October 2012

Rotation is key to Miami’s success

MIAMI — Two weeks after the regular season ended, the Marlins still have so many unanswered questions.

Team owner Jeffrey Loria still hasn’t given any word on whether manager Ozzie Guillen will return, or if there will be any restructuring in the front office. The coaching staff also is in limbo.

Look for some answers next week, after the team’s organizational meetings.

Amid the uncertainty remains one simple fact. For the Marlins to become a contender, they must have a strong starting rotation.

Barring any trades, the rotation looks pretty set. Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco promise to again anchor the top three spots. And rookies Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi each showed promise down the stretch. Both have tremendous upside.

After the World Series ends, the trading and free agency periods will begin. When they do, you will hear speculation that Johnson and Nolasco could be dangled. Both are signed through 2013, but not beyond. Johnson is set to make $13.5 million, and Nolasco $11.5 million.

The Marlins considered offers for Johnson at the July non-waiver Trade Deadline, but they never lowered their asking price. Perhaps Johnson could be dealt in the offseason if he were the key piece to pull off a major deal to bring in,  say, a third baseman, the team’s biggest need.

That said, expect to see Johnson taking the mound for Miami on Opening Day. Starting pitching is too valuable to part with, especially a legitimate front of the rotation starter.

And don’t rule out the Marlins seeking to sign Johnson to an extension before Spring Training gets started.

In spacious Marlins Park, it is clear Miami needs to build around pitching and defense.

So much went wrong for the Marlins in 2012, but for the most part, the starting pitching did its part.

Miami’s staff logged 982 1/3 innings, the 11th most in the Major Leagues. Of the 10 teams ahead of them in this category, only the Mariners (1002 2/3 innings) had a losing record.

Immediately behind the Marlins were the White Sox and Tigers, coming in 11th and 12. Atlanta and Oakland, for example, rated 16 and 17, respectively.

The Marlins collective ERA of 4.12 ranked 16th, the middle of the pack.

One issue of concern about current staff is, it ranked near the bottom of the league in strikeouts. Miami’s starters combined for 714 strikeouts, 21st out of 30 teams.

Consequently, not being a high strikeout staff, opponents frequently put the ball in play. Not surprisingly, Miami’s rotation allowed a lot of hits, 979 to be exact. That is tied with the Red Sox for the 10th most in the Majors.

Considering how much ground there is to cover at Marlins Park, the team needs to add speed, especially in the outfield.

So when the Marlins formulate what areas they need to address, don’t expect to see the rotation on the list. Their starting five pretty much is in place.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins prospects playing in Arizona Fall League

MIAMI — About six weeks after their Minor League seasons ended, several Marlins prospects already are getting some action in the Arizona Fall League.

In all, seven Miami Minor Leaguers are playing in the Arizoan for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. You can follow their progress at http://mlb.mlb.com/milb/stats/org.jsp?id=mia.

Already off to a fast start is Marlins’ top prospect, outfielder Christian Yelich, who comes off a tremendous season at Class A Jupiter.

Yelich batted .330 with 12 homers and 48 RBIs for Jupiter, which reached the Florida State League championship series before losing to Lakeland.

In three Arizona Fall League games, Yelich is 2-for-6.

Also playing for Phoenix are outfielder Kyle Jensen, catcher J.T. Realmuto, and pitchers Michael Brady, Grant Dayton, Brian Flynn and Scott McGough.

Flynn, a 6-foot-8 left-hander, has already thrown three innings in a start for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. He gave up two runs and struck out one.

Flynn was obtained by the Marlins in late July as part of the Omar Infante/Anibal Sanchez trade with Detroit. The 22-year-old made eight starts for Double A Jacksonville, and he was 3-0 with a 3.80 ERA in 45 innings after the trade.

McGough, a right-handed reliever, was acquired from the Dodgers in the Hanley Ramirez deal.

Winter Ball leagues also are close to getting started.

When they do, there will be some Marlins playing for their respective countries.

Outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, obtained from the Pirates for Gaby Sanchez, will be playing in his native Venezuela. Pitcher Jose Alvarez also will be playing in Venezuela.

Infielder Gil Velazquez will be playing in Mexico.

One of the Marlins coaches will be managing Winter League Ball. Third base coach Joe Espada will be managing Manati in Puerto Rico, with their season getting underway on Nov. 8. Espada also will be on the staff of Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic team.

Joe Frisaro  

LoMo camp has new home in January

MIAMI — Same camp, different location.

For the third straight year, Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison will conduct his annual “LoMo: Camp for a Cure.” The two-day baseball instructional camp will take place Jan. 12-13 at the ELEV|8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, Fla.

The previous two years, Morrison hosted the camp at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.

Morrison, the Marlins 2012 Robert Clemente Award nominee, started to camp to raise awareness and funds for the American Lung Association. In 2010, Morrison lost his father, Tom, to lung cancer.

In recent years the camp has raised more than $60,000 for the American Lung Assocation’s Florida chapter.

“Since 2010, LoMo: Camp for a Cure has really done something special with the American Lung Association,” said Morrison. “We have made a long-lasting impact on the fight against lung cancer and that will only continue to grow this year. I’m excited about our new set up at ELEV|8 Sports Institute and am looking forward to another great camp.”

Attendees of the camp will receive first class professional baseball instruction, a camp t-shirt, an autograph session, and various prizes. For more information about LoMo: Camp for a Cure please visit: www.lomo4lungs.org.

Joe Frisaro  

Holding pattern for Ozzie, front office

MIAMI — All has been quiet since the Marlins’ season ended. Chances are the silence will remain until the club’s organizational meetings later this month.

