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34 posts from September 2011

September 29, 2011

Should Marlins beg Javier Vazquez not to retire?

     Javier Vazquez was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for September, and deservedly so. Vazquez went 5-0 with a 0.71 ERA in the final month and broke a 17-year-old franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched. As Jack McKeon aptly put it the other day, Vazquez went from serving as the No. 4 or No. 5 pitcher in the Marlins' rotation to their No. 1. That says something about the absence of Josh Johnson. But it also says volumes about Vazquez.

     On June 16, after he lost in Philadelphia to go to 3-7 with a 6.85 ERA, I was thinking Vazquez was finito. I was waiting for my phone to vibrate with the official notice from the Marlins that the 35-year-old pitcher had been released. But, for perhaps for lack of any better alternatives, Vazquez remained in the rotation, and a good thing for the Marlins he did. Vazquez not only went 10-4 with a 1.85 ERA over his final 18 starts, he did it at a time when the rest of the team was tanking in the standings. The Marlins won only 38 games after June 16 and Vazquez was the starter in more than a third (13) of them.

     But Vazquez, without actually saying so, has given every indication that this is his final season. He longs to spend time with his wife and children in Puerto Rico. He said he's pretty much made up his mind. I've spoken to other players, wondering whether Vazquez really intends to call it quits, and they have all said without a doubt he's hanging up his spikes.

      Vazquez is 35. He maintains a rigorous training program to stay in shape between starts. I see no reason why he couldn't pitch two or three more years.

      During Wednesday's season finale, the Marlins honored with a video tribute during the game, and Logan Morrison basically had to drag the modest pitcher out of the dugout to take a bow.

      If I'm the Marlins, I get down on my hands and knees and beg Vazquez to come back for one more season. Pay him another $7 million, or whatever it takes. Set up a college trust fund for his kids. Allow him to fly home to Puerto Rico between starts. Anything to keep him around another year.


      The Marlins obtained 20-year-old right-hander Ricardo Andres from the White Sox to complete the deal for manager Ozzie Guillen. The Marlins sent infielder Ozzie Martinez and right-handed pitcher Jhan Marinez to the White Sox as compensation for Guillen.


       MLB is talking about adding an extra wild card team to the playoff mix and could implement a new 10-team format as early as next season. Just think if had already been in place. The so-called "greatest night in regular season history" would have been just another night, with nothing more at stake than home field advantage. The Braves and Red Sox would still be kicking as those extra wild cards.


       Saw Hanley Ramirez during yesterday's post-game ceremony. The shortstop, who had shoulder surgery a week ago, said he's having trouble sleeping due to the pain but was scheduled to begin rehab on Thursday. He said he'll be ready for spring training....In case you missed it, here's the all-time Marlins team as voted on by fans: 1B -- Derrek Lee; 2B -- Luis Castillo; SS -- Hanley Ramirez; 3B -- Mike Lowell; OF -- Gary Sheffield; OF -- Miguel Cabrera; OF -- Jeff Conine; C -- Ivan Rodriguez; SP -- Kevin Brown; SP -- Livan Hernandez; SP -- Al Leiter; SP -- Josh Beckett; SP -- Dontrelle Willis; SP -- Josh Johnson; RP -- Robb Nen; Utility -- Alfredo Amezaga. The only one surprised me was Pudge. One season in a Marlins uniform earns you "all-time" status? I would have thought Charles Johnson bags that position.


September 28, 2011

White Sox wanted Logan Morrison as compensation for Guillen

   The White Sox demanbded Logan Morrison as compensation for Ozzie Guillen, just as they did a year ago when the Marlins approached them about the manager. But this time the White Sox gave in and accepted a pair of minor leaguers as compensation for Guillen.

    The reason?  According to an industry source, the Marlins had a backup plan if they couldn't get Guillen: Bobby Valentine. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has long coveted Valentine, as well as Guillen, and was prepared to offer the job to Valentine if he couldn't get Guillen, who was his first choice.

     Valentine, now a baseball analyst for ESPN, was in negotiations for the Marlins' managing job during the summer of 2010 after Fredi Gonzalez was fired. But negotations between Valentine and the Marlins eventually broke down and the Marlins ended up hiring Edwin Rodriguez for the job.

     It's possible that the White Sox might have become concerned in the negotiating process, which involved Loria and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, that the Marlins would hire Valentine if they didn't lower their demands for Guillen and accept the minor leaguers, infielder Ozzie Martinez and pitcher Jhan Marinez.

