February 2014

Stanton would welcome facing Winston

JUPITER, Fla. — Giancarlo Stanton had a first-hand look at Florida State’s game-winning touchdown drive, which clinched the National Championship for the Seminoles.

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston also is a pitcher at FSU.

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston also is a pitcher at FSU.

The Marlins slugger, who lives in the Los Angeles area, had 50-yard-line seats at the Rose Bowl for the BCS title game, won by FSU over Auburn in a last-second thriller.

A football standout in high school, Stanton turned down an opportunity to play at the University of Southern California to play baseball.

At the title game, Stanton got a good look at Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who threw the last-second touchdown pass.

Like Stanton, Winston is a multi-sport standout. Along with being FSU’s quarterback, Winston also is a closer on the Seminoles’ baseball team.

“I did see that,” Stanton said.

The advice Stanton gives Winston is to take good care of his arm.

“I understand being competitive and stuff, but that’s a long season,” Stanton said. “I hope he’s taking care of it.”

Winston is open to pursuing professional football and baseball careers.

So there could someday be the chance Stanton steps into the box to face Winston.

“It would be cool,” Stanton said. “I haven’t seen him throw, really. I’ve seen him throw from the outfield, and he’s got an arm.”

Stanton did witness Winston’s crowning moment, winning the football title.

“I didn’t storm the field, though,” he said.

Joe Frisaro

Jose has become ace at an early age

JUPITER, Fla. — At an early age, Jose Fernandez has accomplished so much.

The hard-throwing right-hander broke into the big leagues at age 20 last year, and was named an All-Star. He turned 21 mid-way through the season, and finished 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA on a 100-loss Miami squad.

Jose Fernandez threw an impressive bullpen session on Tuesday.

Jose Fernandez threw an impressive bullpen session on Tuesday.

His stellar season earned him National League Rookie of the Year honors.

Entering his second big league season, Fernandez has assumed the role of ace. Marlins manager Mike Redmond has yet to officially announce his Opening Day starter, but Fernandez is the obvious choice. If that indeed plays out, Fernandez will become the youngest Opening Day starter in team history, and one of the youngest in the Majors in almost 100 years.

Josh Beckett holds the distinction of being the Marlins’ most youthful Opening Day starter. He was 22-years and 320 days old in 2003.

The Marlins face the Rockies at Marlins Park on March 31. On that day, Fernandez will be 21-years, 243 days.

Fernandez also would become the youngest Opening Day starter in the Majors since Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, who was 20 years, 359 days in 2007. And Fernandez would be the second youngest since Dwight Gooden with the Mets was 21-years, 143-days old in 1986.

STATS LLC. did some research, dating back to 1919. On their chart, if Fernandez does get the nod in the opener, he would replace Vida Blue as the 17th youngest in more than 90 seasons.

Youngest Opening Day starters since 1919

1) Catfish Hunter, KCA 20-4 04/12/1966 at Min

2) Dwight Gooden, NYM 20-144 04/09/1985 vs. StL

3) Fernando Valenzuela, LAD 20-159 04/09/1981 vs. Hou

4) Bob Feller, Cle 20-169 04/21/1939 vs. Det

5) Josh Billings, Det 20-197 04/11/1928 vs. StL

6) Gary Nolan, Cin 20-315 04/07/1969 vs. LAD

7) Felix Hernandez, Sea 20-359 04/02/2007 vs. Oak

8) Bert Blyleven, Min 21-9 04/15/1972 at Oak

9) Jerry Walker, Bal 21-67 04/19/1960 vs. Was

10) Tom Hall, Min 21-136 04/08/1969 at KC

11) Dwight Gooden, NYM 21-143 04/08/1986 at Pit

12) Bob Feller, Cle 21-165 04/16/1940 at CWS

13) Dennis Eckersley, Cle 21-190 04/10/1976 vs. Det

14) Larry Dierker, Hou 21-201 04/10/1968 vs. Pit

15) Jim Bagby Jr., Bos 21-222 04/18/1938 vs. NYY

16) Tom Poholsky, StL 21-234 04/17/1951 at Pit

17) Vida Blue, Oak 21-251 04/05/1971 at Was

Joe Frisaro

Beards allowed in slightly modified hair policy

JUPITER, Fla. — Beards could become fashionable in the Marlins clubhouse.

