JUPITER, Fla. — Former All-Star and Miami native Mike Lowell understands the frustrations.
Like so many in South Florida, Lowell wants to see the Marlins succeed in their new ballpark. During his playing days with the Marlins, he was asked to go to various commission meetings in Miami in hopes of drumming up support for a new ballpark.
The new building came to fruition in 2012, when Marlins Park opened. A year ago, there was so much excitement and high expections.
Lowell, who retired as a player in 2010, shared in the enthusiasm. So to see the team trade away all the high-profile players after one season was disappointing.
On Thursday, Lowell was back in a Marlins’ uniform, sporting the familiar No. 19 and sitting on the bench during Miami’s 8-2 loss to the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.
Lowell will be in town until Sunday as a guest instructor, interacting with the players.
For a few minutes before Thursday’s game, it was like old times as Lowell talked with Redmond and Lenny Harris, a Minor League hitting coordinator. Juan Pierre, the center fielder in 2003, had a chance to catch up with Lowell.
Regarding the makeover of the roster, Lowell said: “To a certain degree, I almost feel like a fan. I remember the days asking to go to meetings in the city of Miami because the stadium was a possibility.”
The Marlins had big dreams a year ago.
“You just had so much hope that you’ve been wanting this for 15 years, and you get it,” Lowell said. “And it seemed like it didn’t last very long. But it’s not my team. It’s not my money. From that standpoint, they had the right to do what they want.
“But like every decision a ballplayer makes, there is going to be a consequence. I think the ownership has to understand, at least where the fans are coming from. Because I don’t think the fans were totally wrong in that situation. There was so much excitement over the stadium, over the team, over the craze, and it seems like it was just a rental. That is frustrating for fans, because I think, when you win, people get excited.”
Lowell pointed to the hysteria now over University of Miami basketball.
“Thirty people didn’t fill that arena before, now they are filling the place,” Lowell said. “When you win, there is a good vibe in the community. Selfishly, I want the team to do well because I want to be a witness to it in my community.”
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — It didn’t matter if it was on the back field or the main field, Jose Fernandez approached the outing the same way.
“I just work hard to get better every day,” Fernandez said. “I want to be the best. That’s what I work for. I want to take the little things from everybody, and put it on myself. It’s going to be good.”
The 20-year-old right-hander just so happened to be on a back field on Thursday morning, throwing two scoreless innings in a B Game against the Cardinals. He allowed one hit, struck out one, and got Rafael Furcal to tap into a 1-6-3 double play to end the first inning.
Furcal was in the B Game for St. Louis as he is recovering from a right elbow injury.
Thursday was the first time Fernandez faced another team. He had pitched in a simulated game, and had the unfortunate incident of plunking Giancarlo Stanton in the back of the head with a fastball.
Fernandez, who projects to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville, dealt with a minor ailment himself in Spring Training. He rested up a tight right hamstring, and he felt fine in the B Game.
The hard-throwing right-hander also made a personal business decision recently, signing up with agent Scott Boras.
“He’s the best in the business,” Fernandez said. “It’s been good. We had a good talk, too. I like him. A week ago, I talked to him over the phone. I like the way he goes about business, the same way that I do. It’s good.”
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — Jacob Turner will be making his first start of Spring Training on Thursday when he is set to throw two innings against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.
Miami will be the visiting team.
Also on Thursday, at 10 a.m., Marlins top prospect, Jose Fernandez, will start in a B Game against St. Louis. The game will be played on a back field on the Cardinals side of the complex.
In injury news, Justin Ruggiano, who has a strained lower back, did some light throwing on Thursday morning. He isn’t yet ready to swing a bat, but he also tracked pitches in the morning.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — One of the top prospects in the game now has a high-profile agent.
Jose Fernandez, the Marlins’ hard-throwing right-hander, is being represented by Scott Boras, the prominent Newport Beach, Calif.-based agent.
“We are very excited about having Jose,” Boras confirmed to MLB.com on Wednesday night. “He has the potential to be a future ace.”
Shortly after the 2012 season, Boras said he met with Fernandez, and the two sides agreed to come together.
The Marlins’ first-round pick in 2011, Fernandez is ranked seventh overall on the MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect list.
Fernandez is in his first big league Spring Training camp, and on Thursday morning he will start in a B Game against the Cardinals on a back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.
Miami intends to have Fernandez open the season at Double-A Jacksonville. If he shows he is ready, he could make the leap to the Majors in 2013.
The Marlins’ payroll has dramatically reduced from a year ago, being trimmed from about $100 million to roughly $40 million.
With Fernandez being represented by Boras, it will be interesting to see if the Marlins reconsider their policy on not awarding no-trade clauses.
On Monday night, team owner Jeffrey Loria was non-committal when asked if the team would reassess club policy.
