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27 posts from February 2014

February 28, 2014

Jose Fernandez discusses first spring start (VIDEO)

JUPITER -- In making his first spring training start on Friday, Jose Fernandez looked a lot like....Jose Fernandez.

The reigning N.L. Rookie of the Year went two innings against the Cardinals, allowing a pair of hits and striking out two. He threw 32 pitches, 23 for strikes.

Here's what he had to say afterward:

Jose Fernandez amped up for spring training debut

JUPITER -- How excited is Jose Fernandez for his first spring training start?

"You don't even have to ask," is how Fernandez replied to Mike Redmond when the manager asked him that very question this morning.

Fernandez is scheduled to take the mound for the Marlins when they open their Grapefruit League schedule at 1:05 p.m. against the St. Louis Cardinals. Wearing a flourescent yellow tank-top T-shirt and carrying a bat, the reigning Rookie of the Year was full of energy Friday morning, bouncing around the clubhouse and yukking it up with teammates.

Redmond said he's encountered very few pitchers over the course of his pro career who act like Fernandez.

"Most pitchers don't say anything when they're pitching," Redmond said. "They sit at their locker, grumpy, focused. Even in spring training. I've only been around a few guys who are like him, where it just seems like another day. Like (Ryan) Dempster. Johan Santana. He liked to talk in the clubhouse. There were just a few. But (normally), the guy who's pitching, you just stay away from. So when you have guys who aren't like that, it probably sticks out way more because you're used to the opposite."

Redmond said Fernandez will likely pitch two innings today.

Others scheduled to pitch today for the Marlins: Tom Koehler, Chaz Roe, Mike Dunn, Dan Jennings, Chris Hatcher and Sam Dyson.


Though the new replay rules won't be in effect today, Redmond said the Marlins will test new replay procedures on their own. Because the game is being televised, Redmond said he'll be in communication with Cullen McRae -- the team's video coordinator -- throughout the game. If McRae sees a questionable call on the telecast, he'll relay that information to the Marlins dugout.

"If there's a bang-bang play, we'll sort of go through the protocol of how we do it, without making it a big deal of going out on the field (to protest to umpires)," Redmond said. "Every televised game we're going to do it, because we want to get as comfortable as we can with any type play that would come up, and C-Mac seeing the play and going through the communication process."

The replay system, including challenges, will be fully tested in spring games on March 13 and 16th.

One note: the replays fans see on television might not be the same ones each team will be provided once the system is up and running. Redmond said 12 different camera angles will be available to teams, and may not be the same ones being shown on local telecasts.

"There might be a play where they (broadcasters) see it and we don't, and vice versa, where we see it on our camera and they don't," Redmond said.


Redmond said reliever Henry Rodriguez has ironed out his visa issues in Venezuela and is expected to join the team Sunday. Pitcher Jesus Sanchez remains in Venezuela because of visa problems.



Cardinals: 1. Matt Carpenter, 3b; 2. Kolten Wong, 2b; 3. Allen Craig, rf; 4. Matt Adams, 1b; 5. Yadier Molina, dh; 6. Peter Bourjos, cf; 7. Shane Robinson, lf; 8. Tony Cruz, c; 9. Pete Kozma, ss. Pitching: Carlos Martinez.

Marlins: 1. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 2. Christian Yelich, lf; 3. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 4. Garrett Jones, 1b; 5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c; 6. Casey McGehee, 3b; 7. Ty Wigginton, dh; 8. Brian Bogusevic, cf; 9. Ed Lucas, 2b. Pitching: Jose Fernandez.

February 27, 2014

FIU roughs up Marlins prospect Justin Nicolino in first spring start

JUPITER -- This wasn't the way Justin Nicolino wanted to start the spring.

Unbeaten FIU -- using wooden bats as opposed to the aluminum ones they are used to -- jumped all over one of the Marlins' top prospects Thursday afternoon. The Panthers scored five earned runs on seven hits off Nicolino and chased him after only 1 2/3 innings.

"I just kind of have to tip my cap to them," Nicolino said. "They came out with an approach and I was working on a few things and they beat me. It was good. It's good to see where I was at today. Obviously not the start I wanted. Like I said the other day, anybody can get beat on any given day. It doesn't matter who it is, college or pro guys. It happens. I liked my [fielding] plays. I take positives out of it."

Tabbed the fourth-best prospect in the organization by Baseball America and the seventh-best left-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com, Nicolino, 22, was disappointed how he finished last season in Double A Jacksonville after having a strong showing for High-A Jupiter.

