April 2009

Bullpen sets record

History was made, but not extended for Florida’s bullpen on Sunday afternoon.

In the Marlins’ dramatic 7-4 victory over the Nationals, the bullpen extended its scoreless-innings streak to 24 straight innings, which establishes a franchise record.

Twice before the pen had logged 23 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

But as soon as the record was set, the streak snapped in the following frame. Leo Nunez in the bottom of the eighth inning allowed one run. At the time, it put the Nationals ahead 4-3.

– Joe Frisaro

Olsen praises Marlins

Considering his inside knowledge, Scott Olsen is not surprised by Florida’s fast start.

Drafted by the Marlins in 2002, Olsen came up through the system, and now he’s seeing his former teammates emerging as a serious contender in the NL East.

“Am I surprised? No. I’m not surprised at all because of Johnson, Ricky and Volstad, and Sanchez and Miller,” Olsen said. “I know that their starters can throw.”

A reason the Marlins traded Olsen to the Nationals is because their rotation already had Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller.

Because of the rotation, Olsen feels the Marlins will be in the hunt.

“I think they’ll keep it up, too,” the left-hander said. “This is a good team from top-to-bottom. The bullpen is good. The bench is much improved over last year. I think they’re going to be in the thick of if, right until the end.”

– Joe Frisaro

 

Hermida hitting sixth

Saturday marked the first time this season that Jeremy Hermida hit in the second hole. It paid off as he connected on two dramatic homers. His two-run shot in the ninth sent the game to extra innings, and, his three-run drive in the 11th won it for Florida.

The reason Hermida was hitting second, manager Fredi Gonzalez said, was because he wanted to hit Ronny Paulino higher in the order. Paulino had good numbers off Nationals lefty Scott Olsen, so Gonzalez placed Paulino in the sixth spot.

That move also paid off as Paulino hit a two-run homer off Olsen in the second inning.

On Sunday, Hermida was back in his familiar sixth spot.

The lineup in the series finale with the Nationals was: Boni, Baker, Hanley, Gload, Uggla, Hermida, Ross, Amezaga (CF) and Volstad.

– Joe Frisaro

 

Cantu to get breather

Deciding when to give bench players starts is a challenge for all managers.

Fredi Gonzalez on Sunday is planning on starting Ross Gload at first base, giving Jorge Cantu a day off. Of course, Cantu will be available to pinch-hit.

The strategy is partly based to give Gload a chance to have four at-bats, which is important for players to stay sharp. As a pinch-hitter, Gload has done a terrific job.

Getting regular plate appearances will certainly pay off.

Another thing to consider with this move is Cantu gets to avoid facing Nationals right-hander Daniel Cabrera. In the third game of the season, Cabrera plunked Cantu on the back of the left hand with a 91 mph fastball.

Since then, Cantu is wearing a protective padding on the back of his batting glove.

– Joe Frisaro

Breaking down Nolasco

When his pitch count went up, the Marlins decided on Friday to take the 26-year-old out after four innings.

A telling at-bat was a 10-pitch encounter with Washington pitcher John Lannan, who eventually grounded out to shortstop. Yet, that sequence left Nolasco at 87 pitches, which was enough in the eyes of manager Fredi Gonzalez.

On Saturday, pitching coach Mark Wiley said physically Nolasco is fine. There is no dead-arm period, which is common for pitchers at some point.

“I don’t think it’s a dead-arm period, because he’s throwing 92, 91, 93, and that’s nice for him,” Wiley said. “I’m pleased that he’s at that point. Right now, in finishing his pitches with his fastball, he’s not as good as he’s been. His location is not right.

“He can battle out of it. But his pitch count got a little bit high.”

Also in that fourth inning where Lannan tacked on 10 pitches, Josh Willingham had an eight-pitch showdown with Nolasco.

Since Nolasco faced the Nationals on Opening Day, he has seen them twice in 10 games.

“I think with Ricky, he faced the same team twice,” Wiley said. “He was trying to do too much maybe with his breaking ball. He’s fine. I think it’s just a little bit of an approach. But he’s carrying out counts a little too deep. Not that he’s not getting ahead in the count, but he’s not getting that put-away pitch like he’s used to.”

The encouraging thing about Nolasco, who will next pitch on Wednesday at Pittsburgh, is his struggles are easily correctable. For example, sometimes he would throw three straight breaking balls, with two of them crisp but maybe the third one not being.

“I think that’s just a matter of a touch-up here and there, and he will be fine,” Wiley said.

