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Marlins expected to pick up Mathis’ option

MIAMI — Before turning their attention to the free agent market next week, the Marlins have some internal business to resolve. Will they pick up the $1.5 million club option on catcher Jeff Mathis.

The answer is yes.

According to sources, the Marlins anticipate exercising Mathis’ option.

Mathis, 31, has impressed the organization with his ability to handle the pitching staff, as well as his defensive skills. In 2015, he once again is expected to back up Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

In 64 games last year, Mathis batted .200 with two homers and 12 RBIs. But his value is his defense, and ability to work with the staff.

The Marlins have a talented group of young pitchers, and retaining Mathis continues the continuity. He posted a .998 fielding percentage in 473 2/3 innings, and threw out 16 attempting to steal.

As an organization, the Marlins have some of their best catching depth in years. Saltalamacchia is entering his second season of a three-year deal, and Mathis will be back for his third season in Miami.

J.T. Realmuto is regarded as the catcher of the future, who could be a year or two away from becoming a regular.

The Marlins acquired Mathis in November of 2012 as part of their 12-player trade with the Blue Jays.

Joe Frisaro

Lucas claimed by Rangers, Valdespin to NoLa

MIAMI — Ed Lucas, dependable in a utility role the past two seasons in Miami, was claimed off waivers on Friday by the Rangers.

The Marlins also cleared out a second spot on their 40-man roster when infielder Jordany Valdespin was outrighted to Triple-A New Orleans.

Both utility players became expendable with the addition of Enrique Hernandez to the roster. Donovan Solano also could facture into a utility role if the Marlins bring in a regular second baseman this offseason.

Lucas, 32, appeared in 69 games and batted .251 with one home run and nine RBIs. In two seasons with Miami, he hit .255.

Lucas plays all four infield spots, as well as corner outfield. He also was an emergency catcher option, but never was needed in that role.

Valdespin, who turns 27 in December, saw action at second base with Miami, and he played some outfield down the stretch. A left-handed hitter, he batted .214 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 52 games.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins to show patience with Jose

MIAMI — Building up throwing from 30 feet to 45 feet, and upwards to 60, 90, 120 and beyond are the first steps in Jose Fernandez’s recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Getting back to being game-ready will be a slow, deliberate process. From all indications, Fernandez and the Marlins are prepared to be patient. No sense rushng anything, and risking a setback.

Fernandez understands he is likely looking at being back in 14 months, or around the All-Star Break. If he is back earlier, and pitching at a high level with no signs of discomfort, the better.

But in all likelihood, the best case scenario seems to be Miami having Fernandez for the second half of 2015. Even then, expect the club to be ready to handle with care.

Even at full strength, Fernandez will be closely monitored. Expect the Marlins to have him on limitations, meaning, he could be coming out of games around the fifth or sixth innings to start off.

The Marlins won’t look at Fernandez back on the mound as meaning he is prepared to throw 115 pitches and grind out eight innings. Chances are he will be on a pitch count and some sort of innings limit.

Understanding where they are with their 22-year-old ace, the Marlins’ top priority this offseason will be looking for a front-line starting pitcher. Sure, they could use a power bat, and will look to find one.

But make no mistake, this is a franchise that believes in building around starting pitching. They feel Henderson Alvarez can assume the role of ace, and that Jarred Cosart can be a solid No. 3. Nathan Eovaldi, Tom Koehler both logged more than 190 innings, an important statistic in their respective development. They are both in the rotation mix.

Still, the objective will be to find either an ace or No. 2-caliber starter to help bridge the gap until Fernandez returns.

If they can accomplish that, it will make it easier for Miami to use Fernandez economically.

Joe Frisaro

Redmond contract extended through 2017

WASHINGTON — The Marlins are in the process of creating stability, and that is carrying over from the field to the dugout. Manager Mike Redmond, wrapping up his second season, is regarded as a rising young manager in the game.

Redmond on Sunday had his contract extended through 2017, and his staff will return in full next year.

The 2014 Marlins remained competitive in the face of tremendous adversity, first losing Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery in May) and then Giancarlo Stanton (facial fractures in September).

“It speaks volumes of the job they did, just with the perseverance,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “They’ve taken every blow they were given and kept on moving. I think that’s definitely a credit to the manager, and his staff, and the players in that clubhouse.

“Mike Redmond was an overachiever as a player, and brought that workmanlike, grinder attitude to the field as a player. Those were the same qualities that made him attractive to us as a manager. I think those qualities have rubbed off on his team. We brought in players who have had similar characteristics, because it’s a grind. In a 162-game season, you’re always going to face adversity, no matter who you are. You have to deal with it.”

The Marlins showed the ability to turn the page after every tough circumstance, and became one of the most improved teams in the Majors.

