ATLANTA — Clearly, Carlos Zambrano’s preference is to be in the rotation.
Right now, the Marlins have other plans. Zambrano is in the bullpen, as Wade LeBlanc was moved into the starting five.
Zambrano on Monday threw out of the bullpen for the first time since 2010, when he was with the Cubs. On Wednesday, LeBlanc gets his first start of the season in the third of four games against the Braves at Turner Field.
The 31-year-old Zambrano noted that he isn’t ideally suited to be a reliever, but he accepts his role. In 340 career games, he has made 302 starts.
“It’s not my role, but I have to do it,” said Zambrano, who isn’t looking to create waves with the decision. “There is no other choice. If they put me in the bullpen, they put me in the bullpen. I have to keep doing my job, and keep trying to come back and being in the rotation again.
“The Cubs tried to do that to me, put me in the bullpen. It didn’t work. My arm is not built to be in the bullpen, but I have to do it. I’m at a stage in my career where I’ve been my whole life as a starter. But I have to do it. I will do it until somebody remembers me [to start].”
The Marlins will be looking for bullpen help now that they’ve traded Edward Mujica to the Cardinals.
For now, Zambrano is an option.
– Joe Frisaro
ATLANTA — The Marlins have acquired Minor League third baseman Zack Cox from the Cardinals for reliever Edward Mujica.
The Marlins announced the trade about an hour before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.
Miami also has dealt first baseman Gaby Sanchez, an All-Star in 2011, to the Pirates for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.
Along with Sanchez, the Marlins are also sending Minor League pitcher Kyle Kaminska. Miami also is receiving a Draft pick after the first round in 2013.
Mujica, 28, has been a late-inning setup reliever. The right-hander has appeared in 41 games with an 0-3 record and 4.38 ERA in 39 innings.
He went on the disabled list on June 30 with a broken bone to his right pinky toe. He was reinstated on July 18.
The Marlins acquired Mujica, along with Ryan Webb, from the Padres for Cameron Maybin after the 2010 season.
Cox, 23, was the 25th pick overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He will report to Double-A Jacksonville.
At Triple-A Memphis, Cox batted .254 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs.
Sanchez, a Miami native who attended the University of Miami, was the Marlins Opening Day first baseman for three seasons. But he struggled this year, and was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.
With the Marlins, Sanchez batted .202 with three home runs and 17 RBIs. His final at-bat with Miami came on July 4, when he belted a game-tying home run in the ninth inning off the Brewers.
He was optioned to New Orleans after that game because the Marlins acquired first baseman Carlos Lee.
At New Orleans, Sanchez was batting .302 with five home runs and 18 RBIs.
Hernandez, 24, is a right-handed hitting outfielder who batted .257 at Triple-A Indianapolis. In 25 games with the Pirates, he was 2-for-25.
– Joe Frisaro
ATLANTA — The Marlins are aggressively pursuing at least one more trade, but it doesn’t involve Josh Johnson.
Johnson is expected to remain with the Marlins, but some other possible deals are in the works, according to a source.
The Marlins are seeking outfield help, and they are exploring the trade market.
Miami is trying to trade catcher John Buck, who is signed through 2013. Buck is making $6 million this year and next. The 32-year-old is batting .169 with eight homers and 26 RBIs.
Brett Hayes has started at catcher the past two games. If Buck is dealt, Miami could be ready to promote Rob Brantly from Triple-A New Orleans.
Brantly, a left-handed hitter, was one of three prospects the Marlins acquired from the Tigers last week for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez.
The non-waiver trade deadline is at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Miami also would listen to offers for Carlos Lee and Heath Bell.
– Joe Frisaro
ATLANTA — Keeping a sense of humor after another disheartening loss, Ozzie Guillen on Monday night joked to reporters that scouts seeing his team play may have turned and walked away.
The Marlins manager openly wondered what teams would want these players? We’re about to find out.
The non-waiver trade deadine is at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. Up until the final minute, the Marlins still may pull off a deal.
For weeks, the Marlins have been heavily scouted by clubs seeking to add.
What they’ve seen is more of the same from a Miami team, which lost 8-2 on Monday at Turner Field.
