June 2014

Wanted: Missing Yelich glove

MIAMI — This falls into the “Can’t trust anyone” category.

Christian Yelich's glove was swiped from his luggage.

Christian Yelich’s glove was swiped from his luggage.

Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich had his glove swiped from his checked luggage during his flight to Miami after returning from his rehab assignment.

Yelich, reinstated from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday, played two rehab assignment games for Triple-A New Orleans before traveling from Nashville to Miami on Saturday.

Everything was normal until he opened his luggage only to find his glove and Zephyrs’ cap were missing. The New Orleans cap was no big deal, but Yelich had broken in the black Louisville Slugger brand glove, which has his full name inscribed on the side. Yelich was planning on using that specific glove the rest of the season.

Worry not about a replacement glove.

Yelich has a backup glove, but it isn’t properly broken in yet, so on Sunday he used the glove of his close friend, Jake Marisnick.

Marisnick, optioned to New Orleans on Saturday night, left his game-ready glove for Yelich.

Marisnick’s nickname is “Big Fudge,” which is inscribed on the side.

Fortunately for Yelich, he arrived to the ballpark on Saturday in time for the Miami-Athletics game, which lasted 14 innings.

Yelich saw Marisnick and said: “I need a glove.”

Once game time rolled around, however, Yelich received a glove assist from another teammate. Ed Lucas sported Yelich with his outfield glove.

Joe Frisaro

Kolek has successful first start

MIAMI — The professional debut for Tyler Kolek was encouraging.

The No. 2 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, Kolek made his first start for the Gulf Coast League Marlins on Saturday in Viera, Fla.

In two innings, the hard-throwing right-hander didn’t allow a run. He scattered two hits, walked one, and struck out one against the GCL Nationals, 5-0 winners.

Kolek threw 33 pitches, with 22 strikes.

The 18-year-old from Shepherd, Texas, had his fastball range 93-98 mph, and his curveball was clocked at 77-78 mph.

Joe Frisaro

World Cup fever at Marlins Park

MIAMI — Henderson Alvarez is on a hot streak, going 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA in his last 10 starts.

Henderson Alvarez plays some soccer in the outfield on Friday. (Denis Bancroft/Miami Marlins)

Henderson Alvarez plays some soccer in the outfield on Friday. (Denis Bancroft/Miami Marlins)

The Marlins also have won eight straight of Alvarez’s starts dating back to May 16.

The Venezuelan native is a terrific all-around athlete, and on Friday afternoon he put his soccer skills to the test prior to batting practice on Friday afternoon at Marlins Park.

Alvarez, Marcell Ozuna and Adeiny Hechavarria kicked the soccer ball around in the outfield for a few minutes.

Joe Frisaro

Flynn called up, Bour sent down

MIAMI — After an exhausting 14-inning affair at Philadelphia on Thursday night, the Marlins were in need of some relief help.

So on Friday, Miami recalled lefty Brian Flynn from Triple-A New Orleans, and optioned first baseman Justin Bour to Triple-A.

Flynn actually was scheduled to start for the Zephyrs on Friday, but late Thursday he was told to get ready to head to Miami.

It appears the lefty will be with the club at least through the weekend series with Oakland at Marlins Park. Miami is off on Monday will be without relievers A.J. Ramos and Chris Hatcher for at least Friday and Saturday. Most likely, Ramos, who threw 50 pitches in Friday’s 5-3 loss, will not be available at all for three games vs. the A’s.

Hechavarria update: Adeiny Hechavarria is scheduled to play catch on Sunday to test his right arm.

The Miami shortstop went on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, retroactive to June 21, with a right triceps strain. The hope is he will be ready to come off the DL after the 15 days, which would be July 6 at St. Louis.

Yelich almost ready: Christian Yelich, who hit a three-run homer in five at-bats on rehab assignment Thursday, will play his final rehab game for New Orleans on Friday. The 22-year-old is on the DL with a lower-back strain, and eligible to be reinstated on Sunday.

The plan is for him to travel back from playing with the Zephyrs on Saturday, and be ready for the series finale on Sunday.

Joe Frisaro

Ozuna even surprised himself

MIAMI — Run at your own risk on Marcell Ozuna.

Twice on Friday night the Mets did, only to be thwarted at the plate by Ozuna’s powerful throwing arm.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia tags out Kirk Nieuwenhuis to end game. (Jose Pineiro/Miami Marlins)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia tags out Kirk Nieuwenhuis to end game. (Jose Pineiro/Miami Marlins)

In the eighth inning, Ozuna pegged David Wright at the plate to preserve a one-run lead. And in the ninth inning, Ozuna did the remarkable, launching a throw from deep left field that reached Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the fly. Salty applied the tag on Kirk Nieuwenhuis for the final out.

