February 2009

Game on the run …

Observations from the Grapefruit League opener vs. St. Louis:

* Hanley Ramirez, in his third plate appearance in the three spot, connected on a two-run homer off Francisco Samuel in the sixth inning. The homer came a half inning after he made an error at shortstop that helped the Cardinals score twice in the fifth.

* Cameron Maybin, hitting leadoff, led the game off with a single. Ramirez, batting third, walked in his first at-bat.

* After walking in a run in the first inning, and facing the bases loaded and no outs, Anibal Sanchez asked for the rosin bag. The right-hander then struck out Ryan Ludwick looking before getting Chris Duncan to tap into a 4-6-3 double play.

* Gaby Sanchez, looking to win the first base job, made an error — failing to catch Anibal Sanchez’s throw trying to nab Skip Schumaker. The error led to St. Louis taking the lead in the first inning on an unearned run.

* Cody Ross, in his new position — right field — made a nice play to throw out Khalil Greene trying to stretch a single to a double.

— Joe Frisaro

Lineup unveiled

Noting that nothing is etched in stone, manager Fredi Gonzalez did say that the batting order unveiled on Wednesday could pretty much mirror the team’s Opening Day look.

No real surprises were revealed in the order that faced the Cardinals in the Grapefruit League opener. The batting order was: Cameron Maybin (CF), John Baker (C), Hanley Ramirez (SS), Jorge Cantu (3B), Dan Uggla (2B), Jeremy Hermida (LF), Cody Ross (RF), Dallas McPherson (DH) and Gaby Sanchez (1B).

The most significant switch from last year is Ramirez moving from leadoff to third in the order. Maybin now takes over batting first.

Gonzalez said he considered dropping Ramirez to a power spot dating back to the Winter Meetings.

There still are questions regarding some spots. Sanchez has to make the team and win the first base job. If Emilio Bonifacio makes the team, he is more of a prototypical leadoff hitter. Maybin gives more of the same look that Ramirez showed the past three seasons.

Maybin is a power/speed threat.

— Joe Frisaro

Grapefruit League quick facts

The Marlins were 19-11-3 last year in Grapefruit League games, with Hanley Ramirez pacing the team with a .378 batting average.

Some early pitching matchups. On Thursday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie, Chris Volstad will make the start against New York’s Oliver Perez. On Friday against the Orioles in Jupiter, Ryan Tucker will start. Koji Uehara will throw for Baltimroe.

Originally, Sean West was set to start on Friday. But because a minor left hip issue, West was scratched.

— Joe Frisaro

B Game vs. Italy

At first glance, you would have thought the Marlins were taking on the Dodgers. But the team in blue on Wednesday morning on Field 2 behind the main field at Roger Dean Stadium was the Italian World Baseball Classic squad.

The B Game led into Florida’s first Grapefruit League contest, at 1:05 p.m. ET at Roger Dean Stadium.

Italy won the scrimmage, 4-1. The Italian hitting coach is former MLB catching great Mike Piazza.

Burke Badenhop started and threw one inning for Florida. It was his first game situation since last June. The right-hander spent more than half the season injured. It was an encouraging first step back for the 26-year-old, who struck out one and allowed one infield hit in one inning. Dallas Trahern and Frankie De La Cruz each followed with scoreless innings for Florida.

Badenhop, Trahern and De La Cruz all were acquired by the Marlins from Detroit as part of the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade.

In the third inning, Manny Mayorson singled for Florida, stole second and scored on John Raynor’s RBI single.

— Joe Frisaro 

Ohman, Cordero on radar

Florida continues to have interest in left-handed reliever Will Ohman, who looks like he will not return to the Braves.

Speculation that Ohman could sign with the Marlins surfaced recently on ESPN.com. For the right price, the lefty could wind up in Florida.

Early reports said Ohman is seeking $1.5 million, but the thinking is he could be obtained for less. The question is whether the Marlins decide to put their limited financial resources into a situational lefty, or do they still hold out hope of signing catcher Ivan Rodriguez?

Adding a lefty to the bullpen is something the team is exploring. Renyel Pinto, expected to make the team, has been sick the past couple of days.

The Marlins also recently attended a workout to watch right-handed reliever Chad Cordero. About 15 teams observed Cordero, who is battling back from a right shoulder problem. The reports are Cordero likely won’t be ready until perhaps the second half. His fastball was clocked around 80 mph, and the ball wasn’t coming out of his hand like it did when he was healthy pitching for Washington.