He went 3-2 with a 4.96 ERA, 31 Ks, 12 BBs in nine starts (45 1/3 innings) in Double A and 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA, 64 Ks, 18 BBs in 18 starts (96 2/3 innings) in Single A.

Nicolino threw 49 pitches, 27 for strikes on Thursday.

"The way I look at it's two innings. My pitch count ran up," he said. "I was throwing too many pitches, putting myself in situations that weren't in my favor. When I saw Red I was disappointed in myself. It's never good to see Red before you're supposed to."

> Credit Ty Wigginton with the first home run of the spring for the Marlins. He took FIU freshman starter Chris Mourelle deep to left with two outs in the bottom of the second. It was the only run Mourelle surrendered over four innings.

Samson's quick exit on Survivor stunned Marlins

JUPITER -- Marlins closer Steve Cishek was looking forward to watching Survivor this season.

Not anymore. 

Marlins President David Samson was the first of 18 castaways on the reality TV show to get voted off the island by his peers Wednesday night -- just an hour into the 28th season's debut show.

Although many Marlins players say they don't watch the show regularly or even at all, a few said they did tune in Wednesday to see how Samson would do. 

"It was quick," relief pitcher Chris Hatcher said. "I never really watched Survivor, but I thought he would have lasted a little longer than that.

"I was actually prepping my taxes a little bit, getting ready. When Samson spoke I would listen a little bit, but other than that I really didn't watch. I just saw him get voted off.

"Honestly, what's the key to the show? Is it MacGyver skills? Is it knowledge? Is it brute strength? I couldn't figure it out. If it's internal politics I'd be the first one out too."

Samson got to the island and was quickly elected his team’s leader. But it didn't take him long to lose support and be dubbed "a schemer."

After being eliminated, Samson said he “had no hard feelings” and that he played the game as he thought it should be played. “I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world," he said.

"When I watched the show it looked like there were other people I would have voted off," pitcher Tom Koehler said. "But there's other things that happen that you don't really see. There's obviously a reason he was the one to go home. Some of them said he was the biggest threat for them going forward. I guess that's why they got rid of him right away."

Cishek said seeing Samson get voted off "drove me nuts."

"I don't know if I'll watch it again," Cishek said. "That other guy was just sitting in his underwear with a majestic background. You could hear in the interview he didn't even want to be there. He wanted to be fed grapes while lounging. Samson was right from the start.

"I can't believe that other girl made it through two rounds. She's a nuclear physicist and she can't even put two blocks together. It's kind of ridiculous. Put me on Wipe Out or something where I can control my own destiny."

> Manager Mike Redmond said pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who had an infection in his right shin drained recently, looked better on Thursday and was walking around camp without his crutches. "I take that as a positive sign," Redmond said.

> Right-hander Angel Sanchez, the lone remaining piece in the Ricky Nolasco trade with the Dodgers, didn't give up any runs over two innings in Wednesday's start against the University of Miami. But he wasn't exactly happy with his effort.

Sanchez struckout two, but walked a batter, gave up two hits and made a fielding error.

"Physically I felt good. The only thing was I wasn't too happy," he said. "I thought I could have done better. I could have had better focus when I was pitching. I could have looked better fielding on the mound. But in the end I did my job. I didn't let anyone touch home plate. I was just working on my breaking pitches, hitting the strike zone and putting my fastball through the strike zone."

Sanchez is expected to begin the season in Double A Jacksonville.


> Marlins: 1. Donovan Solano SS, 2. Derek Dietrich 2B, 3. Marcell Ozuna CF, 4. Jeff Baker 3B, 5. Greg Dobbs 1B, 6. Ty Wigginton DH, 7. Reed Johnson LF, 8. Matt Angle RF, 9. Kyle Skipworth C, LHP Justin Nicolino.

> FIU: 1. Tyler Hibbert CF, 2. Julius Gaines SS, 3. Aramis Garcia C, 4. Josh Anderson 3B, 5. Edwin Rios 2B, 6. J.C. Escarra 1B, 7. Louis Silverio RF, 8. Roche Woodard LF, 9. Chris May DH. RHP Chris Mourelle.

February 26, 2014

Marlins plan on tuning in tonight to watch Samson's debut on Survivor

JUPITER -- Marlins closer Steve Cishek has never been a fan of the show Survivor, but he'll be tuning in to watch the debut of the show's 28th season tonight.

Marlins team president David Samson, who turns 46 today, is one of 18 contestants on the long-time running hit reality TV show which pits contestants as castaways in in the Philippine province of Cagayan.

