June 2009

Marlins staying the course

Tuesday night’s 8-2 loss to the Red Sox aside, the Marlins feel they are primed to make a run.

In an up-and-down season, the Marlins have closed to within two games of .500, and the organization doesn’t think the club has played its best baseball yet. The team also has its pitching rotation lined up, after some injuries early in the year.

If everything starts to click, the Marlins believe they are well situated for a second-half postseason push. If Florida has any advantage over the first-place Phillies it is overall starting pitching depth.

There also is encouragement at the top of the order now that Chris Coghlan has secured the leadoff spot. With Coghlan getting on base, the offense has been more productive.

Hopeful that the pieces are in place to start playing more consistently, the Marlins are not thinking about making any major trades before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. At least, they aren’t close to pulling the trigger in terms of shipping off some of their arbitration-eligible players.

Now, everything is subject to change if the team flops in the next five or six weeks. But as of now, the Marlins feel they are definitely in the playoff mix. For that reason, players like Dan Uggla, Jeremy Hermida and Cody Ross aren’t actively being shopped.

You will hear and read rumors of other clubs making inquiries. That happened a few weeks ago when the Braves called about Ross. The Braves also asked about Hermida, and they were believed to be offering outfielder Jeff Francoeur and pitcher Charlie Morton. The Marlins said no.

Morton ended up being dealt to the Pirates as part of the Nate McLouth trade.

Keep in mind, the Marlins always seek pitching back in any trades they consider.

The Braves have had their eye on Ross for a while. One reason is he does so well against them. In 42 career games, Ross is hitting .328 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs vs. Atlanta. Hermida, meanwhile, is a native of Marietta, Ga.

Atlanta is definitely looking to add more offense.

Both Hermida and Ross have made big contributions to the Marlins of late, and both are expected to remain in Florida — barring a collapse before the end of July.

— Joe Frisaro

Pinto making progress

All signs point to Renyel Pinto returning for the series with the Yankees, perhaps as early as Friday at Land Shark Stadium.

On the disabled list since May 25, retroactive to May 23, with left elbow inflammation, Pinto is in the process of throwing rehab assignments. He threw a scoreless inning for Class A Jupiter on Sunday.

The plan is for him to throw back-to-back days with Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday and Wednesday. If that goes well, he will be off on Thursday.

The Marlins take on the Yankees on Friday. There is a chance he could be reinstated for the weekend series with New York.

When Pinto returns, the Marlins again will have two lefties in their bullpen. Currently, Dan Meyer is the only one.

Less progress is being made with Alfredo Amezaga, who has been out since May 21 with a bone bruise to his left knee. Amezaga still feels discomfort when he does any running exercises.

Because he’s missed so much time, he could be out until the All-Star Break. There is no real timeline.

— Joe Frisaro


Hanley hit by pitch resolved

All the tension that took place on Sunday at Toronto was put to rest on Tuesday in Boston.

Before the Marlins faced the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez apologized to the team’s beat writers for losing his temper after Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

On Sunday, Toronto pitcher Dirk Hayhurst drilled Hanley Ramirez with a pitch on the left elbow in the sixth inning of Florida’s 11-3 win. After the game, Ramirez told reporters that he felt the incident was intended, especially with the Marlins ahead by eight runs at the time.

Ramirez also noted their was no retaliation on the part of the Marlins. Jeremy Hermida also was hit by a Hayhurst pitch in the fourth inning.

Aware that reporters were asking questions, Gonzalez hollered at two Marlins beat reporters and closed the clubhouse. The two other beat reporters, who were in the clubhouse, were also asked to leave.

Gonzalez on Tuesday said he has spoken with Ramirez, but didn’t elaborate.

“We took care of it internally,” Gonzalez said.

