March 2014

Ozuna steps into spotlight with lights on

MIAMI — Don’t always put too much on Spring Training performances. If you do, you may make some mistakes in evaluations.

Marcell Ozuna is a prime example. The 23-year-old entered camp as the frontrunner to win the Marlins’ center field job. But for much of Spring Training he struggled at the plate, and he finished with a .177 average in Grapefruit League play.

More than the numbers, Ozuna had some holes in his swing he needed to correct. He was overly aggressive and had his timing off. Until the final 10 days or so, the club considered sending him to Triple-A to open the season.

But in the final week and a half, Ozuna picked things up. He ended up winning the center field job, and on Monday night, Ozuna stepped up with a huge night, going 3-for-4 with a home run, single and double in Miami’s 10-1 win over the Rockies.

“We talk about it all the time, Spring Training is not always a springboard to the season,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I always talk about the lights. When the lights come on, you see what guys are made up. Today, O-Zo came out, and had a big night.”

Ozuna was a teammate of Jose Fernandez in the Minor Leagues, and the two are close friends. Before Monday’s game, Fernandez gave his buddy some advice.

“O-Zo and I have an incredible relationship,” Fernandez said. “We played in the Minor Leagues together. Today, I walked into the clubhouse, and I told him, ‘I just want you to do something, take it easy, relax.’ He’s incredible. His ability is incredible. It came out perfectly. I am so happy seeing guys have success. Everybody is working hard. Everybody wants to impress. We want to prove we’re a team, and we can play baseball.”

Joe Frisaro

Seeking a Home Opener reversal

MIAMI — Maybe season No. 3 will be a charm for Miami in its Marlins Park opener.

The first two, to say the least, were highly disappointing.

Marlins Park, a colorful retractable-roof facility, opened with great fanfare in 2012. The team sported a high-profile roster, and had carried high enthusiasm into Opening Day against the Cardinals. But once the game got underway, there was little to cheer about for Marlins’ fans. The Cardinals scored in the first inning off Josh Johnson, and Miami was held hitless by Kyle Lohse for six innings.

The Marlins first hit came in the seven on Jose Reyes’ leadoff single. St. Louis went on to win, 4-1. Miami was limited to four hits.

In 2013, the Marlins opened on the road, getting swept in three games at Washington. In fact, they were shutout in the first two games.

The Marlins went 1-5 on their first road trip, and faced the Braves in their home opener. Again, they didn’t do much at the plate. They lost 2-0, but managed just two hits. Paul Maholm yielded just one hit while striking out seven in seven innings.

The Marlins take on the Rockies at 7:05 p.m. ET, and look to provide their fans with their first home opener victory.

Jose Fernandez, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, gets the starting nod. Colorado is going with lefty Jorge De La Rosa.

Gates open at 5:05 p.m. ET. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:20 p.m. ET, and the first pitch is 7:05 p.m. Dan Marino is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Joe Frisaro

Yelich set to lead off in opener

MIAMI — Christian Yelich, who made his MLB debut last July against the Rockies, will have the distinction of being Miami’s first batter in 2014.

The 22-year-old left fielder was tabbed to lead off on Monday night for the Marlins against the Rockies at Marlins Park.

Miami is sending Jose Fernandez to the mound, while Colorado is countering with lefty Jorge De La Rosa.

Because the Rockies went with a southpaw, manager Mike Redmond has adjusted the middle of his order. Lefty-hitting Garrett Jones, expected to bat cleanup against right-handers, is being dropped to fifth on Opening Night.

Casey McGehee is getting the nod to bat cleanup.

LINEUP

1) Yelich LF
2) Baker 2B
3) Stanton RF
4) McGehee 3B
5) Jones 1B
6) Saltalamacchia C
7) Ozuna CF
8) Hechavarria SS
9) Fernandez P

Joe Frisaro

Roof expected to be open for opener

MIAMI — With ideal weather in the forecast for Monday night, the roof at Marlins Park is expected to be open.

Roof expected to be open at Marlins Park on Monday night.

Roof expected to be open at Marlins Park on Monday night.

