February 2012

Keeping a close eye on JJ

JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins are not being overly careful with Josh Johnson, but they definitely will be monitoring their ace.

Johnson is scheduled to pitch the Marlins’ first Grapefruit League game, which is Monday against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

Because he missed 4 1/2 months with right shoulder inflammation in 2011, the Marlins will not push JJ, not only in Spring Training but in the regular season.

“He will dictate for us what to do,” Guillen said. “What I want him to do is have confidence in us to make sure we know. So he can come to us and say, ‘Listen, I need a day.’ Can I miss a start? I don’t want him to go out there and be a hero and then we don’t use him for the next 20 days. I’d rather lose him for a day, two or three days, than lose him for 21 days. He’s got to dictate. Are we going to monitor him, yes?”

If healthy, Guillen envisions the two-time All-Star having a big year.

“In my mind, I have this man throwing 200 innings and winning 21 games,” the manager said. “That’s in my mind. Is he going to do it?”

One way to get Johnson some rest during the season is to pull him in the mid to late innings if the team has a big lead.

“That’s the way you take a break,” Guillen said. “If we’re up by seven, why should we have this kid throw 110, when he should throw 90? It depends on how he goes.”

Joe Frisaro

Adding Rowand subtracts one Marlin killer

JUPITER, Fla. — Adding Aaron Rowand to camp subtracts a player who has repeatedly hurt the Marlins throughout the years.

The veteran outfielder is signed to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Early indications are he has a strong chance of making the Opening Day roster.

Having Rowand on their side is a relief for the Marlins, because traditionally he has done damage against the team with his bat.

Since 2006, when Rowand was with either the Phillies or Giants, he has batted .327 with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs against the Marlins.

In fact, since 2006, Rowand has the 12th highest batting average against the Marlins.

Marlin killers since ’06:

1. Matt Holliday, 36 games, 149 at-bats, 12 homers, 40 RBIs, .409 batting average

2. Paul Lo Duca, 34 G, 130 ABs, 1 HR, 17 RBIs, .385

3. Andre Ethier, 36 G, 130 ABs, 5 HRs, 22 RBIs, .383

4. Matt Diaz, 64 G, 182 ABs, 10 HRs, 28 RBIs, .374

5. Freddy Sanchez, 28 G, 111 ABs, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, .360

6. Lance Berkman, 34 G, 121 ABs, 6 HRS, 32 RBIs, .339

7. Joey Votto, 27 G, 95 ABs, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs, .337

8. Stephen Drew, 37 G, 134 ABs, 5 HRs, 19 RBIs, .336

9. David Wright, 100 G, 397 ABs, 17 HRs, 72 RBIs, .335

10. Yunel Escobar, 52 G, 7 HRs, 27 RBIs, .333

11. Orlando Hudson, 32 G, 124 ABs, 3 HRs, 21 RBIs, .331

12. Aaron Rowand, 53 G, 202 ABs, 10 HRs, 38 RBIs, .327

Joe Frisaro

Ozzie sets tentative exhibition lineups

JUPITER, Fla. — Manager Ozzie Guillen has tentatively set his lineups for the Marlins’ exhibitions against two college teams in early March.

On March 6, the Marlins face the Miami Hurricanes at Marlins Park. They follow that meeting up on March 7 against Florida International University. Both are 7:10 p.m. ET starts.

The Marlins actually will be playing split-squad games on both days. On March 6, the Tigers are at Roger Dean Stadium, and the Mets are in Jupiter on March 7.

Against the two college teams, Guillen is planning to start Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco, although he hasn’t decided which pitcher will throw in which game.

The position players expected to make the trip to face the University of Miami are, Aaron Rowand, Donnie Murphy, Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, John Buck, Austin Kearns, Scott Cousins and Nick Green.

Against FIU, the Marlins are sending Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Greg Dobbs, Mike Stanton, Omar Infante, Chris Coghlan, Brian Petersen, Brett Hayes and Matt Dominguez.

Ace Josh Johnson isn’t going to face the college teams.

“If they see JJ, they may want to stay in school,” Guillen joked.

Joe Frisaro

Lo viste mania sweeping Marlins camp

JUPITER, Fla. — Lo viste mania is sweeping through Marlins’ Spring Training.

It’s becoming a ritual after drills, sprints or any highlight moment.

Lo viste, Spanish for “did you see that?” emerged within the Marlins’ clubhouse last year. It started from some joking around between Emilio Bonifacio and Omar Infante.

Last July, Bonifacio was in the midst of a 26-game hitting streak. As the speedster was heating up, Infante told him, “You look good.”