Well, at least they are no longer are in violation of team rules for Miami players.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia can keep his beard as part of relaxed team policy.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia can keep his beard as part of relaxed team policy.

The organization is modifying its hair policy to allow beards, under one stipulation. They are kept clean.

“This year, we’re going to let them have beards, but they have to keep it trimmed up,” manager Mike Redmond said. “And the hair, too. We just don’t want it to be sloppy, I guess. You can have a beard now. … We’re just always adjusting.”

In the past, players could have groomed goatees. And last year, Ricky Nolasco sported a mild beard on occasion, but he had to keep it closely trimmed.

“We try to keep the hair neat,” Redmond said. “It’s basically been the same rule since I played here.”

The player most impacted on the beard policy is reliever Chaz Roe, a non-roster invitee who came to camp with a longer beard than most. Roe can keep the beard, but he’s trimmed it a bit.

Hair on the back of the neck also has to been under control.

Lefty Brian Flynn said he had 3 1/2 inches of hair taken off the back of his neck to adhere to team policy.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who joins the Marlins after being with the Red Sox, is fine to keep his beard. His hair length also is fine.

“Salty is good,” Redmond said.

The Red Sox, of course, are known for having an anything goes hair policy.

The Marlins aren’t going that far.

Could Marlins players rival Red Sox players in the beard department?

“No, we’ve got to keep it neat,” Redmond said. “We don’t want to make it look sloppy. This is an organizational thing.”

As for hair on the back of the neck, Redmond said: “I would think you’d want to do that. Just to keep it clean.”

The Marlins have one of the younger teams in the league, which prompted Redmond to say: “We’ve only got a handful of guys who can grow a beard.”

Joe Frisaro

Early to work at Marlins camp

JUPITER, Fla. — Stretch for Marlins players on Tuesday is set for 9:30 p.m. ET. But that didn’t keep a number of players from getting in some work even earlier at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

Mike Dunn executes the towel drill.

Mike Dunn executes the towel drill.

Before 9 a.m., several pitchers were on the mound doing the “towel drill,” which simulates throwing and the snap of the towel helps determine if their mechanics on clean.

Position players technically don’t get going until Thursday, but on a smaller field that is designed for infield drills, veteran Rafael Furcal was getting a head start on his transition to second base.

Rafael Furcal getting early work making the turn at second base.

Rafael Furcal getting early work making the turn at second base.

A career shortstop, Furcal is switching to second. The Marlins are high on Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop, and Furcal could still see some games at his old position, if necessary.

Marlins infield coach Perry Hill, one of the best in the business, was giving special attention to Furcal and his footwork in handling relay throws to second base. Footwork around the base is imperative to not only making the plays, and turning double plays, but to making sure the middle infielders don’t get hurt while being taken out by the baserunner.

Austin Nola, expected to be the Double-A Jacksonville shortstop, also was getting some instruction on making the turn as a second baseman.

Joe Frisaro

Emphasis on bunting about to begin

JUPITER, Fla. — When you lose as many one-run games as the Marlins did last season, you recognize the importance of the little things.

Jacob Turner chats with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as a baseball flings by at Marlins camp.

Jacob Turner chats with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as a baseball flings by at Marlins camp.

Something as simple as pitchers being able to execute a sacrifice bunt is being worked on in Spring Training.

“They understand we lost a lot of one-run games,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We need to get better. We need to get on the other side of those one-run games.”

The first few days of Spring Training are typically reserved for working the fundamentals.

New third base coach, Brett Butler, was known as one of the better bunters of his generation. He is working with the pitchers on bunting.

