19/2014 at 09:49 AM

Hush nerd, no one cares about your fake internet rivalry, go find a chatroom if you want to troll strangers on the internet.

RichmondHeightsCane

Let's just see what Morris can do with a full-time QB coach. He was very effective with the previous OC, and seem prepare entering each game. Just my brief observation over the past two years. How can you run a pro-style offense without a QB coach as the OC?

The You

Sure Tin, bring back Shannon....talk about a guy who could recruit, but not coach

Lee

Barry, without a doubt, you write the most informative columns about all of our Miami sport's teams. Contrary to views of a few of your ignorant bloggers the Marlins have a huge following as evidenced by the fact that FSN shows all of the Marlins games throughout the entire State of Florida. As far as "Reality Bites" he states his negative comments on practically every site, so please ignore him as I do.

Reality Bites

I do concur Barry Jackson is the best writer and reporter around.
The marlins have a "huge" following you say, must be in other parts of the State and not in South Florida where it counts in terms of attendance.
Guess next you will say the sorry canes have a "huge" following as well. Both are comparable in attendance figures.
I have nothing negative to say or have ever said about the Heat.
If we had any other worthy sports teams in Miami I would say nice things about them.
If Barry felt inclined to comment on FSU and UF sports then there would be some real good teams to talk about.
In the meantime the Heat is all we got.
Go Heat!!

BTW, name another blog graced with my insight. This is where I reside.

Not our rival

Posted by: Reality Bites | 02/19/2014 at 12:21 PM

Hush nerd, no one cares about your fake internet rivalry, go find a chatroom if you want to troll people on the internet.

green

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/lauryn-williams-makes-history-as-u-s--wins-silver--bronze-medals-in-two-man-bobsled-at-sochi-games-180959173.html

The University of Miami's own @LaurynCwilliams becomes 5th-ever athlete to medal in the Summer *and* Winter Olympics
-- Nick Moran ‏@nemoran3

SILVER LINING

green

BTW, name another blog graced with my insight. This is where I reside.

Posted by: Reality Bites | 02/19/2014 at 12:21 PM

a wayward gaturd assumes various aliases to sow dissension ...
here, there, everywhere ...
pay no mind ...
pain in the ass ...

SNAKE IN THE GRASS

green

Guess next you will say the sorry canes have a "huge" following as well.

Posted by: Reality Bites | 02/19/2014 at 12:21 PM

Miami/Florida State (5.1 8.35M Nov. 2) ranked among the ten highest rated and most-viewed college football telecasts of the season
-- smw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twx2XaInhV0

you neglect to mention the untold millions out there in TV land ...
yearning for the inevitable return of Hurricane glory ...
one way or another ...
U never revel alone ...

RIDING SHOTGUN

Reality Bites

Lil green pea there you go again, you are too cute.
Congrats to Lauryn, she is doing a fine job representing her country.
So a high TV rating translates into a huge following. You think all the hype with Jameis Winston had nothing to do with that TV rating. The sorry canes set another infamous record for that game as the biggest ever dogs for a game between top 10 ranked teams. Biggest dogs ever, like in the history of sports. Your sorry canes. But the masses tuned in to watch the putrid green and orange in your mind, not the high flying Noles with the super freshman.
That, coupled with your assertion of "you neglect to mention the untold millions out there in TV land ...
yearning for the inevitable return of Hurricane glory ..." are two sure fire symptoms of delusion and just plain stupidity.
What else is new, a cane fan being delusional and stupid, the normal. Living in the past too.
Very sad indeed.
Go Heat!

green

So a high TV rating translates into a huge following. You think all the hype with Jameis Winston had nothing to do with that TV rating. ... But the masses tuned in to watch the putrid green and orange in your mind, not the high flying Noles with the super freshman.

Posted by: Reality Bites | 02/19/2014 at 02:38 PM

the much-hyped clash between Florida State and Clemson earned a 3.7 overnight on ABC ... The game, a 37-point blowout in favor of FSU, was trounced head-to-head by Game 6 of the MLB ALCS on FOX (6.5).

conversely, The game was not close, but the most meaningful Miami/Florida State game in years earned strong numbers on ABC.

The Miami/Florida State “Saturday Night Football” game drew a 5.4 overnight rating on ABC, up 184% from Oklahoma State/Kansas State last year (5.4), up 157% from regional action in 2011 (2.1), and one of the highest of the season for college football on any network.
-- smw

JERSEY SHORANGE

Reality Bites

The Clemson game you cite was early in the season, Jameis and the Noles were dogs in that game, the hype had not even begun. In fact it was that game that launched the hype monster, after that game Jameis and the Noles became a nationwide phenomenon, the college football darlings.
But believe what you want, think that a game here and there with high viewership means your team is relevant if you want. I know it makes you feel better.
How was the rating for the crappy bowl game you played in? Did the opponent have anything to do with that rating?
Sort of like saying, " we sold out the BUC for Duke" or "we sold out the rent a stadium for UF", or "look we sold out the BUC for Boston College" and "we sold out the rent a stadium for Savannah State", wait a minute, just kidding, we all know those last two never will happen.

Go Heat!!

Golden for Prez

Reality Bites is clearly a bandwagon fan. A fan who, probably never attended the University of which he cheers for, and in the midst of Tebow mania, declared himself a Gator fan. ::::Cough::::Gay:::Cough:::

Im glad you are not a fan of the U. If you want to continue to convince yourself that the U is irrelevant, convince yourself first. You feel the need to kick a GIANT while its sleeping, way to convince everybody we are irrelevant. I can smell the sweet fragrance of jealousy all over you..

P.S Football season started Sept 2nd for FSU. The Clemson game was oct 19th. The hype clearly began when the beat a ranked Maryland team 63-0. Turd.

Calgallharriet leave this blog

Reality bites his mommas niipple

Fsu and clemson were both top ten moron. Sammy watkins, taj boyd were super hyped. Shut the .... Up w your biased stupidity

Barry talk about UF? You mean about the 4-8 season?

green

Fsu and clemson were both top ten moron.

Posted by: Calgallharriet leave this blog | 02/19/2014 at 09:01 PM

http://www.dailypress.com/sports/teel-blog/dp-teel-time-acc-top-10-list,0,1738680.post

Saturday night in Death Valley, with more than 80,000 shoehorned into the stadium and millions watching on national television, the ACC will stage the 24th conference game of its 61st football season. None of the league's prior 1,700-plus contests can match this hype or exceed these stakes.

Florida State-Clemson. Both undefeated. Both showcasing Heisman-caliber quarterbacks. Both among the nation's top five and chasing the national championship.
-- david teel

FIVE CENTS SHORT OF A QUARTER

green

If you want to convince us that the U is irrelevant, first convince yourself.

Posted by: Golden for Prez | 02/19/2014 at 04:45 PM

that's better ...

IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF

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