April 2009

Johnson delivering Ws

If there was any sign that Josh Johnson was slowing down on Sunday, the 6-foot-7 right-hander didn’t show it.

Simply brilliant, Johnson overwhelmed the Mets in his complete-game, 2-1, victory at Dolphin Stadium. His fastball reached 97 mph in the ninth inning, proving he was still going strong.

Johnson has made a remarkable return from Tommy John surgery, and he is showing why scouts and personnel evaluators says that if he stays healthy he will be a serious Cy Young award contender.

It’s not by coincidence that the Marlins repeatedly win when J.J. takes the mound. Last year, when he joined the rotation in July, he went on to post a 7-1 record. Johnson made 14 starts last year, and the Marlins won 11 of them.

Already this year, he is 2-0, so he is 9-1 with two complete games since 2008.

The irony is Johnson became the first pitcher this season to post a complete game. Last year, there were questions if any Florida pitcher could go the distance. 

The Marlins set a Major League record by going 301 games without a complete game before Ricky Nolasco snapped the drought against the Giants last August.

The importance of a complete game is it gives the bullpen a day to rest. The way the Marlins pen has struggled thus far, the breather came at a good time.

— Joe Frisaro 

Flo Rida a big hit



The first SuperSaturday concert night was a big hit at Dolphin Stadium. More than 39,000 (larger than Opening Day) were on hand to see an entertaining game.

Afterwards, there was a fireworks show, followed by a concert that included South Florida rap star, Flo Rida, who grew up in Miami Gardens. Flo Rida (real name Tramar Dillard) is seen above throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

— Joe Frisaro 

Sanchez's parents at game


Photo credit to Boris Mizrahi


Friday was a special night for Anibal Sanchez. Even though the right-hander didn’t get the win, he threw five shutout innings, and showed the ability to work out of trouble.

Sanchez had some extra motivation in his first outing. His parents (pictured above) made the trip from their home in Venezuela to be at the game.

After the game, Anibal said his parents are expected to stay a few months. So they will have many more chances to watch their son pitch.

— Joe Frisaro

Amezaga getting closer

Alfredo Amezaga continues to get closer to returning to the Marlins.

On Friday night, he played in his second rehab assignment game with Class A Jupiter. The Hammerheads faced the Palm Beach Cardinals, and Amezaga played second base. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Amezaga played center field on Thursday, and he will play one more rehab game for Jupiter on Saturday, when he is expected to play shortstop.

On the disabled list with a sprained left knee, Amezaga is expected to be activated on Sunday.

— Joe Frisaro

Bonifacio draws balk

Another example of how Emilio Bonifacio hurts a defense? Balks.

When Bonifacio singled to open the sixth inning off New York’s Sean Green, he put the Mets on guard. Green threw over a couple of times to first baseman Carlos Delgado. Without even attempting a steal, Green balked, which automatically advanced Boni to second.

Bonifacio went to third on Hanley Ramirez’s infield single. Jorge Cantu singled Boni home. On the pitch Cantu hit to left field, Bonifacio faked as if he was going to race home.

— Joe Frisaro

Cantu in lineup

Encouraging news for the Marlins.

Jorge Cantu, who was plunked on the left hand by a pitch on Wednesday, was back in the starting lineup on Friday against the Mets. Cantu is slotted to bat cleanup and play first base.

Cantu was struck on the back of his left hand by a Daniel Cabrera or Washington fastball. X-rays came back negative.

The batting order was similar to what the team has been using against right-handed pitching.

Mets lineup: Reyes, Murphy, Wright, Delgado, Beltran, Church, Schneider, Castillo and Maine.

— Joe Frisaro

Experimenting with lineup

Tony La Russa does it, and it just might make sense for the Marlins to do it too.

To fully maximize the speed in their lineup, Florida could consider batting the pitcher eighth and Cameron Maybin ninth.

La Russa frequently has the Cardinals pitcher batting eighth.

By doing that, Maybin would have a better chance to develop his offense because he won’t have the pitcher behind him. Instead, he would have Emilio Bonifacio.