The temperature, according to weather.com, is scheduled to be 73 degrees when the game starts at 7:05 p.m. ET. More importantly, there is zero chance of rain.

Since the elements don’t promise to be in the way, the team has already determined the roof will be open. Obviously, if the conditions change, and some unexpected rain is on the horizon close to the first pitch, the roof could close. But as for now, that isn’t considered likely.

So when Jose Fernandez takes the mound, there will be fresh air and no air conditioning at Marlins Park.

The gates open at 5 p.m., and fans are encouraged to arrive early.

Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino will toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

As part of the pregame ceremony, the team will recognize Henderson Alvarez’s no-hitter on the final day of the 2013 season.

This will be the third season the Marlins are playing at Marlins Park, their retractable-roof building that seats 36,000.

Marino, of course, played at the old Orange Bowl in his early years with the Dolphins. Marlins Park stands on the Orange Bowl grounds.

The Marlins vs. Rockies will air on ESPN2.

Joe Frisaro

No surprises in Marlins’ Opening Day roster

MIAMI — Everything went as expected in piecing together the Marlins’ Opening Day roster.

All rosters had to be set by 3 p.m. ET Sunday, and the Marlins did so by making a couple of transations.

Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) and Ed Lucas (non-displaced fracture left hand) were each placed on the 15-day disabled list.

The club also selected the contracts of Kevin Slowey and Reed Johnson. To make room on the 40-man roster, Michael Brady and Brian Bogusevic were each designated for assignment.

Bogusevic was acquired from the Cubs for Justin Ruggiano in December. It is unclear if he will accept the assignment to Triple-A New Orleans, or seek an opportunity in an organization elsewhere.

The Marlins are carrying 13 position players and 12 pitchers.

Position players: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Derek Dietrich, Adeiny Hechavarria, Casey McGehee, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, Jeff Mathis, Greg Dobbs, Donovan Solano, Jeff Baker and Johnson.

Pitchers: Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner, Tom Koehler, Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos, Carlos Marmol, Mike Dunn, Dan Jennings, Brad Hand and Slowey.

Joe Frisaro

Depth improved at Triple-A level

MIAMI — By 3 p.m. ET today, all teams must finalize their 25-man roster. There will be no surprises for the Marlins. The biggest mystery will be which pitcher comes off the 40-man roster to make room for Kevin Slowey.

The Marlins have officially wrapped up a productive Spring Training, where they had some spirited competition at several positions.

Mananager Mike Redmond will have many more options to work with than a year ago.

From an organizational standpoint there is increased depth down on the farm. Double-A Jacksonville will get plenty of attention because it features top prospect, lefty Andrew Heaney. The Suns’ rotation will be fun to watch. Along with Heaney, it features Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Jose Urina and Angel Sanchez.

Those five will have additional time to develop because Triple-A New Orleans also has big league ready talent. In fact, a number of players on the Zephyrs already have appeared in the big leagues.

If Miami has an immediate need at a number of positions, there are candidates who are a text message away.

Reliever Arquimedes Caminero has the chance to be special. Based on performance, he made as strong a case as anyone to have made Miami’s Opening Day roster. But since he has an option remaining, he was squeezed out. Now, the hard-throwing right-hander becomes first in line to get called up.

Carter Capps is another hard thrower at New Orleans. He is working on refining his delivery, and he can do so without the pressures of the big leagues. At some point in the first half, Capps also could get the nod.

Sam Dyson and Chris Hatcher also have pitched in the big leagues.

This will be a big season for lefty Brian Flynn, who had his struggles in Spring Training. If Flynn steps up, he is a starting pitcher option with some big league experience.

Rob Brantly was the Opening Day catcher a year ago. Now, he will handle the staff and continue his development at New Orleans. Brantly has a chance to relax and polish his game. If needed, he adds immediate catching depth.

Perhaps the player to watch the most in New Orleans is Jake Marisnick. If he carries over what he was doing in Spring Training, he has the potential to become a star. He is a game-changer with his bat, speed, defense and arm. Even in his final Grapefruit League game, playing right field, he threw a runner out at the plate.