Pitchers and catchers also are getting their fielding work done on the back fields of the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

The Marlins have 36 pitchers in camp, but for now, two are missing. Relievers Henry Rodriguez and Jesus Sanchez have yet to report because they are dealing with visa issues getting into the country. It’s unclear when they will arrive.

Organizational meetings: Monday’s workouts ended about noon because of organization meetings.

All 125 people in the baseball operations department were brought to Jupiter for a couple of days of meetings. Many are scouts who are dispersed across the country, and they don’t get a chance to look at the big league club.

So meetings were set for Monday and Tuesday.

Rotation spots: Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler are experienced candidates to win the fourth and fifth rotation spots. Of the two, Turner’s spot seems more secure. The right-hander is out of options, which weighs in his favor.

Turner threw off the mound on Monday to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Koehler also threw off the mound.

So did a couple of other candidates, including Brad Hand (also out of options), Brian Flynn, Andrew Heaney and Adam Conley.

Joe Frisaro

Camp begins at Roger Dean Stadium

JUPITER, Fla. — The back fields were in full use at Roger Dean Stadium.

Jose Fernandez throws off the mound for the first time. (Denis Bancroft/Miami Marlins)

Jose Fernandez throws off the mound for the first time. (Denis Bancroft/Miami Marlins)

After undergoing physicals in the morning, there was a brief meeting, and pitchers and catchers began stretching at 1 p.m. ET.

Breaking up into groups, the first wave of drills were PFP (pitchers fielding practice). Catchers worked on their techniques and blocking pitches in the dirt.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter, displayed power from both sides of the plate in batting practice.

Around 2:45 p.m., pitchers threw their first bullpen sessions.

Jose Fernandez was part of Group 1, and he threw to Saltalamacchia.

Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani, Bryan Evans, Kevin Slowey and Jose Urena also through in the first group.

The second group that threw off the mounds included relievers Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos and Carter Capps, obtained from the Mariners in the Logan Morrison trade. Prospects Nick Wittgren and Colby Suggs, along with Chris Hatcher and Chaz Roe also threw.

Those who threw off the mound on Sunday will take a break on Monday.

Taking the mound for the first time will be Andrew Heaney, Adam Conley, Brian Flynn, Brad Hand, Tom Koehler, Jacob Turner, Greg Nappo, Rett Varner and Angel Sanchez.

The second group is mostly of relievers and it includes Mike Dunn, Dan Jennings, Arquimedes Caminero, Carlos Marmol, Grant Dayton, Sam Dyson, Edgar Olmos, James Leverton and Josh Spence.

Two no-shows on Sunday are relievers Henry Rodriguez and Jesus Sanchez, who are dealing with visa issues.

Monday’s workouts begin at 9:30 a.m. ET, and they are open to the public.

Joe Frisaro

Swapping the ski slopes for sunshine

JUPITER, Fla. — How does Mike Redmond relax in the offseason?

When in the mood for some outdoors fun, the Miami Marlins manager takes to the ski slopes.

Yes, that is Marlins manager Mike Redmond showing off his skills on the slopes.

Yes, that is Marlins manager Mike Redmond showing off his skills on the slopes.

A couple of weeks ago, Redmond went skiing at Schweitzer Mountain in Idaho with a couple of friends, including Mike Lowell, his former teammate.

An accomplished skier, Redmond did a modest 15-foot jump, and he has a picture, taken by his friend Bill Holt, to prove it.

The photo was posted on his @mredmond55 Twitter account on Jan. 29, with the caption: “Pitchers & catchers soon!!!”

“It was probably a 15-foot jump,” Redmond said nonchalantly.

Asked how many other big league managers could make that jump, he quips: “Probably none.”

A Spokane, Wash., resident, Redmond regularly gets on the slopes.

On Sunday, Redmond traded the snow for some sunshine, as the Marlins opened Spring Training with the first day of pitchers and catchers workouts.

Joe Frisaro

Winter Warm-Up in full swing

MIAMI — Before taking the field to launch Spring Training on Sunday, the Marlins had their major meet-and-greet with their fans.