– Joe Frisaro 

 

Hermida hitting second

Saturday’s lineup was shaken up a little bit, namely with Jeremy Hermida batting second and Ronny Paulino batting sixth.

Here’s the lineup: Bonifacio, Hermida, Ramirez, Cantu, Uggla, Paulino, Ross, Maybin and Johnson.

– Joe Frisaro

Marlins inside the numbers

Courtesy of the Marlins PR department, here’s some interesting facts about the 9-1 start.

At 9-1, Florida has the best start in franchise history through 10 games.

The 1997 Marlins were 8-2. The franchise’s best record thru 11 games was 8-3 (1997, 2004).

The 9-1 start is the Majors’ best start through 10 games since the Yankees and Royals each started 9-1 in 2003. The Yankees lost their 11th game, while the Royals improved to 11-1 before losing their second game.

The Marlins won four-straight to open the season, a franchise-best winning streak to open a season. The current five-game win streak is the team’s longest since winning nine straight Sept. 9-19, 2008. The team has won 12 of their last 14 games, including 10 of the last 11, dating back to last season.

– Joe Frisaro

Tankersley surgery successful

Lefty reliever Taylor Tankersley underwent surgery on Friday to repair a stress fracture in his throwing elbow.

The procedure was successful, said Jeff Kahn, Tankersley’s agent.

Tankersley, on the Triple-A New Orleans roster, traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, to have the surgery performed by Dr. John Conway. Two screws were inserted in the elbow.

Tankersley will not throw for at least six weeks. In six weeks, he’s scheduled for a followup visit with Dr. Conway.

If all goes well then, he could begin throwing.

Exactly how a player responds from this procedure is on a case-to-case basis. Feedback from players who have had it is the pain in the elbow is relieved.

– Joe Frisaro

Bonifacio learned from Butler

A few years ago when Emilio Bonifacio was advancing in Arizona’s Minor League system, he learned a lot about the game from a pretty good former big leaguer.

Brett Butler, a speedster and an excellent bunter in his 17-year MLB career, was Bonifacio’s manager at high Class A and Double A.

“He was my manager for two years, in high A and Double-A,” said Bonifacio, a native of the Dominican Republic. “He talked to me about how to bunt. I like him.”

Butler these days is managing Arizona’s Triple-A Reno.

With 17 years of big league seasons and 2,375 career hits under his belt, Butler offered plenty of advice to the speedy Bonifacio.

Bunting is a part of Bonifacio’s game that continues to develop. Florida is looking for the speedster to find ways to get on base, and make things happen.

After a scorching start, Bonifacio has quieted the last two games in Atlanta. He has gone hitless with seven strikeouts in his last 10 at-bats.

On Friday night at Washington, Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez gave Bonifacio a day off. Cameron Maybin replaced Boni in the leadoff spot.

Gonzalez said the 0-for-10 stretch wasn’t the breather.

“That’s not the column, I’m worried about,” Gonzalez said. “The strikeouts. It’s the Ws that I’m worried about.”

With Washington starting lefties John Lannan on Friday and Scott Olsen on Saturday, Gonzalez was leaning toward giving Bonifacio one of the two days off.

It happened to be Friday.

Maybin also has struggled at the plate. The two youngsters are still learning.

Bonifacio says he started chasing pitches up in the zone, citing that for a reason for his slight slump.

“I have to see better pitches,” Bonifacio.

Early in the season, Bonifacio said he was effective hitting pitches down in the zone. An adjustment some pitchers are making are to elevate in the zone.

“There is a lot of scouting out there,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve said it from the very beginning, [Boni] and Maybin, we’re going to be patient with them. They’re going to go ups and downs.

“Yeah, there are going to be some adjustments. It’s hard on veteran guys.”

– Joe Frisaro

No errors in Atlanta

Don’t allow any extra outs is something the Marlins have been preaching for years. They saw the importance of that in their sweep over the Braves at Turner Field.

In the three games, Florida didn’t commit one error. Atlanta, meanwhile, was hurt on Thursday in the second inning. Second baseman Kelly Johnson dropped the ball on a tailor-made double play grounder off the bat of Dan Uggla. So instead of having two outs and no one on, the Marlins had two on and no outs.

Cody Ross followed with a three-run homer that provide a lead the Marlins never gave up.

“Pitching and defense can win games,” shortstop Hanley Ramirez said. “That’s what we’ve been doing lately. We’re putting those things together.”

The Marlins are playing all-around ball, which is raising the team’s confidence.

“I think everybody is together,” Ramirez said. “Everybody is playing as a team. It’s what we’ve got to keep doing all year long — stay together.”

– Joe Frisaro

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