February 2011

Rodriguez delivers motivational speech

For eight years, Edwin Rodriguez replayed his introductory speech in his head. He even rehearsed it with his wife. “After the first time, she didn’t pay attention,” the Marlins manager quipped.

On Tuesday, it was no laughing matter. At age 50, Rodriguez finally gave the speech he had long dreamed about.

It was his first talk to start off Spring Training as a Major League manager.

The high point in addressing a full room of more than 60 players, was when he revealed his gut feeling.

“I have a feeling we’re going to be the last team standing in October,” Rodriguez told his club. “I really believe that. That was not the end, but that was pretty much in the middle.”

Rodriguez worked in the Marlins’ Minor League system for eight years before replacing Fredi Gonzalez last June. The first Puerto Rican-born manager in MLB history, Rodriguez is in his first year big league camp as a big league manager.

During his 15-minute speech with the club, Rodriguez informed the club of his expectations.

“It was a very good situation and a very good experience,” Rodriguez said of his team meeting before Tuesday’s workout. “We told them what we expected of them, not only for Spring Training, but for the season. It was nothing fancy. I didn’t deliver nothing fancy.”

Make the routine plays, and “master the obvious” are a couple of themes he has preached to the team.

“We’re going to learn to play the close games, and we are going to have to be accountable for our actions,” Rodriguez said.

— Joe Frisaro


Full-squad workouts to begin

JUPITER, Fla. — Over the past few days, position players have gradually filtered into the Marlins complex at Roger Dean Stadium.

hanley2-21.jpgWhile pitchers and catchers have been working out since last Friday, several position players have been getting ready on their own. On Monday, for instance, Hanley Ramirez and Gaby Sanchez were in the batting cages late in the morning.

On Tuesday, full-squad workouts will begin with the players taking the field at 12:30 p.m. ET, after they take their physicals in the morning.

The workouts are open to the public.

What fans can expect to see on the back fields are plenty of drills, and an emphasis on improving defensively. Pitchers will also be throwing to hitters.

Manager Edwin Rodriguez is stressing the fundamentals, and challenging his players and the coaching staff to do the little things that result in victories.

Ramirez on Monday told reporters that he is ready to take on the challenge of doing his part to lead the team to the postseason.

The first full-squad workouts will give the team its first look at Chris Coghlan in center field, and Matt Dominguez at third base. Those two spots will be closely watched all spring.

Coghlan, who is recovering from a meniscus tear to his left knee, has never played center field at the professional level. Also, because of the surgery, he will be eased back into playing shape.

Dominguez, meanwhile, is a 21-year-old who is striving to make the leap from Double-A to the big leagues. His overall game has drawn comparisons to Mike Lowell. Defensively, he is special. Whether he can handle hitting in the big leagues will be his greatest challenge.

Tuesday also will be the first time the organization sees Omar Infante in a Marlins’ uniform. Acquired from the Braves as part of the Dan Uggla trade, Infante is the probable Opening Day second baseman.

Many questions have been asked about the roster during the offseason. Beginning on Tuesday, the organization will start to get some answers.

— Joe Frisaro


Vazquez to face Hurricanes

JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins are sending veteran Javier Vazquez to the mound to face the University of Miami in their Feb. 27 exhibition game at Roger Dean Stadium.

Manager Edwin Rodriguez said on Monday that Vazquez will throw two innings in the game against the Hurricanes. Also on that day, ace Josh Johnson is expected to throw a simulated game on a back field.

The Marlins open their Grapefruit League schedule on Feb. 28 against the Cardinals. Florida will be the visiting team that day. Anibal Sanchez is scheduled to pitch and throw two innings. Chris Volstad is the probable starter for the March 1 game with the Cardinals, when the Marlins are the home team.

Ricky Nolasco, who is resting a jammed right thumb, is not expected to do any throwing until at least later in the week, or perhaps next week.

Rodriguez said the team could wait until around March 14 for Nolasco to throw off the mound, and still have him ready for the start of the season.

— Joe Frisaro




Hanley ready for fresh start

JUPITER, Fla. — A healthy and happy Hanley Ramirez took some swings in the batting cage on Monday morning, the day before the Marlins begin full-squad workouts at Roger Dean Stadium.

H2RST11a.jpgThe three-time All-Star shortstop is ready to put a rough 2010 behind him, and regain the form that resulted in him being the NL batting champion in 2009.

Entering his sixth season with the Marlins, Ramirez noted the goal is to reach the playoffs.

“I want to know what it feels like,” Ramirez said of reaching the postseason. “I’m tired of watching it on TV. I want to be in there. It’s different. A lot of motivation.”

Reminded that his former teammate, Cody Ross, was part of the Giants’ World Series team, Ramirez said: “Good for him. He deserves it.”

Ramirez said he was pleased to see a lot of happy faces in the Marlins clubhouse.

After missing the final few weeks of 2010 with a left elbow strain, Ramirez enters camp healthy and eager to improve on a self proclaimed down year.

“I did more lower body [work] this year,” Ramirez said. “I want to have my legs at the end of the season. I did light weights to make me stronger.”