— Joe Frisaro

Camping out Tuesday

What want on today at camp:

* MLB Network is doing a “30 Clubs in 30 Days” feature on the Marlins that airs on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. ET. The hour-long special on the team will be repeated four times within a day after it originally airs.

* Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson each threw two innings on the Roger Dean Stadium main field on Tuesday in an intrasquad game that was pitching dominated. These are the two frontrunners to start on Opening Day on April 6 against the Nationals.

* The only walk in the six-inning scrimmage was drawn by Cameron Maybin.

* Wednesday marks the opening of Grapefruit League action, with Florida facing St. Louis as the visiting team at Roger Dean Stadium. Anibal Sanchez will start. The regulars are set to play. The Marlins are using a DH, and it likely will be Dallas McPherson.

* Manager Fredi Gonzalez said that players going to the World Baseball Classic — guys like Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu and Alfredo Amezaga  — will play more early in Spring Training games as they prepare to leave for the Classic on March 1.

* On Wednesday at 10 a.m., the Marlins will face Italy’s World Baseball Classic team on field two behind Roger Dean Stadium. Burke Badenhop will pitch. Expected to play for Florida are John Raynor, Andy Gonzalez, Michael Stanton, John Lindsey, Matt Dominguez, Kyle Skipworth, Michael Ryan, Jai Miller and Manny Mayorson.  

— Joe Frisaro


Bucky Dent visits

A day doesn’t go by where Bucky Dent isn’t reminded of the home run.

Dent’s historic three-run homer in 1978 at Fenway Park in the division playoff game lifted the Yankees past the Red Sox, giving New York the AL East title. Praised by Yankee fans and hated by Red Sox fans, Dent is just happy people remember.

Asked how often he hears mention of the homer, Dent said on Tuesday: “Every day. Walking in here just a minute ago. A guy came up to me, and said, ‘I’m a big Bronx Bomber guy. Thanks for the home run.’ It’s a nice feeling, [31] years later and people still remember.”

Dent was at Marlins camp on Tuesday, talking with players and coaches. He is promoting his Bucky Dent Baseball School in Delray Beach.

Dent approached Dan Uggla to see if he would speak to kids at the baseball school. Uggla then surprised Dent by saying that he attended the Bucky Dent Baseball School when he was 13-years-old.

In recent years, a number of Marlins have spoken to the kids at the school. The list includes Kevin Gregg, Juan Pierre, Jeremy Hermida and Matt Treanor.

When Dent was a Minor League manager in the Yankees system, his backup catcher was Fredi Gonzalez.

— Joe Frisaro

Tuesday's scrimmage update

The Marlins scrimmage on Tuesday will be on the main field at Roger Dean Stadium, and it begins at 1 p.m. ET. It is not open to the public.

The pitchers in the intrasquad scrimmage will be Ricky Nolasco for one team and Josh Johnson for the other.

On Wednesday, the Marlins open their Grapefruit League season as the visiting team with the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Florida is sending Anibal Sanchez to the mound, with Blake Hawksworth going for St. Louis.

Before that game, on Wednesday around 10 a.m. ET, on the backfield at Roger Dean Stadium, Florida will have a B Game with Italy’s World Baseball Classic team. Burke Badenhop will start for Florida.

— Joe Frisaro


Scrimmage highlights

After nine days of drills, the Marlins finally played in a game situation on Monday.

The team went through an intrasquad contest, with Sean West and Frankie De La Cruz each starting. The game lasted six innings. Dan Uggla, Alfredo Amezaga, Emilio Bonifacio and Cody Ross were among the players going all six innings.

Uggla had an RBI groundout in the first inning.

Hanley Ramirez added two singles, a stolen base and a run scored in a DH role.

On the down side, Ross was jammed on a pitch while hitting and he aggravated his right palm/thumb area. He may take a day off from hitting.

— Joe Frisaro

Early Spring rotation

After the scrimmage on Monday, manager Fredi Gonzalez announced the pitchers for the next few days.

When Grapefruit League action begins on Wednesday, Anibal Sanchez will face the Cardinals in Jupiter. On Thursday, Chris Volstad will start in Port St. Lucie against the Mets. Rick VandenHurk also will throw that day. On Friday in Jupiter against the Orioles, Sean West will start.

The Marlins have an intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday on the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco will each throw two innings. Still no word when either of these two will pitch in Grapefruit League play.

Before Wednesday’s game with the Cardinals, the Marlins will have a B Game with Italy’s World Baseball Classic team on the back field at Roger Dean Stadium. Burke Badenhop will start for Florida in that six-inning contest.

— Joe Frisaro