August 2009

Ayala and bullpen alternatives

Relief help is on its way for the Marlins.

The bullpen has been heavily taxed the past two games, combining to throw 13 2/3 innings, including 7 1/3 innings in Friday’s 9-5 loss to the Padres.

After the game, Chris Volstad was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans, along with infielder Gaby Sanchez. The Marlins have yet to announce who will get called up. Reliever Luis Ayala, who last pitched an inning on Wednesday, is expected to be recalled from New Orleans.

Ayala has thrown multiple innings, but the Malrins are in need of long relief, because both Cristhian Martinez and Brian Sanches each have thrown more than two innings the past two days.

Tim Wood could be an option. The right-hander threw an inning on Thursday, and two more on Tuesday.

In the past two games, Anibal Sanchez and Volstad each combined to throw 5 1/3 innings for Florida, creating a tough situation for the bullpen.

Rosters expand on Tuesday, Sept. 1, and the Marlins will then be in position to better pick up their relievers.

Burke Badenhop could help the team right now, but on Friday, he threw 3 1/3 innings in a rehab assignment for Class A Jupiter. Badenhop is a possibility to replace Volstad in the rotation. So is Rick VandenHurk, who tossed six innings at New Orleans on Thursday.

Lefty Andrew Miller is pitching rehab games in the Gulf Coast League.

Before Friday’s game, manager Fredi Gonzalez said Miller and VandenHurk are likely candidates to pitch out of the bullpen when rosters expand. They may be counted on to start, if necessary.

The Marlins also are pursuing Brad Penny, who is expected to clear waivers and become a free agent on Monday. Penny, released by the Red Sox, also is drawing interest from the Giants.

— Joe Frisaro



Volstad optioned to Triple-A

Chris Volstad, the talented 22-year-old right-hander with tremendous upside, was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans after his shortest MLB start.

Volstad was lifted after 1 2/3 innings, giving up six runs in a 9-5 loss to the Padres at Land Shark Stadium.

Now 9-11 with a 5.03 ERA, the Marlins felt the 6-foot-8 right-hander needed to go down to regain his command and confidence.

Also optioned to Triple-A on Friday was infielder Gaby Sanchez.

Volstad had been struggling for some time but Friday marked his worst outing of the season. The right-hander allowed six runs on six hits over a career-low 1 2/3 innings. He also gave up his 27th home run of the season when Kyle Blanks belted a two run shot to centerfield in the second inning.

The team has not announced who will get called up.

— Joe Frisaro

Volstad's shortest outing

Chris Volstad endured his roughest, and shortest outing of his career.

The 22-year-old right-hander was lifted after 1 2/3 innings on Friday night, and he gave up six runs on six hits with two walks and no strikeouts.

The 1 2/3 innings marked the shortest start in Volstad’s career. Twice previously, he lasted three innings. On July 3 against the Pirates, he was lifted after three innings.

The other time was as a rookie in 2008 at Philadelphia on Sept. 9. But that game had some different circumstances.

Volstad was lifted because he was struck in the lower right leg by a comeback liner off the bat of Carlos Ruiz. Volstad finished pitching the third inning, but he was replaced in the fourth.

The only other big league appearance where Volstad threw less than three innings came on his MLB debut. On July 6, 2008 at Colorado, the 6-foot-8 right-hander made a two-inning relief appearance, and he collected the win.

— Joe Frisaro


Nick Johnson making progress

Some of the agility drills that gave Nick Johnson trouble a few days ago are coming more easily now.

That’s an encouraging sign as the Marlins remain hopeful their veteran first baseman can return in a week or so.

Johnson went on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain on Tuesday night, retroactive to Aug. 17. He is eligible to be reinstated on Tuesday, Sept. 1, against the Braves at Land Shark Stadium.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez is skeptical that Johnson will be ready by then. Most likely, the Marlins will have Johnson play in a few rehab games. The Minor League season ends on Sept. 7, so it would have to be sometime late next week before he is in games.

“It’s always a nice test to get the adrenaline pumping,” Gonzalez said of players seeing rehab action.

Johnson on Friday showed improvement doing jumping and jogging drills.

“It’s getting better,” Gonzalez said.

With Johnson out, the Marlins have been using Ross Gload extensively at first base. On Friday night against the Padres, Wes Helms started at first.

— Joe Frisaro


Baker back in lineup

After getting two days off to rest a stiff muscle in his back, catcher John Baker was back in the Marlins starting lineup on Friday in their series opener with the Padres at Land Shark Stadium.