Ramirez said he would like to steal more bases, building on the 32 he swiped a year ago.

“I don’t have a number, but I want to get more than I got last year,” he said. “I’ve got to get in scoring position for those guys hitting behind me. That’s one thing I can do, steal a base and get in scoring position.”

In the offseason, Ramirez became a father again, as his wife gave birth to a girl – Hailey.

Ramirez also was asked about his relationship with former manager Fredi Gonzalez, who is now with Atlanta.

“That’s in the past. Fredi and me, we get along,” Ramirez said. “He’s a good person. He just tried to help me. Now, we got a new manager. I’ve got a good relationship with Edwin [Rodriguez]. I want to show I respect everybody.”

— Joe Frisaro

Finding a winning formula

Finding ways to win close games is one of the Marlins’ objectives in Spring Training.

Manager Edwin Rodriguez asked his staff on the first day of camp to come up with ways the team could pull out one and two run games.

leo1a.jpgAmong the suggestions was squeeze bunting and slap hitting. On Sunday, outfield coach Joe Espada worked with the pitchers on situational hitting. Specifically, they practiced squeeze bunting and slapping ground balls.

On the slap hit drills, the pitchers would turn to bunt, then bring the bat back and attempt to swat a grounder up the middle.

Some other highlights from Sunday:

* Josh Johnson, Javier Vazquez and Leo Nunez each threw their second bullpen sessions since camp opened on Friday. Johnson, who missed the final month of last year with back and shoulder problems, is fine. He already is impressing with how well he’s throwing. Nunez is working on his slider, and Vazquez is building back up his arm strength.

* A number of position players filtered into camp early Sunday afternoon, including Hanley Ramirez. Mike Stanton, Omar Infante, Chris Coghlan, Emilio Bonifacio and Gaby Sanchez were among the players getting settled. Full-squad workouts begin on Tuesday.

* Pitchers and catchers will be on the field at 10 a.m. Monday morning.

— Joe Frisaro




Nolasco hopes to throw next week

The jammed thumb that is keeping Ricky Nolasco out of early throwing drills occurred close to two weeks ago when he was conditioning at his residence in Aventura.

“It’s getting better,” Nolasco said on Saturday. “I just fell on it. I just kind of jammed it. It’s something that’s been lingering. It’s frustrating, but there is not much I can do right now except try to let it calm down.”

The Marlins’ No. 2 starter, Nolasco is hopeful he can begin throwing sometime next week. But because it is early in camp, the team is not rushing anything.

In the meantime, Nolasco is taking part in conditioning drills, but he isn’t doing any throwing.

— Joe Frisaro

Fun at FanFest

Marlins players mingled with fans on Saturday at FanFest at Sun Life Stadium.

All the players made their way down to Miami before heading up to Jupiter for a second day of workouts at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

— Joe Frisaro

(Photos by Robert Vigon and Denis Bancroft)




Final FanFest at Sun Life Stadium

The final Marlins FanFest at Sun Life Stadium will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET on Saturday.

In 2012, the team will be moving into their retractable-roof park in the Little Havana section of Miami.

FanFest on Saturday is an ideal way for fans to meet the players, coaching staff and members of the front office. There will be a number of activities, including autograph signings and town hall style meetings.

Saturday also marks the first day individual game tickets go on sale. Fans can purchase tickets at the stadium or on www.marlins.com.

Opening Day is at home on April 1 against the Mets.

It will be a busy day for the Marlins players, because after FanFest, they will be returning to Jupiter, Fla., to get their workout in at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

The workout, set for 3:30 p.m., is open to the public.

— Joe Frisaro


Nolasco bothered by sore thumb

JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins are taking it easy for a few days with Ricky Nolasco.

The right-hander, projected as the No. 2 starter, has some discomfort in his right thumb. It’s nothing serious, but the team is not going to rush him back into drills.

Nolasco notified the team of the thumb issue on Thursday, and he did running drills with the team on Friday, but he didn’t throw. 

On Friday, the Marlins opened Spring Training at Roger Dean Stadium on Friday.

— Joe Frisaro


JJ, Javy throw off the mound

The Marlins got their first glimpse of ace Josh Johnson throwing off the mound. And based on how the 6-foot-7 right-hander was releasing the ball it looked as if the two-time All-Star was in mid-season form.

jjST2-18.JPGJohnson threw a bullpen session on the first day of Spring Training at Roger Dean Stadium.

With John Buck catching, Johnson showed no signs of any carryover from the back and shoulder problems that caused him to miss the final weeks of 2010.

Also throwing off the mound on Friday was Javier Vazquez, a free agent acquisition who was with the Yankees in 2010.

Closer Leo Nunez threw off the mound for the first time, and he was re-united with Buck. The two formerly were teammates in Kansas City.

Chris Volstad also threw a bullpen session on the first day of camp.

After catching Johnson for the first time, Buck noted that the 27-year-old Florida ace is “special.”

“It was his first bullpen, and he wasn’t throwing 110 percent,” Buck said. “But I think after that pen he threw there, he probably could win 15 games. I know I haven’t even seen anything yet.” 

— Joe Frisaro