White Sox on what Marlins can expect from Ozzie Guillen

Here are some quotes from Herald Writer Jack McCarthy in Chicago.


WILL OZZIE BE MISSED? "Of course he will be missed. (He's a) guy that never that never kept his mouth shut. He's always talking, getting people motivated. How can you not miss a guy that's as loud as him."

Also he's a guy that built a an empire of fans, not only for his game or with his personality (but) the way that he brought a championship to this city. I'm sure there's a lot of people that are going to miss him. No doubt about that."

HE WORKED WELL WITH A VETERAN TEAM, HOW ABOUT YOUNGER TEAM IN MIAMI? "He'll be great. He's the type of guy who (reaches) people with his energy. I think the younger guys might have a bigger impact. He's the kind of guy who's not going to bullshit around. He's going to tell you from his heart. If he thinks you belong to the team he's going to tell you and if you're not going to make, he'll tell you. Some of the younger guys are going to have a little time to adjust."

FAVORITE OZZIE STORY? "There are so many, it's hard to mention a couple. I enjoyed every time he'd go take a pitcher out and say something completely out of the ordinary to make the guy laugh or something like that."


A LITTLE QUIETER AROUND CLUBHOUSE WITHOUT OZZIE? "Yeah, a little bit. It seems a little quieter. It's a business, it's a part of the game. To me, Ozzie was a great manager, a good guy and a passionate person and he gave me the first opportunity to close some games and do something I always wanted to do. I wish him the best and I'm sure he's going to have tons of success."

FAVORITE OZZIE STORY? "I think the one everybody saw when I made the team. I had tears in my eyes because it was such a long journey. He said: "That's great and all, but don't make me cry in August with your pitching. And that kind of broke the tension a little bit."

IS CHANGE GOOD? "Change can be good at times. I think with both parties. Ozzie was getting worn out a little bit, stressed and so it'll be good for him and his family to be in a new place and I'm sure he's going to be successful. He just has that personality."

DID WELL WITH VETERAN TEAMS HERE, HOW WILL HE FARE WITH YOUNGER TEAM IN MIAMI? "Good. He's passionate. He's a passionate guy. He kind of wears his feelings on his sleeve. All he wants is for his guys to play aggressive. I'm sure he's going to be successful and do really well in Florida."


ON OZZIE'S PERSONALITY: "The one thing I always thank Ozzie for, and I care about Ozzie a lot, is that he understood me as a player. That's one thing he did his best -- to understand his players and what motivated them. I think he understood me and let me play. He let me be as I am and I think he appreciated that I played hard for him. Because of that respect he gave me, I played as hard as I could for him."


ON OZZIE DEPARTURE: "He did what he had to do. You can't fault a guy for taking care of his family and I don't have any animosity towards him for leaving or anything like that. It's a business and it's part of it. And we'll move on."

HOW DIFFERENT IN CLUBHOUSE TODAY: "It'll be quieter for sure. It'll be a little more apparent at game time, looking over there and not seeing him sitting there. It'll be different. That's baseball."

FAVORITE OZZIE STORY?: "Not really, there's so many. He's just colorful every day. That's how he was. He was fun to be around, even when we were going bad. He was fun to be around. It'll be different."

SUCCESSFUL HERE WITH VETERAN TEAM, HOW WILL HE DO WITH YOUNGER TEAM IN FLORIDA? "I think he'll be good. I've been a young guy under him. He's good. He relates to everybody. He let's the veteran guys be veterans and kind of run the clubhouse. But he knows when to step in when he has to."

MOST VALUABLE LESSON LEARNED FROM OZZIE BACK WHEN HE WAS YOUNGER? "Really just respect the game. Obviously people had their own opinions about him and things he says and does, when it all comes down to it, he had a great respect for the game. He understood that no one was bigger than the game and I'd say that's one of the things I'll remember."

PITCHING COACH DON COOPER: "Yesterday was a tough day. We got the group in there, our coaches, we've got eight years together.You go through an awful lot. Eight years is a pretty good chunk of time in a player or a coach's career. And it's also a good chunk of time in someone's life. Whether we're in the clubhouse, whether in the dugout, whether on the plane, whether we're on the bus, in the hotel, we're together an awful lot. Relationships are there. It's tough to see something come to an end. I don't think there's a good guy or a bad guy, I think it just ran its course."