Remarkably, the Marlins held on to a 3-2 win over the Mets in as dramatic a finish as the team has had this year.

Even Ozuna was stunned he could get the speedy Nieuwenhuis, who was tagging.

“I wanted to get as much thrust as I could to make the throw to the plate,” Ozuna said. “At first I didn’t think I had a chance. I said ‘Well, I’ll throw it anyway you never know what can happen. He might fall.’ I was just trying to do what the coaches always tell me and keep it low and thankfully it went right where it needed to.”

Closer Steve Cishek was certainly stunned. His first reaction was frustration when Chris Young lifted the fly to deep left.

“He went back to like the fence and then all of a sudden, he was sprinting in,” Cishek said. “I was like, ‘Wait! Wait! Wait! I know what kind of arm he’s got.’ He just let it fly.”

Saltalamacchia said he was never involved in a game with two outfield throws at the plate that were so amazing.

“Well he started at the Clevelander, so I didn’t think he had a shot,” Saltalamacchia said of the final out. “I thought the ball was going to be deeper. Then all of a sudden, he kept running in. That’s a tough throw. Big moment. You tend to do too much. He just made a perfect throw.”

— Joe Frisaro

If not Kolek, Marlins coveted Aiken

MIAMI — With the No. 2 overall pick in the June 5 First-Year Player Draft, the Marlins selected the No. 1 player on their board.

All along, the Marlins coveted Tyler Kolek, the power-house right-hander with the 100-mph fastball. If Miami had the first overall pick, they would have selected the hard-throwing Texan.

Until a few hours before they picked, the Marlins weren’t completely positive they’d be able to land Kolek. Nolan Ryan, who now works in the Astros’ system, pushed for Kolek. But Houston was locked in on their primary focus — lefty Brady Aiken, the prep star from San Diego.

What if the Astros took Kolek, who lives roughly 90 minutes away from Minute Maid Park. There was some sentiment to take the local star, but it didn’t pan out.

If the Astros had gone with Kolek, the Marlins were prepared to take Aiken. There was some sentiment to take Carlos Rodon, who went third overall to the White Sox.

Rodon, the lefty from North Carolina State, is the closest to being big league ready. The Marlins watched more than a dozen of his starts this year.

A couple of factors played into the equation. Signability was one. Rodon is advised by Scott Boras, and the asking price would have been an issue. Aiken and Kolek are both advised by Casey Close’s Excel Sports Management firm.

Aiken has already signed with the Astros from $6.5 million and the Marlins locked up Kolek at $6 million.

Regarding Rodon, if the Marlins didn’t have doubts about his upside, and felt he was the hands-down better pick, they would have gone with the N.C. State southpaw and dealt with trying to sign him.

The conviction in Rodon wasn’t there. The Marlins also had good looks at Aiken, and liked him as a fallback if Kolek was off the board.

The position player the Marlins liked was Alex Jackson, the prep standout from San Diego.

Jackson’s bat impressed, but there were questions about position. Is he a catcher? Is he a left fielder or third basemen? There was some skepticism.

Bottom line is the cards fell exactly as the Marlins’ hoped, and Kolek already has arrived in Jupiter, Fla., getting ready to compete in the Gulf Coast League.

Joe Frisaro

Stanton belts No. 20 in Game No. 71

MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton reached the 20 home run plateau in the Marlins’ 71st game.

With two outs in the first inning, Stanton blistered a drive to right-center off Cubs’ right-hander Jake Arrieta.

The 20 before the All-Star Break are a personal high for Stanton, who had 19 in 2012.

In club history, a Marlin has reached 20 or more homers prior to the Break.

HRs prior to All-Star Break

Mike Lowell 28 ’03
Gary Sheffield 25 ’96
Hanley Ramirez 23 ’08
Dan Uggla 23 ’08
Cliff Floyd 21 ’01
Miguel Cabrera 20 ’04
Mike Lowell 20 ’04
Giancarlo Stanton 20 ’14

Joe Frisaro

Marlins open to trading for starter

MIAMI — Plan A was promoting from within for rotation help. If necessary, Plan B will be exploring trades.

The Marlins are open to dealing for a starting pitcher before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The club just isn’t at the point right now where they are seriously narrowing down possibilities on the market.

On Monday, the organization pulled the trigger on promoting two of their best in-house candidates, prospects Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani.

Heaney, the touted top lefty prospect in the game, will make his MLB debut on Thursday against the Mets. DeSclafani draws Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs on Tuesday.

Heaney and DeSclafani opened the season at Double-A Jacksonville, and gained a little more seasoning at Triple-A New Orleans. When Jose Fernandez was injured in May, DeSclafani received the call to fill in immediate. He made two starts before being sent to Triple-A.

The Marlins are in a “win now” mode because of where they’re positioned in the standings.

