MVP candidates Stanton, Trout set for series

ANAHEIM, Calif. — They are dominating their respective leagues now, and are two faces of Major League Baseball’s present and future. For the first time in the regular season, they are competing in the same game.

The Marlins on Monday night open a three-game series at the Angels.

Not only are these games with playoff implications for both teams, it marks a rare time the sport can see Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout on the same field.

The two were at the All-Star Game, with Stanton being the designated hitter for the National League and Trout winning MVP honors for the American League.

In regular season play, both are frontrunners to be the MVP of their respective leagues.

Stanton is looking to be the first Marlin ever to be National League MVP.

The two also have put on a home run hitting show this year.

Stanton is regarded as the most powerful slugger in the game. But the man with the home run measured the longest this season by ESPN’s Home Run Tracker is Trout.

On June 27, Trout belted a drive measured at 489 feet. Stanton is second at 484 feet, on April 4.

Stanton’s average distance per homer, according to Home Run Tracker, is 417.1 feet for 32 blasts. Technically, that is second to Mike Morse of the Giants, who averages 417.4 feet for his 16 homers.

Trout’s average for 29 homers is 413.5 feet.

While Trout has the longest homer of the season, Stanton has three drives in the top eight. On Aug. 11, he had a home run measured at 470 feet (sixth furthest), and earlier in the season he had another at 469 feet (eighth).

Stanton has 10 “no doubt” homers, to Trout’s seven.

The first pitch tonight is set for 10:05 p.m. ET.

Joe Frisaro

Ozuna latest Marlin represented by Boras

MIAMI — In his first full big league season, Marcell Ozuna is establishing himself as one of the more productive outfielders in the game. The 23-year-old is second on the Marlins in home runs (18) and RBIs (65), and his eight assists are tied for the second most among outfielders in the Majors.

In recent weeks, Ozuna also hooked up with a high-profile agent, Scott Boras.

Marlins ace, Jose Fernandez, and infielder Jeff Baker also are represented by the Boras Corporation.

Boras compares Ozuna’s skill set to Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez, a two-time All-Star.

“Marcell is an exciting player capable of 20 home runs and playing Gold Glove-caliber center field,” Boras said.

Ozuna is one of the core, young players on a maturing Marlins team that is competing for a National League Wild Card spot. He is one of 13 MLB outfielders with as many as 18 home runs. Only 14 outfielders have as many as 65 RBIs.

Among center fielders, only Mike Trout (89), Adam Jones (77) and Andrew McCutchen (67) have more RBIs than Ozuna.

Defensively, he has one of the strongest arms in the game.

Ozuna is making $505,000 this season, and his first year eligible for arbitration is 2016.

The center fielder is a candidate for a contract extension, perhaps in the off season.

As of now, the Marlins have not approached Boras about a long-term deal with Ozuna. Whether one gets done will depend on if it makes sense for both sides to go season-to-season or to come to terms on a multi-year deal.

Joe Frisaro

Stanton closing in on 150 homer milestone

MIAMI — The next home run Giancarlo Stanton hits will be the 150th of his career. If the Marlins’ MVP-candidate right fielder does it soon, he will be joining some elite company.

Stanton has a chance to become the ninth youngest player in MLB history to reach the milestone. But he has to hit No. 150 in the next three days.

Stanton enters Tuesday night’s game against the Rangers at 24-years, 284-days old. Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, currently the ninth youngest, belted No. 150 at 24-years, 288-days old.

The youngest player ever to get to 150 was Hall of Famer Mel Ott (23/196).

Stanton made his MLB debut at age 20 on June 8, 2010. Since then, he’s been one of the most feared power hitters in the game. The slugger currently paces the Majors with 32 homers.

There also is a strong chance Stanton could become the Marlins’ all-time home run leader by the end of the season. Dan Uggla holds the mark at 154.

