May 2010

Leadoff options? Maybe Bonifacio

On May 8, 2009, the Marlins promoted Chris Coghlan from Triple-A New Orleans in an attempt to upgrade production at the top of their order.

From an organizational standpoint, the decision was an easy one. Coghlan was batting .344 with a .418 on-base percentage after 96 at-bats for New Orleans. He initially slid into the No. 2 spot, but eventually secured the leadoff spot.

emilio-bonifacio-p1.jpgThe rest of the story, you already know. Coghlan became a terrific story. He caught fire in the second half, and won the N.L. Rookie of the Year, batting .321.

Almost a year later, the Marlins find themselves in a similar situation. Once again, theys are struggling to find consistency at the top of the order.

Coghlan opened the year in the leadoff spot, but he struggle and was swapped to second for Cameron Maybin. The trouble now is both Maybin and Coghlan are scuffling.

Maybin is batting .238 with a .304 on-base percentage. He’s having trouble with strikeouts, having fanned at least once in 16 straight games. He struck out twice on Wednesday night, and was pinch-hit for by Wes Helms in the late innings.

Coghlan, meanwhile, is hitting .180 with a .240 on-base percentage in 89 at-bats. Of late, he has not started against left-handed pitching, with Brett Carroll getting the nod. And manager Fredi Gonzalez has said it isn’t automatic that he will bat second when he is playing.

Gaby Sanchez may get more of a look at that spot.

The problem facing the Marlins is, what are the alternatives? Unlike last May, the organization doesn’t have a natural leadoff-type hitter tearing it up in the Minor Leagues.

One alternative is Emilio Bonifacio. Actually, bringing back Boni and playing him every day for a while leading off may be what the team decides. Bonifacio was optioned to Triple-A a few weeks back. He’s hit leadoff for the Zephyrs, playing a number of different positions.

On Wednesday night, Bonifacio started in center field, which may be a sign of what the Marlins are thinking. Boni, though, has struggled getting on base consistently in 18 games and 74 at-bats. His batting average is .257 with a .286 on-base percentage.

What works in Boni’s favor is his game-changing speed, and the fact the Marlins want to see if he can turn it around. So promoting him and giving him an opportunity may be what the team decides. That move may be coming quickly.

The Marlins have Minor League outfield depth, especially now that John Raynor was returned to the organization after he was released by the Pirates. Last December, Pittsburgh selected Raynor in the Rule 5 Draft. Since he was designated recently, he once again rejoins Florida. The Marlins did explore a trade with Pittsburgh, but nothing could be worked out.

Bryan Petersen is a talented speedster who someday projects to be in the mix to lead off for the Marlins. Petersen is enjoying a strong first half for New Orleans. But not being on the 40-man roster hurts his chances of a quick promotion. Bonifacio, on the 40-man roster, is more likely to get the call than Petersen or Raynor, who also isn’t on the 40-man roster.

The way Mike Stanton has been dominating at Double-A Jacksonville makes it highly likely he will get called up in early June. At that point, the organization will have to create space on the 40-man roster for Stanton.

With so many talented outfielders in their Minor League system, a trade is quite possible after June. Raynor, Petersen, Stanton and Scott Cousins are close to being big league ready.

Some have speculated that Dan Uggla could be dealt by the July 31 deadline. That is highly doubtful, because the Marlins are expecting to contend. Uggla is having a strong season, and it is unlikely he would be moved during the season. Now, after the year is over, that is certainly possible.

The Marlins traditionally have made their trades based on depth in the organization. There isn’t an automatic replacement for Uggla at second right now. Some say Coghlan, but he has one game at second since joining the big leagues. The team wouldn’t switch him there in midseason.

Cody Ross may become a trade option, if the team hopes to put Stanton in right field. Again, the Marlins are trying to win this year. Ross is a proven player.

The way things are shaping up now, Stanton would project to replace either Maybin or Coghlan, if neither has turned it around by June.

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins-Giants lineups for Tuesday

The Marlins face the Giants and two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum on Tuesday at Sun Life Stadium.

Anibal Sanchez makes the start for Florida.








1)  Aaron Rowand, CF

2) Mark DeRose, LF

3) Pablo Sandoval, 3B

4) Bengie Molina, C

5) Aubrey Huff, 1B

6) Juan Uribe, SS

7) Nate Schierholtz, RF

8) Matt Downs, 2B

9) Tim Lincecum, P







1) Cameron Maybin, CF

2) Chris Coghlan, LF

3) Hanley Ramirez, SS

4) Jorge Cantu, 3B

5) Dan Uggla, 2B

6) John Baker, C

7) Cody Ross, RF

8) Gaby Sanchez, 1B

9) Anibal Sanchez, P


— Joe Frisaro



Hensley reinstated, Wood optioned

The Marlins on Tuesday reinstated reliever Clay Hensley off the bereavement list, and optioned reliever Tim Wood to Triple-A New Orleans.

