January 2013

Plenty of opportunity at Marlins camp

MIAMI — Plenty of jobs will be up for grabs when the Marlins head into Spring Training on Feb. 12 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

Heavy turnover from a year ago has created uncertainty and plenty of opportunity.

The Marlins have 71 players scheduled to attend Spring Training, with many of those being prospects who will get a taste of big league camp. But for a number of players, the competition for an Opening Day roster spot is very real.

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said on Tuesday that fifth starter is up in the air, as is about three or four bullpen spots.

“There are some guys that we definitely have in a little bit darker pencil than others,” Beinfest said. “There is going to be competition. If you really look at it right now on paper, I think the fifth starter is wide open.

“I would say there are three to four really open spots in the ‘pen, depending on who you may or may not have in the ‘pen already. There are a lot of opportunities out there for guys to step up. There are a couple of jobs on the bench — the utility infielder, the fourth outfielder. I think those are the highlights of the opportunities.”

The first four in the rotation are set — Ricky Nolasco, Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. In the mix for the fifth starter are Wade LeBlanc, Brad Hand, Tom Koehler, Alex Sanabia and Minor League invitees, John Maine, Kevin Slowey and Mitch Talbot.

In the bullpen, Steve Cishek will close. But there will be several openings for setup and long relief roles.

Beinfest mentioned Arquimedes Caminero as an interesting prospect, who has battled back from Tommy John surgery.

Jose Ceda, also back from Tommy John surgery, will have a chance to win an Opening Day relief spot. But Ceda missed all of last year, and there is a chance he could start off in extended Spring Training and/or get innings in at Triple-A New Orleans.

Full-squad workouts get underway on Feb. 15.

In terms of positions, Giancarlo Stanton (right field), Rob Brantly (catcher), Adeiny Hechavarria (shortstop), Juan Pierre (left field), Placido Polonco (third base), Donovan Solano (second base) and Justin Ruggiano (center field) are likely starters when camp opens.

Logan Morrison, recovering from right knee surgery, will not be ready to run when camp opens. The hope is he will be ready for Opening Day, but that will depend on how the knee responds.

Greg Dobbs, Joe Mahoney and Austin Kearns are candidates to play first base until Morrison is available.

Beinfest has not ruled out the team making one or two more modest signings.

Joe Frisaro

Ceda could factor into bullpen equation

JUPITER, Fla. — A year ago, Jose Ceda was making a case to earn a bullpen spot on the Marlins’ Opening Day roster.

But late in Spring Training, the hard-throwing right-hander experienced discomfort in his elbow. He ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 12, and he missed the entire season.

Now healthy, the 26-year-old is heading into Spring Training without any throwing restrictions.

Ceda on Monday went through workouts in the Marlins first day of voluntary mini-camp at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

“I feel really good,” Ceda said.

He began throwing off the mound last week, and he has bullpen sessions scheduled for Tuesday and Friday.

“I’m getting stronger,” Ceda said.

Ceda could emerge as a factor in Miami’s bullpen. If not when the season opens, later on in the year.

With one more option on Ceda, the Marlins can send him to the Minor Leagues to get work until he is ready.

Ceda could be a candidate to start off at extended Spring Training to get some innings in, and then head to Triple-A New Orleans.

In 2011, Ceda appeared in 17 games for Miami, and he had a 4.43 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. The same year, he was 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA in 36 games at New Orleans. He struck out 53 and walked 13 in 39 2/3 innings.

Miami’s pitchers and catchers begin Spring Training workouts on Feb. 12, and full-squad drills begin on Feb. 15.

Among the pitchers at Monday’s minicamp were Ceda, Justin Nicolino, Dan Jennings, Steve Cishek, Tom Koehler, Alex Sanabia, Evan Reed and Anthony DeSclafani.

Some of the position players included Juan Pierre and Alfredo Silverio.

Silverio is an interesting player in camp.

The 25-year-old outfielder was selected by Miami in December’s Rule 5 Draft. Formerly with the Dodgers, Silverio is a five-tool caliber player who is battling back from a serious auto accident last January.

“I feel back to normal,” Silverio said after taking batting practice and going through fielding drills.

In Double-A in 2011, Silverio batted .306 with 16 homers and 85 RBIs. He had been working out on the Dominican Republic.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins hopeful to eventually land All-Star Game

MIAMI — Miami’s already lengthy wait to host Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game will last even longer.

Cincinnati is being tabbed to host the 2015 Midsummer Classic, according to numerous reports.

For years, the Marlins were hopeful of securing the event. During negotiations with the city of Miami, and Miami-Dade County in the building of Marlins Park, MLB officials noted that new ballparks typically become sites for the All-Star Game.

