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Alvarez ready, Capps to see Dr. Andrews

MIAMI — The Marlins received some good news on Saturday and some not so good news on their medical front.

The positive is Henderson Alvarez threw a 20-pitch, pain-free bullpen session, and the right-hander has been cleared to start on Tuesday at home against the Rays.

Alvarez has been dealing with some right elbow stiffness, stemming from his start on Wednesday at Washington.

The negative came with the news that reliever Carter Capps will be heading to see Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday for a second opinion on his right elbow sprain.

Speculation is Capps could be headed for Tommy John surgery.

When Miami placed Capps on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, the team announced at the time the hard-throwing right-hander would be shut down a month before resuming throwing.

More on Capps’ condition will be known after he consults with Dr. Andrews.

Joe Frisaro

Stanton makes impact with glove, arm

WASHINGTON — Giancarlo Stanton is doing damage with more than just his lethal bat. In Miami’s 8-5 win over the Nationals on Wednesday night, Stanton made a major difference with his glove.

Three defensive gems helped the Marlins prevail in a game they watched a four-run lead disappear.

Stanton’s improved all-around play has been evident all season. On Wednesday night, he showed his range and athleticism as well as his throwing arm.

In the second inning, Stanton doubled-up Ian Desmond at first base after making a running catch into the gap in right-center to snare Kevin Frandsen’s liner. Desmond was on his way to second when he had to retreat, only to have Stanton’s throw reach first baseman Garrett Jones in time for the out.

Stanton came through in the field again in the sixth inning. With Miami clinging to a 4-3 lead, the Nationals had the bases loaded for Anthony Rendon, who ripped a liner to deep right field. Stanton drifted to the warning track and made another terrific play.

Washington may have won the game in the ninth inning if not for Stanton’s arm coming to the rescue yet again.

Wilson Ramos led off with a single down the line in right field. Stanton ranged over, and because of his angle, Ramos gambled and tried to stretch the play to a double.

Despite his momentum taking him away from second base, Stanton was able to make a strong, accurate throw to Adeiny Hechavarria, who tagged out Ramos.

If not for that play, Ramos would have been on second with no outs in the ninth inning in a tie game.

Stanton now has four outfield assists, which is tied for the most by any outfielder in the National League.

With 456 1/3 innings in right field, Stanton has played in the fourth highest amount of innings in the NL.

The only outfielders with more than four assists this year are Cleveland’s Michael Brantley (six) and Toronto’s Melky Cabrera (five).

Joe Frisaro

When could Heaney arrive in bigs? Mid-June likely

WASHINGTON — The last highly-touted lefty pitching prospect the Marlins had who wore No. 35 was Dontrelle Willis in 2003.

Eleven years later, Andrew Heaney is drawing some D-Train-like attention as he progresses through the Minor Leagues.

Heaney continues to build his case that he is close to being big league ready. On Tuesday night, while the Marlins were being rained out at Washington, Heaney was breezing through six innings of shutout ball.

For Triple-A New Orleans, Heaney made quick work of Round Rock in the Pacific Coast League. He yielded a first-inning single to Bryan Petersen, who formerly played for the Marlins. That was the only baserunner the lefty allowed, as he struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.

Heaney retired 16 straight and he came out for the seventh inning before the game was delayed and eventually stopped due to rain.

New Orleans won 9-0, giving Heaney his first Triple-A win in two starts. He wasn’t involved in a decision in his first outing.

The Marlins are moving differently with their top prospect. In years past, the organization repeatedly brought pitchers straight from Double-A to the big leagues, if they showed they were ready.

Willis did it in ’03, making the leap after six Double-A starts. The D-Train went on to be an All-Star that year, and he was the N.L. Rookie of the Year.

Miami’s change of thinking is to give their prospects some more experience against the highest Minor League level. At Triple-A, a number of those hitters have previously played in the Majors, like Petersen.

Heaney clearly is dominating at the Minor League level, and many wonder how good he will be in the Majors. In speaking with numerous talent evaluators, there is a feeling he will settle in as a solid No. 3.

But that isn’t the view of everybody.

I spoke to one scout the other day who has watched Heaney on numerous occasions. The scout feels the lefty can be a No. 1. Not as dominant an ace as Jose Fernandez, but a legitimate top of the rotation talent.

According to MLB.com, Heaney is the Marlins’ No. 1 prospect, and he ranks 25th overall.

