« May 2012 | Main | July 2012 »

50 posts from June 2012

June 30, 2012

Marlins to call up spring training "Cy Young"

      Wade LeBlanc, who was so impressive in March that Ozzie Guillen called him the team's Cy Young Award winner of spring training, is expected to be called up Sunday from Triple A New Orleans to replace injured reliever Edward Mujica. Leblanc

         In 16 starts with the Zephyrs, the left-handed LeBlanc has gone 5-5 with a 3.74 ERA.

        The Marlins obtained LeBlanc in an offseason trade with the Padres for catcher John Baker.

VIDEO: Heat forward Shane Battier takes BP, chats up Marlins Park

Before he grabbed a bat and took swings in front of a few thousand fans at Marlins Park Saturday afternoon, Heat forward Shane Battier warned Marlins assistant Gary Thurman he only had "singles power."

He was wrong. 

Battier, one of the three-point specialists in the Heat's run to the NBA title, drilled two pitches to the warning track and actually had a pretty nice swing. Not bad for a 6-8 guy with a huge strike zone.

Here is what he said afterward:

Watch Battier hit. I might have actually gotten the shot of him sending one of the long balls he hit to the warning track.

The Heat forward took time to talk to Hall of Famer Tony Perez and Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison before and after BP. He also was invited into the Marlins clubhouse where he shook hands with the team.

Chris Bosh, who threw out a pitch at Sun Life Stadium last year, is also expected to visit Marlins Park Saturday. Battier will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Mujica has broken pinky on right foot, first trip to disabled list likely

The Marlins haven't announced it yet, but expect reliever Edward Mujica to go on the disabled list soon.

The veteran right-handed reliever has a fractured right pinky toe and said he expects to be out at until after the All-Star Break. Mujica, who is wearing a protective boot on his foot, was injured Friday when he was struck by a line drive off the bat of the Phillies' Placido Polanco in the seventh inning.

"That one was very quick. I didn't even have a chance to move my feet or get out of the way," Mujica said of the liner that plunked him. "That was like bang-bang, boom-boom."

Mujica said he remained in the game and finished the seventh inning after being hit because his foot felt numb. But as soon as he got back into the Marlins dugout the pain ensued. "One out of 10, I'd say it was a nine," Mujica said of the pain.

Manager Ozzie Guillen said he has yet to discuss the situation with President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest or general manager Mike Hill, but said he and his staff are recommending Mujica goes on the disabled list. Mujica (0-3, 4.46 ERA) has never been on the disabled list.

"There was a long conversation about what we were going to do because he can feel better in four days [and go back out there]," Guillen said. "But, realistically, when you got a broken bone you don't know. If we wait four days, send him back to the mound and he can't pitch, then he's going to lose four days, six days from going on the DL.... I think the best thing we can do is just put him on the DL."

> With Justin Ruggiano playing well, Guillen was asked if there will still be a spot for him in the Marlins lineup once Emilio Bonifacio returns from the DL.

"Oh yeah. I've never seen any manager bench anyone when they're playing good," Guillen. "... Ruggiano, the way he's playing right now, I will find him playing time [for him] -- believe me. How we're going to do it? That's easy.They do it for me. He's definitely going to have playing time. I'm not going to say he's going to platoon. It's not that way. But I will find him at-bats, some at-bats."

Ruggiano entered Saturday's game with the third highest batting average (.396) in June in the majors, behind Joey Votto (.40) and Joe Mauer (.400). His .729 slugging percentage is fourth. Ruggiano, a .258 career hitter in 121 major league games, said he's just taking advantage of his playing time. Saturday will be his 12th start for the Marlins.

"I'm not trying to do too much. I'm getting more comfortable. More playing time helps," Ruggiano said. "This is definitely the most I've been able to play over one stretch during a month. I've never had this kind of opportunity. I've had it maybe a week at a time or a week and a half at a time in Tampa, but it was never more than that. That lineup fluctuated so much it was tough to get in there sometimes."

> JENNINGS HONORED: Dan Jennings, who has spent most of his working life scouring ballparks large and small in search of baseball talent, on Friday was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame in Fort Myers.

