August 2009

Marlins considering Smoltz

As expected, John Smoltz was released by the Red Sox on Monday afternoon. Once he clears unconditional waivers on Wednesday, the 42-year-old right-hander will become a free agent.

Strong indications are the Marlins are interested in Smoltz to be a starter in their rotation. It is believed that about six teams are weighing the prospect of signing Smoltz. The Cardinals, Dodgers, Rangers and Astros also have been mentioned.

The Red Sox designated Smoltz for assignment on Aug. 7. With Boston, the veteran was 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA.

In 20 years with the Braves, Smoltz won 210 games and had 154 saves.

The Marlins are looking for bullpen depth, but it appears they are interested in Smoltz to start.

— Joe Frisaro


Sanchez throws 3 1/3 innings

Anibal Sanchez made his second rehab assignment start for Double-A Jacksonville on Monday, and the outing lasted 3 1/3 innings against Carolina.

Sanchez is recovering from a right shoulder sprain. He exited in the fourth inning on Monday after 45 pitches, with 29 strikes.

He allowed one hit, a home run, and two runs. He struck out five and walked one. Sanchez was relieved by Chris Leroux in the fourth inning in a game Jacksonville won.

The Marlins were looking for at least two Double-A rehab starts for Sanchez. If healthy, he could be in line to join the rotation, perhaps, on Friday Atlanta.

— Joe Frisaro


Season ticket holder photo day


Robert Vigon/Florida Marlins

Several Marlins players interact with fans during the season ticket holders photo day at Land Shark Stadium.

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins reach deal with James

The Marlins came to terms on Saturday with first-round pick, left-hander Chad James, an 18-year-old from Oklahoma.

James visited South Florida, passed his physical, and the official signing will take place on Monday in Oklahoma City, according to his representative Rob Martin.

James’ signing bonus is $1.7 million.

The 18th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, James attended Yukon High School in Oklahoma. As a fallback plan, he had signed with Oklahoma State. Now, he will be joining the Marlins system.

The Marlins also came to terms with their second round pick, right-hander Bryan Berglund of Royal High School in California.

All teams are facing a deadline to sign their draft pick on Monday.

— Joe Frisaro

Another rainy day


The view from the press box at 4:45 p.m. ET before the Marlins are set to play the Rockies.

Lots of heavy rain.

— Joe Frisaro


What if J.J. had a no-no going?

Had history been on the line, what would Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez have done?

The question is moot since Josh Johnson’s no-hit bid was spoiled with two outs in the seventh inning on Friday night. On Johnson’s 98th pitch, Colorado’s Garrett Atkins crushed a 3-2 fastball over the wall in left field for a home run.

Johnson exited after 7 1/3 innings, allowing one run on one hit with a career-high 11 strikeouts.

Because Johnson has battled back from Tommy John surgery in August 2007, and he has never thrown more than 119 pitches in a game, Gonzalez was wrestling with what to do had the no-hit bid continued.

Gonzalez said on Saturday that he would have let his 25-year-old ace go for the no-hitter, barring his pitch count escalated well beyond 120 pitches. 

“But what is it? This [was] going to be the most pitches he’s ever thrown,” Gonzalez said. “This is the most innings he’s ever pitched in a year.”

The irony is, during Atkins’ at-bat, Gonzalez turned to pitching coach Mark Wiley and discussed how deep to go with Johnson. With an off day on Monday, Johnson will get an extra day off before his next, which will be Friday at Atlanta.

Gonzalez asked Wiley if Johnson could possibly be given a second day of rest, meaning he could have been pushed to Saturday in Atlanta.

“I might have jinxed him,” Gonzalez said. “You never talk about no-hitters, and stuff like that. But that was going through my mind. I was looking at the pitch count. I was going to let him try to go out and do whatever he was going to do, as long as there wasn’t an injury risk.

“I don’t think I was going to let him go out and throw 148 pitches just to get him the no-hitter. We’ve got to think of his future, and our future, but we were going to give him an opportunity. I would have had three guys warming up. It’s touchy. It really is.”

Gonzalez said after the sixth inning, he thought Johnson had a chance to post the fifth no-hitter in franchise history, and first since Anibal Sanchez in 2006.

“The way he was pitching, I turned around and asked Mark, ‘He’s got an extra day, right?’ ” Gonzalez said. “I was thinking to myself, we could even push him back two days. He said, ‘Yeah, we can do that.’ Then, bam! Home run. I mean, just like that. I said, ‘I jinxed him.’ “

The coaches told Gonzalez the question had to be asked. If there were no off days, then he would have been in line to pitch on Thursday at Houston. That could have been a factor.