The problem, typically, for eighth hitters is they see mostly off-speed pitches because the pitcher is on deck.

The hitter most impacted would be Cody Ross, who has been batting seventh. He then would have the pitcher behind him, unless left-handed hitting Jeremy Hermida flip-flopped with Ross. Hermida has been hitting sixth.

If Maybin hits ninth, then the speed would fall in line for Florida. You’d have Bonifacio following, then John Baker and Hanley Ramirez.

It’s something to certainly think about.

In 2005, when Dontrelle Willis was a force at the plate, former manager Jack McKeon once had the D-Train hit as high as seventh.

— Joe Frisaro

Amezaga recovering nicely



The way Alfredo Amezaga was moving around in his rehab assignment game with the Jupiter Hammerheads on Thursday night was very encouraging.

Amezaga (seen above in his first at-bat Thursday) was 1-for-3 with a walk. He moved around in the outfield nicely, covering center field. The Marlins all-purpose utility man is on the DL with a sprained left knee. He is eligible to be re-instated on Saturday.

Based on how he looked, he easily could make that day. If not, he won’t be far behind.

Amezaga is scheduled to play in the infield for Class A Jupiter on Friday.

The Hammerheads have some pretty good prospects — namely Matt Dominguez and Mike Stanton. The two struggled in their first games, combining for 1-for-8 with five strikeouts.

Another prospect to watch is catcher Miguel Fermin, who was in big league camp. Fermin was 1-for-3 and he was robbed of an extra base hit on his hard line drive to center field.

Fermin takes charge behind the plate, and he is very good defensively.

— Joe Frisaro



Class A umpire shaken

A scary moment happened in the top of the ninth inning of the Florida State League game between the Class A Jupiter Hammerheads and the Palm Beach Cardinals on Thursday night at Roger Dean Stadium.

Umpire Roberto Medina was struck in the back of his head by a throw from Hammerheads shortstop Osvaldo Martinez.

Because they had two umpires at the Florida State League game, Medina was aligned about 15 yards from first base on the infield grass. Martinez made a backhanded play and his throw directly struck Medina in the head.

Medina went to the ground for about a minute holding his head. He was tended to, and walked off the field, leaving only home plate umpire Travis Carlson to handle the rest of the game.

Before leaving the field, Medina and Martinez hugged, a good sign.

— Joe Frisaro

Amezaga solid in outing

Alfredo Amezaga, on the disabled list with a sprained left knee, made a rehab assignment appearance on Thursday night at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. The way he was moving around, at the plate and in center field, is very encouraging.

Playing for Class A Jupiter, Amezaga led off and played center field. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, and he was lifted in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Leading off the game, Amezaga slapped a single to right field after running the count to 3-1. His leg gave him no troubles while running the bases. He dove back head-first on a pickoff attempt and advanced to second on Osvaldo Martinez’s single. But he was stranded at third.

In the outfield in the first innig, Amezaga was part of a relay play that nailed Curt Smith at home plate. Smith singled with two outs, and Shane Peterson hit the ball into the gap in right-center. Amezaga ran the ball down, made the relay to second baseman Smelin Perez, who threw home. Catcher Miguel Fermin applied the tag at the plate.

Amezaga tapped out to first base in his second at-bat. He walked in the fifth inning in his third plate appearance.

After hitting from the left side three straight at-bats, the switch-hitting Amezaga had an at-bat from the right side in the seventh inning. He struck out looking.

In center field, he covered a lot of ground and looked smooth running down some routine fly balls.  

Because he is on the DL retroactive to March 27, the earliest Amezaga can return to the Marlins is on Saturday.

The plan is to test his knee at multiple positions — center field, shortstop and second base.

Thursday is the opener of the Florida State League, and the Jupiter Hammerheads were playing the Palm Beach Cardinals.

Jupiter promises to be an entertaining team to watch. The club includes top prospects Matt Dominguez and Mike Stanton. Dominguez was batting cleanup and playing third base, while Stanton was the designated hitter, batting third.

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez was in attendance at Roger Dean Stadium.

— Joe Frisaro