Already he’s made two Triple-A starts. The question is when will he be ready for the big leagues?

It could be after two more Triple-A starts. He is next up on June 1, and after that, he lines up as June 6, when the Marlins are at Chicago to face the Cubs.

About that time the super two deadline will pass.

Heaney could make a fifth, and perhaps final Triple-A start on June 11, when the Marlins are at Texas. It is doubtful, the Marlins would want the lefty to make his MLB debut at a hitter-friendly road spot like Texas.

My guess is Heaney could debut with the Marlins sometime in the June 13-15 series against the Pirates at Marlins Park.

Joe Frisaro

Capps to DL with right elbow sprain

WASHINGTON — A potentially big piece of the Marlins’ thin bullpen is now on the disabled list.

On Tuesday afternoon, Miami placed Carter Capps on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday, with a right elbow sprain. Arquimedes Caminero was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans to take Capps’ roster spot.

Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Capps has been recommended to not throw for four weeks, and then he will be built back up. The initial hope is he will be fine with rest.

“We feel like right now it’s something that can be treated with rest,” Redmond said. “He’s going to go four weeks without throwing. He will be down for an extended period of time, and then building back up, and we’ll go from there.”

Capps threw one inning on Sunday in a 7-1 loss to Milwaukee at Marlins Park. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed one run on two hits with a walk and a strikeout.

“He had some tenderness in there after the game,” Redmond said. “So we got him checked out. They found out that he does have a sprained elbow.”

Velocity was not an issue in the appearance, as he struck out Ryan Braun to end the inning. During the at-bat with Braun, one of Capps’ fastballs was clocked at 99 mph. The 23-year-old’s fastball has reached as high as 101 mph this season.

Capps, who opened the season at Triple-A New Orleans, has become an effective late-innings option since being called up in late April. In nine appearances for Miami, he has a 3.00 ERA, and he’s struck out 15 while walking three in 12 innings.

Miami acquired Capps from the Mariners last December for Logan Morrison.

Capps, a converted catcher, is a promising right-hander and an extremely hard thrower.

In Spring Training, he was working on adjusting his delivery, which is one reason he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. The club opted to let him iron out his mechanics at New Orleans.

Capps impressed in seven Triple-A appearances. In 11 innings, he struck out 17 and walked just six.

News of Capps’ elbow sprain comes on the same day Jose Fernandez returned to Los Angeles to have his cast and stitches removed from his Tommy John surgery.

When Fernandez was placed on the disabled list, he was listed as having a right elbow sprain.

Caminero is making his second stint with the Marlins. The right-hander appeared in five games, giving up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Joe Frisaro

Memorial Day at Nationals Park

WASHINGTON — Memorial Day was celebrated throughout Major League Baseball on Monday, and not only did the Marlins look the part, they dressed the part at Nationals Park.

The patriotic compression sleeve sported on Monday by Giancarlo Stanton.

The patriotic compression sleeve sported on Monday by Giancarlo Stanton.

Playing in the Nations Capital, the Marlins sported camouflage caps, and camo lettering on their names and numbers.

Giancarlo Stanton, who has popularized the colorful compression sleeve, broke out a special Stars & Stripes, red, white and blue sleeve.

Stanton requested the sleeve that way, and says he also plans on wearing it on the Fourth of July.

Stanton came up with the big blast of the day, belting a two-run homer to center that was estimated at 447 feet, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The Marlins held on for a 3-2 win over the Nationals.

It was just the second win for Miami in its last 14 games at Nationals Park.

Joe Frisaro

Hand to DL with right ankle sprain

MIAMI — The Marlins have been looking for middle relievers to step up. Now, one of their left-handers has been shut down for a bit.

On Saturday afternoon, the club announced Brad Hand has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain.

Lefty reliever Dan Jennings was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans to fill Hand’s roster spot.

Hand, who is out of options, has struggled in several roles. In Friday’s 9-5 loss to the Brewers, Hand threw the sixth and seventh innings, and he allowed a run in each, including a homer to Khris Davis.

Hand has a 6.38 ERA.

Jennings has had a couple of stints with the club. He has an 0-1 with a 1.59 ERA. At Triple-A New Orleans, Jennings has had his ups and downs, posting a 4.50 ERA in five outings. The lefty, who made the Opening Day roster, has six strikeouts and six walks in six innings.

Miami’s bullpen has had its struggles, especially in the middle innings.