Now, the organization and South Florida will have to wait for 2017, at the earliest. There also will be competition from Washington. So, Miami could be looking at 2019.

“We recognize that Cincinnati’s ballpark opened many years before Marlins Park,” Marlins president David Samson said in a statement. “We remain confident and hopeful that Miami will host a future All-Star Game.”

Marlins Park opened in 2012, and the Marlins endured a rough inaugural season. They finished with 93 losses and in last place in the National League East.

Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati opened in 2003.

Citi Field, home of the Mets, will be the setting of the 2013 All-Star Game, and Minnesota will be the host in 2014.

Cincinnati last had the All-Star Game in 1988.

The Marlins have never hosted the Midsummer Classic.

In the 1990s, the Marlins former home, Sun Life Stadium, was awarded the 2000 All-Star Game. Eventually, the site was switched to Turner Field in Atlanta.

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins to sign Matt Downs

MIAMI — The Marlins are adding more infield depth with big league experience.

Miami is close to signing Matt Downs to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp.

The 28-year-old utility infielder spent the past three seasons with the Astros. In 2012, he appeared in 91 games and he batted .202 with eight home runs and 16 RBIs.

The past two seasons, Downs has combined for 18 home runs in just under 400 at-bats.

He can play all four positions in the infield, and he has also played in the outfield. Downs also is a pinch-hit option.

Downs was a 36th round pick of the Giants in 2006, and he has appeared in 254 MLB games in parts of four seasons.

Joe Frisaro

Green agrees to Minor League deal

MIAMI — The Marlins have added a veteran candidate to compete for their utility role.

Nick Green, who was with the organization in 2012, has agreed to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The 34-year-old will have an excellent chance to make the team as a backup middle infielder.

A year ago, Green joined the Marlins in a similar situation. He signed a Minor League deal with an invitation to camp, but he opened the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

Green batted .344 in 63 games for New Orleans last year, and he appeared in seven games with the Marlins. He suffered a left thumb injury with Miami, but he is fully recovered for the start of Spring Training.

The Marlins have a need for middle backup middle infielders.

Green broke in with the Braves in 2004, and he has played in parts of seven big league seasons.

Joe Frisaro

First base alternatives for Marlins

MIAMI — Logan Morrison’s knee injury has created uncertainty in the Marlins infield.

Morrison isn’t expected to begin running until about a week into Spring Training, which raises the question — who will play first base?

There aren’t too many candidates on the 40-man roster. Greg Dobbs, best suited as a left-handed bat off the bench, will certainly get some work at first base. So will Joe Mahoney, a left-handed hitter formerly in the Orioles’ system.

Those are the only two serious choices on the 40-man roster.

Don’t expect the Marlins to make a push to bring back Carlos Lee, now a free agent after playing the position for Miami in the second half of ’12.

The Nationals are shopping Michael Morse, but the Marlins aren’t a likely trade match.

An internal candidate to keep an eye on is Kyle Jensen, a 24-year-old who was Miami’s 12th round pick in 2009.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder is a natural corner outfielder. Look for him to see time at first base in Spring Training for a couple of reasons. First, there is a need. And secondly, Miami is stocked with outfield prospects, including Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna. Those three are expected to open in Double-A Jacksonville.

In terms of power potential, Jensen profiles at first base as well.

At Jacksonville last year, he belted 24 homers and drove in 84 runs. His batting average was just .234 and he struck out 162 times in 445 at-bats. But he added 21 doubles and had an OPS of .789.

What was really encouraging about Jensen was his impressive play in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .330 (30 for 91) in 23 games. Again, he displayed great power, belting five home runs and seven doubles, along with a triple.

The hope is Morrison, recovering from right knee surgery, will be ready for Opening Day, but that is not a given. And the Marlins are in a position where they want to measure exactly what they have in their Minor Leagues, not look for quick-fix free agents for the short term.

For Jensen, first base may wind up being his fastest path to the big leagues.

Joe Frisaro

Former Marlins’ prospect to walk on at Bama

MIAMI — Former Marlins prospect Jai Miller is now pursuing a chance to play college football.

According to BamaOnline, Miller has enrolled at the University of Alabama, and he plans on walking on with the Crimson Tide.

Miller, who turns 28 on Jan. 17, was a football standout in high school. But the Selma, Ala., native opted to play baseball after being drafted by the Marlins in the fourth round in 2003.

Miller appeared in just one game with the Marlins, striking out in a pinch-hit at-bat at Oakland in 2008. In 2010, the former outfielder appeared in 20 games with the Royals. His last big league appearance came with the A’s in 2011, when he was in seven games.

Reports out of Alabama claim Miller met a few weeks ago with Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Miller is walking on the football team, and he is expected to be participating in spring practices. He will be looked at as a safety.

— Joe Frisaro