The debut show, which airs on CBS at 8 p.m. and is two hours long, was filmed last summer. Samson is one of six contestants who will be in the "Brains Tribe."

"He's obviously a bright person so I'm assuming he probably found a way to get to the top, some way or the other," Cishek said. "He's obviously in good shape too. He ran like a bazillion miles last year. The marathon thing he did was insane. I couldn't believe he did that. He got a lot of props for that for sure."

Manager Mike Redmond said he planned on tuning into the show, too, if he "could stay up that late."

"I've probably got to watch the first one, right?" Redmond said Wednesday. "It should be funny to watch."

Which current Marlins player would do best on Survivor?

Redmond believes catcher Jeff Mathis, an avid hunter in the off-season, and veteran pitcher Kevin Slowey, who climbed Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro two years ago with former Twins teammate and Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, would be great contestants on Survivor.

Cishek called right-handed reliever and roommate Chris Hatcher the perfect "survivalist."

"He's like MacGyver," Cishek said. "He's fixed my bike so I can go pond to pond with my fishing pole attached to it. He's fixed the kitchen sink twice. He was going to fix the washer and dryer before we just decided to buy a new one. He knows how to rig things together MacGyver style."

 > Cishek, who missed a few days early in camp with neck discomfort, faced live hitters for the first time on Tuesday and did well.

He retired Marcell Ozuna on a fly out to left. Then he struckout Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a slider, walked Giancarlo Stanton and got Adeiny Hechavarria to ground out to third base.

"I was kind of disappointed I walked Stanton. I wanted to give him some pitches to see," Cishek said. "But I felt it went pretty well. It felt pretty good out there. It was nice to see somebody in the box. But I feel great today and I'm back to normal.

"I just slept funny. That's all it was. I had a crick in my neck and it just kind of blew up for some reason. It happens to everyone. We're good to go. It was early in the season and there was no sense to pitch through or anything. They just wanted me to relax. So I'm glad it happened this early instead of during the season."

Alvarez battling infection in his right shin, will miss first spring start

JUPITER -- Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who ended the 2013 season with a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers, will miss his first scheduled start of the spring Sunday because of an infection in his right shin.

Manager Mike Redmond said Alvarez was hospitalized and had the shin drained after the treatment the team was giving him didn't appear to be effective enough.

Alvarez, who went home from camp early Wednesday morning after being spotted by reporters limping around, hasn't practiced with the Marlins the last couple of days and is expected to be out a few more days according to Redmond. He expects Alvarez to be ready for the start of this season. 

"I think it started as an ingrown hair and got infected," Redmond said. "We were treating it, the infection. It just wasn't getting better. We wanted to be proactive and make sure it was getting taken care of. We got in there, got it cleaned out."

Alvarez missed the start of last season with right shoulder inflammation and went 5-6 with a 3.59 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 27 walks in 17 starts.

The Marlins were very encouraged with how Alvarez fared in the Venezuelan Winter League. He went 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in five starts this winter. He also pitched the first day of live batting practice last week.

"It shouldn't affect him," Redmond said. "He obviously won't make the start on Sunday, but he's pitched quite a bit. It shouldn't affect him and his ability to bounce back. He still has plenty of time to get his pitches in and get him ramped up for Opening Day."

Left-hander Brad Hand will start in Alvarez's place Sunday when the Marlins play the Nationals in Viera.

Jose Fernandez is starting the Marlins' Grapefruit League Opener Friday against the Cardinals.

The Marlins play a pair of split-squad games Saturday. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will start for the  Saturday against the Cardinals and veteran right-hander Kevin Slowey will pitch against the Mets up in Port St. Lucie.

> Redmond said the Marlins are looking to ease 36-year old second baseman Rafael Furcal into action  early in camp. Furcal missed all of the 2013 season with the Cardinals following Tommy John surgery and is making the transition from shortstop to second base.

"He'll play Saturday," Redmond said. "A guy like Furcal, I know he's feeling good, but at the same time I want to ease him into it, make sure he's got his legs under him and is healthy for Opening Day."

> TODAY'S MARLINS LINEUP VS. UM: 1. Donovan Solano 2B, 2. Christian Yelich LF, 3. Marcell Ozuna CF, 4. Garrett Jones 1B, 5. Casey McGehee 3B, 6. Ty Wigginton 3B, 7. Brian Bogusevic RF, 8. Ed Lucas SS, 9. Rob Brantly C, 10. Angel Sanchez RHP.

