July 2009

Easing Lindstrom back

Marlins reliever Matt Lindstrom, on the disabled list since June 24 with a right elbow sprain, will pitch in a rehab assignment game for Class A Jupiter on Saturday.

The hard-throwing right-hander tossed a simulated game in Jupiter on Wednesday.

If all goes well, he could join the Marlins in early August, perhaps when the team heads to Washington for a three-game set beginning on Aug. 4.

“The final test will be when he goes back-to-back,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

After throwing on Saturday, he could pitch again on Monday for Jupiter. From there, he would pitch every second or third day before being used in back-to-back games.

Lindstrom last pitched for the Marlins on June 23. In 32 games, he has 14 saves in 16 chances.

When he’s ready to return, it’s not automatic that he will close. At least immediately, Gonzalez said on Friday that he’s leaning towards easing Lindstrom back.

“We may ease him into it,” Gonzalez said. “I think it’s only fair for him and to the team.”

Because of the long layoff, the Marlins want Lindstrom to get sharp. Gonzalez says pitching rehab assignments is different than, say, facing hitters like Manny Ramirez.

So the thinking is to get Lindstrom work in a setup role, the sixth, seventh or eighth innings. In the meantime, Leo Nunez remains the primary closer option, with Dan Meyer being a left-handed alternative.

In other injury-related news, right-hander Anibal Sanchez is lined up to throw 50 pitches on Tuesday in a Gulf Coast League game. On the DL with a right shoulder sprain, retroactive to June 3, Sanchez threw 45 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday.

The team is in no rush to get Sanchez back. And he isn’t an option to join the rotation when a fifth starter is added either July 31 or Aug. 1.

— Joe Frisaro


Marlins Friday lineup

With the Dodgers going with lefy Clayton Kershaw on Friday night, the Marlins have countered with a right-handed hitting lineup. In fact, the only lefty bat in the lineup for Florida is Josh Johnson, a right-handed pitcher who hits from the left side.

Switch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio will bat right-handed. Bonifacio is making the start in left field, not third base.

For Bonifacio, who has made 76 starts at third base, on Friday had his second start in left field.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he was kicking around the idea for a while to using the versatile Bonifacio in left field. It’s not automatic that he will platoon in left field with Chris Coghlan, but he could see more time out there.

The Dodgers, of course, have Manny Ramirez in left field. 

Playing off the “Mannywood” them in L.A., Bonifacio walked through the clubhouse on Friday wearing an outfield glove. “Boni-wood,” he joked.

1) Boni, LF

2) Helms, 3B

3) Hanley, SS

4) Cantu, 1B

5) Uggla, 2B

6) Ross, CF

7) Paulino, C

8) Carroll, RF

9) Johnson, P

— Joe Frisaro


Stanton heats up at Double-A

Adjusting to Double-A pitching understandably took a little while, but now Mike Stanton seems to be figuring it out.

The Marlins top prospect, and one of the highest-rated Minor Leaguers in the game, is riding an eight-game hitting streak after going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs on Thursday night. The blast was his 20th of the season, when you add in his Class A Jupiter numbers.

During the hitting streak the power-hitting right fielder is 12-for-31 (.387) with two home runs and five RBIs.

Also, in his last 10 games, he is batting .385 with three homers and nine RBIs.

At age 19, Stanton is on the fast track. He appeared in just 50 games at Jupiter, batting .294 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs. Shortly after being promoted to Double-A Jacksonville, predictably, he went through some growing pains. In June, his batting average was .214 in 22 games.

In July, the numbers have steadily improved. He is batting .302 in the month with five home runs and 13 RBIs.

When you combined his Class A and Double-A numbers, Stanton already has 20 home runs in 327 total at-bats, to go along with 61 RBIs. His combined batting average is .275.

Stanton represented the Marlins in the Futures Game in St. Louis as part of the All-Star festivities. The way he’s progressing, he promises to be a serious contender to win a starting outfield spot in Spring Training of 2010. Being a September call-up also is a very real possibility.

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins improving defensively

Protect the baseball was among the Marlins’ highest priorities heading into this season. A couple of trades made after the 2008 season were done to reshape the roster to add speed, athleticism and defense.

A year ago, the club was more power oriented. But first baseman Mike Jacobs was dealt to the Royals for reliever Leo Nunez, and left fielder Josh Willingham was sent to the Nationals as part of a deal that brought in third baseman Emilio Bonifacio.

“We’ve seen improvement, no doubt about it,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.

Heading into Thursday, the Marlins were tied for 21st overall in the Major Leagues in field percentage at .982. They were joined by the Cubs, Reds, Mets and A’s.

Now, the current lineup has been slightly different than what the team drew up in Spring Training. Jorge Cantu was switched from third base last year to first base. Bonifacio, a natural second baseman, was shifted to third. Infielder Chris Coghlan was switched to left field.

The Marlins had thought the outfield would have Jeremy Hermida in left field, Cameron Maybin in center and Cody Ross in right. But Maybin struggled early and was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in May.

Ross went to center, Hermida to right, and Coghlan in left.

“The defense itself has been good,” Beinfest said.