WHAT DE YOU LEARN FROM OZZIE IN TIME HERE? "I'll tell you what I learned before Ozzie. I was here as the interim in '95, I realized how important a manager was, how important a leader is. I saw it when I played with Billy Martin as the manger, this guy was a leader, you knew he was in charge. Ozzie did that. Ozzie took charge, Ozzie was the leader, and he led us to a world championship. It was my pleasure and I was awful lucky. As a coach you're always looking to hitch your wagon to somebody that has a career so you can have a career. And hopefully you can win and keep that going. And all that happened. And for that personally I'm grateful to him. Needless to say I wish him the best. I love the guy. When there's an ending to something there's beginning to other things. The White Sox will have a new beginning also."

WAS OZZIE LARGER THAN LIFE? "I don't believe what we've seen here and experienced here in the last eight years may ever happen again. I'm not talking about winning a world championship, I'm hoping that is in the cards. He was an interesting guy and certainly colorful. He helped all you guys do your jobs. Obviously you were looking for stories (and) they were easy to find."

WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH OZZIE? "Ozzie and I had unbelievable good communication on the pitchers on a daily basis -- knowing who's pitched when, who's the freshest, who needs a day and I would like to think that same communication is going to happen with anybody else."


HOW WILL GUILLEN FARE WITH YOUNGER TEAM IN FLORIDA? "Ozzie will get their attention when he comes in. He obviously has the respect. He worked there before. He won a World Series there in '03, he won a WOrld Series here in '05, so he has that respect. He'll be fine. As long as guys play hard for him, Ozzie won't have any problems. As long as they go about their business the right way he should be happy."

LASTING MEMORY OF OZZIE? "Obviously 2005 when we won the World Series. He was a special guy with a unique ability to get people excited about coming to watch him manage and that's what he did best."

BEST OZZIE STORY? "There's a whole bunch. We could be here all day. He was always great to me great to my family."


LASTING MEMORIES OF OZZIE? "I’m going to remember a guy that was real firey and wanted to win and had fun doing it. He always had a joke to say to whoever was around wanting to hear it. He’s a fun guy who was obviously a great baseball player and manager."

WHAT DO THE MARLINS HAVE IN STORE WHEN OZZIE ARRIVES? "No telling. He’s going to be even more at home, where he lives. Miami’s going to get a guy who want sto win, has got a lot of personality and adds a whole different aspect to the game. I don’t see it a bad fit at all."

HE HAD SUCCESS WITH VETERAN TEAMS, HOW WILL HE DO WITH A YOUNGER TEAM? "It might be even better. Maybe he doesn’t expect everything. Maybe he’ll be even more laid back."


THOUGHTS ON OZZIE: "Ozzie is definitely one of the characters of the game, in the history of the game. He’s one of those guys that it’s tough for me to tell you what you’re in for, how to explain him. You just have to be around him."

WHAT ARE THE MARLINS IN FOR WITH OZZIE? "My initial thoughts are that he was here for eight years. First off, he treated me great as a player. He took care of me on a personal level as far as getting through seasons, paying attention and caring about what I needed all the time. And I appreciate that. I think it was because he was a younger guy -- he still is -- when he got the job and not too far removed from his playing days and he paid attention to all the things the players care about. The whole thing here kind of ran its course. I think it got a point where it go so stressful and became such a black cloud of like ‘what’s going to happen’ , the front office and him and all that. And it just got to a point where something kind of had to give. I think he’s happy. I think he’s relieved. I think it’s one of those things where I don’t think he never wanted to leave here but I think both sides were probably going to be relieved and happy. Everybody just shook hands, agreed to be friends and moved on in different directions. We won a World Series together and that’s something 20 years now that anybody who was a part it will always be special."

MOST VALUABLE LESSON PICKED UP FROM OZZIE? "Me and him were probably opposite personalities as far as I never really had fun playing the game, it was much more businesslike all the time. He’s not like that. He likes to have fun while he’s doing it. So he’s probably given me some perspective and some laughs at some moments while I’ve been playing that I normally wouldn’t have had about what’s really important and how to turn the page on every day. If I had a bad game the night before I probably wouldn’t be able to get rid of it quickly and he’s very good at that. He’s upbeat after the game, already looking forward to the next game."

VIDEO: Ozzie Guillen meets Marlins media after the press conference, talks Twitter, LeBron

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- Ozzie Guillen tackled a wide range of subjects when he met with reporters after the Marlins introduced him as their next manager.

For starters, he declared he'll remain a Bulls fan for now until the Heat grow on him. "I'm not a hypocrite," Guillen told reporters in Spanish.

