March 2010

J.J. ready for Opening Day

It wasn’t classic J.J., but it wasn’t any reason to be alarmed about either.

Josh Johnson’s final tuneup before Opening Day was basically a chance to stretch out to close to 100 pitches.

josh-johnson.jpgThe Marlins ace gave up three solo home runs in 4 2/3 innings on Wednesday against the Mets. He struck out five. About the best news is his pitch count reached 92. Although he had a few full-count situations, he didn’t walk a batter.

“I finally got some consistency,” Johnson said. “I threw some good pitches. But not great results at times.”

It was one of those awkward outings. Johnson was taking the mound against the team he will see in New York Monday on Opening Day at Citi Field.

Typically, teams try to avoid matching pitchers late in Spring Training against teams they will see the first week of the season.

It was unavoidable with Johnson.

Johnson had the task of balancing getting his work in while trying not to reveal too much of what he will throw in five days.

“Of course, I’ve still got to work on some stuff,” Johnson said. “I was trying to not show everything. Show them some stuff, but not everything.”

The Mets, for instance, didn’t match Johan Santana, their Opening Day starter, against the Marlins.

Johnson says there are benefits to avoiding seeing the same hitters.

“Not facing me for six months,” he said. “Maybe there is an element of surprise. They see how my fastball is right now. I don’t think it was great today. It was a little inconsistent.”

A positive from Wednesday is the fact Johnson was back in a competitive environment. A stomach virus caused him to miss his last start. The illness also disrupted his preparation over the past week. He hasn’t been able to run the way he normally does or lift weights.

“It was tough. I haven’t run in five days, which is a little tough,” Johnson said. “Other than that, I was a little behind.”

– Joe Frisaro

 

Marlins-Mets lineups

The Marlins and Mets are squaring off in Port St. Lucie on Wednesday.

Josh Johnson, Florida’s Opening Day starter, will be making his final Grapefruit League appearance. Johnson will be on about an 80-pitch limit. The right-hander was scratched from his last start with a stomach virus, and he is still in the process of regaining all his strength.

Johnson will face New York on Monday at Citi Field.

MARLINS

1) Chris Coghlan, LF

2) Cameron Maybin, CF

3) Hanley Ramirez, SS

4) Mike Lamb, 3B

5) John Baker, C

6) Donnie Murphy, 2B

7) Gaby Sanchez, 1B

8) Bryan Petersen, RF

9) Josh Johnson, P

METS

1) Angel Pagan, CF

2) Luis Castillo, 2B

3) David Wright, 3B

4) Mike Jacobs, 1B

5) Jason Bay, LF

6) Jeff Francoeur, RF

7) Russ Adams, SS

8) Omir Santoss, C

9) Nelson Figueroa, P

– Joe Frisaro

 

VandenHurk, Wood optioned

Shortly after the Marlins beat the Nationals, 9-5, on Tuesday, the Marlins made a roster move that completes how the pitching staff will shake down.

Rick VandenHurk and Tim Wood were each optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. VandenHurk will be in the New Orleans rotation, while Wood will pitch in relief.

The transactions came a few hours after Florida obtained lefty Nate Robertson from the Tigers in exchange for lefty prospect Jay Voss.

The starting rotation will be — Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Robertson.

Clay Hensley is making the team as a long reliever, instead of the fifth starter.

Barring any other moves, the bullpen will feature: Leo Nunez, Brian Sanches, Jose Veras, Renyel Pinto, Dan Meyer, Burke Badenhop and Hensley.

– Joe Frisaro

 

Marlins acquire Robertson from Tigers

naterobertson.jpgIt appears a left-hander will be in the Marlins rotation after all.

On Tuesday the Marlins finalized a trade with the Tigers that returns left-hander Nate Robertson to Florida for lefty prospect Jay Voss.

Robertson, 32, went 2-3 with a 5.44 ERA with the Tigers in 2009, appearing in 28 games with six starts.

This will be Robertson’s second stint with the Marlins. Drafted in the fourth round by Florida in 1999, he made his MLB debut with the club in 2002, appearing in six games.

The Marlins traded Robertson to the Tigers in 2003 as part of the Mark Redman trade. The deal helped Florida win the 2003 World Series, because Redman was a big part of the rotation.

Redman went 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 29 starts for the Marlins in their title season.

Before being finalized on Tuesday, the Robertson deal first had to receive the approval of the commissioner’s office, because more than $1 million was being exchanged.

Robertson is signed for $10 million this season.

The left-hander has appeared in six Grapefruit League games for the Tigers, with three starts. He’s 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA, with 19 strikeouts and seven walks in 19 2/3 innings. He had been in competition for a

rotation spot with Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman.