Youngest Players to 150 Career Home Runs, All-Time

1) Mel Ott, 23-196

2) Eddie Mathews, 23-332

3) Andruw Jones, 24-158

4) Ken Griffey Jr., 24-180

5) Albert Pujols, 24-212

6) Alex Rodriguez, 24-255

7) Mickey Mantle, 24-255

8) Jimmie Foxx, 24-263

9) Johnny Bench, 24-288

10) Frank Robinson, 24-326

11) Orlando Cepeda, 24-341

12) Miguel Cabrera, 25-77

– Joe Frisaro

Dunn stunned to be team wins leader

MIAMI — When Jose Fernandez went down with season-ending elbow surgery in May, the Marlins were looking for someone to step up. For the most part, Henderson Alvarez has done so, establishing himself as the interim ace.

Alvarez rose to the occasion and even made the All-Star team.

But the surprise pitcher on the roster, at least in terms of wins, has been setup lefty Mike Dunn. On Thursday night, he threw two scoreless innings. As the game played out, the Marlins rallied to beat the D-backs, 5-4, in 10 innings.

The victory went to Dunn, which has been common for much of the season.

Now 10-5 with a 3.65 ERA, Dunn’s line reads more like a starter than a reliever. The 10 wins also are the most of any reliever in the Majors, with Pittsburgh’s Tony Watson next with 8.

Dunn leads the Marlins in victories, and he set a franchise record for most wins in a season by a reliever. Jarred Cosart also has won 10, but nine of them came before he was traded from the Astros to Miami on July 31.

Taking it all in stride, Dunn says he would hand all the wins over to starters if it meant he could get holds for their performances. The rest of Miami’s bullpen is having fun with the 10 wins, joking that Dunn is a “vulture,” striking when wins are for the taking.

On Thursday night, Dunn’s bullpen mates flapped their arms, their vulture symbol.

What Dunn has done, actually, is interesting.

Dunn not only paces the Marlins in victories, he has more wins than a number of prominent starting pitchers.

Starts with nine wins include, Jason Hammel, Homer Bailey, John Danks, R.A. Dickey, Aaron Harang, Stephen Strasburg, Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura and C.J. Wilson.

With eight wins, the list includes Tim Hudson, Jesse Chavarez, Chris Archer, Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann.

Joe Frisaro

Time to make push in standings

MIAMI — The time is now if the Marlins hope to make a serious push to get back in the playoff race.

At 59-61, there is little margin for error, and certainly not much room to recover from a losing stretch. Plus, the schedule is favorable with the D-backs in town for four games, and then the Rangers at Marlins Park for two Interleague games next week.

Overall, there are plenty of encouraging signs of late for the Marlins, who are coming off taking two of three against the Cardinals.

What the team must avoid is a letdown against sub-.500 clubs.

“The big thing [Thursday], with Arizona coming in for four, we can’t take our foot off the gas,” third baseman Casey McGehee said. “We’ve got to treat every game the same, and hopefully continue to have a good homestand, and continue to put pressure on the teams ahead of us.”

The Marlins enter the series in third place, seven games behind the Nationals, in the National League East. They’re 4 1/2 games out in the Wild Card race, with five teams ahead of them.

For the most part, the club has done well, posting a 15-11 record since the All-Star Break.

Joe Frisaro

Building around Stanton high Marlins priority

MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton is heating up again, and so is speculation about his long-term future.

We’ve been down this road before, and will continue to do so until the slugger either signs an extension with the Marlins, or moves elsewhere.

This is a time the Marlins are doing plenty of scoreboard watching, as they’ve moved one game back of the Braves for second place in the National League East. The Marlins are focused on making a playoff push. It’s also a time Stanton has homered in eight of his last 13 games, and playing at an MVP level.

With Stanton, increased invariably leads to questions about, what’s next?

Jon Heyman of recently reported there is skepticism in the Marlins’ front office that Stanton will sign a long-term deal with Miami. If that is the case, the question becomes, does the club keep him or trade him in the offseason?

Naturally, that set off a wave of stories, primarily out of Boston, regarding Stanton.