“Your opponents aren’t going to let up on you,” Hill said. “They’re not going to do you any favors. If you’re down, they’re going to try to keep you down. It’s up to those guys and, Red and his staff, to keep our guys up. To keep them prepared. To keep them focused on what they want to do. They’ve done that this year. There has been a lot, and they’ve taken everything in stride, and played their hearts out.”

Worth noting:

Marcell Ozuna will remain in a walking boot for a few more weeks as he recovers from high right ankle sprain. The 23-year-old is expected to be fully recovered for Spring Training.

Stanton, who sustained multiple facial fractures after being hit in the face by a pitch on Sept. 11, is still in Miami before he prepares for his vacation.

Derek Dietrich and Rob Brantly are currently in the instructional league at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. Dietrich is working at first base, second base, third base and outfield. Brantly is seeing action at first base and third base, along with catcher.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins add two more touted scouts

WASHINGTON — The Marlins are closing out their regular season on Sunday afternoon, but already the organization is stocking up its front office by adding two more touted scouts in preparation for 2015.

Dominic Viola and David Keller are coming to Miami to beef up the club’s player personnel department.

Viola was formerly with the Reds, and Keller has been with the Red Sox. The hirings add two more experienced evaluators to an already respected front office.

On closing day 2013, the Marlins reshaped their front office when Michael Hill was promoted to president of baseball operations and Dan Jennings to general manager.

Since, they’ve put together an experience-rich department that played a big part in two mid-season trades. Their finger prints are on the decision to acquire reliever Bryan Morris from Pittsburgh in June for a Competitive Balance pick. Their input also was valuable in the acquisition of right-hander Jarred Cosart and utility player Enrique Hernandez from Houston for Jake Marisnick and Colin Moran.

Both those trades made immediate impacts this season.

Joe Frisaro

In-house options or international signings?

WASHINGTON — Like all teams, the Marlins are scouting and evaluating top talent in Latin America.

A couple of Cuban players have attracted Miami’s interest. Outfielder Yasmany Tomas worked out for representatives from all 30 MLB teams last Sunday in the Dominican Republic. Miami has also looked at second baseman Hector Olivera.

Both players are impressive. Yet, neither may fit into the Marlins plans, or budget.

First, Tomas. The 23-year-old is being called the next Cuban sensation. His asking price is expected to top $72 million, and the market indictates he will get perhaps $80 million.

Tomas is considered a solid, big league regular corner outfielder. Putting that kind of money towards an outfielder when the Marlins already have what they believe is the best outfield trio in the National League doesn’t make much sense.

Miami already has Christian Yelich in left, Marcell Ozuna in center, and Giancarlo Stanton in right. The club may look to sign all three to extensions this offseason.

So Tomas isn’t a fit.

Olivera is a less-heralded, more affordable option. But he also will turn 30 in April, and there are still questions to whether he is a big league regular or not.

That being the case, internal options like Donovan Solano and Enrique Hernandez appear to make more sense, rather than spend dollars on a player about to turn 30.

Joe Frisaro

Depleted outfield down the stretch

MIAMI — As if losing the services of Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t bad enough, the Marlins now must close out the season without Marcell Ozuna.

Runs have been hard to come by down the stretch, and the task could be even tougher over the final seven games.

Just how much of a chunk out of the lineup are the Marlins taking? The only outfield duo with more combined home runs are Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones.

Stanton and Ozuna have combined for 60 homers and 190 RBIs. Cruz/Jones are at 66 homers, 197 RBIs.

The Orioles’ outfield, obviously, has a lot of power. But they also play in a home run-friendly park, compared to Marlins Park, which is among the most spacious stadiums in the game.

Also, Stanton has been out since Sept. 11, the day he was struck in the face by a pitch. Stanton concluded his season with 37 homers and 100 RBIs. Ozuna, who suffered a high right ankle sprain on Sunday, is at 23 homers, 85 RBIs.

“After losing [Stanton] and his production, now you got another guy with 20-plus homers and 85 RBIs [missing],” manager Mike Redmond said. “That’s another pretty big blow out of our lineup.”

There are just 17 outfielders with at least 20 home runs. Miami and Baltimore are the only teams with two on the list.

– Joe Frisaro

Chances of Stanton returning remote

NEW YORK — You never want to count Giancarlo Stanton out. The two-time All-Star is so driven, so determined, and has been so focused on being all he can be on the baseball field.

Marlins rallying around Stanton.

Marlins rallying around Stanton.

With his immense size, and amazing talents, Stanton is the closest thing MLB has to being a superhero. Those around him often joke about his larger than life stature.

Even Superman can be stopped by kryptonite. For Stanton, it was a fastball to the face on Sept. 11 at Milwaukee that has knocked him out of action.

Can he return in the final week or days of the Marlins’ season, which ends on Sept. 28 at Washington? More will be known after he is examined by Marlins’ physicians on Tuesday in Miami.

A battery of tests will be performed to make sure the slugger is recovering properly.

