February 2010

Live BP has its hazards

The hazards of live batting showed up on Sunday afternoon.

On two separate practice fields, Cody Ross and Gaby Sanchez were each drilled by pitches.

Sean West pegged Ross on the inside of his right ankle, while Ricky Nolasco drilled Sanchez on the left hip. Both batters are now sporting bruises, occupational hazards in the sport.

gabys.JPGBoth are fine and continued taking their swings on the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium.

In these hitting sessions, pitchers are throwing from behind protective L Screens, while hitters are inside  cages, commonly called a turtles.

For the most part, hitters and pitchers don’t like performing in these controlled situations. But they are part of the preparation process.

“You’re just trying to go up there to work on your game,” Sanchez said. “You’re trying to get in there, and see the ball. You’re trying to pick out good pitches, and recognizing them, so when you start the games, you’ve got a little bit of it.”

Reliever Derrick Turnbow isn’t a big fan of throwing to batters from behind a screen.

A former All-Star with the Brewers, he said a few years ago while with Milwaukee, pitchers threw live BP to their pitchers. He remembers the uneasiness of pitching to former Brewers star Ben Sheets.

“It doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal at all, but you’ve got an L screen in front of you,” Turnbow said. “You’re throwing to your own guys. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t personally like it. It’s one of those things you have to do. Everybody does it. You just try to get through it.”

— Joe Frisaro


Marlins announce signings

The number of Marlins not under contract keeps dwindling.

On Saturday, the team announced they’ve signed 12 players to deals for 2010. All are under club control, and their deals are a formality.

Signing were OF Scott Cousins, RHP Kris Harvey, LHP Hunter Jones, RHP Cristhian Martinez, RHP Hayden Penn, RHP Rick VandenHurk, RHP Brian Sanches, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Sean West, RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Dan Meyer and INF Emilio Bonifacio.

— Joe Frisaro



Early Spring rotation set

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez on Saturday set his early Grapefruit League rotation.

The team opens its exhibition season on Wednesday against the University of Miami. Ricky Nolasco will start that game, and Ryan Tucker will enter in relief. John Baker will catch.

Florida’s Grapefruit League season begins on Thursday against the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium. Anibal Sanchez will take the mound that game, and he will be backed by Rick VandenHurk.

On Friday, against the Mets at Port St. Lucie, Chris Volstad will get the nod, followed by Hayden Penn.

Josh Johnson, who will be the Opening Day starter, will make his Grapefruit League debut on March 6 against the Cardinals. Clay Hensley will follow.

On March 7 against the Cardinals, Sean West will get the start. Andrew Miller also will pitch in that game.

The first time around, the starters will pitch about two innings, or 35 total pitches.

Nolasco will make his first Grapefruit League start on March 8 in a split squad game against the Nationals in Viera. Tucker will face the Mets that day in Jupiter.

Early on, Baker and Ronny Paulino will alternate at catcher.

The Marlins have yet to solidify their rotation for the regular season. There is open competition for three spots. Only Johnson and Nolasco are locked into the rotation.

The candidates who are starting off first will flip-flop in their next scheduled appearances. For instance, while, Sanchez is starting on Thursday, and VandenHurk will enter in relief, the next time around, VandenHurk will start the following week, with Sanchez coming in relief. The same holds true for the games that Volstad and West will start.

— Joe Frisaro


Gearing up for UM

On Thursday, manager Fredi Gonzalez announced the Marlins would start Ricky Nolasco on March 3 against the University of Miami.

On Friday, Gonzalez shed some light on who else would be in the starting lineup. Gaby Sanchez, who attended UM, will start at first base. Sanchez is competing with Logan Morrison for the first base job.

nolasco1.JPGThe Marlins basically will start the lineup that finished up the 2009 season: John Baker (catcher), Dan Uggla (second base), Hanley Ramirez (shortstop), Jorge Cantu (third base), Chris Coghlan (left field), Cameron Maybin (center field) and Cody Ross (right field).

The regulars will get about two at-bats at Roger Dean Stadium.

The Marlins open their Grapefruit League schedule on March 4 at Roger Dean Stadium against the Nationals.

The team hasn’t announced who will be the starting pitcher.