Team owner Jeffrey Loria continues to mull over what to do next.  And he is contemplating more than what to do with manager Ozzie Guillen.

According to a source, Loria also is weighing whether to restructure the front office.

When the Marlins faced the Mets in New York in late September, there was wide speculation that president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest would be dismissed, and vice president of player personnel Dan Jennings would replace him.

But on Sept. 21 in New York, Loria met with everyone in the front office, and said no changes were being made.

Also in New York, Loria sat down with Guillen on Sept. 23. Nothing was mentioned about Guillen’s future as manage. Instead, they talked mostly about the direction of the team, and its needs.

There is growing speculation that Guillen will be dismissed, but that decision hasn’t been made. There is a very strong chance Guillen returns. What could change is the chain of command in the front office. Roles for those already on staff may be different.

Right now, everything is on the table.

The Marlins are coming off their second straight last-place finish. The farm system also is in the process of being restocked, with a majority of the team’s top prospects considered more than a year away from being big-league ready.

So the organization is dealing with more than just who will manage the club.

Joe Frisaro

Lowell responds to Marlins’ speculation

MIAMI — If the Marlins changed managers, would Mike Lowell be interested?

This question and others were presented to the former All-Star third baseman and World Series hero on Friday night on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” on 790 The Ticket.

The Marlins are weighing whether to bring back manager Ozzie Guillen, who currently is on vacation in Spain.

For weeks, MLB.com has reported the Marlins have discussed Lowell as a potential replacement.

Le Batard asked Lowell directly: “Did the Marlins contact you, or talk to you in any way about being their manager?”

The answer was interesting.

“How can I be a manager when they have a manager?” said Lowell, who had been overseas for a few weeks. “I’ve been in Italy for two weeks. I didn’t have Internet. I tried talking to my kids, and couldn’t even talk to my kids.”

The follow up question was, “If they didn’t have a manager, would you be interested in the job?”

Lowell, who has never managed or coached at the professional level, said: “It would be a very interesting scenario, but I don’t know if this is the time in my life right now.”

Repeatedly pressed, Lowell responded: “No, I haven’t been contacted.”

The audio of the Lowell interview is posted on the 790 The Ticket web site —  www.theticketmiami.com.

The interview was light and loose, but it raised more questions than gave answers.

It’s obviously a touchy subject, because Guillen is the manager. Guillen also was the Marlins third base coach in 2002-03, when Lowell was with the organization.

Right now is a sensitive time for the organization, as it considers making a very difficult decision.

There continues to be speculation about Guillen’s future with the Marlins. There have been reports that the team is “aggressively” seeking a replacement.

Yet, two veteran Marlins players told MLB.com they’ve received indications that Guillen will be back in 2013.

But in recent weeks, there was strong sentiment that the odds were more than 50 percent that Guillen would be replaced.

What is clear is the speculation isn’t going away, and the one person with the final answer is team owner Jeffrey Loria, who is taking some time to think things over.

Joe Frisaro

 

 

 

 

 

Stanton paces NL in slugging percentage

MIAMI — A couple of injuries hurt Giancarlo Stanton’s chances of becoming the National League home run champion. Still, the Marlins right fielder has earned an impressive distinction.

With the regular season completed, Stanton has emerged as the National League’s slugging percentage champion.

According to Elias, by MLB rule 10.22(a), Stanton’s .608 slugging percentage is regarded as the best in the NL.

Stanton is the first Marlin ever to pace the NL in slugging percentage. Finishing second is Ryan Braun’s .595.

Braun and Stanton are flipped in the home run race. The Brewers’ All-Star led the NL with 41 homers, and Stanton was second at 37.

In time, Stanton projects to pace the league in home runs. He reached his total in 123 games, while Braun played in 154 games.

Stanton added 30 doubles and one triple. Of his 130 hits, 68 were for extra bases.

Stanton missed substantial time due to injuries. He was hampered by a sore left knee in April, and on July 8, he underwent right knee surgery. The 22-year-old also sat out in September with a sore left intercostal muscle.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins average 27,000 for the season

MIAMI — Despite a rough season on the field, the Marlins drew more than two million fans for the third time in franchise history.

In their inaugural year at Marlins Park, the team averaged 27,401 fans in their retractable-roof building, which has a capacity of 37,000.

For Wednesday’s finale against the Mets, there were 27,418 on hand.

The season total after 81 home games is 2,219,444.

The only other times the team drew more than two million were in 1993 and 1997.

Joe Frisaro

 

 

LeBlanc gets start in place of JJ

MIAMI — With the season ending on Wednesday, and the Marlins locked into last place in the National League East, the team doesn’t have much reason to chance anything with their ace, Josh Johnson.

So rather than give the 28-year-old one more start, the right-hander is being shut down.

The Marlins initially had Johnson scheduled to make his final start on Monday against the Mets at Marlins Park.

But on Monday morning, the club announced left-hander Wade LeBlanc would get the nod in the series opener.

No reason for the switch was given for the change.

Johnson, who missed a majority of 2011 with right shoulder inflammation, has already made it through the season healthy. Monday is the first scheduled start that he is missing.

Johnson finishes with an 8-14 record and a 3.81 ERA.

For the year, Johnson made 31 starts and threw 191 1/3 innings. He had hope to reach 200 innings, but he certainly is close enough and showed he can hold up. His innings are the most since he threw 183 2/3 innings in 28 starts in 2010.

LeBlanc, 2-5 with a 3.96 ERA, will be making his ninth start for Miami this season. He has appeared mostly out of the bullpen, making 16 relief appearances.

Joe Frisaro

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