He said right now he's a fan of Dwyane Wade, who is better than LeBron James in his opinion.

"Everybody wants to go see LeBron. Well, not LeBron. The other one who is better. It's my personal opinion," Guillen said. "I'm not saying LeBron is bad. I just like the way Wade plays. I'm just saying when you're 7-feet, 400 pounds you should be the best basketball player in the world.

"I'd like to get to know them. I admire them. I think what they did to LeBron wasn't fair. Everybody should be able to do what they want, even though Cleveland changed a lot when he left."

Guillen talked about why he doesn't talk about baseball on Twitter (he was fined $20,000 for ripping an umpire once). And why he has a Twitter account at all. "I wish I made money [tweeting]," Guillen said. "I just do it because I'm bored and there are a lot of crazy people out there read what I say. That's all it is."

Of course, he did talk a little baseball. Asked what managing style he'll bring the Marlins, he said: "I'm not going to say Ozzie style. I manage like everybody else. If you have team with speed, you manager a team with speed. If you have a lot of power, you manage with a lot of power. I like pitching and defense. Love it. I don't think you can go anywhere without it.

"Managers don't win or lose games. All I can tell them is I'm going to bring passion, love, discipline, leadership. I'm going to go with my gut and what I know about baseball. They're going to play the game the way it should. We have the opportunity. We have a young team. If they don't work hard, we're going to have problems."

Obviously, Ozzie is going to be fun to cover. Here are a couple video interviews he did along with Larry Beinfest after the team's press conference. NOTE: Ozzie answers questions in English and Spanish.

From Bartman to Guillen, Marlins have Chicago's number

       The timing is ironic, but less than 24 hours after ESPN aired its documentary on infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman the Marlins stick another needle in Chicago's eye with the 1 p.m. announcement that they have once again fleeced the Windy City, hiring Ozzie Guillen away from the White Sox.

        Chicago? Again? What did they ever do to the Marlins to deserve this? They had major league baseball in Chicago before Miami was even incorporated as a city, when the only things down here were mosquitos, snakes and alligators.

        But it has to grate on Cubs fans that the Marlins have won two World Series titles in what amounts to a flyspeck on baseball's timeline while they haven't won since the Paleozoic Era. In 2003, the Cubbies held a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS and blew it. They blew it with a 3-2 series lead and Kerry Wood and Mark Prior going at Wrigley. Never mind the more damaging error on a routine double play grounder by Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez in the very same inning. Bartman entered the picture and Wrigleyville was turned upside down.

        Shall I continue?

        The Marlins stink this year. Putrid. But they won 3 of 4 from the Cubs at Wrigley back in July. The Marlins hold an all-time series edge on only four NL clubs: the Nationals/Expos, the Rockies, the Brewers and the -- you guessed it -- the Cubs. The Marlins have gone 77-76 against the Cubs, 41-40 at historic Wrigley. And that doesn't include the '03 NLCS.


         The Marlins have the Cubs to thank for Dontrelle Willis and Ricky Nolasco. OK, Cubs win on the Derrek Lee deal.

         Now comes the arrival of Guillen, which adds more Marlins sting to Chicago's pride, steals more of the city's thunder.

          Have to admit, though, they still make a darn good pizza there.

September 27, 2011

Ozzie Guillen arrives in Miami

      Jack McKeon had an outspoken disdain for social media, especially Twitter. Not so his expected replacement, Ozzie Guillen, who tweeted his arrival in Miami a short bit ago: "Weird to be in Miami in this time but very happy ready to go."

       Yep, Guillen is in South Florida not even 24 hours after parting company with the Chicago White Sox. For the Marlins, it's not a matter of if, but when they'll announce Guillen as their new manager. Why, Guillen even beat them to the punch when he blogged (McKeon must be wincing) about it last night.

       This message was posted on Guillen's website last night before being taken down: "....there comes a point when you need to move on, and that point has come. The Florida Marlins believe I am the right man for the job to bring another World Series to South Florida....I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be a part of the Marlins organization. I have an unbelievable amount of respect for the Marlins, owner Jeffrey Loria, president Larry Beinfest, and general manager Michael Hill. I can't thank them enough for this opportunity and look forward to the future. I can't wait to get started."

        Once the deal (for a reported four years and $16 million) becomes official, the Marlins will send infielder Ozzie Martinez and a minor-league pitcher to the White Sox as compensation.

Omar Infante agrees to two-year extension with Marlins

    Turns out the Marlins liked what they received in the Dan Uggla trade with Atlanta. The Herald has confirmed a mlb.com report that the Marlins and Omar Infante have agred to a two-year deal that will pay him $8 million.