February 25, 2014

Marlins catchers to approach new rule on collisions same way -- giving lane to back of plate

JUPITER -- As a former catcher, Marlins manager Mike Redmond says he's never had a problem with collisions at the plate.

He likes the aggressiveness on both sides, the concept of a runner trying to knock the ball out of the catcher's mitt and the catcher trying to hold on for dear life.

Major League Baseball's new experimental rule (7.13) -- announced Monday and aimed at protecting those parties from injuring each other -- is making its way around major league clubhouses now. Reaction has been mixed. In the Marlins clubhouse, Redmond said "there's definitely still some grey areas to this rule."

"I think the meat of it is good," Redmond said. "But I still feel like we're going to approach this thing the same way as far as our catchers, how we setup. We setup and give them the back part of the plate so they can either slide into it or reach with their hand. You can still block the plate as long as you have the ball. And that's what we're going to do.

"I don't think it's a huge adjustment for us. Probably more comfortable for the catchers now because they don't have to worry about getting run over. There still could be some contact there, but at the same time too you can't lower your shoulder, push with your arms or anything. The catcher is going to be able to hang in there a lot longer and not worry about the contact."

Good for catchers it seems and not so much for runners.

"What I've told our runners is you have to slide into home plate," Redmond said. "It's just the way it is. And the catchers once they catch the ball they're going to be able to block the plate. So it will be interesting to see how those bang-bang plays -- the instinct plays -- how those work. 

"The way I understand it is you can still have the collision but it's going to be up to the umpire to judge the collision because you can't lower your shoulder, you can't push off with your arms. So I don't know how your going to go into the guy. So unless you're going to chest bump him I'm not sure exactly how its going to happen.

"Now you're thinking about how do I slide. You got to be thinking about where the ball is, how am I going to slide in here. It creates a lack of aggressiveness for the runner for me."

The Marlins began spring training not knowing exactly what MLB was doing to do about collisions so they kept their padded cylinder dummies -- used for simulating collisions in camp -- inside. They brought them back out Tuesday.

"With the dummy you don't have to run it into the guy. You can just slide it and throw it as a guy sliding," Redmond said. "You still have to prepare for guys sliding, hook slides, practice your tags that way. We just won't be ramming it into them like we used to."

> The Marlins open exhibition play Wednesday against the University of Miami. Redmond said he planned to get most of his regulars an at-bat before letting minor leaguers and backups get most of the action. The plan is the same versus FIU on Thursday.

New rule for collisions at the plate 'how it should be' says Saltalamacchia

JUPITER -- Major League Baseball's new experimental rule aimed at protecting catchers and runners from dangerous collisions at the plate sits well with new Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

"I understand what they're doing -- they're trying to protect the catcher, eliminate the dirty plays basically," Saltalamacchia said Tuesday. "I'm for that.

"From what I understand it's basically going to be the same. You just can't block the plate without the ball, which is how it should be. I always thought that was the rule to begin with. I think they did a good job. From what I understand from where it started at to what it is now it seems pretty fair."

The new rule -- tabbed Rule 7.13 -- sets forth two big changes. One, a runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (he can't lower his shoulder or use his hands in a collision to dislodge the ball). Two, unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, he cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score.

In the event the runner or catcher is found to be in violation of those rules then the umpire has the right to change the call, using instant replay as well if needed. 

"Only grey area I see maybe is on the runner's side of it, knowing he may have to slide but if the [catcher is] in the way -- that may cause some issues," Saltalamacchia said. "But hopefully not. I don't think there's any clear cut way. This is probably the best way it could have went. There's no going to be a happy side until it just stays how it is. And even then."

The Marlins as an organization have yet to discuss their plans of how they plan to approach teaching the new rule from top to bottom, but the St. Louis Cardinals, who share the facility here in Jupiter with the Marlins, have already taken a strong stance toward the new rule.

They plan on teaching their players to give up a lane and avoid collisions at all costs, general manager John Mozeliak said Monday.

“I think each team can think about it the way they want," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, we look at [All-Star catcher Yadier Molina] as one of those elite MVP caliber players. We'd like him to give the lane.

“Not only will we practice that from the major league level but that's what we will begin teaching from the bottom to the top. We will be advocates to take the lane.”

Mozeliak said the Cardinals actually wanted "a more strict policy, something that veered more like the NCAA, but this was certainly a great step in the right direction.”

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he hopes when a runner goes out of his way this season to take a catcher out "he will be made an example of."

"I think there are still going to be some train wrecks at home plate," Matheny said. "I'm just encouraging my guys to do what they can to avoid that."