The Marlins already have been active in trades this month. Last week, in the span of three days, they dealt Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers. They followed that up by sending Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Dodgers.
If you go back to July 4, the Marlins added Carlos Lee from the Astros.
The question now is if another move or two will take place prior to the deadline?
Josh Johnson’s name has been out there, and teams have inquired. But the Marlins asking price is high, and is expected to remain so. Because Johnson hasn’t pitched at the All-Star level he displayed in previous years, several teams have backed away.
Opinions may change before the deadline, because starting pitching still is in high demand.
Indications are the Marlins want to retain Johnson, who is signed through 2013.
Johnson’s $13.75 million salary for next year is pretty modest for an ace, and shouldn’t be a motivating factor to move him.
If the Marlins feel Johnson is healthy, then it makes sense to keep him. They could see if he improves down the stretch. If so, it could increase his trade value in the offseason. Or the team may not want to deal him if he’s performing at a high level.
The Marlins have Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco under contract for next year. And the club could use those three to build a rotation around. Nathan Eovaldi, acquired in the Ramirez trade, is another promising fixture in the starting five.
If the club opts to stick with those four, it will take the pressure off rushing 21-year-old Jacob Turner, the centerpiece in the recent deal with Detroit. Wade LeBlanc would be another option.
Turner is at Triple-A New Orleans, but he could be called up to pitch the second game of Friday’s Doubleheader at Washington.
Even if the Marlins don’t move Johnson on Tuesday, it doesn’t mean they won’t be active.
Miami is currently searching for outfielders, relievers, a third baseman and perhaps a catcher.
– Joe Frisaro
ATLANTA — The Marlins have won two straight after taking two of three against the Padres at Marlins Park.
On Monday, Miami opens a four-game set at Turner Field.
Mark Buehrle takes the mound for the Marlins, while the Braves are going with Tommy Hanson.
1) Bonifacio, 2B
2) Murphy, 3B
3) Reyes, SS
4) Lee, 1B
5) Ruggiano, CF
6) Petersen, LF
7) Hayes, C
8) Cousins, RF
9) Buehrle, P
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — If Sunday was an audition, Josh Johnson’s performance didn’t win over the critics.
After seeing six walks in five innings by Johnson, scouts and front office personnel are deciding whether to meet Miami’s high trade demands.
Representatives from roughly 15 teams were at Marlins Park on Sunday afternoon, watching the 28-year-old issue a season-high six walks while stiking out four in five innings.
Johnson minimized damage, allowing two runs on two hits. In terms of pure stuff, the 95-pitch outing was not overwhelming.
That could be good or bad news for Marlins fans hopeful Johnson remains with the club after Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline passes.
The good news for Miami fans hoping JJ will stay is, other teams may be backing away from trade talks.
Conversely, if JJ stays, more is expected from the two-time All-Star.
The Marlins are listening to teams interested in their ace. But Miami is seeking a large haul — at least four players, including a top prospect or two. If such a package isn’t presented, look for JJ to remain with the team that Drafted him in 2002.
The Rangers were lukewarm before Sunday, and they saw nothing to change their mind. The Blue Jays are in the mix, as are the Red Sox.
Now, the Braves are in the conversation, but would the Marlins deal with their division rival? It would depend on what’s offered in return.
Barring being blown out of the water, the Marlins probably won’t find a match with Atlanta.
Some will say, Miami traded Dan Uggla to the Braves two years ago. But circumstances were different, because Uggla turned down a four-year, $48 million offer from the Marlins then. He was entering his final season of arbitration, and the club wanted to get something, rather then watch Uggla test the market.
JJ is signed through 2013 as he will make $13.75 million next year.
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez, obviously, knows Johnson well. He managed him with the Marlins.
While the right-hander had less-than-spectacular stuff on Sunday, on July 23, Johnson beat the Braves. On that night, his stuff was electric, nine strikeouts with one hit allowed in six scoreless innings.
Johnson left that game due to a small cut at the nail of his right middle finger.
Perhaps the finger was an issue on Sunday against the Padres.
Or it may be a case of Johnson still searching for consistency. In 2011, he missed a majority of the season because of right shoulder inflammation.
