February 2011

Baker willing to play some 1B

In hopes of making the Opening Day roster, Marlins catcher John Baker is willing to make some changes.

To help his chances, Baker is ready to play some first base until his throwing arm is at full strength.

“I’m completely willing to do something like that, and I will,” said Baker, who has only caught during his big league career. “We have a new infield instructor. Perry Hill is back. Maybe that is something I do this year as well.”

Recovering from Tommy John ligament surgery, Baker isn’t expected to be game ready as a catcher until perhaps May. Entering Spring Training, he is competing for a roster spot primarily as a left-handed bat off the bench.

Baker played some first base at the Minor League level when he was in the A’s system in 2005. He appeared at first in 17 games that season. Also as a Minor Leaguer with the Marlins, he made a few appearances at first base, three times with Triple-A Albuquerque in 2007, and once in Triple-A in 2008.

— Joe Frisaro


Coghlan running pain free

On the eve of pitchers and catchers going through their first workouts, center fielder Chris Coghlan was at the Roger Dean Stadium complex on Thursday testing his surgically repaired right knee.

Under the supervision of Marlins trainer Sean Cunningham, the 25-year-old ran eight, 60-yard sprints.

Afterwards, he said the knee is fine. What isn’t back yet is his full level of conditioning. That will take a while.

Marlins pitchers and catchers get underway with workouts on Friday, while full-squad drills begin on Tuesday.

Coghlan is aware he will receive plenty of attention because he is moving to a position he has never played before. He understands the skepticism, but 2009 NL Rookie of the Year is confident he can make the adjustment.

Last year, Coghlan said he told Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria that he would be receptive to playing center field. At the time, he didn’t know the team would be trading Cameron Maybin.

Foremost, in Spring Training, Coghlan is striving to be fully ready to go by Opening Day. Last July, Coghlan suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee, which required surgery.

“The knee is fine,” Coghlan said. “It’s just that I haven’t gotten my legs back under me.”

Because of the time he missed, the Marlins will ease Coghlan back into action. During Spring Training, he likely won’t start off playing on back-to-back games. And he likely will be given rest instead of standing around for long periods.

“I don’t have a percentage of where I’m at,” he said. “I am looking to be fully ready to go on April 1.”

The Marlins open their season on April 1 against the Mets.

— Joe Frisaro


Back to basics for Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. — Perfect the basics is the way the youthful Marlins plan on competing in the competitive NL East.

With such a young squad, manager Edwin Rodriguez is stressing the obvious in Spring Training.

“Master the obvious,” Rodriguez said on Thursday morning. “We’ve got to throw strikes and make the routine plays.”

Marlins pitchers and catchers begin their Spring Training workouts about 1 p.m. ET on Friday at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. The first day of camp is open to the public.

For eight seasons, Rodriguez was a Minor League instructor and manager in the Marlins’ organization. In his first Spring Training as a big league manager, Rodriguez is emphasizing the little things.

Also, the routines that will be in big league camp will also filter down to the Minor League levels.

Another objective in Spring Training is to teach players how to win close ballgames. Rodriguez said about 80 percent of all big league games last year were decided by one or two runs.

“Aggressive baserunning. Good situational hitting. Pitchers understanding the game situations,” Rodriguez said.”The outfielders throwing to the right bases. Keeping the double play in order.”

Rodriguez also said he has given all the coaches in the organization some homework over the next few days. He is asking them to write down ways to win ballgames.

“We want everybody on the same page,” Rodriguez said. “Especially playing in a division that is loaded with good pitching. You’re not going to see those guys in Philadelphia allowing a three-run home run too often. So whenever they give us a chance, we’ve got to score runs. A big inning off those guys is two runs.”

* From an injury standpoint, no Marlins are entering Spring Training with restrictions. Center fielder Chris Coghlan, who is recovering from surgery to his left knee, is full-go. But because he missed half of the 2010 season, he will be closely monitored.

“We have to be very careful,” Rodriguez said. “He’s in very good shape. But then again, it’s not the same as being in the game for six, seven, eight innings.”

John Baker (Tommy John surgery) will be active hitting in Spring Training, but he may not be ready to catch until sometime in May, Rodriguez said.

Brett Hayes (separated left shoulder) is fully ready to go. Donnie Murphy (dislocated right wrist) has been fielding, running and hitting. “We don’t want to overload him [hitting] early in the spring,” Rodriguez said.

* Being manager has its perks. Rodriguez now has two parking spaces. “I have two parking spots, and I only have one car,” he said. As a Minor League manager last year, he would get rides to camp.

— Joe Frisaro

First seat installed at new ballpark

It was a monumental day at the Marlins’ new ballpark.

The first of the 37,000 seats at the retractable-roof stadium was installed on Tuesday morning. Also, several players took batting practice on the grounds of the Marlins’ new home, which will open in 2012.

The ballpark will feature blue seats. But to distinguish the first seat installed, it has been painted red.



Open tryout camp in Jupiter

Aspiring baseball players will have a chance to catch the attention of the Marlins.

The organization is having its annual Open Tryout Camp on Wednesday for amateur players ages 16-24, and released players with prior professional experience. The one-day camp will take place at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. It starts at 9 a.m. sharp, and is designed to give players a shot at playing pro ball.

Players currently participating in a college baseball program are not eligible for the open tryout.

