June 2009

Johnson has Girardi's praise

About 90 minutes before facing the Yankees, Josh Johnson was receiving praises from his former manager.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi called Johnson “one of the best pitchers in the National League.”

Johnson, the Marlins 25-year-old ace, was a rookie in 2006 when Girardi was Florida’s manager.

Even at the age of 22, Johnson showed flashes of becoming a standout.

“He’s one of the best pitchers in the National League,” Girardi said. “I loved him from the day I saw him. I thought he had a chance to be real special. It’s not something that you’d say about a guy who really throws two pitches. I know he has the changeup now.”

Early in his career, Johnson was basically a fastball, slider pitcher. Now he had a two-seam fastball — his sinker — to go along with his four-seam fastball, which this year is reaching 98 mph on occasion.

“His location was great all the time,” Girardi said. “His mechanics were good. He had the great slider.”

Johnson entered Saturday night with 98 innings pitched. That was fourth most in the National League. However, he needed just three innings to reach Arizona’s Dan Haren (101) for the top spot.

The Marlins are 11-3 when Johnson starts, and the right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.76 ERA.

Johnson is making a strong case to be selected to the National League All-Star team, a decision that will be made by NL manager Charlie Manuel. Pitchers are not voted into the All-Star Game by the fans.

Asked if Johnson was All-Star worthy, Girardi said: “Absolutely. I don’t see the National League all the time. The numbers [wins and losses], you don’t look at that. You look at the innings and ERA. In those, he’s one of the best.”

Johnson is fifth in the NL in ERA, behind Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto (2.17), Haren (2.23), San Francisco’s Matt Cain (2.39) and Tim Lincecum of the Giants (2.72).

— Joe Frisaro

Hanley looking for power surge

Don’t worry, Hanley Ramirez says.

“I’ll have 10 [homers] by the All-Star Break,” Ramirez said jokingly on Saturday afternoon.

Since May 22, the Marlins 25-year-old shortstop has been stuck on eight. Ramirez last went deep in the third inning of a May 22 game against the Rays, when he took Andy Sonnanstine deep.

After going 2-for-3 on Saturday night, Ramirez has now gone 98 straight at-bats without a homer. Don’t mistake his lack of home runs of late as a decline in his productivity.

For the month of June, Ramirez is hitting .324. For the season, the 25-year-old is batting .328, and he has 34 RBIs.

“This guy is a threat to hit a three-run homer any time he comes to the plate,” an MLB scout said. “To tell you the truth, the guys behind him haven’t been doing much better. So why give their best hitter something to hit?”

Pitchers give Ramirez the star treatment, too. They are pitching him mostly away, not giving him much to turn on. If Ramirez hits, they want him to hit the ball away.

“I look to stay up the middle,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez still leads all NL shortstop in on-base and slugging percentages. And he is making a strong argument to be the starting shortstop in the All-Star Game.

— Joe Frisaro

Saturday's lineups

The Marlins have returned Emilio Bonifacio to the lineup on Saturday night, and the speedster was hitting in the second spot against hard-throwing Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett.

The lineups for Saturday:


1) Jeter, SS

2) Damon, LF

3) Teixeira, 1B

4) Posada, C

5) Cano, 2B

6) Swisher, RF

7) Cabrera, CF

8) Berroa, 3B

9) Burnett, P


1) Coghlan, LF

2) Boni, 3B

3) Hanley, SS

4) Cantu, 1B

5) Uggla, 2B

6) Hermida, RF

7) Ross, CF

8) Baker, C

9) J.J.

— Joe Frisaro


Pinto reinstated off DL

For weeks, Renyel Pinto targeted a return to the roster in the series opener with the Yankees.

The scheduling worked out perfectly.

On Friday, the Marlins announced Pinto was returned from his rehab assignment and reinstated on the 25-man roster. Right-hander Cristhian Martinez was optioned to Double-A Jacksonville.

Pinto had been on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation, retroactive to May 23.

Adding Pinto once again gives Florida’s bullpen two left-handers. Pinto joins Dan Meyer.

In 24 games, Pinto is 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA. He’s struck out 20 and walked 12 in 21 1/3 innings. Pinto spent this past week pitching in rehab assignments games. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he threw in back-to-back games for Triple-A New Orleans.

— Joe Frisaro


Marlins lineup vs. Yanks

The Marlins are going with Wes Helms at third base on Friday in the series opener against the Yankees, who are going with left-hander Andy Pettitte.