Bonifacio replied: “Lo viste.” Did you see it?

Bonifacio added a hand signal to the phrase, where he spreads two fingers over one eye.

“Every time we do something good, we came up with that,” Bonifacio said.

After the players did sprints on Sunday morning, Bonifacio and Reyes turned to each other, slapped hands and then did their lo viste salute.

Last year, Bonifacio had lo viste t-shirts made up, and he wore them in the clubhouse.

“We did it last year, but we didn’t do it all the time because we were losing,” Bonifacio said.

In Spring Training, Bonifacio has the entire team making lo viste signs. At a team party on Saturday night at the Marlins new ballpark, owner Jeffrey Loria, his wife Julie, and a number of players posed for a picture. Everyone was doing lo viste.

Bonifacio posted the picture on his @Elboni_1 Twitter account, and posted a #loviste hashtag.

“I think that can bring the team closer together,” Bonifacio said.

Now that the Marlins have new uniforms, Bonifacio has ordered a bunch of lo viste t-shirts, complete with the team colors.

Manager Ozzie Guillen asked for one.

“Even Ozzie wants a t-shirt,” Bonifacio said. “So he can wear it when talking to you guys [media].”

Joe Frisaro

Who would win a Marlins slam dunk contest?

JUPITER, Fla. — Jeremy Evans soared to the slam dunk title on Saturday night during the NBA’s All-Star weekend in Orlando.

Evans stole the show by catching two lobbed basketballs at once, and slamming both home, while leaping over his Utah Jazz teammate, Gordon Hayward.

Several Miami Marlins share a passion for basketball, and a number of them have pretty good leaping abilities. Which raises the question, who would win a Marlins’ slam dunk challenge?

“I bet Stanton,” said Josh Johnson, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who also can dunk.

Mike Stanton, a three-sport athlete in high school, is a towering 6-foot-5 who says he has three standard dunks — two-handed, tomahawk and reverse.

Logan Morrison, who says he could dunk before his right knee surgery, says Scott Cousins would be a sleeper contender in a dunk contest.

Cousins, 6-foot-1, played high school basketball. In the day, he could bounce the ball, have it deflect off the backboard, catch it in mid-air and dunk.

“We can square off,” Stanton said when informed Cousins was considered a serious challenger.

“I was a good shooter and a good athlete,” Cousins said. “But I didn’t know how to play the mental game. Yeah, I could dunk. At one point, I was doing some trick dunks.”

Cousins held the three-point record at his high school.

Hanley Ramirez, 6-3, can dunk. A couple of surprise candidates with great leaping ability are Bryan Petersen and Kevin Mattison, both 6-footers.

Sean West, at 6-8, would be a potential frontrunner.

How such a contest would play out will never be known, because of risk of injury, MLB players refrain from taking chances on a basketball court.

Joe Frisaro

Dobbs welcomes high expectations

JUPITER, Fla. — The Phillies have won five straight National League East titles, but that doesn’t automatically make them the favorites to capture the division.

With all the upgrades the Marlins have made, veteran Greg Dobbs believes Miami belongs in the conversation.

“On any given day, any team is the team to beat,” Dobbs said. “I’m not going to say the Phillies are the team to beat. I’m not going to say the Braves are the team to beat. It’s a whole new slate. A lot of things can happen over the course of 162 games, we’ve seen that.”

Dobbs arrived at Marlins camp on Saturday morning, the day before full-squad workouts begin at Roger Dean Stadium.

A year ago, the veteran made the Marlins as a non-roster invitee as a left-handed bat off the bench. Injuries occurred, and he saw considerable time at third base.

Dobbs was a free agent in the offseason, but he opted to return, signing a two-year, $3 million contract.

In 2008, Dobbs was on the Phillies’ World Series title team.

Based on the moves the Marlins made this offseason, he is raising the expectation level in Miami.

“I think we’re the team to beat,” Dobbs said. “I want us to be the team to beat, quite honestly. There isn’t any reason we can’t be that team. With the talent and the character and the personality in this clubhouse, I don’t see why not.”

Joe Frisaro


Marlins receive a helping hand

JUPITER, Fla. — A special Spring Training moment occurred in a spontanious way on Friday morning on field six at Roger Dean Stadium.

After Hanley Ramirez, Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison and Chris Coghlan, finished up their round of batting practice, hitting coach Eduardo Perez invited a couple of dozen children onto the field to help pick up the balls by the outfield fence.

The children hustled to the outfield, joined by the players. They collected all the baseballs, placing them into buckets.

The children had been watching the round of batting practice from behind the fences, and the invitation onto the field was a special treat.