Marlins veteran utility man Ty Wigginton -- who once had a memorable collision at the plate with manager Mike Redmond back in 2003 -- said he's reserving judgement on the new rule until he gets more details. Baseball officials are expected to visit teams throughout spring training to provide further instruction on the new rule.

“The way you always used to do it, the catcher lines up the plate and the foul line with his left foot," Wiggington said. "As a runner you kind of use that left foot as your gauge. If that left foot crosses over, he’s technically blocking the plate.

“We’ll see how it plays out. We’ve all got to play by the rules. I’ve always said that when rule changes happen, to me it’s always weird. The replay on home runs a few years ago when we started doing that. I’ve been in situations where it benefited my team, I’ve been in situations where it didn’t.

"It’s kind of like, Babe Ruth didn’t have it, why do we need it?"

February 24, 2014

What's in a number? For CF Marcell Ozuna he's hoping 13 turns out to be the right fit

JUPITER -- Marcell Ozuna wants to make one thing clear: "I'm not superstitious about wearing [the number] 13."

This off season, the Marlins' 23-year old center fielder switched from 48 -- the number he wore as a rookie last year -- to the jersey  formerly worn by manager Ozzie Guillen in 2012 and utility man Chris Valaika in 2013.

The reason for the switch? "Something inside my mind, when I get hurt, I want to switch," Ozuna said Monday. 

Ozuna has switched numbers quite a bit in his career. He said he wore 18 when he first played in the Dominican Summer League. Then he switched to 27 when he signed with the Marlins and played for them in the minors. He wore that number until he injured his wrist for Single A Greensboro in 2010.

Then it was time to switch to 34. Ozuna wore that in the minors until he was called up last season by the big league squad. Since right-hander Tom Koehler was wearing 34, Ozuna settled on 48.

"A lot of people say 'Hey can I get your number' [when they get to the big leagues and somebody else already has their jersey number," Ozuna said. "Not me."

He hit .265 with 3 homers, 32 RBI and five stolen bases in 70 games for the Marlins before injuring his left thumb making a diving catch in Colorado on July 22. He decided this off-season it was time to switch again. After all, who wants to wear an unlucky number?

"If I don't get hurt, I'll wear [13] a long time," said Ozuna, who played winter ball in the Dominican Republic for the Gigantes del Cibao and hit hit .277 with 2 homers and 12 RBI (.376 slugging) in 34 games.

"I'll wear it my whole career."

Only two Marlins have ever worn the number 13 longer than one season: catchers Paul Hoover (2007-08) and  Rob Natal (1993-97). Omar Infante (2011), Mike Lamb (2010), Will Ohman (2010), Andy Gonzalez (2009) are the others.

What does Ozuna think of the most famous athlete to wear No. 13 in Miami -- Hall of Fame Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino?

"Who?" Ozuna asked. "Don't know him. I don't watch football."

> Reliever Steve Cishek, who was feeling some neck discomfort at the start of camp, said he will face live hitters for the first time in camp Thursday. He's thrown off the mound twice so far in camp.

"[Bullpen coach] Reid Cornelius stood in the batter's box  for me Sunday," Cishek said. "Of course it's not the same. I can't wait to face some real hitters."

February 23, 2014

Mike Redmond recalls 2003 plate collision with Ty Wigginton

MARLINS METSJUPITER -- Ty Wigginton has a number of obstacles to overcome in order to win an Opening Day roster spot with the Marlins. But manager Mike Redmond said a violent home-plate collision he had with Wigginton in 2003 won't be one of them.

"Absolutely not," Redmond said.

If anything, Redmond admires the fact that Wigginton is "a hard-nosed player" who "respects the game and knows how to play the game right."

The play in question occurred at Shea Stadium on April 18, 2003, when Redmond was a catcher for the Marlins and Wigginton was with the Mets. The helmet-to-helmet collision in which Redmond tagged Wigginton and held on to the ball for the out dazed both players. Redmond said he injured his shoulder on the play and was forced to leave the game a couple of innings later.

Redmond called it "probably the hardest collision at home plate I've ever had."

A few years later, when Redmond was with the Twins and Wigginton had moved on to Tampa Bay, the two discussed their home plate run-in.

"I went up to him and said, 'Hey, I got to know,'" Redmond recalled. "I said, 'When we had that collision, that really hurt me. I just want to make sure it hurt you, too. I want to make sure you felt a little pain, too.' He said, 'Oh yeah, Red. I threw up for hours after the game.' So I felt good. At least he didn't just hurt me. He felt a little bit of pain, too. We had a good laugh about it."