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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

Final non NL East game for Marlins

After facing the Brewers on Thursday night at Miller Park, the Marlins will close out their season with 17 games all against National League East rivals.

Miami’s postseason chances took a hit on Wednesday night with a loss to the Brewers. They are now back to 4 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot, and time is running out.

Still, there is plenty to play for in the final few weeks.

The Marlins are in third place in the N.L. East, but the Mets (winners of four straight) are one game back. Miami also is three games behind the Braves for second place.

The Marlins last finished second in 2009, which also was the team’s last winning season.

Miami is 27-32 against the N.L. East. If they are hoping for a late playoff push, or a winning record, they will have to do a better job in their division.

Joe Frisaro

Redmond emerging as Manager of Year candidate

Giancarlo Stanton is a strong contender to be the National League Most Valuable Player, but he isn’t the only one in the Marlins’ organization in the mix for a prestigious award.

Mike Redmond is placing himself in the thick of the National League Manager of the Year race.

In a season where Stanton has become the face of the franchise, and one of the young superstars in the game, Redmond is quietly guiding MLB’s most improved team.

If you are comparing 2013 to now, no other team has made a more dramatic rise in the standings than the Marlins.

The Marlins may be a game under .500 (71-72), but they are starting to heat up. They’re still a long shot at 3 1/2 games out in the Wild Card race. But with 19 games left, making up the necessary ground is certainly possible.

Those voting for the top manager honor should be looking at the big picture, and how far the Marlins have come in a year. Remember, they finished 62-100 in 2013. They had MLB’s second worst record. Only the Astrons (51-111) were worse, and the White Sox ended up 63-99,

Houston is improving, but enters at 64-81 and remains a team putting pieces together. The White Sox are 64-80, on the brink of another losing season.

Miami is trending in the right direction, and Redmond deserve his share of credit.

At age 43, he is four years removed from his days as a respected backup catcher, and he relates to his players. He had two years of managing in the Blue Jays’ system before the Marlins hired him to mold and teach one of the league’s youngest squads in 2013.

Redmond is the last person who would self promote for any individual award. He has an unassuming personality, yet he has always been about the team first. He was that way as a player, getting the most out of his abilities, and supporting those on the field. His passion for the game. His ability to keep things light, and yet be firm when necessary, have kept his team focused to play every day.

Certainly, like his team, he has gone through growing pains. Not all of his moves strategically pan out. That happens with all managers.

In the face of adversity, Redmond preaches the importance of “turning the page.” You can’t change what just happened, and if you dwell on it, you compound problems.

In a sport played every day, that can be awfully difficult.

Yet, his players have bought in. Stanton has bought in. Ask yourself why Stanton is an MVP candidate one season after he admittedly was miserable?

The answer is the new culture around the organization. Rather than be mired in negativity and coming to ballpark every day expecting to lose, the Marlins players now are confident they can win.

Redmond deserves his share of credit setting the tone for the turnaround in the morale within the clubhouse. He’s also on the same page with president of baseball operations Michael Hill, and upper management.

Take Stanton, for example.

No one ever questioned the slugger’s skills or brute strength. Sure he’s had injuries which slowed him down before. But Stanton is the first to say he got caught up in distractions and it affected his spirits the past.

Like the rest of his teammates, Stanton right now is on a mission.

The chemistry was established in Spring Training and it remains rock solid down the stretch.

Miami is playing loose, relaxed and with confidence. You saw that in Tuesday’s 6-3 win at Milwaukee. In the eighth inning, the Brewers loaded the bases with no outs. Rather than panic, reliever Bryan Morris got out of his own mess, not allowing a run.

In the ninth inning, the Marlins mounted a two-out rally, and scored three runs, with Casey McGehee belting a two-run homer, and Marcell Ozuna following with a solo shot.

The images from Tuesday night were the Marlins smiling, while Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez, who gave up the three runs, slamming his glove on the mound.

In crunch time, the Marlins weren’t flustered.

Still, even if the Marlins don’t finish with a .500 record, there is precedent working in Redmond’s favor to being Manager of the Year.

Voters can look back no further than 2006, when Joe Girardi won the honor, guiding the Marlins’ team that finished 78-84.

Under difficult circumstances, the ’06 team overcame a horrendous 11-31 start, and actually got over .500. Their best mark was 73-71 on Sept. 11. From that point, however, they stumbled to a 5-13 finish.

If Miami can avoid a dramatic slide, and finish near or above .500, Redmond could bring home the third N.L. Manager of the Year award in Marlins’ history.