While he’s been healthy this year, he hasn’t dominated like in the past. Before being hurt in ’11, Johnson was 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA. And in 2010, he won the NL ERA crown with a 2.30, going 11-6 in 28 starts.
JJ is next scheduled to start on Friday at Washington.
Until the trade deadline passes on Tuesday, there will likely remain speculation that Johnson’s outing on Sunday was his last one with the Marlins.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Set the odds once again at 50/50 that Josh Johnson will be moved by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
A source on Friday said if the Marlins are offered the right pieces, ”he will go.”
Showing how fluid trade speculation can be, by Friday night, the Rangers now are the team most aggressively pursuing Johnson. The Angels had made some calls, but on Friday night, they reportedly have a deal with Milwaukee for Zack Greinke.
The Marlins are not necessarily eager to part with their 28-year-old ace. But for a high price of big league ready talent, they would be willing to make a deal.
The Marlins are looking for the kind of return the Padres got when they sent Mat Latos to the Reds last December. San Diego received Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal.
Texas has had interest in Johnson for years. In 2010, when the Marlins dealt Jorge Cantu to the Rangers, they asked then about Johnson.
If a big haul isn’t worked out, Miami is perfectly content keeping Johnson at the front of its rotation for the remainder of his contract. His deal runs through 2013.
Whether Johnson will stay or go has been widely speculated for days. About 25 scouts were on hand for his last start, when he beat the Braves on Monday.
It might have been Johnson’s most dominating performance of the season, nine strikeouts in six shutout innings. He was lifted after six innings due to a cut near the nail of his right middle finger.
The trade climate surrounding Johnson changes, seemingly on a day to day basis.
On Wednesday, after Miami dealt Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Dodgers, there were strong indications that Johnson would stay in Miami.
He still may.
But other teams maintain interest.
The Marlins are looking for a hefty package in return. If it’s not presented, then Johnson will surely remain with the Marlins, where he is signed for $13.75 million in ’13.
So the Marlins have some leverage with the right-hander.
There is a health concern with Johnson, who missed most of last year due to right shoulder inflammation. But the two-time All-Star has made 20 starts, and he has thrown 119 2/3 innings to go along with a 6-7 record and 4.14 ERA.
His velocity has been more in the 93-94 mph range than the 96-97 heater he was throwing in 2011 before being shut down.
While he has been healthy the whole season, he’s also been rusty at times. That is understandable due to all the missed time.
Being healthy is one step. Regaining sharpness is another.
If his start against the Braves is an indication, then Johnson may be progressing to the elite status he held before being hurt.
His curveball baffled the Atlanta hitters that day, and his slider was sharp.
With everything working, Johnson allowed one hit and no walks to go along with his nine strikeouts in six innings.
Johnson’s next scheduled to start on Sunday in the series finale with the Padres at Marlins Park.
The rumors surrounding him promise to remain until the deadline passes.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Speed is the Marlins’ best attribute right now, so manager Ozzie Guillen has decided to exploit it.
With Hanley Ramirez now in Los Angeles, the Marlins are minus some more power.
So on Friday, Guillen opted to drop Jose Reyes from the leadoff spot to third for the first time this year. Reyes is riding a 13-game hitting streak.
Emilio Bonifacio was put into the leadoff spot, and Donovan Solano, playing third base in place of Ramirez, is hitting second.
The Marlins on Friday announced Donnie Murphy has his contract selected from Triple-A New Orleans.
1) Bonifacio, 2B
2) Solano, 3B
3) Reyes, SS
4) Lee, 1B
5) Ruggiano, CF
6) Morrison, LF
7) Petersen, RF
8) Buck, C
9) Zambrano, P
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Per team policy, the Marlins will have their “Open For Business” sign up until Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline period ends.
Wednesday’s blockbuster deal — sending Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Dodgers — was the team’s second major move three days. On Monday, Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez were traded to the Tigers.
Many are wondering, will Josh Johnson be next?
If the feeling around the club on Wednesday is any indication, Johnson isn’t going anywhere.
The Marlins, right now, are planning on retaining Johnson for a couple of reasons. Foremost, even though he has had his struggles this year, he remains a legitimate ace. That is a very hard commodity to find.