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins lineup for Tuesday

The Marlins lineup for the series opener with the Red Sox at Fenway Park:

1) Coghlan, LF

2) Gload, 1B

3) Hanley, SS

4) Cantu, DH

5) Hermida, RF

6) Uggla, 2B

7) Ross, CF

8) Baker, C

9) Bonifacio, 3B

Pitching, Chris Volstad

— Joe Frisaro


Hanley plunked on elbow

With first base open and the Marlins in command on Sunday afternoon, Hanley Ramirez was plunked on the left elbow by a Dirk Hayhurst in the sixth inning.

Ramirez was the second Marlin that Hayhurst hit by a pitch. In the fourth inning, Jeremy Hermida also was nailed after the lead ballooned to eight runs.

The Marlins went on to win, 11-3, over the Blue Jays to complete the three game sweep.

Afterwards, Ramirez said he felt he was intentionally thrown at. He felt manager Fredi Gonzalez and starting pitcher Josh Johnson also felt it was a purpose pitch.

“Everybody knows it. I think Fredi knows it. J.J. knows it,” Ramirez said before being drilled by an 88 mph fastball. “He was throwing strikes. I don’t know why? You’ve got to ask him why.”

The Marlins scored 24 runs in the three games against the Blue Jays. Toronto’s pitching coach is Brad Arnsberg, who was dismissed as the Marlins pitching coach in May of 2003.

Ramirez was hit by the pitch in a situation where he was going to be pitched around anyway. Chris Coghlan doubled and went to third on Emilio Bonifacio’s groundout to first base. With two outs, Hayhurst struck Ramirez on the bone just below the left elbow. Left-hander Jesse Carlson entered to face the left-handed hitting Hermida.

Ramirez also noted that there was no retaliation on the part of the Marlins. Earlier this season, on April 27 at New York, Ramirez was drilled on the left hand by a John Maine fastball, and he was out of the lineup for four straight games.

Shortly after Gonzalez was told of Ramirez’s comments, and he checked into the matter, the Marlins abruptly closed the clubhouse to the media.

The 25-year-old All-Star shortstop is batting .330, and he is the biggest threat in the lineup.

Ramirez doesn’t wear any padding on his left elbow because he says it isn’t comfortable. He said he may consider using one in batting practice to test how it feels in case he wants to use it in the game.

— Joe Frisaro




Offday and the rotation

Because the Marlins are off on Monday, their starting pitchers will get an extra day of rest between starts.

So Josh Johnson, who started on Sunday at Toronto, is slated to next pitch on Saturday against the Yankees at Land Shark Stadium. Normally, he would have been in line to go on Friday in the series opener with New York.

Sean West will pitch the Friday game with the New York.

The Marlins also are off on June 22, which creates an extra day for Chris Volstad, Andrew Miller and Ricky Nolasco. Those three will start, respectively, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Boston.

— Joe Frisaro


Ross hoped for a review

Should it have been reviewed?

In the eyes of the umpires, no. Still, Cody Ross was hoping for a second look.

In the third inning on Saturday, Ross hit a drive to deep right center field. It hit high on the padded wall, pretty much on top of it, and bounced back into the field of play. Ross cruised into second for a double.

Was it a homer?

Replays showed the correct call was made. That’s the way second base umpire Dan Iassogna also so it.

While replay can be used on disputed home runs. It’s up to the umpires to make that call. Teams can’t request it.

“I was hoping they’d review it,” Ross said, who noted after the game the umpires got it right. “They’re not usually going to look at it to look at it. The other manager isn’t going to come out and say, ‘Hey, can you guys check and see if that was a homer?’ “

Even the pitchers in the Marlins bullpen, stationed nearby said the ball wasn’t a homer.

Did Ross think it was out?

“When I first hit it I did,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t when it bounced back. Aaron Hill [Blue Jays second baseman] said to me at second, ‘I’ve never seen that happen before.’ It hit the top of the wall and bounces back. The bullpen guys were telling me, there is a little pad, and then there is like a little iron piece behind it. It hit the iron piece and bounced back.

“The pad is covering the wall. It hit the edge of it, and bounced straight up, I guess.”

Ross, however, can take comfort in the fact that he did hit a two-run homer on Saturday. It came in the fourth inning.