1) Coghlan, LF

2) Helms, 3B

3) Hanley, SS

4) Cantu, 1B

5) Baker, C

6) Uggla, 2B

7) Ross, CF

8) Hermida, RF

9) Volstad, P

— Joe Frisaro


Penny an option?

Are the Marlins considering turning to their past to help them at the moment?

According to the Miami Herald, the Marlins are one of a handful of teams interested in veteran right-hander Brad Penny.

A member of Florida’s 2003 World Series title team, Penny has been released by the Red Sox. He will become a free agent after clearing waivers on Monday.

The Rockies, Rays, White Sox and Rangers also have been mentioned as possible suitors for Penny.

Indications are the Marlins not be the frontrunner for Penny, who played for Rockies manager Jim Tracy when they were both with the Dodgers.

Also, it is not clear if Florida feels Penny would help in the rotation. His best fit could be in the bullpen.

According to a league insider, Penny still can help a team, and returning to the National League would likely help the veteran.

— Joe Frisaro

Nick Johnson light jogging

There still is no timetable pinpointing an exact date Nick Johnson will come off the disabled list. But on Thursday morning, there was some encouragement after the first baseman did some light jogging.

Johnson went on the disabled list Tuesday, retroactive to Aug. 17, with a right hamstring strain. He last appeared on Aug. 16 in the first game of a doubleheader with the Rockies at Land Shark Stadium.

The earliest he is eligible to come off the disabled list is Sept. 1, at home against the Braves. Johnson has done some hitting in the cages and throwing. In recent days, he felt some discomfort doing agility drills.

The fact that he was feeling a little better jogging on Thursday is a good sign.

— Joe Frisaro


Marlins lineup for Thursday

Playing it safe for another day, John Baker was not in the starting lineup for the Marlins on Thursday afternoon in their series finale with the Mets at Land Shark Stadium. Ronny Paulino, who hit a two-run homer on Wednesday, was back in the lineup Thursday.

1) Coghlan, LF

2) Gload, 1B

3) Hanley, SS

4) Cantu, 3B

5) Uggla, 2B

6) Ross, CF

7) Hermida, RF

8) Paulino, C

9) Sanchez, P

— Joe Frisaro


Marlins stance on long-term deals

Typically, the Marlins are reluctant to approach pitchers about long-term contracts. But that doesn’t mean the team has a sweeping policy to not lock up a pitcher to a multi-year deal.

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest was asked on Wednesday about the team’s stance on signing pitchers.

“I think there is a recognition by the organization that pitchers can be risky,” Beinfest said. “Pitchers do get hurt, maybe at a higher rate than position players. But I don’t think that necessarily we’ll rule out a pitcher.”

The Marlnis after the season will have some decisions to make regarding pitchers. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco will be entering their second seasons of arbitration.

Now the team can go year-to-year on each of them through the 2011 seasons.

With Johnson, especially, the Marlins will have to make a tough call. Some insiders believe the team will approach Johnson about a mega-year deal before his price tag gets too costly.

However, the team will make that decision after the season.

With a new stadium set to open in 2012, the Marlins are in a better position to sign players to multi-year deals. Currently, Hanley Ramirez is locked up for six years at $70 million. Wes Helms is the only other current player signed for 2010.

“I don’t think anything has really changed in terms of long term,” Beinfest said, speaking generally. “We’ve always been open. We’ll evaluate it case-by-case. We understand our revenue structure and how it plays out with our payroll. Payroll flexibility is important to us in how we put together rosters, not only for next year, but for future years.

“It’s not something we’ve ever ruled out. We’ll go case-by-case. We’ll look at the player. Where we’re heading with that player. The health of the player. The work habits of the player. All those things are factors we’ll take a look at.”

— Joe Frisaro



Carrollo recalled from Triple-A

The Marlins added some outfield depth on Wednesday, recalling Brett Carroll from Triple-A New Orleans to replace Nick Johnson’s roster spot.

Johnson was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 17, after Tuesday night’s game. The first baseman has been nursing a right hamstring strain.

Carroll has already appeared in 67 games for the Marlins this season, being used as a defensive replacement and spot starter against certain left-handed pitchers.

With the Marlins, he’s hitting .250 with three home runs and nine RBIs.

For New Orleans, Carroll is .233 with five homers and 12 RBIs.

— Joe Frisaro