At 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, the Marlins annual Winter Warm-Up began at Marlins Park.

Free to the public, the event lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and it marked the first day single game tickets went on sale.

Tickets to all regular season games are now available at Marlins Park and on-line on http://www.marlins.com.

The Warm-Up began with a Miracle League of Miami Dade game.

On Wednesday, the Marlins held a charity golf event that raised $50,000 for the Miracle League of Miami Dade.

Joe Frisaro

Marmol creates another late-inning option

MIAMI — Spring Training should bring some interesting late-inning bullpen battles at Marlins’ Spring Training.

Carlos Marmol is now officially in the mix after his free agent signing was formally announced on Tuesday.

With a $1.25 million contract Marmol is basically guaranteed an Opening Day roster spot. The veteran right-hander has plenty of experience, which is a primary reason he was signed.

Marmol now fits into the mix among right-handed late-inning candidates. He will get a shot at filling a seventh or eighth inning role, along with A.J. Ramos and Carter Capps.

Mike Dunn is the late-inning lefty choice.

Miami has added more experienced depth to bridge the game to closer Steve Cishek.

“With the signing of Carlos, we add a proven reliever with experience in the late innings,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “We are thrilled to add a player of his quality to an already deep bullpen.”

Arquimedes Caminero is a hard-throwing right-hander, who threw some big league innings last year. Another lefty option is Dan Jennings.

A couple of non-roster invitee candidates are Chaz Roe and Henry Rodriguez.

The Marlins certainly have some power arms in the bullpen.

The competition will be interesting to follow when Spring Training gets underway on Sunday.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins’ bench spots filling fast

MIAMI — Signing Jeff Baker to a two-year contract fills yet another bench spot on a Marlins’ roster that appears to be filling up quickly.

Obviously, much can happen over the course of Spring Training, but heading into camp, reserve roles will be hotly contested.

The Marlins probably will carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers. That’s subject to change, but it is unlikely the club will carry fewer than seven relievers.

Baker offers versatility because he can play first base, third base, second base and both corner outfield spots. The veteran also is a right-handed pinch-hit option for manager Mike Redmond.

Jeff Mathis is expected to be the backup catcher.

The frontrunner to be the fourth outfielder is Brian Bogusevic, acquired from the Cubs for Justin Ruggiano. A left-handed hitter, Bogusevic plays all three outfield spots, making him valuable because he can handle center.

Greg Dobbs, signed for $1.7 million, is the primary left-handed hitting pinch-hitter. Dobbs also can play first and third, and if needed, the corner outfield.

At the Winter Meetings, at least one team inquired about Dobbs’ availability. The Braves sought a left-handed bat off the bench, and had feeler talks with Miami about Dobbs.

Dobbs signed his one-year extension during the 2013 season, so it is understood that he will stay in Miami.

Baker, Mathis, Dobbs and Bogusevic are all on the 40-man roster, and they appear to be the favorites to claim four of the five bench spots.

If necessary, Furcal, signed to play second basem, could back up Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop.

The way the roster is shaping up, there could be one bench position remaining.

Reed Johnson and Ty Wigginton are among the non-roster invitees with plenty of big league experience. Johnson could emerge as the choice as the fifth outfielder.

Wigginton is in the mix at first or third base.

Those two aren’t the only non-roster invitees who will be seekign to win a job.

The new additions certainly impacts infielders Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas, two key players last year.

Solano started most of the year at second, but he can play shortstop and third. Perhaps that will give him an edge. Lucas plays all four infield spots, and he was a right-handed platoon option candidate at first base until Baker signed.

Derek Dietrich, a left-handed hitter who plays second and third, also becomes a long-shot after the offseason pickups. The same holds true for center fielder Jake Marisnick, unless he wins the starting job over Marcell Ozuna.

The goal of the front office was to create as much competition as possible, and make tough choices for the front office and coaching staff. Mission accomplished.

Joe Frisaro