A case in point of how the defense stepped up came in Wednesday’s 5-0 win over the Padres. Ricky Nolasco pitched 6 1/3 strong innings, striking out 10. The defense came up big on a couple of occasions and the offense scratched out some runs.

“Again, this is not rocket science,” Beinfest said. “You get a quality start, you play good defense, you’re in the game, and you end up winning, even if the offense wasn’t going crazy. It worked out.

“We’ve seen that steady improvement. I think in May, there was that little bit of everything. The pitching was struggling. The defense. I think since then, it’s steadily improved. There is still room for improvement.”

— Joe Frisaro


Marlins striving for consistency

As the Marlins weigh whether to buy or sell by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the team is striving to find more consistency at the plate.

The Marlins are exploring help in all areas, and at the plate is one of them. However, the numbers show there is offensive potential. After completing their three-game sweep of the Padres on Wednesday afternoon, the Marlins ranked fifth in the National League in runs scored with 431.

“There’s enough offense, it’s just a matter of doing it consistently,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.

Hanley Ramirez is a force in the middle of the lineup. He’s leading the N.L. with a .348 batting average. Key is for Chris Coghlan and Emilio Bonifacio to get on base in front of Ramirez.

“We’ve shown that when Chris and Emilio can get on base, Hanley is going to knock them in,” Beinfest said. “Those guys need to be on base, that’s important. We just need consistency. You see it.

“It’s been a struggle all year to be consistent. I think there is enough offense, because when you look at the numbers, we’ve scored a bunch of runs. It’s a matter of being consistent, which has been frustrating at times.”

— Joe Frisaro





Nolasco making his mark

You’d be safe saying that Ricky Nolasco has been on the mark on Wednesday at PETCO Park. The marking that Nolasco has been posting on scoresheets is the letter “K.”

In 6 1/3 innings, the Marlins right-hander struck out 10 the Padres. Of his 97 pitches he threw, 64 were strikes. His season high is 12 and his career best is 13. 

Nolasco said earlier in the week that he knows he’s going well when he’s logging strikeouts. In his three July starts before Wednesday, the 26-year-old struck out 25 in 20 innings. He struck out the side in the first inning and had five strikeouts after two innings.

— Joe Frisaro


Lineup for Wednesday

For Wednesday’s afternoon game with the Padres, the Marlins have switched up their lineup a bit. Jorge Cantu was given the day off, which essentially gives him two straight days off. The team has a break on Thursday before facing the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday.

1) Coghlan, LF

2) Bonifacio, 3B

3) Hanley, SS

4) Hermida, RF

5) Uggla, 2B

6) Gload, 1B

7) Ross, CF

8) Baker, C

9) Nolasco, P

— Joe Frisaro


Makeup date set for Sept. 22

The Marlins-Phillies game that was rained out on July 18 at Land Shark Stadium now has an official makeup date.

The Marlins announced on Tuesday morning that the game has been rescheduled for Sept. 22 as part of a doubleheader at Land Shark Stadium. The first game will be at 4:10 p.m. ET that day, with the second game following.

Sept. 22 is a Tuesday. That series will be three-games over two days, concluding on Sept. 23.

— Joe Frisaro


Sanchez gets called up

Miami native Gaby Sanchez is joining the Marlins in San Diego.

The Marlins announced on Tuesday that Sanchez is being called up to replace Andrew Miller on the roster.

The left-handed Miller was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans after Monday’s 3-2 win over the Padres. The team has yet to announce who will be brought up.

Sanchez, 25, entered Spring Training as the frontrunner to win the Marlins first base job. But he struggled in the spring, and opened the season at New Orleans, where he’s been a productive middle of the lineup hitter.

Sanchez is batting .284 for the Zephyrs with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 60 games.

For more than a month, Sanchez has played third base. He is a first base/third base option.

The Marlins offense has struggled of late, and Sanchez could provide a spark. The question is, where will he play?

Emilio Bonifacio has been the starting third baseman all season. Bonifacio has had his ups and downs at the plate and in the field.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez could platoon Sanchez and Bonifacio. Bonifacio also could be used in a utility role, which the team has been missing with Alfredo Amezaga on the disabled list for the rest of the season.

The Marlins carried 13 pitchers on Monday. Bringing up Sanchez makes it once again 13 position players, which gives Gonzalez more options off the bench.

— Joe Frisaro


Miller optioned to Triple-A

Following Monday’s 3-2 win over the Padres at PETCO Park, the Marlins optioned left-hander Andrew Miller to Triple-A New Orleans.

Miller, who is 3-5 with a 4.81 ERA in 14 starts, is coming off a rough outing against the Phillies. On Sunday, the left-hander gave up four runs in 2 2/3 innings.

The 24-year-old also struggled in a July 9 start at Arizona, also working 2 2/3 innings in a no-decision.

The Marlins didn’t announce who will be brought up on Tuesday. It likely will be a position player because the team had been carrying 13 pitchers.

Rick VandenHurk is assuming Miller’s spot in the rotation. Because of two off days, the Marlins don’t need a fifth starter until either July 31 or Aug. 1, depending on how they want to approach that time line.

— Joe Frisaro