Jennings, the Marlins' assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel, was enshrined in ceremonies at Hammond Stadium. "It is a great honor to be recognized and go into the Hall of Fame of scouting," Jennings said.

Jennings, who began his scouting career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1986, signed and developed more than 45 players -- including Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford and James Shields -- when he served as Director of Scouting for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for seven seasons. Jennings is in his 10th season with the Marlins.

Three other scouts are being inducted in the scouting Hall of Fame in ceremonies this summer. They are Bill Lajoie (Detroit Tigers), Chris Pitarro (Oakland A's) and Al Avila (Tigers).


> Phillies (36-43): 1. Jimmy Rollins SS, 2. Placido Polanco 3B, 3. Chase Utley 2B, 4. Carlos Ruiz C, 5. Hunter Pence RF, 6. Shane Victorino CF, 7. Ty Wiggington 1B, 8. John Mayberry LF, 9. Cole Hamels LHP.

> Marlins (36-40): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Logan Morrison LF, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Omar Infante 2B, 7. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 8. John Buck C, 9. Mark Buehrle LHP.

June 29, 2012

Mujica has x-rays on right foot, leaves with boot

Reliever Edward Mujica, struck by a line drive in his one inning of relief Friday, had x-rays performed on his right foot after the game according to manager Ozzie Guillen and the team should know Saturday if the right-hander is going to miss any time.

"Mujica got a little boot on his leg," Guillen said. "They're going to take x-rays just in case, make sure nothing is bad. We're waiting to see how it feels tomorrow."

> With their 6-2 win over the Phillies, the Marlins (36-40) won back-to-back games for the first time since June 3rd. But for Guillen it felt like it had been longer. "[First back-to-back wins] since spring training, right?" Guillen joked.

"It seems like we're coming around little by little. A couple days ago we started to swing the bat better. Today it seemed like everybody put a little bit together. Everybody contributed, had good at-bats, good pitching."

> Josh Johnson was once again phenomenal for the Marlins. And this time he got early help. After getting six combined runs in his previous four June starts, Johnson was given a 6-1 lead when he took the mound for the final time in the sixth. 

Guillen didn't downplay the importance of scoring early.

"When you jump out 1-0 and JJ is on the mound, it's a different ballgame," Guillen said. "If we leave that guy on third base it's 'There we go again. How are we going to play today?' You hit first and score first, it's a different attitude, a different thing in [our] dugout."

Since giving up a season-high six earned runs at San Diego on May 4th to bump his ERA to 6.61, Johnson has gone 5-2 with a 2.47 ERA over his last 10 starts. His ERA in June (1.87) has been even better.

"He's our ace for a reason," Guillen said. "This kid little by little come along very nice, throw the ball well. Maybe he's the only good thing we had this month, the most consistent thing we had this month."

Said Johnson: "Took a little time, but I just want to go out there and get in deep in the game for these guys. That's the key. This month was the best pitching wise [as a staff], but somebody had to step up and try to help the bullpen a little bit."

> Johnson said using a curveball -- a pitch he was experimenting with last season -- has made him a different pitcher. He used it to strikeout Chase Utley in the first and "quite a few times" on Friday.

"It's been a huge pitch for me," Johnson said. "It takes away guys just sitting on hard-hard. I can throw something in there 80 miles an hour that kind of throws off their timing a little bit."

> What else can you say about Justin Ruggiano? He has been huge for the Marlins. His average is now up to .388 after collecting three hits on Friday including a big two-run double in the fifth.

"He rakes," Johnson said of Ruggiano. "We were talking about it when we came in here. He just never stops hitting. Plays great defense. Speed. He's got it all. He's huge for us."

Will the Marlins reward Josh Johnson with some run support? And is Buck finally out of his funk?

It's been a rough month for a lot of Marlins.

But not Josh Johnson.

Josh JohnsonThe team's Opening Day starter, who went 3-0 with a 4.41 ERA in May and helped led the Marlins to wins in all six of his starts last month, has a 1.95 ERA in June, which ranks ninth in the National League. In all four of his June starts, he hasn't allowed more than two earned runs.