Stanton suffered multiple facial fractures, and loss of several teeth. More than 20 stitches were required to patch him up. Plastic surgery will help cover up the wounds.

Since going down, we’ve heard Stanton is determined to get back on the field. He’d like to play again before the end of the month. If he somehow can, boy, what a story. What an inspirational moment it would be. A test of courage.

It would be the stuff of movies. But I’m not sure even Wolverine, with his healing powers, could patch himself up quickly from what Stanton went through.

Ultimately the medicial people will decide if a return is even possible.

It’s hard to imagine the slugger would be medically cleared to play. Because of the stitches, the fractures, and the dental work, time is working against the Miami superstar.

If Stanton were to play, it is highly unlikely he could do anything more than pinch-hit.

There also is the risk of just being on the field, like if he had to slide or dive. There is a chance of a collision. Even if he tapped a routine ground ball that led to a throw pulling the first baseman off the bag there is potential danger. What if there is a swipe tag? It could very realistically be to the face.

You never want to say never. But even if the medical people could be convinced to clear Stanton, the best case scenario strictly as a pinch-hitter. In that situation, he could get back in the box, and face big league pitching again. If he were to reach base, he could immediately be lifted for a pinch-runner.

The positive about another at-bat is it would allow Stanton to move forward, which could be huge in terms of his mental recovery.

Joe Frisaro

Devastating blow once again tests Marlins

PHILADELPHIA — When Jose Fernandez needed season-ending Tommy John surgery in May, the Marlins withstood the initial shock and were able to push forward.

Without their ace, they managed to remain in Wild Card contention.

And in early August, when a disputed call at the plate was overturned opening up a big inning for the Reds in Miami, again the Marlins weathered the though break and rebounded. Despite long odds, they hung around close to .500 and within striking distance of the final playoff spot.

A major reason the Marlins didn’t disappear was because of the one constant every single day.

Through all the ups and downs the season presented, All-Star Giancarlo Stanton did as much if not more than any single player in the Majors to help carry his team.

Stanton has been unmovable rock, refusing to come out of the lineup. He’s played in all 145 games, batting .288 with 37 homers, 105 RBIs, 89 runs scored, 94 walks and 24 intentional walks.

One of his goals was to play in all 162 games.

Driven to become MLB’s best player, Stanton worked tirelessly on his craft to improve on the field. Off the field, he trained rigorously in the weight room and did everything possible to be prepared every night.

With 17 games remaining, the Marlins are in Philadelphia on Friday for a three-game series with the Phillies. Stanton, meanwhile, is traveling back to Miami for further evaluation after being struck in the face by a Mike Fiers’ fastball in the fifth inning on Thursday night at Miller Park.

Stanton suffered multiple facial fractures and needed stitches. Additional damage was done to his mouth that required dental work.

“It’s devastating for us,” manager Mike Redmond said. “Devastating. For his season to end like that, that’s not good.”

These are the injuries we know about thus far. He may have a concussion, but that wasn’t noted.

Along with having an MVP-caliber season, Stanton also was winding down what could have been the most profilic, power-wise, in Marlins’ history. The franchise home run record is 42, set by Gary Sheffield in 1996. Stanton could have challenged the mark, or at least been the second Marlin to reach at least 40.

With 154 career homers, Stanton is tied with Dan Uggla for the club’s all-time mark. One more blast and he stands alone atop the club’s leaderboard.

“We just lost the MVP,” Redmond said. “Hit in the mouth.”

The pitch came with two outs in the fifth inning of a game Miami lost 4-2 to now fall 5 1/2 games back.

“You hate to see it happen to anybody, it just so happened to be – to happen to the best player in the National Leage this year,” third baseman Casey McGehee said. “Right now, I just hope G’s OK.”

Joe Frisaro

Stanton suffers multiple facial fractures

Marlins All-Star Giancarlo Stanton sustained multiple facial fractures from the pitch that struck him on the face on Thursday night at Miller Park.

The Marlins announced the 24-year-old slugger suffered a facial laceration that required stitches as well as dental damage.

The injuries occurred after Stanton was hit by a Mike Fiers’ fastball in the fifth inning of Miami’s 4-2 loss to the Brewers.

Stanton will return on Friday for further evaluation.

Stanton has played in all of Miami’s 145 games, but his season is now over. The National League leader in home runs (37) and RBIs (105) had been striving to appear in all 162 games.

No Marlin has ever won the National League MVP, home run or RBI crowns. Stanton was in line to be the first.

With Stanton lost, the Marlins lose one of the most imposing players in the game.

At 71-74, Miami’s Wild Card chances sustained a serious blow with the loss of Stanton.

An option manager Mike Redmond could consider is sliding Christian Yelich from leadoff to third in the lineup. Marcell Ozuna could slide over to right field, and Enrique Hernandez could get playing time leading off and playing center field.

Joe Frisaro


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