1) Coghlan, LF

2) Helms, 3B

3) Hanley, SS

4) Cantu, 1B

5) Uggla, 2B

6) Paulino, C

7) Hermida, RF

8) Ross, CF

9) West, P

— Joe Frisaro



Fenway rain delay



Steady rain throughout Thursday afternoon raised the question as to whether the Marlins would even get to face the Red Sox at night.

Here’s the view from the dugout about 5:30 for the 7:10 start.

— Joe Frisaro

Big weekend with Yankees

Big crowds are expected all weekend at Land Shark Stadium.

The Yankees are coming to town, and predictably, large crowds will follow. The Marlins open their three-game set with New York on Friday night.

The Interleague series will last through Sunday. Those planning on attending are encouraged to get their early.

The Marlins are anticipating 35,000 on Friday, 45,000 on Saturday and 30,000 on Sunday.

Florida enters the series ranked last in the Major Leagues in home attendance at 16,918 through 33 games.

The pitching matchup for Friday is Sean West vs. Andy Pettitte. On Saturday, Josh Johnson will take the mound against former Marlin, A.J. Burnett. And on Sunday, Chris Volstad will goes for Florida against CC Sabathia.

Tickets are available at www.Marlins.com. Even though attendance is expected to be high, in the 65,000-seat stadium, those walking up on game days shouldn’t be shut out. 

— Joe Frisaro

Hit or error?

Hit or error?

Initially, the official scorer ruled double. Then after seeing replays, the call was reversed to a two-base error.

Jacoby Ellsbury’s first MLB error came with a little controversy on Wednesday night. In the first inning, the speedy Red Sox center fielder tried to run down Jorge Cantu’s line drive into left center. The ball hit off his glove and popped out.

The overturn became the first error Ellsbury has committed in his career, and it came in his 232nd game. Florida’s Hanley Ramirez scored on the play, and it became an unearned run charged to Brad Penny.

Cantu said he felt it was a hit, and that sentiment was shared on the Marlins bench.

“It was the talk of the dugout for a few innings,” Cantu said. “All I know is that Ellsbury was in full sprint for the ball. That’s all I saw. It was kind of weird that they called that an error.

“I found out that Ellsbury had some kind of streak with errors. I don’t know. It’s their call. There is nothing I can do about it. Everybody thought it had to be a base hit, because it was full sprint out there for the ball.”

Had it been ruled a hit, it would have been an RBI for Cantu. Official scorers have 24 hours, or before the ensuing game, to reverse a call. For that to happen in this case is unlikely since it would add an earned run to Penny. You typically don’t find club’s seeking to add a negative statistics to their pitchers.

Marlins right fielder Jeremy Hermida said he wasn’t sure if it was a hit or error.

“I don’t know,” Hermida said. “That’s one of those you have to see the replay on. It’s almost a general rule in the outfield, if it’s off your glove, you get an error. Right or wrong.”

— Joe Frisaro

Record day at Fenway



Wednesday night was historic for the Red Sox Nation, and the Marlins became part of history.

On hand for the 6-1 Boston win were 38,196 fans, marking the 500th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park.

The No. 500 was written into the outfield grass (as seen from the photo I took from the press box).

The streak started on May 15, 2003, which happened to be the 23rd birthday of Josh Beckett.

Beckett, now with Boston, of course was the Marlins World Series MVP in 2003.

— Joe Frisaro  


Volstad's sinking feeling

After Tuesday’s 8-2 loss to the Red Sox, Marlins right-hander Chris Volstad talked about how his breaking pitches were off.

On Wednesday, pitching coach Mark Wiley offered another observation.

“It was his sinker more than his break ball,” Wiley said. “He’s got to get that sinker back. Everything comes off that for him.”

At 6-foot-8, Volstad is at his best when his two-seam fastball — or sinker — is breaking straight down. That’s been a key pitch for him. But an indication that his pitchers were flat, and the sinker wasn’t working, can be seen by the amount of ground ball to fly ball outs. In 3 2/3 innings, the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., native had five fly ball outs and three groundball outs.

Wiley noted that Volstad’s curveball and changeup also were off at Fenway Park.

Volstad had his worst outing as a big leaguer, giving up eight runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander next starts on Sunday against the Yankees at Land Shark Stadium.

— Joe Frisaro