Joe Frisaro

Yelich’s reach safely streak at 25

MIAMI — It started with a 3-for-4 performance on Aug. 11, and Christian Yelich has been an on-base machine ever since.

The Marlins left fielder has reached based safely in 25 straight games, starting off with his three-hit night on Aug. 11 against the Cardinals. The streak was extended with a 2-for-5 night in Miami’s 6-4 win over the Brewers on Monday night at Miller Park.

Yelich also has hit safely in 11 straight games.

Over his 25-game stretch, the 22-year-old is 42-for-104 (.404) with 22 runs scored, nine doubles, 13 walks and five stolen bases.

During his 11-game hit streak, which started on Aug. 27, Yelich is batting .348 (16-for-46) with three doubles and 10 runs scored.

Joe Frisaro

Revised rotation without Alvarez

MIAMI — The good news is Henderson Alvarez is expected to start again this season. The uncertainty is exactly when.

Alvarez, dealing with a left oblique strain, played catch on Friday and the team is hopeful the right-hander will throw off the mound in the next few days. What is certain is the All-Star will not start on Sunday in the series finale against the Braves at Marlins Park. Instead, lefty Brad Hand will get the start.

The revised rotation has Hand on Sunday, and Brad Penny will start on Monday at Milwaukee. Initially, Tom Koehler was lined up to face the Brewers in the first of four at Miller Park. But now, Koehler will start on Tuesday.

Manager Mike Redmond said he is optimistic Alvarez will filter back into the rotation sometime before the season ends.

Worth noting:

* Garrett Jones, who has been struggling, was given a day off on Friday night in the series opener against the Atlanta.

Justin Bour, who batted .306 with 18 homers and 72 RBIs at Triple-A New Orleans, made the start at first base.

“At this point we’re looking for a spark,” Redmond said.

* Outfielder Carlos Lopez of Class A Greensboro and right-hander Jacob Esch of Advanced Class A Jupiter have been named the Marlins’ Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for August.

* The Marlins announced they’ve extended their Player Development contract with the Greensboro Grasshoppers through the end of the 2018 season. Greensboro is in the semifinals of the South Atlantic League playoffs.

Joe Frisaro

Stanton closing in on Marlins’ HR mark

MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton is closing in on the Marlins’ all-time home run record.

After going deep in back-to-back games, Stanton is now at 35. Suddenly, Gary Sheffield’s team mark of 42 set in 1996 is in reach. Time is running out, with 25 games remaining.

Even if Stanton doesn’t catch Sheffield, he has a shot at become the second player in club history to post as many as 40.

Stanton also is two shy of his personal high of 37 set in 2012, the inaugural season at Marlins Park.

Now player in Marlins history has ever won the home run title. Stanton is well positioned to become the first.

Single season HR leaders

1) Gary Sheffield 42 (1996)
2) Giancarlo Stanton 37 (2012)
3) Stanton 35 (2014)
4) Miguel Cabrera 34 (2007); Stanton 34 (2011)
5) Four tied at 33: Cabrera (2005), Cabrera (2004), Hanley Ramirez (2009), Dan Uggla (2010)
6) Three tied at 32: Mike Jacobs (2008), Mike Lowell (2003), Uggla (2008)
7) Five tied at 31: Cliff Floyd (2001), Derrek Lee (2003), Uggla (2007), Uggla (2009), Preston Wilson (2000)

Joe Frisaro

Heaney, Disco among call-ups

MIAMI — Henderson Alvarez’s strained left oblique has prompted the Marlins to bring up a couple of their top pitching prospects.

On Tuesday afternoon, the club announced left-hander Andrew Heaney and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani have been recalled from Triple-A New Orleans.

Miami also added a couple of position players, recalling infielder Enrique Hernandez and first baseman Justin Bour from New Orleans.

The arrivals of Hernandez and Bour were expected. Hernandez is a candidate to play second base, third, and center field. And Bour is a left-handed bat option off the bench.

All four players have had time in the big leagues this season.

The Marlins had been weighing whether to call up Heaney, their No. 1 prospect. The lefty made four starts with Miami prior to the All-Star Break.

Now that Alvarez’s status is uncertain, Heaney provides an option to start, if necessary.

DeSclafani is another option to either start or pitch long relief.

In Monday’s 9-6 win over the Mets, Alvarez was lifted in the third inning, and Brad Hand pitched multiple innings.

Brad Penny is getting the start on Tuesday night. DeSclafani is a long-relief option.

Joe Frisaro

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