During the Grapefruit League season, the Marlins plan on batting their pitchers instead of using the designated hitter, which they have traditionally done in early Spring Training games. The reason? Because a number o the Marlins young starting pitchers haven’t had many at-bats in either their Minor League or big league careers.

The team will use the DH when playing in American League parks. But when they play A.L. teams at home, the pitchers will bat.

— Joe Frisaro


Six Marlins sign

It’s a formality, but six players the club has control over have signed contracts for the 2010 season.

Headlining the list is first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who is competing for a starting spot. The team also signed right-handers Jay Buente, Jose Ceda and Brett Sinkbeil. Infielder Jorge Jimenez, a Rule 5 pick and catcher Brett Hayes also signed.

— Joe Frisaro


Nolasco to face UM

After a week of workouts and drills, the Marlins will be ready to see some game action soon.

On Wednesday, March 3, the club opens its exhibition season with a contest against the University of Miami. Start time is 3:05 p.m. ET at Roger Dean Stadium.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Ricky Nolasco will make the start against the Hurricanes.

The Marlins open their Grapefruit League play on March 4, also in Jupiter. They will face the Nationals at 1:05 p.m.

Tickets are available at www.marlins.com.

— Joe Frisaro


Veras arrives in camp

A candidate to win a bullpen job arrived to camp on Thursday.

Right-hander Jose Veras was in Jupiter taking his physical.

Veras had been delayed due to an issue with his visa. While Marlins pitchers and catchers began workouts on Feb. 20, Veras was in the Dominican Republic. The Marlins expected him to be late.

Signed to a Minor League contract, Veras will compete for a spot in the pen.

— Joe Frisaro



Similarities to 2003?

WStrophy.jpgWhen the Marlins entered Spring Training in 2003, many thought it would be a stretch if the team posted a winning record.

Yet, magic happened that year. As Juan Pierre said after the parade: “We shocked the world!”

The ’03 Marlins certainly did. They went on to win 91 games and capture the second World Series title in franchise history. That squad featured Ivan Rodriguez, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Luis Castillo, Derrek Lee, and a core of players who had been together a few seasons.

They won with pitching, speed and defense.

Marlins management and players have entered Spring Training this year openly talking playoffs. The nucleus of the squad has been together since 2006. Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are building-block-type players who have raised hopes in camp.

But do the two teams compare? The 2010 Marlins have more power potential, and Ramirez is on his way to being the greatest player in franchise history. The ’03 squad was better defensively, and the starting pitching was deeper and it clicked at the right time that year.

“I think all teams are different,” Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said. “I wouldn’t compare them. But I would say, the talent pool, having been together for all these years is very similar. They [2010 Marlins] are about ready to break out now.”

Full-squad workouts began for the Marlins on Wednesday, and practices are open free to the public.

Loria envisions a big season for his maturing roster.

“I think you can compare some aspects of it,” the owner said, referring to 2003 and now. “You’ve got guys who can do certain things. You’ve got guys who can hit home runs. You’ve got pitchers now who have been together for a couple of years. That’s where we were in ’03 when the pitchers started to turn. After all, this game is a lot about pitching, bullpen. We think we have a strong bullpen.

“I think we’re in really good shape. I just hope that we stay healthy. I think what’s here is quite capable of getting it done.”

— Joe Frisaro


Full workouts begin

The first full squad workouts have begun. Position players were on the back fields at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter.

All-Stars Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla were among the players taking live batting practice.

Workouts resume on Thursday about 10 a.m. and they are open, free, to the public.



Blalock on Marlins radar

Mike Lamb and Jorge Jimenez are in Marlins camp as contenders to being the left-handed bat off the bench.

Another name to keep an eye on is Hank Blalock.

Jon Heyman of SI.com and the MLB Network reports the Marlins are interested in Blalock. MLB.com confirmed that the left-handed hitting veteran is on their radar. But the team is only looking at him as a role player.

The Marlins are seeking a lefty bat off the bench, not a regular. So Blalock isn’t being looked at to play either third base or first base, positions he commonly was at throughout his career with the Rangers.

Jorge Cantu is the Marlins third baseman, while Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison are battling for the first base job.

— Joe Frisaro