Once the baseballs were all put away, a number of children asked for autographs from the players. When Ramirez finished signing, he carried a small child from the outfield back to his parents.

Joe Frisaro


Gaby Sanchez supportive of Braun decision

JUPITER, Fla. — News that Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension was overturned was a relief to Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

Sanchez, a former University of Miami teammate of Braun, has long been a close friend of the 2011 National League MVP.

For months, the two have stayed in close contact, either through text messages or phone calls. On Thursday, Braun become the first player to win an appeal, and he is cleared to play on Opening Day for the Brewers.

Sanchez reached out to Braun through a text message on Thursday, and the two spoke on the phone a few days ago.

“If there was guilt, he’d be guilty,” Sanchez said. “There is just so many things that go on in a case, when you actually see it and you actually talk to somebody who is there. I talk to him about everything. I talk to him about a lot of things. And there are just a lot of things that didn’t make sense. He got off. He was proven innocent. That’s all we can say.”

Sanchez paid particularly close attention to Braun’s case because of their friendship.

“We’ve been best friends for 10 years now,” Sanchez said. “It’s a lot different when you’re talking about those situations, knowing somebody that well, and knowing what kind of person he is, and what kind of personality he is. And knowing, he never had to lie. From the very beginning, he told me, ‘I didn’t do anything.’ So you kind of pull for him.

“I believe him 100 percent when he told me that he didn’t do it. … There is no reason for you to have to lie to me. I felt like it was great news yesterday, when it came out that he was innocent and able to play.”

Joe Frisaro

Getting double play option in order

JUPITER, Fla. — Much has been made over how Hanley Ramirez will handle third base along side Jose Reyes.

Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen doesn’t see many problems of the adjustments on the left-side of the infield. He is actually more concerned with how the double play combination of Reyes and Omar Infante will play out.

“I worry more about Jose and Infante, the shortstop and second baseman,” Guillen said. “I heard Jose tell Hanley, ‘Just make sure you guard the line, I got the rest.’ That’s nice to hear that. Hanley is a great athlete. I don’t think he’s going to have any problems moving out there.”

Some more observations from Thursday:

* Ozzie isn’t completely locked into batting Emilio Bonifacio second. The manager is keeping the door open for Infante to also hit in the two hole.

The manager is keeping his options open, so people will not be surprised if Infante is hitting second when the Grapefruit League games start.

* Speed promises to be a major part of the lineup. Reyes, Bonifacio and Ramirez are base stealing threats. Ozzie wants to see others in the lineup run, just to give other teams something to think about.

“I’m not going to say, Gaby Sanchez is going to steal 30 bases, but why not, 10?” Guillen said.

Guillen wants opposing teams to have something to think about.

Speed can used in ways other than stealing bases.

“Speed is like, going from first to third,” Guillen said. “Scoring from first base on a double.”

Joe Frisaro  

Reyes arrives at Marlins camp

JUPITER, Fla. — Excitement. Passion. Energy.

The qualities that made Jose Reyes a four-time All-Star with the Mets, he plans to offer to the Marlins.

Reyes, the Marlins’ top offseason acquisition, arrived at Spring Training on Thursday, three days before full-squad workouts are scheduled.

The 29-year-old is eager for his new beginning, after spending his entire career with the Mets.

“The same energy I had in New York, that’s the same energy I’m going to bring here,” Reyes said. “I’m the kind of guy who has a lot energy and a lot of passion for the game. I enjoy the game as much as I can. That’s something I’m going to bring here.”

In 2011, Reyes was the National League batting champion, hitting .337.

With the Marlins, he takes over at shortstop, allowing Hanley Ramirez to slide over to third base.

Ramirez and Reyes have spoken on several occasions in recent months, but not entirely on how they will get along on the left side of the Miami infield.

“When me and Hanley talk, we don’t talk about that situation,” Reyes said of Ramirez playing third. “We talk about other stuff, we don’t talk that. I know he’s happy. I saw him in the Dominican. I saw him last week. We’ve been talking most of the time. We’re good. We don’t have any problems.

“This is the first time I’m going to play with different guys. Hanley is moving to third base. Anything I can do for him, I’ll do.”

Reyes also expects to get along just fine with new manager Ozzie Guillen.

“It’s exciting for me to play for Ozzie,” the shortstop said. “He has a guy who has a lot of passion for the game. He enjoys the game too. He’s a [former] baseball player, that’s good too. He’s not afraid to talk. That’s good. When somebody does something wrong, he will let you know. That’s good. I don’t have any problems with that. We’re going to get along very well.”

Joe Frisaro