     Infante has charmed with his defense and come on strong at the plate the second half, convincing the Marlins that he's one worth keeping. The Marlins also ended up receiving left-handed reliever Mike Dunn in last November's trade with the Braves.

     The two sides began discussing a deal several weeks ago, with Infante rejecting the team's initial one-year offer.

     After going to Atlanta, the 31-year-old Uggla and the Braves worked out a 5-year deal totaling $62 million. The Marlins, in essence, will end up getting Infante, who is 29, for three years and $10.5 million, not to mention Dunn.

      Which side did better? The Braves or the Marlins?

McKeon: "I like Ozzie... I'm going to have to like him right?"

The Marlins aren't answering any questions. But if you believe all the noise coming out of Chicago, Ozzie Guillen is going to be the Marlins next manager.

Jack McKeon, who had Guillen as his third base coach in 2003 when the Marlins last won the World Series, said after Monday's 6-4 loss to the Nationals Guillen will do the Marlins well.

"I like Ozzie. I think he's a very, very intelligent manager," McKeon said after the Marlins 6-4 loss Monday night to the Nationals. "I think he's a smart player, he was a smart player. I think he'll do well. He's done well. He's a good man. I like him. I'm going to have to like him right?"

McKeon, who announced his retirement Monday, took over a Marlins team that had lost 10 consecutive games under Edwin Rodriguez and fell from second place into the NL East basement at 32-40 before Rodriguez abruptly resigned June 19th.

The Marlins eventually got back to .500 on Aug. 2 in New York but lost second baseman Omar Infante and shortstop Hanley Ramirez to injuries "and the season went downhill from there," McKeon said.

The Marlins clinched last place in the division when they were swept by the Brewers during the weekend.

Asked what he thought Guillen could bring the Marlins, McKeon said: "You've got me. Ozzie isn't going to bring anything. The players are going to bring it... Ozzie is a colorful guy. You guys will love him. You'll have a lot to write about, talk about. He's a colorful guy and he knows this game. What he can bring -- it's like anything else. Good managers are good because of good players."

McKeon also said he like the way Guillen "was able to control the players, especially the latin players."

"He wasn't afraid to jump on 'em, encourage 'em, but also try to help them," McKeon said. "He wasn't worried about being their friend. He was going to tell it like it is. And that's Ozzie. He tells it like it is. Sort of reminds me of another guy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who like Guillen is from Venezuela, said he respects the 47-year old manager and what he's accomplished.

"He was a very good player in the big leagues for many years. If its true that he's coming over here, I think it will be something that helps us a lot. But like anything, we have to have the right chemistry between the players to win," Sanchez said.

"I think all the manager needs to know how do is put the pieces in the right place to win. The rest is on the players. I know he won a World Series with the White Sox and I consider him a good friend in the few times I've dealt with him. Let's see what happens."

September 26, 2011

Reports: Guillen leaving Windy City for Marlins

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is out the door in Chicago and headed to South Florida -- according to ESPN -- to manage the Marlins when they open their new ballpark in April.

Ozzie Guillen Guillen, who was the Marlins' third base coach during their run to the 2003 World Series and has long been rumored a target of owner Jeffrey Loria, was released from his contract with the White Sox late Monday night after meeting with team chariman Jerry Reinsdorf. The White Sox confirmed that late Monday night.

The unconfirmed part by the Marlins -- what ESPNChicago reported -- that Guillen was traded to the Marlins for two minor league players.  The Marlins have declined comment, but have not denied the reports. 

Guillen said last month he wouldn't return for the final year of his contract next season unless he received an extension beyond 2012. Guillen's news comes on the same day Marlins interim manager Jack McKeon announced his retirement.

"We talked about different things, my future here, how we're going to do it and what we think about the ballclub, what we want, and I left the meeting with nothing," Guillen told Chicago reporters before the game. "We have to wait.

"I showed him how I feel, the way I always do. He talked to me about how he feels about me, myself, my family, the team and the organization. But I left there -- I'm not going to say empty-handed -- because I left there with my ideas. I left there with what I want [to say], what I should do, and that's it."

Reinsdorf said in March the Marlins contacted the White Sox about trading for the manager, but the team's couldn't agree to compensation. The Marlins will still likely end up having to send the White Sox a player or cash to acquire Guillen, who remains signed through 2012.

