Marlins have unanswered questions
JUPITER, Fla. — With Opening Day just 2 1/2 weeks away, the Marlins still have a number of unanswered questions, including a couple they had entering Spring Training.
Here’s a quick list of issues that remain unresolved:
1) Chris Coghlan’s transition to center field remains unclear, simply because he hasn’t had much game time at the position. Initially, the team eased him back from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. As his leg continued to heal, Coghlan also dealt with a sore right shoulder.
The ailments have limited Coghlan to playing center field in just four Grapefruit League games, the last one coming on March 7. He also played a couple of innings in center in the Feb. 27 exhibition with the University of Miami.
Coghlan is in the starting lineup in center field on Wednesday.
2) Will Mike Stanton be ready for Opening Night? The strained right quad has kept him out of all the Grapefruit League games. He suffered the injury on Feb. 27 in the scrimmages with UM.
If the 21-year-old can be back for the final seven or so Grapefruit League games, he probably would be fine for the April 1 opener. Even so, you have to wonder how effective will he be early due to lost time.
Foremost they need Stanton healthy. The reason they aren’t rushing things is the team doesn’t want the injury to linger throughout the year.
3) How are Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson doing? Johnson missed the final few weeks of 2010 with back/shoulder problems. He’s healthy, and the life is returning to his fastball. But JJ hasn’t been particularly sharp so far. Not to worry, right now he is working on his changeup, a pitch he will count on to keep hitters honest.
Johnson’s slider remains nasty, and he can use it as an out-pitch on a regular basis. So he is working in a changeup, as he did in an effective start last Saturday against the Red Sox. JJ was throwing his changeup in hitters’ counts, and situations that he wouldn’t use it during the regular season.
As for Nolasco, he’s missed the final month of ’10 with a torn meniscus in his right knee, which required surgery. The right-hander also missed the first half of Spring Training with a sprained right thumb. He was wild in his March 13 debut with the Nationals. His velocity was about 89 mph.
The outing was a rough one, which isn’t totally unexpected. It may take him several starts in Spring Training, and even the early part of the regular season, to get the feel of all his pitches.
4) Who will bat cleanup is Stanton is out? It looks like Gaby Sanchez would get the first call. Sanchez had a strong rookie year in 2010, and he would be a prime candidate to bat fourth until Stanton is ready to return.
5) Has the defense improved? For a few weeks, it looked like it had. Then there was a collective breakdown last Friday in Port St. Lucie. There were more defensive lapses on Tuesday in Port Charlotte.
The organization has gone through great strides to improve in the field. Highly respected infield coach Perry Hill was brought back to get the defense on track. Now it’s up to the players to make the plays that should be outs.
6) Is the rotation healthy? Javier Vazquez (mild right elbow soreness) and Anibal Sanchez (right shin) were each scratched from their scheduled starts on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
Both should be back this weekend.
– Joe Frisaro