The trouble? The Marlins are 1-3 over that stretch as they've provided Johnson with just six runs of support -- including just one run over his last two starts.

Johnson, who is 4-5 with a 3.96 ERA overall, will try to keep his strong month going when he takes the mound against the last-place Phillies on Friday night at Marlins Park. Johnson is 5-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 13 career starts against the Phillies.

"He's been a lot more consistent," catcher John Buck said. "His ball is heavier. He's repeating his delivery so he knows where the ball is going. He's got that hard slider back to where I can even use it sometimes to lefties to get in on them, not just a swing and miss pitch. It's that old stuff I saw at the beginning of last year. It's welcomed to me."

When it comes to run support among National League starting pitchers, the Marlins don't have anyone among the top 25. In fact, here is where they rank in terms of run support among the 60 qualified starters according to ESPN.com.

26. Mark Buehrle, 6.09 average run support (per inning pitched).
31. Ricky Nolasco, 5.98
44. Josh Johnson, 5.44
50. Carlos Zambrano, 5.22
58. Anibal Sanchez, 4.59 


John BuckAlthough he was an All-Star in Toronto in 2010, Buck has never been confused for a great hitter. His career average in nine seasons is .237.

But even Buck admits it's been tough to look up at times this season and see on the scoreboard exactly how low his batting average has gone this season. 

"I'm not going to say I'm not human and I didn't look up and it didn't bother me," said Buck, who went into Friday's series opener against the Phillies hitting .181 with seven homers and 20 RBI in 55 games this season.

"I think it literally has gotten to the point that it's so low that even if I get four hits a game, it's still going to be low."

The good news for Buck? The worst may finally be over. The 31-year old veteran has started to pick up the pace over the last two weeks and went into Friday's series opener against the Phillies hitting .313 with two homers and six RBI in five games over the homestand including hitting the game-tying home run in Wednesday's win over the Cardinals.

Buck was hitting a season-worst .160 back on June 15. 

Buck said if you watch the video of his at-bats from before this home stand to now you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in his swing because his "hands are only a fraction of a bit higher" when he puts the barrel on the ball.

"A lot of the pitches I'm hitting now I was fouling straight back before," Buck said. "... It was staying the course and continuing to believe in my approach, that I was going to get back to being me."

Buck said what has helped him through his offensive struggles this season is the notion he can help the team in other ways -- by calling a good game behind the plate and by having quality at-bats and drawing walks. He's drawn 33 walks this season. He had 16 total back in 2010. 

Manager Ozzie Guillen said it's been nice getting some production out of the bottom of the Marlins order. 

"One thing about John is he never takes his offense to his defense. A lot of players do," Guillen said. "Buck just goes out there and separates one thing from another. He knows his main job for us is our pitching staff. So far he's been great. I know it's been a tough month. But if you look at it overall, in general, he's been very good."

> Buck said he can already tell how much fresher his body feels playing inside Marlins Park versus being exposed to the heat and humidity at Sun Life Stadium last season.

"I can definitely tell with the last at-bat or two because I don't feel like I'm just standing in the box. I feel like I'm more with it," Buck said. "The daily grind of every game and having to revive my body for the next day was tough. There were times last year when I would start to cramp or lose 10 pounds a game just from sweating. I was going home crushing Pedialyte, Gatorade to come out and do it again. [My body] feels a lot better."

> Guillen said the two defensive mishaps the Marlins have had in back-to-back games with pitchers throwing wide of second base on balls hit back to the mound are a result of shortstop Jose Reyes taking too long to get to the bag and Carlos Zambrano and Heath Bell trying to turn two too quickly.

"Make it easier. Just get one out," Guillen said. "I think the last play [Bell in Wednesday's win], whoever was covering second base [Reyes] was a little late. With Carlos, Carlos made a bad throw."

"You have to be aware. Playing that position all my life [shortstop] you cheat to that position a little bit and be aware if the ball is hit to the pitcher what are you going to do. Most of the time when you don't make that play it's because pitchers try to turn double plays by themselves. You get one out and let the fielder make the play."

