February 2009

Still pondering Pudge

Don’t discount the Marlins as being in the hunt for catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

The club continues to weigh whether to seriously pursue the 37-year-old who was a big part of their 2003 World Series championship team. The Marlns, Mets and Astros have been the clubs linked to Pudge.

Florida is prepared to go with John Baker as the starter. While Rodriguez is wearing down, the assessment of those around the league is he can handle playing two to four times a week. The question is whether the Marlins will stay firm on only signing him for the minimum or if they can settle on an agreeable offer.

Right now behind Baker, the competition is open for the backup spot. Mike Rabelo, Brad Davis and Brett Hayes are all in the mix.

— Joe Frisaro

Camping out

Interesting items and tidbits that went on Sunday at Marlins camp:

* Manager Fredi Gonzalez said team is leaning towards carrying 12 pitchers.

* Because of off days in the regular season on April 9 and April 13, a fifth starter isn’t needed until April 20 at Pittsburgh. Gonzalez said he may go with four starters every fifth day until then. The other option is to start off with a five-man rotation, and just give everyone an extra day.

* Most of the pitchers threw off the mound for their second straight day, including projected starters Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Andrew Miller.

* Harvey Garcia (recovering from right shoulder surgery) remains the only pitcher restricted.

* Kyle Skipworth, the No. 1 pick from last year, looked impressive taking batting practice. The left-handed hitter shows why he is so highly touted.

* Workouts on Monday begin at 10 a.m. ET on the backfields of Roger Dean Stadium.

* Many feel the Opening Day starter will be Nolasco, based on his 2008 performance.

— Joe Frisaro

Opening Day starter?

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez has an Opening Day starter in mind. He just isn’t ready to make that announcement now.

“In my mind, I know who I want it to be,” Gonzalez said.

For now, he’s not tipping his hand, partly because there is plenty of time before the April 6 opener with Washington at Dolphin Stadium.

The two frontrunners are Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson.

If it is based on last year, Nolasco would get the nod based on his 15-8 record and 3.52 ERA. Johnson, however, is widely regarded throughout the league as the right-hander with more upside. Returning from Tommy John surgery last year, Johnson went 7-1 with a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts.

— Joe Frisaro


Pinto on Classic fence

Will he or won’t he?

Renyel Pinto has yet to decide if he will pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. On Friday, he told reporters that he wasn’t going to the Classic. On Saturday, he said he received three calls from the Venezuelan team.

Pinto said he will make up his mind on Monday.

In other Classic news, Jorge Cantu and Alfredo Amezaga will play for Mexico. Cantu will be playing third base, and Amezaga is lined up to play in center field.

— Joe Frisaro

Sanchez, Kensing number changes

You will notice Anibal Sanchez is now wearing No. 19, which belonged to reliever Logan Kensing last year.

Sanchez asked if Kensing wouldn’t mind switching to another number. Kensing took No. 20, which previously was worn by Matt Treanor, who is now with the Tigers. Sanchez was No. 36 last year.

— Joe Frisaro

First day of camp

Reminder that pitchers and catchers are on the field for the first time at 1 p.m. ET today.

Workouts are open to the public, and this is a great chance to get autographs. So it is a good idea to bring a Sharpie, ball and baseball cards. The workouts are on the backfields of the Roger Dean Stadium complete in Jupiter.

Typically, a few position players also will be around, even though they don’t have to be here until Tuesday, Feb. 17.

— Joe Frisaro

Stadium vote delayed

Delayed but not dead is pretty much how the Marlins stadium situation shaped up after city of Miami commissioners on Friday decided to reschedule the hearing for 9 a.m. ET on March 12.

Deadlocked after 7 1/2 hours, the city commissioners will try again to gain passage on five documents that will determine if a 37,000-seat, retractable-roof park will be built on the Orange Bowl grounds in Miami.

The stadium effort needed at least three of the four votes cast, and settled at 2-2. Because the city didn’t find resolution, the issue didn’t get to the Miami-Dade County commission, which also was scheduled to vote on Friday. As the matter was stalled at the city, the county commissioners remained in a holding pattern before telling people that no vote would be taken on their end either.

To pass, the stadium needs at least nine of 13 votes at the county level.

So the process continues, which doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for stadium supporters. In fact, there is a growing feeling that the deal indeed be approved. Maybe March 12 will be the day. The fact the process is moving forward, rather than being buried by a swing-commissioner vote, is why there is a quiet optimism that the Marlins eventually will get their stadium.

— Joe Frisaro  

Impact of Uggla's decision

Does the fact Dan Uggla won his arbitration hearing mean the Marlins are now in worse position to sign Pudge Rodriguez or another free agent?

I don’t think it’s a factor, at all. Yes, had the Marlins won the case, they would have paid Uggla $4.4 million. But they didn’t, so Dan is making $5.35 million this season. I can see where many would think that $950,000 could have been put toward someone like Pudge. That’s not really how the Marlins make their decisions. 

They had budgeted Uggla’s top dollar, in case he won, anyway. In the case of Pudge or another free agent, the front office would go to owner Jeffrey Loria to make a recommendation. If Jeffrey and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest felt pursuing a free agent like Pudge made sense, they would move forward, regardless of the outcome of Uggla’s ruling. In other words, Jeffrey could have applied some “special money,” if he felt it was the right move to make.

The bottom line with Pudge is the team likes him, but they don’t want to spend much more than the league minimum for him. Basically on a one-year deal, the Marlins will pay market value. Based on how the market has worked this offseason, no other team is throwing seven-figures at Rodriguez.

Still, until Pudge signs somewhere, I’m not ruling him out joining the Marlins before Opening Day.

— Joe Frisaro


Stadium vote set for Friday

Friday shapes up as one of the most important days in the history of the Marlins. It’s the day South Florida officials will vote on whether a new ballpark will be built for the team that has been searching for its own park for more than a decade.

The fate of the 37,000-seat, retractable-roof park on the Orange Bowl grounds in Miami will be decided by commissioners in the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County. If it passes, plans will move forward to break ground in the summer — probably by July. And the building is slated to open in 2012.

The stadium vote comes the day before Marlins pitchers and catchers open Spring Training on Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla,, on Saturday.

— Joe Frisaro