Marisnick, who turns 23 today, is motivated and focused. He’s had a long swing that has been dramatically overhauled. It’s a matter of continuing to get comfortable with it.

If he can show offensive consistency, Marisnick could give the impact of a mid-season trade if he is ready to be called up.

Another interesting hitter is Kyle Jensen, who possesses great power but hasn’t hit much for average. Jensen will see time at first base and left field.

So the competition created in Spring Training simply carries into the regular season. If players at the big league level are not performing, chances are there will be someone in the Minors knocking on the door to take over.

Joe Frisaro

Trout’s deal redefines young players’ market

MIAMI — A new salary standard for young players has been established now that Mike Trout has signed his extension through 2020.

Since every contract is linked to another, Trout’s six-year, $144.5 million deal will impact the upcoming market for young Marlins’ players like Giancarlo Stanton and even Jose Fernandez.

Trout, 22, is recognized as the standard for young players. Many consider him the overall best player in the game. So what he ended up signing for was highly anticipated and often speculated.

Now that real numbers are in place, the Marlins will have a better indication of what Stanton may be seeking if and when extension talks begin.

The Marlins have publicly stated they would like to work out a long-term deal for Stanton. But before the season, the slugger and his agent, Joel Wolfe, agreed to revisit the idea at a later date.

Stanton has said he would like to see the direction is headed before committing to multiple years. In fairness, too, Stanton has had injury issues in the past, and the team would like to see how the slugger holds up over a long season.

Also keep in mind, the Marlins don’t seem to be willing to budge on their stance regarding no-trade clauses. They don’t plan on including them. Whether that becomes a factor, who knows?

Still, Trout’s deal does do give an indication of where a future Stanton contract may wind up looking like.

You can also throw in Freddie Freeman’s eight-year, $135 million extension into the Stanton equation as well. Stanton’s service time is closer to Freeman’s. Trout’s averaging roughly $24 million for the six years, and Freeman is just under $17 million per season.

Stanton could find himself somewhere in the middle, perhaps $20 million. For the sake of discussion, Stanton may be somewhere in the six-year, $120 million range.

The largest contract in Marlins’ history was Jose Reyes’ six-year, $106 million. Of course, Reyes was traded to Toronton after one season.

It will be interesting to see if Trout’s deal sets any guidelines for Fernandez, the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year.

At some point, the Marlins also are expected to discuss an extension for Fernandez with his agent, Scott Boras.

Clayton Kershaw reset the bar for the top pitcher salary at seven-years, $215 million.

Justin Verlander previously was the high mark at seven years, $180 million.

If Fernandez posts another great year, and the Marlins approach him about an extension, could it end up looking more like Trout’s deal or Verlander or even Kershaw?

We don’t know yet. But a new market number to work with is out there now.

Joe Frisaro

How Marlins’ lineup could shape up for opener

JUPITER, Fla. — The lineup the Marlins are starting off with against the Yankees on Friday night in Tampa should be pretty similar to what the team rolls out Monday on Opening Night at Marlins Park.

With Rafael Furcal headed to the disabled list to start the season, Derek Dietrich is expected to see regular playing time at second base, while Donovan Solano will be in a utility role. But since Dietrich is a left-handed hitter, right-handed hitting Jeff Baker is a probable candidate to be at second base in Game 1.

The Rockies are starting lefty Jorge De La Rosa on Opening Night.

De La Rosa was impressive in 2013, posting a 16-6 record with a 3.49 ERA. In 167 2/3 innings, the lefty struck out 112 and walked 62. He had a 1.38 WHIP.

On Friday night, the Yankees started right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.

Miami’s lineup was: Yelich (LF), Baker (2B), Stanton (RF), Jones (1B), Saltalamacchia (C), Dietrich (DH), McGehee (3B), Ozuna (CF), Solano (SS).

Kevin Slowey, who made the team as a long reliever, got the starting nod against New York. Initially, Jacob Turner was set to go. But to better control Turner’s pitches, the 22-year-old was held back in Jupiter to throw in a Minor League game.

Adeiny Hechavarria (groin) is still in the process of recovering.