Those wishing to attend should arrive at the complex dressed in appropriate workout gear because there will be no locker room availability. And players are to bring their own gear — spikes, gloves, bats and helmets. Catchers are to bring their own gear as well.

There are no fees to attend the tryout, which will conclude in the afternoon.

— Joe Frisaro

Leftovers from Marlins media luncheon

This offseason, the Marlins changed how they do business.

For the first time in more than five years, the organization offered several players multiyear contracts.

With their new stadium opening in 2012, revenues project to rise. Most likely, so will the team payroll, which could be about $58 million by Opening Day.

In the offseason, Ricky Nolasco signed a three-year, $26.5 million contract. Free agent catcher John Buck signed for three years at $17.94 million, while reliever Randy Choate secured a two-year, $2.5 million deal.

Previously, the last big named free agent Florida signed to a multiyear deal was Carlos Delgado in 2005.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said on Monday at the annual media luncheon at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami that players must show they’re worthy of multiyear contracts.

“Ricky showed me a tremendous amount of development and maturity, and a work ethic,” Loria said.

Loria talked with Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest about offering a long-term contract to Nolasco, and a deal was reached in December.

“I told Larry, ‘We have to lock him up and take care of him.’ And we did,” Loria said. “Going into the new stadium, it will give us further opportunity to do stuff with players, but they have to show the manager and the general manager and all of us that they’ve earned it. It just isn’t something that you hand out. You earn it.”

Some other topics touched on at the luncheon:

* Slugger Mike Stanton, who turned 21 in November, has added about eight pounds since the end of last season. A towering presence, Stanton said he is at 250-pounds. When asked if it was muscle, Stanton joked: “Fat.” That responsde brought laughter because he is in terrific shape.

* Stanton talking about Twitter: “It’s fun to interact with our fans, and even people who aren’t our fans. To see what they have to say. It’s fun.”

* With 100 MLB games under his belt, Stanton projects to bat cleanup in his first full big league season.

“You either can handle it or you can’t,” Beinfest said. “Either you’re Miguel Cabrera and you can handle it, or you are Mike Stanton and you can handle it. His ability is off the charts, and he’s going to be fine. There are going to be some days when he’s going to look like a 21-year-old without a lot of big league experience. But he is a special talent.”

* Hanley Ramirez will be expected to take on more of a leadership role. “He will,” Loria said. “I think that is also a matter of maturity and recognizing who you are. Hanley is a bright young man. He’s only 27. Maturing takes a little while.”

Loria spoke with Ramirez a couple of months ago, and he feels the 27-year-old shortstop is primed to bounce back in 2011.

“He’s as excited as ever,” Loria said. “I said to him, ‘Hanley, you’ve won a batting championship. You’ve won the Rookie of the Year. It’s time to be what they call the MVP.’ He said he got the picture.

“I’m not saying he’s going to be the MVP, but he has the ability to do whatever Hanley wants. I love him. There is no secret about that. I think he’s going to come in here and do what he needs to do.”

* You can put to rest any speculation of Ramirez eventually moving to another position. The Marlins have no intentions of playing the three-time All-Star anywhere other than shortstop. “He’s there,” Beinfest said. “And I hope he’s there for a long time. I think defensively, he’s improved over the years. There are some things that he can clean up too. But I don’t see anything major with him.”

— Joe Frisaro


CJ ready for new ballpark

One of the all-time great Marlins looks forward to the day the franchise celebrates the opening of its new ballpark.

Charles Johnson, a former All-Star and Gold Glove-winning catcher, says the retractable-roof stadium set to open in 2012 will offer comfort for the players as well as the fans.
CJ1.jpgDuring his playing career, which spanned from 1994-2005, Johnson made 305 of his 1,108 MLB starts at Sun Life Stadium. Dealing with the heat and humidity, plus frequent rain delays, was taxing on his body.

“I would say [Sun Life Stadium] is one of the toughest parks to play in because of the weather,” Johnson said. “You’re dealing with the heat from April until the end of the season. It’s hot pretty much all year long. Some teams play in the cold weather, and that keeps you refreshed more. The colder weather helps you as far as not draining at the end of the season.”

Playing in scorching conditions caused Johnson’s weight to fluxuate over the course of a season.

“I would lose 10 to 15 pounds during the season, and then I’d gain it back,” he said. “I would literally change and use two jerseys a game in the summer time because it was so hot.”

Johnson, who still lives in South Florida, remains active in the community. Last weekend, he participated in the Joe DiMaggio Legends Game at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

A former University of Miami standout, Johnson was drafted in the first round by the Marlins in 1992, and he made his MLB debut in 2004. He was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 1997, Florida’s first World Series championship team.

He had two stints with the Marlins, from 1994-98 and 2001-02. He also played for the Dodgers, Orioles, Rockies and Rays.

As a South Florida resident, he plans on attending games at the Marlins’ new stadium.

“I think it’s going to help the franchise a great deal, having a new ballpark,” Johnson said. “That’s one thing they have talked about since the existence of the Marlins, to have a new stadium, with a roof.

“Now, I think the fans have no complaints. Now we have to come out and support the ballclub, because the whole thing was about the rain in the afternoons, and the heat, and everything else. Now, on a nice day, you can open the roof up. When it’s raining, you can close it back up. I think it’s a great thing for the community.”

— Joe Frisaro