Secondly, he is under contract through 2013. The Marlins gained some more payroll flexibility by removing the nearly $40 million remaining on Ramirez’s contract through 2014. So there isn’t the financial pressure to unload Johnson’s $13.5 million salary.
Now, there is a chance Johnson could be moved. But don’t expect a deal unless they Marlins receive a substantial offer in return. It is highly likely the Marlins will be tempted, because so many playoff contenders are in the market for pitching.
But, unlike Ramirez, the Marlins are not shopping Johnson. With Ramirez, the club felt it was in their best interest, as well as Ramirez’s to make a trade.
The Marlins like to have a rotation in 2013 that features Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco, who are all under contract next year.
The bottom line on Johnson is, the Marlins understand if they are to contend seriously in 2013, they will need a true ace. JJ provides that.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Whether Hanley Ramirez remains with the Marlins through the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline could come down to what the 28-year-old shows on the field this week.
The subject of trade speculation, Ramirez is back in the lineup on Tuesday after missing four straight starts due to inflammation in his right hand.
After trading Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers on Monday, the Marlins remain open for business on the trade front.
Ramirez has emerged as a prime target. The trouble is, he hasn’t played in a few days, and scouts haven’t been able to look at the former three-time All-Star more closely.
The Red Sox and A’s are reportedly interested.
Boston could be a fit, because it is the organization that Ramirez broke in with. While Ramirez switched to third base this year, he could go back to playing shortstop. Or he could be used as a designated hitter on occasion.
Ramirez is a close friend of David Ortiz, who could be a positive influence.
While the Marlins trimmed about $8 million off their payroll with Monday’s trade, the team could be looking to trim more.
An MLB source said that the Marlins haven’t indicated they are looking to dump big contracts. Still, the team’s attendance in their first year at Marlins Park is lower than projected.
The Opening Day figure is $101,628,000, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts web site. It was a more modest $57,695,000 in 2011. Attendance has been solid, at 28,000, but the team was hopeful to be averaging about 34,000.
With the team being a long shot to reach the playoffs, management is opening to making deals.
The one untouchable is Giancarlo Stanton. Let’s put that to rest.
It’s also extremely doubtful the club would move Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.
Reyes, even in a down year, plays a premium position, and he’s in his prime. He’s riding a 12-game hitting streak, and showing signs of being his old self. The Marlins are comfortable with Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio as a double-play combination.
Buehrle has been as advertised, an innings eater and a real professional. If Josh Johnson is moved, the veteran lefty can assume the role of ace.
The question is whether the team would part with Johnson or Ricky Nolasco.
For the right price, they would certainly consider anything.
On Monday night, Johnson threw perhaps his best game of the season. He struck out nine, and allowed one hit in six scoreless innings. But a small cut near the nail on his right middle finger caused him to be lifted.
Johnson is expected to make his next start. But will it be with the Marlins?
The Rangers, Red Sox, Angels and more were scouting Johnson on Monday. In all, there were about 20 scouts at the game.
Johnson is signed through 2013. Ramirez is under contract through 2014.
This is where it gets interesting. The Marlins may consider moving Johnson and Ramirez, the faces of their franchise since 2006.
It appears the Red Sox aren’t in position to take on a lot of salary, unless they part with Carl Crawford.
Last week, there was a USA Today report that the Marlins and Red Sox discussed Ramirez and Heath Bell for Crawford.
While that story didn’t take form, perhaps a bigger package could create a real blockbuster trade. To move Ramirez, the Marlins could include Johnson or Nolasco.
Crawford will make $20 million in 2013. From 2013-17, he is signed for a total of $102.5 million.
Ramirez is set to make $15.5 million in 2013, and 16 million in 2014. Johnson is under contract for $13.75 million this year and in 2013. Nolasco is set to earn $11.5 million next year.
If the Marlins want to do business with the Angeles, outfielder Peter Bourgos could be part of a deal. The Rangers may step up for Johnson because of needs in their rotation.
Even though the Marlins have made it clear that they are willing to trade, they also have the luxury to only do deals that make sense.
– Joe Frisaro