> Guillen said the combination he's using in center field between Justin Ruggiano and Scott Cousins provides the Marlins with the best defense they've had all year long. "Sometimes you wonder why those guys play in Triple A," Guillen said.

> Sunday, the All-Star teams will be announced. Asked what his favorite memory of his three All-Star appearances were, Guillen said his first experience in Cincinnati back in 1988.

"All of a sudden you dress up with Dave Winfield, [Don] Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Ricky Henderson, George Brett, Alan Trammel," Guillen said. "There's nothing greater in baseball -- other than the World Series -- being in the All-Star Game. Especially your first year, being around those guys. You know some of those guys are going to be in the Hall of Fame. It's a great experience. It's fun."


> Phillies (36-42): 1. Jimmy Rollins SS, 2. Juan Pierre LF, 3. Chase Utley 2B, 4. Carlos Ruiz C, 5. Hunter Pence RF, 6. Shane Victorino CF, 7. Placido Polanco 3B, 8. John Mayberry 1B, 9. Cliff Lee LHP.

> Marlins (35-40): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Logan Morrison LF, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Omar Infante 2B, 7. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 8. John Buck C, 9. Josh Johnson RHP.

June 28, 2012

SI profiles Stanton; Fernandez debuts; Yelich drives in 7

      Sports Illustrated features Giancarlo Stanton in a four-page spread this week (LeBron James is on the cover, so Miamians can drool all over the issue). The piece is written by Albert Chen:


      Before games opposing players and coaches linger on the field just to watch Stanton take batting practice. One day in Philadelphia, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel asked (former manager Edwin) Rodriguez if he could stand behind home plate to watch the prodigy hit. As Stanton launched bomb after bomb, Manuel just shook his head in silence, and afterward he said to Rodriguez, "I've never seen anything like this."

      Keep in mind, Manuel has been eye-balling the Phillies' big basher, Ryan Howard, for years.

      Another excerpt, in Chen's own words:

      Here is the player to bring back the magic and the thrill of the home run. Here is perhaps the first great slugger of the poststeroid era.


      Jose Fernandez made his debut for Single A Jupiter earlier tonight and allowed four earned runs on five hits over five innings. Fernandez, who was promoted from Single A Greensboro after going 7-0 with a 1.59 ERA, whiffed four and also threw a wild pitch. Fernandez was the Marlins' first-round draft pick last year.

      Yelich But the big star for the Hammerheads at Roger Dean Stadium was another of the organization's top prospects, outfielder Christian Yelich. Yelich went 4 for 5 with a pair of homers, including a grand slam, and 7 RBI.

      Yelich, who was the Marlins' first round pick in 2010, is hitting .290 with nine homers and 28 RBI for the Hammerheads.

June 27, 2012

Giancarlo Stanton chosen for HR Derby

       Giancarlo Stanton landed a ball in the center field upper deck seats at Marlins Park during batting practice a moment ago, leaving his teammates in disbelief. Stanton will put his power on national display in the Home Run Derby in Kansas City on July 9.

       "We're in there," Stanton said, confirming the news, as he trotted off the field following B.P.

       Stanton, who blasted his 17th home run on Tuesday, a 456-foot bomb off the batter's eye in center, will become the fifth Marlin to participate in the Derby, which is the main appetizer heading into the July 10 All-Star Game.

       "I love his chances," said Marlins coach Joe Espada, who throws batting practice to Stanton. "This guy has the best chance to win the Home Run Derby because he can mishit the ball and it's going to go over the fence." Stanton

       "Everybody's waiting to see this kid on that kind of stage," Espada said of the Marlins' 22-year-old slugger. "Everybody's talking about it. I'm waiting for it. He'll play to the crowd, the oohs and ahhs. He'll get it going. It'll be fun."

      Stanton was invited to participate by the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, who was put in charge of choosing the National League's four-man team.

      Previous Marlins to take part in the Home Run Derby were Gary Sheffield (1996), Miguel Cabrera (2006), Dan Uggla (2008) and Hanley Ramirez (2010).