— Joe Frisaro

Baker's bumps and bruises

As if six stitches near his left eye aren’t enough, Marlins catcher John Baker now has a swollen left knee.

In the eighth inning on Friday night, the battered-and-bruised catcher was plunked squarely on his left knee by a 94 mph Brandon League fastball. The pitch got him when Baker turned to sacrifice bunt.

For the second time since Tuesday, he was on the ground in pain. But he quickly stood up and trotted to first base. The knee began to swell on Friday night, but after ice treatment, the 28-year-old was in the starting lineup on Saturday afternoon.

The Blue Jays are starting left-hander Brian Tallet on Sunday, so Baker likely will get the day off with Ronny Paulino getting the start.

Baker on Tuesday sustained a cut near his eye after being scraped by the bat of Albert Pujols. On a foul ball, Pujols’ follow through smacked into Baker’s mask, pulling it off his face, and opening a gash near his left eye. He’s currently playing with six stitches and a black eye.

Baker is now wearing a hockey style mask for more protection. He had been wearing the old style mask that slides over a helmet.

The biggest adjustment Baker says with the new mask is immediately picking up balls in the air. He hasn’t ruled out continuing to use the hockey-styled helmet once he is completely healed.

— Joe Frisaro

Lindstrom fan of Lidstrom

The spelling isn’t exactly the same, but the last names are one letter away from being identical.

Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom is a fan of Detroit Red Wings standout defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

Lindstrom actually hears some heckling from baseball fans who make the hockey comparison. The Red Wings lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. When Lindstrom was warming up in the bullpen on Friday at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, some fans screamed at him: “The third period is starting, you’d better get down to Detroit!”

Lindstrom says that’s not the first time fans at a baseball game have made the hockey connection.

“I got some of that in Philadelphia, too,” he said. “They’d say, ‘Don’t you play hockey?”

Lindstrom said he would love to meet Lidstrom. And he’d like to have a Nicklas Lidstrom No. 5 Red Wings jersey. He’d be willing to exchange his No. 22 Marlins jersey.

“That would be sweet,” Lindstrom said.  

Lidstrom the hockey player is from Sweden. A few years back, Lindstrom went on a two-year Mormon mission to Sweden and visited his grandfather’s birthplace.

Fun name fact. The literal translation of Lindstrom’s last name is: “Tree by the stream.”

The Marlins reliever is a hockey fan, and his favorite team is Ottawa. When he pitched in the Minor Leagues at Binghamton, N.Y., in 2005, he would see some Senators games.

— Joe Frisaro


Nolasco's emotional outburst

On the mound, Ricky Nolasco is known as a fierce competitor who shows a lot of composure.

That’s why it was out of character to see the Marlins’ 26-year-old right-hander show frustration on Friday night in the sixth inning when he blurted out his objection to a borderline pitch that was ruled a ball. Home plate umpire Mike Winters gave a glare at Nolasco, but he didn’t take any further action.

Pitching coach Mark Wiley trotted to the mound, as did catcher John Baker and shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Nolasco regained his form, and got through the inning. In six innings, Nolasco recorded nine strikeouts and he walked one. He gave up just two runs and wasn’t involved in the decision.

The Marlins won 7-3 and Nolasco after the game said he planned on apologizing to Winters.

“Of course, he’s not going to be happy about it, and I’m going to apologize to him about that,” Nolasco said. “And say it was just a mistake I made in being competitive. You have to compete.”

Overall, Nolasco had an encouraging outing. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, emotions get in the way.

“That was a big mistake by me to do something like that,” Nolasco said. “But I think when you have that competitive nature, you have to compete. Sometimes you make some mistakes, and I definitely made a mistake right there in showing him up. I thought I was making some good pitches that I wasn’t getting. It kind of takes it toll on you. It did in a big situation. That was just a mistake by me. That’s something I have to learn from and not let it happen again.”

Nolasco says he has never screamed like that on the mound.

“I’ve never done that before,” he said. “It was just kind of building up when I wasn’t getting pitches before. It’s still not acceptable.”

— Joe Frisaro