— Joe Frisaro
VIERA, Fla. — For the second time in four days, the Marlins are facing the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium.
Miami sends Nathan Eovaldi to the mound, while Washington counters with Dan Haren.
Not on the trip is Giancarlo Stanton, but Miami’s middle infielders are staying together — Adeiny Hechavarria and Donovan Solano.
1) Yelich, LF
2) Solano, 2B
3) Downs, 3B
4) Mahoney, 1B
5) Silverio, DH
6) Coghlan, RF
7) Hechavarria, SS
8) Skipworth, C
9) Hernandez, CF
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — Dramatic changes were necessary, according Marlins’ management, because the squad from a year ago just didn’t click.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, speaking to reporters on Monday night at Marlins Park, called the makeover a “restart.”
“It’s called hitting the restart button, because it didn’t work,” Loria said. “I understand the [public] feeling. I have no interest in endless losing. We had two years of that. I want to see us get back to our winning ways.
“We had a number of years during the last decade where we had lots of successful seasons with low payrolls. Now, we’re in a building where the payrolls should go up. We envision that.”
Marlins payroll is expected to be in the $40 million range, after being at $100 million in 2012.
For the next few seasons, the Marlins plan on building around young roster.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — Casey Kotchman is in the Marlins lineup for the first time in Spring Training.
The 30-year-old first baseman, who received four stitches in his left ring finger earlier in camp, is seeing Grapefruit League action for the first time.
He was at first base and batting sixth on Tuesday for the Marlins against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium.
1) Pierre, LF
2) Polanco, 3B
3) Stanton, DH
4) Brantly, C
5) Kearns, RF
6) Kotchman, 1B
7) Green, SS
8) Figgins, 2B
9) Mattison, CF
– Joe Frisaro
VIERA, Fla. — The search has already begun.
The Marlins are in the market for a backup catcher, and they are exploring all avenues. The club is open to a trade, or seeing what options become available when rosters are trimmed.
Miami is in need of depth because Jeff Mathis suffered a broken collarbone after being clipped by a foul tip on Saturday.
Mathis is expected to be out six weeks. That’s just the recovery time for the bone to heal. For at least a month, he won’t be able to throw or swing a bat. So there is a chance Mathis won’t be game-ready until mid to late April.
Working in the Marlins’ favor is the fact the break early so early in camp.
In the next couple of weeks, the Marlins also will give a look to several in-house candidates.
Kyle Skipworth, a former first-round pick, is the closest internal choice to being big league ready.
— Joe Frisaro
VIERA, Fla. — The Marlins take on the Nationals on Sunday at Space Coast Stadium at 1:05 p.m. ET.
Henderson Alvarez, acquired from the Blue Jays in November, will get the start. Alvarez is in the mix for a middle of the rotation spot.
Washington is starting Jordan Zimmerman.
1) Chone Figgins, 3B
2) Chris Coghlan, CF
3) Greg Dobbs, DH
4) Austin Kearns, LF
5) Rob Brantly, C
6) Matt Downs, 1B
7) Nick Green, SS
8) Chris Valaika, 2B
9) Bryan Petersen, RF
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — On a day the Marlins celebrated an 8-3 win over the Cardinals, they endured a crushing blow.
Catcher Jeff Mathis suffered a non-displaced fracture to his right collar bone.
Manager Mike Redmond said recovery time is about six weeks, which means Mathis likely won’t be ready for Opening Day on April 1 at Washington.
“It’s not the break that we needed, for sure,” Redmond said. “It’s a fluke deal, a foul tip. It just hit him perfect.”
Mathis was clipped by Matt Holliday’s foul tip in the top of the fourth inning. Initially, he just shook it off, and remained in the game for one more pitch. But after Holliday drew a walk, Mathis felt discomfort while throwing the ball back to pitcher Brad Hand.
“When I went to throw I felt it,” Mathis said. “It wasn’t right. Right now, it’s non-displaced, which is good.
“I’ve had a broken face, broken hand, and broke wrist. I’ve never messed my collar bone up.”
The Marlins obtained Mathis from the Blue Jays in November, and he is the backup to Rob Brantly.
Miami already is thin on catching depth.
Kyle Skipworth replaced Mathis in the middle of the fourth inning. Jake Jefferies is another candidate. Wilfredo Gimenez and J.T. Realmuto, two prospects, are the other catchers in camp.
“I feel bad for us, but bad for him,” Redmond said. “He was excited. He’s been great around the young guys. We just have to figure it out tomorrow and see where we go from here.”
In the past, Mathis said he has broken several bones, but never his collar bone. The impact of the tip went through his chest protector.
“It hit me in the pad,” Mathis said. “It was just one of those things, where it catches you right. I’ve been hit there a lot of times.
“It felt like any other foul tip, I’d taken off the mask, the shoulder, the hand. When I went to throw, I knew it was something.”
— Joe Frisaro