      Jose Fernandez, the Marlins' top draft pick last year, is scheduled to make his debut for Single A Jupiter on Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium. Fernandez was just promoted from Single A Greensboro, where he received All-Star honors by going 7-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 14 starts and striking out 99 in 79 innings. Start time is 6:35 p.m.

Front office execs summoned to Miami to discuss fading Marlins

     At least three top roving baseball executives for the Marlins have been summoned to Miami for a meeting, presumably to talk about what can be done to reverse the team's June nosedive, which is now nearing terminal velocity. The Marlins have lost 17 of their past 20 games, plummeting from a first-place tie in the National League East on June 3 to sole possession of last, nine games out.

     While one source said the meeting is common practice as the season approaches the halfway point, another said it is anything but as the front office scrambles for solutions to end the skid. They'll also discuss what direction to take in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline. Arriving to South Florida for the meeting, which was scheduled for today, are assistant general manager Dan Jennings, vice president of player development Marty Scott and senior advisor to player personnel Orrin Freeman.

     They are expected to meet with the Miami-based front office contingent of club president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and general manager Michael Hill -- among others -- to discuss the team's rapidly deterioriating prospects. Owner Jeffrey Loria is not in Miami but could participate via conference call.

     After losing to the Cardinals on Tuesday, the Marlins -- a team most picked to contend for at least a wild card playoff spot after spending lavishly on free agents over the winter -- dropped to six games below .500 for the first time since they were 8-14.

     The Marlins have been outscored 144-74 this month, producing an overall negative run differential on the season of minus 68. Only the lowly Twins (-88) and Padres (-79) rank lower. The Marlins and Royals are the only two teams in the majors that have yet to score as many as 10 runs in a game. Yet the Marlins have given up 10 or more runs seven times.

June 26, 2012

9th inning collapse was worst ever for Marlins

     Sifting through the day-after debris of last night's mammoth collapse by the Marlins....

     Never in the history of the Marlins -- either the Florida or Miami versions -- have they experienced a ninth-inning meltdown as severe as last night's debacle. The Marlins took a seemingly comfortable 6-2 lead into the ninth before losing 8-7 in the 10th. Heath Bell cracked big-time in the ninth, coughing up four runs to the Cardinals.

     According to Stats Inc., the Marlins had never before blown a ninth-inning lead of four runs or greater in a loss. They did, however, squander a four-run lead in the 10th inning of an 8-7 defeat in Atlanta on Sept. 17, 2006. Here is the box from that particular disaster.

     Before last night, the largest blown lead in the ninth inning of a Marlins loss was three runs, which had occurred seven times previously.

June 25, 2012

Heath Bell: "... Slap me in the face because I sucked tonight"

The Marlins have had a lot of tough losses this season. 

Manager Ozzie Guillen said tonight's might have been the toughest to watch.

First, a five run lead in the eighth becomes a four run lead entering the ninth after two Hanley Ramirez errors. Then, Heath Bell, who hadn't given up an earned run in 10 appearances dating back to May 26, blows a four-run lead with the dagger being a two-run home run to Yadier Molina with two outs.

Here's what Bell had to say afterward.

"We had definite momentum. I went out there and blew it," Bell said. "Plain and simple. This loss on me. I didn't have my stuff tonight -- for whatever reason. Once and a while this game humbles you. It definitely has humbled me right now and I'm just going to go out there and work hard and try not to ever have this happen again. I apologized to my teammates because I sucked tonight. I let everybody down. Plain and simple.

Was it a matter of control?

"I wasn't throwing strikes, plain and simple," Bell said. "I need to mix it up a little bit more. I just went out there throwing fastballs and was basically throwing BP to the Cardinals. They were hitting everything I threw and were swinging at everything I didn't throw for strikes. So, you go to tip your hat to them, but also slap me in the face because I sucked tonight. I let everybody down."

Guillen said he told Bell to be ready to go right back out there tomorrow.

"I know exactly what I did wrong," Bell said. "I'm going to fix it and I'm not going to let it happen again. These guys played way too good. We turned it around. You can forget about the losing because we're going to win. There's a bunch of winners out here. I just had an offnight."