In 202 MLB games, Robertson has made 169 starts over eight seasons.

Robertson would be the lone left-hander in Florida’s rotation.

The rotation had been shaping up to feature Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Clay Hensley.

– Joe Frisaro

 

Marlins-Nationals lineups

The Marlins and Nationals will square off on Tuesday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium. Chris Volstad and Garrett Mock will be the starting pitchers for the 1:05 p.m. ET contest.

 

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1) Nyjer Morgan, CF

Prezraces.jpg2) Cristian Guzman, SS

3) Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4) Adam Dunn, 1B

5) Mike Morse, LF

6) Adam Kennedy, 2B

7) Ivan Rodriguez, C

8) Willy Taveras, CF

9) Garrett Mock, P

 

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1) Chris Coghlan, LF

marlinschampring.jpg2) Cameron Maybin, CF

3) Dan Uggla, 2B

4) Mike Lamb, 3B

5) Ronny Paulino, C

6) Gaby Sanchez, 1B

7) Bryan Petersen, RF

8) Brian Barden, SS

9) Chris Volstad, P

– Joe Frisaro

 

McClung released

The Marlins bullpen situation is almost figured out.

On Tuesday, veteran Seth McClung, who was in camp on a Minor League deal, was released.

The move narrows down the final bullpen spot to either Tim Wood or Rick VandenHurk, according to manager Fredi Gonzalez.

The last bench reserve spot is between Brian Barden, Donnie Murphy or Hector Luna.

– Joe Frisaro

 

Speculating on final roster

For weeks, Marlins coaches and officials have been evaluating. Now, the time is getting close to make the tough final decisions and set the 25-man roster.

Opening Day is a week away (April 5 at the Mets), and there are still some unanswered questions.

On Monday, the Marlins did settle who will be the starting first baseman. As expected, Gaby Sanchez was given the nod when Logan Morrison was reassigned to Minor League camp. Morrison will start off at Triple-A New Orleans. Don’t discount the 22-year-old making an impact at some point during the season. A year ago, Chris Coghlan was in Triple-A until May, and he went on to become the N.L. Rookie of the Year.

The rotation also has come together, with Clay Hensley securing the fifth spot.

Still to be resolved are at least one bench player, as well as a bullpen spot.

Over the past few days, Marlins personnel evaluators have been in Jupiter, consulting and meeting. Final moves can happen any day now.

While nothing has been officially announced, for recreational purposes, here is a look at how the 25-man roster may shake down. There are a few factors that will come into play, like how players fit into the 40-man roster. Currently, nine non-roster invitees are still in camp.

Again, this is for conversational purposes only, and not an officially announced 25-man squad.

Catchers: John Baker, Ronny Paulino

Infielders: Gaby Sanchez, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Wes Helms, Brian Barden, Mike Lamb

Outfielders: Chris Coghlan, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross, Emilio Bonifacio

Starting pitchers: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, Clay Hensley

Bullpen: Leo Nunez (closer), Brian Sanchez, Jose Veras, Burke Badenhop, Tim Wood, Renyel Pinto, Dan Meyer

On this projected roster, there are four non-roster invitees who will have to be added to the 40-man roster — Hensley, Lamb, Barden and Veras. Currently, there are 37 on the 40-man. So that means, if they all make it, one current 40-man player would be removed.

The Marlins did clear a 40-man spot when pitcher Hayden Penn was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on Monday.

Barden, Donnie Murphy and Hector Luna are are vying for a utility position. All three are non-roster invitees. Murphy has impressed several other teams who have been watching him in camp. But Barden may secure the job. Working in Barden’s favor is his ability to play shortstop defensively at a high level. Of all the players in camp, Barden appears to be the best insurance policy to Ramirez. Barden also can play left field.

Bonifacio, of course, is a natural middle infielder. For now, it looks like he will be used in a super utility role previously held by Alfredo Amezaga.

The Marlins appear to be leaning toward not carrying a primary backup outfielder. Bryan Petersen, a highly regarded prospect, has impressed. But he likely will be in Triple-A.

The Marlins don’t have the need for a regular outfield backup because the starters — Coghlan, Maybin and Ross — won’t be replaced for defensive purposes. Now, if there is an injury situation, the team would likely make a move to call up an outfielder. Brett Carroll, who will open the season on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, is an option once he is healthy. Jai Miller, Scott Cousins and Petersen (if he doesn’t make the team) are other choices.