Because no one has run away with the National League East, Miami is prepared to make a deal or two to stay in the hunt until the end.

Within a few more days, the bullpen is expected to add Kevin Gregg, who signed a Minor League deal and is getting some innings at New Orleans.

In order to be a serious contender, Miami will be counting on its starting pitching to do its part. It’s a tall task, especially after ace Jose Fernandez was lost to Tommy John surgery in mid-May.

Already there is speculation linking Miami to Jason Hammel and Samardzija, who both happen to be in Miami this week taking on Miami.

News on Tuesday is the Cubs are exploring signing Samardzija to a long-term deal. Whether the right-hander stays in Chicago or is on the market doesn’t seriously impact the Marlins.

If Chicago did make Samardzija available, they’d likely seek Heaney in return, and Miami isn’t open to moving its top prospect.

With so many teams in striking distance of at least the second Wild Card, there are a limited number of potential sellers.

One match for Miami could be Tampa Bay, and not necessarily for David Price.

Again, the Marlins are waiting and seeing how Heaney and DeSclafani change the landscape in Miami. No deals are expected until July. But a potential wish list candidate could be Alex Cobb.

If Miami is prepared to move big league ready talent, they’d want a starter with controllable years.

The Marlins don’t have any desire to move Heaney, DeSclafani or Justin Nicolino, the talented lefty right now in Jacksonville.

From a position player standpoint, one of their trade chips could be Derek Dietrich, who came up with the Rays.

Dietrich is in Triple-A right now as Rafael Furcal has joined the club after opening the season on the disabled list.

Dietrich is considered the team’s second baseman of the future. And if Furcal were to go down again, he is a candidate to be called up.

As constructed, the Marlins don’t have much speed, and second is a position they could consider adding some in the future. Justin Twine, for instance, is the club’s second rounder in the First-Year Player Draft. Twine, for now a shortstop, may have a future at second. Brian Schales, a shortstop taken in the fourth round, is a shortstop who also could profile at second.

Avery Romero, ranked by MLB.com as Miami’s No. 11 overall prospect, is batting .321 at low Class A Greensboro.

Those are internal options to play second in the future.

Miami certainly isn’t eager to move Dietrich, a left-handed bat with power. But if the team is to make a big move for an impact starter, they’d weigh all their options.

Joe Frisaro

Garrett among picks close to officially signing

MIAMI — The Marlins on Monday officially announced the signing of Tyler Kolek, the No. 2 overall pick in the June 5 First-Year Player Draft.

Although not officially announced, the club has either agreed or is on the verge of reaching terms with pretty much all of their top 10 round selections.

Included in the list eighth rounder, Stone Garrett, the outfielder from Texas. Garrett is a tremendous athlete with power potential. The Marlins feel they may have a real find with the 227th overall pick. He’s expected to sign for the slot value of $162,400.

Garrett is opting to join the Marlins rather than attend college at Rice.

Other top 10 round choices to agree to terms are fourth rounder, Brian Schales (shortstop), fifth rounder, Casey Soltis (outfielder), sixth rounder Chris Sadberry (left-hander), nine rounder Benjamin Wetzler (lefty) and 10th rounder, Dillon Peters (lefty).

Peters is having Tommy John surgery, and is expected to be ready to pitch sometime in 2015.

Seventh rounder, Anfernee Seymour (shortstop) has been out of town, and is expected to reach agreement when he returns.

Joe Frisaro

No restrictions for Heaney

MIAMI — If the Marlins remain in the race in September, Andrew Heaney will not be held back due to an innings limit.

The way the organization has spaced out his starts in the Minor Leagues, Heaney can reach his target innings range without being shut down.

“There is always a range when you’re talking about innings for these guys,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “He can pitch every fifth day and fit within that range.”

The basic range is around 170.

Heaney is at 76 2/3 innings in 13 Minor League games, with 12 starts.

Anthony DeSclafani is in a similar boat.

In 2013, the Marlins received plenty of attention with Jose Fernandez, who was shut down on Sept. 11 at 172 2/3 innings.

At Triple-A New Orleans, Heaney was skipped a start on June 12 for the purpose of keeping him within a 170 range. He was lined up to throw again on Thursday for the Zephyrs, but with a need for starting pitching help, the decision was made to bring Heaney up earlier than projected.

Heaney will make his MLB debut on Thursday against the Mets. He will be going from June 7 to June 19 between starts. He threw a bullpen at Marlins Park on Monday.

“I think we all felt with Heaney it was a matter of not if, but when,” Hill said. “We really just worked through what his pitching schedule would be for the rest of the year, and make sure when he did come there would be no restrictions.”

With the All-Star Break in July, the Marlins can work things out to push Heaney back a few days before he makes his first start of the second half.

“That’s the one thing I’ve said, when he came here there were no restrictions,” Hill said.

Joe Frisaro