“I feel like a broken record sometimes talking about our pitching and guys pounding the strike zone,” manager Mike Redmond said. “There really is some opportunities for some guys to solidify roles. We all talk about roles. Everybody wants a role. There are opportunities out there for guys to solidify their spots in that bullpen to get consistent reps.”

Joe Frisaro

Heaney makes Triple-A debut

MIAMI — Andrew Heaney is set to make his Triple-A debut on Thursday, and already there is anticipation regarding what’s next for the touted left-hander.

Ranked by MLB.com as the top lefty pitching prospect in the game, Heaney carries great expectations. There’s certainly good reason to be optimistic about a bright future for the 22-year-old.

Heaney provides hope for what should be a strong rotation in Miami for years to come.

But before fans and media get overly excited, it’s time to temper some of the enthusiasm for Heaney. Not that he won’t live up to the billing. Don’t rush things.

The Marlins promoted Heaney from Double-A to Triple-A for a reason. They want to continue his development, and not just for another couple of weeks.

Many are speculating that Heaney will be in the big leagues in early June, shortly after the Super 2 deadline passes.

From what I’m hearing, that isn’t necessarily the club’s target date. There’s talk that Heaney could make at least four or five starts at New Orleans.

Bottom line is the team isn’t in a rush because there is an effort being made by the organization to develop their prospects more than in the past.

For more than a decade, the philosophy had been: show promised at Double-A and the big leagues could be the next step.

That internal thinking has changed.

The organization also is being tougher critics on their prospects. With Heaney, there isn’t necessarily the projections of a future ace. Many see the lefty as a strong No. 3-caliber pitcher when his career gets going. Obviously, he could prove otherwise. His stuff is considered very good, but not over-powering.

No one should place Jose Fernandez-like expectations on Heaney. It’s not fair. Fernandez is the best of the best. Let Heaney show what he can become.

At Triple-A, he will see more experienced hitters than at Double-A. Facing batters with previous big league experience should be very helpful.

From all indications, Heaney should be up to the task. In the Pacific Coast League, he will be pitching in some hitter-friendly parks, which provides another set of challenges.

The overall hope is that Triple-A will make Heaney even more prepared for the big leagues.

The objective isn’t to get Heaney in the big leagues as quickly as possible. It’s to make him as prepared as possible.

The same things the Marlins seek from Heaney they also will be looking for out of Anthony DeSclafani, who made two big league starts after Fernandez went down.

DeSclafani got a taste of the big leagues, and showed promise with his win at Dodger Stadium. In his second start, a loss to the Phillies, he also saw the importance of pitching ahead in counts.

At New Orleans, DeSclafani will get a chance to work on his overall game. There is a chance DeSclafani could find himself as a reliever candidate the next time he is called up.

As for Heaney, he is being groomed to join the rotation. He may wind up being the best starting option available. His arrival date just may be later in June or perhaps July. It likely will be how quickly Heaney adjusts to Triple-A.

Joe Frisaro

Tejada signing adds to overall depth

MIAMI — Why Miguel Tejada?

The Marlins certainly raised some eyebrows on Monday when they announced they’d signed Tejada to a Minor League contract. The 39-year-old passed his physical, and he currently is at the club’s complex at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

Initially, he is getting into game shape, and he eventually will play in some extended Spring Training games.

But why did the Marlins roll the dice on a veteran who is serving the final days of his 105-game MLB suspension for amphetamines?

The way the organization saw it, they asked themselves, why not?

Tejada impressed in his workout for the team with his power, his throwing arm and his fielding.

The former All-Star also fits much of what the Marlins have been seeking — experienced depth. It’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing.

Tejada is one failed drug test away from a lifetime ban, so he has something to prove. From the Marlins standpoint, the Minor League contract provides an opportunity, not a guarantee. Any slip ups, and both sides move on.

Tejada’s suspension dates back to 2013 and it runs through June 5. Technically, the veteran infielder could be back in the big leagues as early as June 6.

Don’t expect that to happen. About then, he should be playing for Triple-A New Orleans.

Since the Marlins reshaped their front office last fall, they’ve sought to build as much experienced depth as possible. Tejada has a substantial big league track record. He wasn’t brought in to replace Casey McGehee at third. But at New Orleans, he promises to play third, and second, and a little bit of shortstop.