Barden also gives some flexibility if the Marlins slide Cantu over to first base in the late innings. The Marlins could go with Barden or Helms at third, or use them as pinch-hitters. Lamb is expected to be the lefty bat off the bench.

Gaby Sanchez adds value in the fact he could be the emergency third catcher. This is important because it means either Baker or Paulino — the catcher who doesn’t start — could be used as a pinch-hitter.

The bullpen battles have been tightly contested all spring. Seth McClung, a non-roster invitee, has more big league experience than Wood. McClung alsohas a clause that allows him to opt out of his contract on April 1. Not being on the 40-man roster may work against McClung and for Wood.

If Wood makes the team, he would be a middle relief candidate. The hard-throwing right-hander has been impressive in camp, and his slider has improved.

Badenhop is a long relief, and spot starter candidate. He’s had a solid spring. Veras has been throwing 95 mph all spring, and he has big league experience in a setup role.

Much can still change in the next few days. But the picture of how the team may look is becoming a bit more clear.

– Joe Frisaro
 

Maybin robs Wright

In his mind, Cameron Maybin has made the play “a hundred times.” On Monday, the Marlins 22-year-old center fielder actually did it in a game.

In the first inning, Maybin went back to the wall in center field, and made a leaping grab to rob David Wright of a home run at Digital Domain Park in  Port St. Lucie.

“How about that, it’s kind of cool,” Maybin said after the Marlins lost 7-6 to the Mets. “It hit my glove, and I couldn’t tell if I caught it or not. I felt it hit my glove. I pulled my arm back over [the wall], and it was in my glove. It was kind of cool.

“I’ve never, ever robbed a home run in all the years I’ve been playing.”

Maybin’s standout play came with two outs in the first inning. Anibal Sanchez had struck out the first two batters he faced on six pitches. Wright got a hold of a pitch, and on a windy afternoon, the ball kept drifting. Maybin at first didn’t think the ball was travel that far, but he heard right fielder Bryan Petersen yell, “Wall!”

“I think the wind definitely took it,” Maybin said. “I heard Petey say, ‘Wall!” at the last minute. I actually just reached my arm out, and it was over the wall. I just stayed with it. It was easier than I expected. I thought it was supposed to be harder than that.”

Ironically, the Mets were starting center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., who has made some of the most famous catches to rob home runs in history.

“He made the tough one, though,” Maybin said of Matthews Jr. “He made one of the toughest ones you’ll ever see.”

Asked if he thought about robbing homers.

“A hundred times, but it didn’t quite go like that in my head,” Maybin said. “It was more like Gary Matthews, running up the wall, and making a spectacular one like that. It saved a run. I’ll take it. Anibal was pretty pumped after that too.”

Coming off the field, no one knew if Maybin really had the ball, because he didn’t show it. As he was approaching the dugout the first base umpire asked for the ball.

“He asked me just to make sure I had the ball,” Maybin said.

About a week ago in a B Game in Jupiter against the Mets, there was an incident where an outfielder robbed a homer. Or did he? As he ran off the field, he never showed the ball, and some wonder if a catch was really made.

Maybin exited the game in the fourth inning for a pinch-runner when he was on third base. The reason he was taken out was precautionary. He has been dealing with a strained left groin, and he felt a little tightness on a wet field.

Maybin says he is fine and should play on Tuesday at home against the Nationals.

– Joe Frisaro

 

 

Penn claimed off waivers by Pirates

Hayden Penn, who was out of options, has been claimed off waivers by the Pirates.

Penn had been in the mix for a rotation spot.

In five Grapefruit League starts, Penn made two starts. He was 1-0 with an 8.31 ERA, he walked four and struck out four.

The Marlins entered Spring Training with Penn as part of the mix for a rotation spot. But Clay Hensley has locked up the fifth rotation spot.

– Joe Frisaro

 

Marlins-Mets lineups for Monday

On a wet afternoon, the Marlins and Mets are taking the field at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie.

Anibal Sanchez and Jon Niese are the starting pitchers.

 

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1) Bryan Petersen, RF

2) Cameron Maybin, CF

3) Hanley Ramirez, SS

4) Jorge Cantu, 1B

5) Dan Uggla, 2B

6) John Baker, C

7) Hector Luna, 3B

8) Brian Barden, LF

9) Anibal Sanchez, P

 

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1) Angel Pagan, LF

2) Alex Cora, 2B

3) David Wright, 3B

4) Daniel Murphy, 1B

5) Jeff Francoeur, RF

6) Gary Matthews Jr., CF

7) Henry Blanco, C

8) Ruben Tejada, SS

9) Jon Niese, P

– Joe Frisaro

 

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