The Marlins aren’t expected to do much platooning. But they are likely to at second base until Furcal is ready.

The team has consistently said left-handed hitting Garrett Jones would get chances to face lefties. In the opener, Jones will get his first opportunity against a southpaw.

The projected Opening Night lineup is: Yelich (LF), Baker (2B), Stanton (RF), Jones (1B), Saltalamacchia (C), McGehee (3B), Ozuna (CF), Hechavarria (SS), Fernandez (P).

Joe Frisaro

Lucas sustains break to left hand

JUPITER, Fla. — Marlins infielder Ed Lucas sustained a fracture to his left hand after being struck by a pitch on Thursday in Miami’s 6-4 win over the Cardinals are Roger Dean Stadium.

In the morning Lucas was informed he made the club as the utility infielder. His injury occurred in the eighth inning when he was clipped on the back of his hand by a Scott McGregor fastball.

After immediately coming out of the game, Lucas had an X-ray, which showed a non-displaced fracture.

Now that Lucas will open the season on the disabled list, Donovan Solano will rejoin the team hours after he officially was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.

Lucas and Solano were in competition for the utility infield spot.

“It’s sore,” Lucas said.

Lucas and the Marlins initially were hopeful that the injury wouldn’t be serious.

The Marlins rallied with five runs in the eighth inning. During the rally, Lucas was pegged by a McGregor pitch. He was checked by trainer Sean Cunningham and immediately replaced for a pinch-runner.
The final days of Spring Training are always reason for concern regarding freakish injuries.

“These last three days are torture,” Redmond said. “You’re trying to get the guys through it. At the same time, too. Some of those guys you’re trying to get at-bats for, especially, your role players. We hope everything is alright.”

Rotation set:

As expected, the rotation will be: Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler. Brad Hand, who was competing for the fifth spot, will be in the bullpen.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins trim roster to 27

JUPITER, Fla. — Donovan Solano and Jake Marisnick were among the list of players informed on Thursday morning that they will not be on the Marlins’ Opening Day roster.

Solano, the club’s starting second baseman for most of last year, was competing for a utility role, which now appears to be going to Ed Lucas.

Solano will be optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.

In all, seven moves were made, reducing the roster to 27.

Marisnick and Solano were optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. Relievers Chris Hatcher and Henry Rodriguez, outfielder Matt Angle, and infielders Austin Nola and Juan Diaz were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Manager Mike Redmond also indicated that second baseman Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) is likely headed for the disabled list, retroactive to March 21. Furcal took some batting practice on Thursday, but he is going to get a few days of rest.

Derek Dietrich is the likely candidate to be Miami’s Opening Day second baseman.

Initially, it was believed outfielder Brian Bogusevic was getting cut. But as of mid-morning, the Marlins had not made any decision. Bogusevic is out of options, and the team has to set its final 25-man roster by Monday’s Opening Day.

The roster has to be set by 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. Even if Bogusevic doesn’t make the club, and he clears waivers, the club would hope he would agree to go to Triple-A New Orleans.

The Marlins have to clear a 40-man roster spot for Reed Johnson, a non-roster invitee who was informed on Tuesday that he is making the team.

Marisnick was competing for the center field job, which is going to Marcell Ozuna.

The roster is shaping up as:

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B: Garrett Jones
2B: Derek Dietrich
SS: Adeiny Hechavarria
3B: Casey McGehee
LF: Christian Yelich
CF: Marcell Ozuna
RF: Giancarlo Stanton

Bench: Jeff Mathis (catcher), Greg Dobbs (first/third), Ed Lucas (INF), Reed Johnson (OF), Jeff Baker (INF/OF)

Still in camp: Furcal, Bogusevic

Rotation (Not finalized)

1. Jose Fernandez
2. Nathan Eovaldi
3. Henderson Alvarez
4. Jacob Turner
5. Tom Koehler

Bullpen: Steve Cishek (closer), Mike Dunn, Carlos Marmol, A.J. Ramos, Kevin Slowey, Dan Jennings, Brad Hand.

Joe Frisaro

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