Hensley, 30, learned after last Friday’s loss to the Nationals that his father had passed away. The right-hander went on the bereavement list, and he returns after missing the required three days.

By rule, players on bereavement must miss a minimum of three days and a maximum of seven days. The Marlins were off on Monday, before opening a three-game set with the Giants on Tuesday.

In his last two appearances, Hensley has been on a roll. He has struck out 13 in five scoreless innings. The right-hander has thrown 12 2/3 innings this season, and he’s struck out 21, while walking five.

Wood has appeared in eight games, with his last outing on April 27 against the Padres.

— Joe Frisaro



Marlins rotation stepping up

The collective benefit of starting pitchers working deeper into games is the bullpen gets a breather.

Unlike recent years, where the Marlins rotation struggled to pitch into the sixth or seventh innings on a regular basis, the 2010 staff is, thus far, doing their job. They already have three complete games, which is tied with the Phillies for most in the Major Leagues.

Florida’s starters have thrown 152 1/3 innings, which is tied with Cincinnati for the fifth most in the N.L. The Reds, meanwhile, have played one more game.

The Cardinals staff has thrown a league high 171 2/3 innings. On the flip side, Florida’s bullpen has thrown 70 2/3 innings, which is the 13th most in the N.L. In years past, the Marlins bullpen has finished near the top in total innings pitched.

TimLincecum_2007_007.jpgThe fewest amount of relief innings this season have been posted by the Giants (65 1/3).

The Giants, of course, are in South Florida this week to begin a three-game series beginning Tuesday night at Sun Life Stadium.

Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum will take the mound tonight for San Francisco, while Anibal Sanchez gets the call for the Marlins.

A key to working deep into games, or throwing complete games, is pounding the strike zone.

“I think being around the zone, and being consistent, that’s the name of the game,” Marlins ace Josh Johnson said. “But that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, you are fighting to be consistent. Other times, when you find that groove, and things just happen and you don’t have to force it to make it happen.”
The complete game has been something in decline throughout baseball. Yet, it is still an important statistic because it helps keep bullpens rested.

Here’s the list of teams with 10 or more complete games over the past decade:

* 2009: Giants 11, Royals 10, Blue Jays 10
* 2008:Blue Jays 15, Brewers 12, Indians 10
* 2007: Blue Jays 11
* 2006: Indians 13
* 2005: Cardinals 15, Marlins 14
* 2004: Expos 11, A’s 10
* 2003: A’s 16, Expos 15, Blue Jays 14, Cubs 13, White Sox 12
* 2002: Diamondbacks 14, Royals 12, Devil Rays 12, Tigers 11, Cubs 11, Marlins 11, Giants 10
* 2001: Tigers 16, A’s 13, Twins 12, Diamondbacks 12, Orioles 10
* 2000: Diamondbacks 16, Blue Jays 15, Orioles 14, Braves 13, Royals 10, Cubs 10, Devil Rays 10

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins lineup for Saturday

The Marlins look to snap their three-game losing streak on Saturday. Chris Volstad makes the start for Florida, with Washington going with Craig Stammen.








1) Nyjer Morgan, CF

2) Adam Kennedy, 2B

3) Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4) Adam Dunn, 1B

5) Josh Willingham, LF

6) Ivan Rodriguez, C

7) Cristian Guzman, SS

8) Roger Bernadina, RF

9) Craig Stammen, P










1) Cameron Maybin, CF

2) Chris Coghlan, LF

3) Hanley Ramirez, SS

4) Jorge Cantu, 3B

5) Dan Uggla, 2B

6) John Baker, C

7) Cody Ross, RF

8) Gaby Sanchez, 1B

9) Chris Volstad, P

— Joe Frisaro


Hensley on bereavement list

The Marlins on Saturday afternoon placed reliever Clay Hensley on the breavement list due to a death in the family. The team recalled left-hander Hunter Jones from Triple-A New Orleans.

Late Friday, Hensley learned of the passing of his father. In an emotional scene in the team clubhouse, the right-hander received embraces and best wishes from his teammates following the Marlins’ 7-1 loss to the Nationals.

Hensley threw three innings of scoreless relief on Friday, striking out seven. It was his second straight dominating relief performance. On Wednesday against the Padres, he struck out six of the seven batters he faced in two innings.

By league rule, being on the bereavement list means a player must miss a minimum of three games and a maximum of seven games. Jones, acquired from the Red Sox after the 2009 season for outfielder Jeremy Hermida, got the call from Triple-A.

Jones was in Spring Training with the Marlins, trying to make the club as a reliever. Jones joins Renyel Pinto as the second lefty in the Florida bullpen.

Hensley has made eight appearances for the Marlins. In 12 2/3 innings, he has struck out 21 while walking five.

— Joe Frisaro