Tejada may turn out being a backup plan at second in case there is a need. Rafael Furcal is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. He’s also dealing with a right groin injury.

Furcal isn’t close to being reinstated. In fact, the 36-year-old recently had a cortisone shot. He’s close to resuming baseball activities, but he isn’t there just yet.

Over the long season, you never how the roster will hold up. If there is a need somewhere in the infield, Tejada could be an answer.

Joe Frisaro

Heaney could be headed to Triple-A

Andrew Heaney appears to be in line for a promotion.

No, the touted left-hander will not be headed to the Marlins. Not just yet. But the soon-to-be 23-year-old could be on his way to Triple-A New Orleans.

Heaney on Saturday night was impressive for Double-A Jacksonville in a win against Pensacola. In 7 2/3 innings, the lefty struck out eight, allowed two runs on eight hits and walked one. His pitch count was up to 108 when he was lifted with two outs in the eighth.

All indications are Heaney made his ninth and final start for Jacksonville.

With a 4-2 record and 2.35 ERA, Heaney is showing he’s accomplished Double-A, and is ready for a higher experienced level of hitters.

It’s a matter of time before Heaney gets his first big league opportunity. But first, the organization appears ready to see how the lefty, who turns 23 on June 5, does against hitters in the Pacific Coast League.

Heaney is the Marlins’ top prospect, according to MLB.com. He’s also ranked as the top lefty prospect in the game.

Joe Frisaro

Could arm injuries sway Marlins towards bats?

Building around power pitching, in theory, is an ideal concept. Pitching, pecifically power pitching, is a prized and coveted commodity.

It’s also risky to put such a high priority at a time big arms are breaking down at an alarming rate.

The Marlins entered the season feeling they had assembled a collection of some of the finest young arms in the game. As long as Jose Fernandez was at the top of their rotation, the logic was sound.

One of the few teams with a true ace, the Marlins liked their chances with their 21-year-old All-Star setting the tone every five days.

Now what?

Fernandez on Friday afternoon was set to have Tommy John surgery to repair a significant ligament tear to his throwing elbow.

When a young, strong, hard-thrower like Fernandez is lost roughly 16 months into his big league career, how does the team recover?

Well, the Marlins still have a bunch of quality arms. But the trouble the team has seen on this suddenly devastating road trip is quality arms don’t always execute quality pitches.

Nathan Eovaldi, who was throwing 97-99 mph on Thursday night at San Francisco, was roughed up in a game he was staked to leads of 3-0 and 4-1. Miami lost 6-4, falling back to .500.

In a long season, there are highs and lows. Pitching, like hitting, slumps from time to time. What’s been alarming about the Marlins during this stretch is their entire rotation has suddenly hit the wall. The lone starter during the road trip to stop the bleeding has been a 24-year-old prospect who a week ago never dreamed he’d be in the big leagues.

Anthony DeSclafani, promoted from Double-A Jacksonville, was given a shot to fill the rotation spot of Fernandez.

DeSclafani, too, has a power arm, hurling 95 mph fastballs and striking out seven at Dodger Stadium in a 13-3 win on Wednesday.

In moving forward, the Marlins still believe in building around pitching. The club also has the No. 2 overall pick in the June 5 First-Year Player Draft.

The general thinking has been the club will again go with a front-of-the rotation arm. The one arm closest to being big league ready is Carlos Rodon, the big lefty from North Carolina State.

The Astros, with the No. 1 pick, may go with Rodon. If not, the Marlins will have to decide.

We do know this in the past week, the Marlins are paying very close attention to a high school standout regarded as the best hitter in the Draft.

President of baseball operations Michael Hill was on hand a few days ago to watch Alex Jackson of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego.

Impressed with his natural hitting skills, the Marlins will continue to keep a close eye on the prep star.

This is a huge Draft for the Marlins, because they possess the Nos. 2, 36, 39 and 43 overall picks.

The organization is thin on bats, and has a chance to address that need.

Another theory is to load up on pitching, groom it, and if necessary, trade it for MLB-ready bats.

Banking on pitching, as we’ve seen throughout the Majors, is risky business. Fernandez’s injury has rocked the league, and put the Marlins in a rough spot to look to piece together what still could be a promising season.

Do they move forward thinking pitching first or guard themselves with an impact bat at a time arms are struggling to hold up?

If that is the case, Alex Jackson indeed could be the No. 2 player taken on June 5.

Joe Frisaro

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