"You never hear me talk about [the Marlins]," Guillen said Monday. "I never say the word 'Marlins' out of my mouth, no. That's their problem.

"If they want me, they should. [Expletive] it. I'm bad. I'm good at what I do. They should. Everybody can want me, it's one thing if they can get me. It's not easy, like 'OK, I want to get you, come here and do it.' No, that's a process. If the Marlins are interested in me, good for them. I'm open to anything."

Guillen is believed to be in line to make around $2 million next season with the White Sox. The team was expected to contend for the AL Central title this year, but has struggled to the third sub-.500 finish during Guillen's eight-year tenure.

Guillen led the White Sox to the World Series in 2005 and has a record of 677-617. In 2003, he served as McKeon's third base coach on a Marlins team that rallied to win the NL Wild Card and then the World Series in six games against the Yankees.

Espada interviews for Marlins managerial job; Vazquez talks retirement

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- Marlins third base coach Joe Espada isn't considered the front-runner to be the team's next manager when they open their new stadium.

Joe Espada But at the very least, he received a courtesy interview Monday morning.

"We sat in the office and had a really good conversation," Espada said of his meeting with owner Jeffrey Loria and team officials. "We spoke about a variety of issues. I thought it went really well. My second one. I felt more comfortable. I feel like I'm more ready for the job.

"I've been part of this organization now for six years between the minor leagues and big leagues. I feel like I know these players, I know what they need. I'll be a good leader. Hopefully it works out."

The Marlins, who clinched last place in the National League East when they were swept by the Brewers over the weekend, are expected to make a hard run at White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen -- if he becomes available. Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, the Marlins' third-base and outfield coach from 2007 to 2009, also was interviewed Monday.

Espada said whoever gets the job will have a good team to manage -- once ace Josh Johnson and three-time All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramriez return from injuries.

"There's a lot of good things happening here," Espada said. "Sometimes we look at our record and it wasn't a very productive season. But there's a lot of good things happening here. We have a good core of young players. We have a strong foundation for us moving forward. Guys like [Emilio] Bonifacio who turned out to have a great season. We were always looking for a true leadoff guy. I think he's turned the corner. We have Michael Stanton, Logan Morrison, a healthy JJ, a healthy Hanley. That's a strong foundation. Maybe we get a couple veterans to anchor their development and be on pace to be successful in the [National League] East."

Espada said Loria "asked some good questions" during the interview and was clear about what he wants in his next manager.

"I've had an opportunity to be around three managers," Espada said. "You learn a little bit from all those guys. Just being around the league I think I feel more comfortable. I feel like I'm ready to do it if they ask me to do it."


Javi Vazquez, who turned out to be the Marlins most dependable and best pitcher this season after a rough start, said he's going into his final start of the season Tuesday against the Nationals not necessarily thinking it will be the last start of his career.

Vazquez, 35, said back in August he was leaning toward retirement to spend more time with his family in Puerto Rico. But he's not closing the door yet on changing his mind.

"I hate to come to a decision during the season. It's kind of tough. It's better to make a decision two or three months after the season. You get to relax a little bit and see what you really want," Vazquez said. "I'm still leaning towards [retirement]. It's not changed me -- the way I've pitched."

Since starting the season 3-6 and seeing his ERA soar to a major-league worst 7.09 on June 11, Vazquez has gone 9-5 with a 1.91 ERA over his last 18 starts -- proving the Marlins made a sound investment, giving him a $7 million contract for one year. Vazquez’s 1.92 ERA since June 12 ranks fourth in the majors. The only other pitchers with better averages during that span are Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee and Justin Verlander.

So could Vazquez picture himself pitching as a Marlin in their new stadium in 2012? "If you put a photo there I could," he joked. "But no. I haven't made my mind up yet."


John Baker, who had Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2010, caught the final three innings of Sunday's game in Milwaukee for the Marlins -- the first time he'd been behind the plate for them since May 12, 2010.

"It was awesome," Baker said. "My favorite part about baseball was being behind the plate -- especially in that environment. It's really cool to play a team that's going to the playoffs and have 40,000 people at the stadium."

Baker, 30, said he was beginning to think the possibility of him catching this season wouldn't happen.

"We had a game in Pittsburgh where we up big and I thought man this would be the perfect time, but it didn't happen," said Baker, who was reinstated on Sept. 5.

"Obviously, I'm not the manager. But I thought I could give [John] Buck a couple innings off. But when they asked me yesterday if I was ready to play I said 'I've been ready since I got here to play.' It was pretty sweet."