Johnson said on Saturday the last time he threw a no-hitter was when he was either 15 or 16 pitching for the Upper Deck Cougars, a Chicago-based travel team. It was at a CABA tournament against Michigan.

“It was the first game of the World Series, and I threw a no-hitter against Michigan,” Johnson said.

Johnson played more than 150 games a summer when he was growing up. He was part of travel, tournament teams that played around the country. He remembers at age 12 striking out 16 in a game. The opposing pitcher that day was Kyle Davies, from the Atlanta area. Davies struck out 18.

Gonzalez added on Saturday that he wasn’t “relieved” that Johnson surrendered a hit so he wouldn’t have to make a tough decision on whether to leave his ace in the game.

“When those guys are doing special stuff, you’re out there with them,” Gonzalez said. “You want him to do it. I’m never going to say, ‘I’m glad that happened because I don’t have to make a decision.’ I make plenty of decisions.”

Gonzalez joked that if Johnson had a no-hitter going in the ninth, and the pitch count was well of 130, that he may have sent bench coach Carlos Tosca out of the mound to make the pitching change.

— Joe Frisaro





Sanches quietly delivering

Unsung no more.

Marlins reliever Brian Sanches has been a major part of a heavily-used bullpen, and he’s quietly approaching a team record.

After tossing two shutout innings on Thursday night against the Astros, Sanches ran his scoreless streak at Land Shark Stadium to 24 1/3 straight innings. That’s the third longest stretch in club history. The only strings longer are by former Florida starters. Dontrelle Willis logged 31 straight without a run in 2003, and A.J. Burnett had a run of 26 innings in 2005.

Sanches, 31, is 2-0 with that 0.00 ERA at home. Overall, his numbers are impressive — 3-0 record with a 1.01 ERA in 30 games. In 35 2/3 innings, he has struck out 34, while walking 15.

A versatile right-hander, Sanches opened the season at Triple-A New Orleans, where he had four saves. He had his contract selected on May 18, and he’s been used in setup situations as well as long relief.

The Marlins are firmly in the playoff race, and the role of the bullpen will be huge down the stretch.

“Obviously, the bullpen is a really strong part of the team,” Sanches said. “That’s what we’re looking for, to make sure guys are ready and are taking precautions, preparing their bodies for the work that is coming up.”

Through the years, the Marlins have had a knack for finding relievers with some big league experience who are looking to resurrect their careers. A year ago, Joe Nelson and Doug Waechter fit the mold. They found success with Florida before moving to other teams.

Sanches and Kiko Calero are two of the bargains this year. And Dan Meyer was claimed off waivers, providing a lefty who has stepped up after having a change of scenery.

“The organization does a very good job. They had Joe Nelson and Doug Waechter last year,” Sanches said. “They had guys like me who have been up and down in the big leagues, and they come in and produce. I think it is a reflection of their scouting, and the character of the guys.

“You also have to give credit to the staff up here, because obviously, they’re doing something to change either the mental approach or they make a physical tweak that helps them produce. That’s what I was looking for, an opportunity. What I needed was a chance. They actually approached me early in the free agent process. It helps when you’re in a situation where they want you.”

— Joe Frisaro

Stadium concrete poured


Robert Vigon/Florida Marlins

Concrete was poured at the Orange Bowl site on Friday, marking the beginning of the foundation being put into place on the Marlins new retractable-roof ballpark, which is set to open in 2012.

— Joe Frisaro



Ross returns to lineup

During his plate appearance in the sixth inning on Thursday night, Cody Ross tweaked his back on a swing. He ended up drawing a walk, and he scored a run.

But Ross was lifted in the top of the seventh inning.

On Friday, Ross came to the ballpark early, received treatment to his back, and he was back in the starting lineup when the Marlins faced the Rockies.

“I got a little treatment, and I’m fine,” Ross said. “It’s more preventive stuff.”

— Joe Frisaro


Martinez recalled from Double-A

The Marlins on Friday recalled right-hander Cristhian Martinez from Double-A Jacksonville to fill the roster spot vacated when Chris Leroux was optioned to Double-A.

Martinez is a long-relief option.

Leroux was brought up on Thursday, and he pitched in the ninth inning in a 9-2 win over the Astros. But after the game, he was sent back down.

The Marlins are carrying 13 pitchers and 12 position players.

— Joe Frisaro