In conversations with numerous sources, here’s what I’ve learn:

* As an organization, the Marlins have not thrown in the towel on any chance of signing one of the most feared hitters in the game. The intention is to build around Stanton, and in the offseason make a serious multi-year contract offer.

* Here’s the most important piece of information.

With or without a long-term contract, the Marlins are prepared to retain Stanton as long as possible, even if that means waiting it out through the start of his free agency, which is after the 2016 season.

Some may scoff, Stanton’s value will decrease. The Marlins don’t see it that way. His value to the club is far greater than moving him before they absolutely have to. This team can be a serious playoff contender in 2015 and ’16. They’ll take their chances in regards to 2017.

* And say, there is an huge trade opportunity out there, for the Marlins to even consider trading Stanton, it won’t be strictly a “prospects deal.” You’re not going to see a repeat of the Miguel Cabrera trade. It’s not going to be Stanton for six prospects.

At the Trade Deadline this July, the Red Sox showed what the price of a rental could be when they dealt Jon Lester to the A’s for Yoenis Cespedes. Proven big league talent for big league talent.

The Marlins would not be looking for a package of prospects. It could include include top prospects, but it would require major pieces off another club’s big league roster.

That’s pretty much where the Stanton situation stands.

Also from what I’ve gathered, the Marlins are upbeat about what is being built in Miami. They fully intend to retain their core.

This is a team that went 62-100 in 2013, and yet on Aug. 13, they find themselves being one-game under .500, and within striking distance of a Wild Card spot. All this without Jose Fernandez since May.

The Marlins are clearly looking to move forward, not move Stanton. Not now. And barring a complete change of thinking, not in the offseason.

In fact, looking forward, the hope is to see the payroll increase to around $75 million in 2015, which would make room for Stanton’s salary, and others.

Locking up Stanton is definitely a high offseason priority, but it isn’t the team’s sole focus.

Adding a top of the rotation starter is high on the team’s shopping list. That could mean making a serious push for pending free agent James Shields. Fernandez isn’t expected back until around next All-Star Break, and the club wants to build a championship-caliber rotation in anticipation of his return.

What’s next for Stanton promises to be one of MLB’s biggest offseason stories. To the Marlins, however, as big a priority is to make the rotation as strong as possible for the 2015 playoff run.

Joe Frisaro

Penny seeking to become Mr. 120

CINCINNATI — In some ways, Brad Penny is having a Mr. 3000 moment.

Two years after pitching in the big leagues for the last time, Penny is making a comeback at age 36. He’s returned to the team he made his big league debut with in 2000. Penny booblehead

The Marlins have welcomed the veteran right-hander into their rotation in hopes he can provide a youthful team with an experienced boost.

In the process, Penny gets a shot at career victory No. 120. From 2000-12, he was 119-100.

The round number is providing some motivation. It’s not exactly like the movie “Mr. 3000″ starring the late Bernie Mac.

Playing the fictious character of Stan Ross in the movie released in 2004, Mac was a retired ballplayer making a comeback to reach his 3,000th hit.

If Penny were to get win No. 120 on Saturday, he also would move up a notch in Marlins’ history. Currently, he is fifth at 48-42. With a win, he would tie A.J. Burnett for fourth place.

“I’m excited,” Penny said. “It’s been 10 years since I pitched for the Marlins and I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a little weird. But I’ve been with so many teams, it’s kind of normal.”

Penny last pitched in the big leagues as a reliever with the Giants in 2012. His last starts came in 2011 with the Tigers.

“I just took last year off, gave my body a rest,” Penny said. “Everything was kind of aching. I just decided to give everything a rest.”

It crossed his mind that Saturday’s opportunity may never come.

“I’m getting a little older,” he said. “But I’m a little wiser, too.

“I’m just glad they gave me the opportunity.”

Marlins wins leaders

1. Ricky Nolasco 81-72
2. Dontrelle Willis 68-54
3. Josh Johnson 56-37
4. A.J. Burnett 49-50
5. Brad Penny 48-42

Joe Frisaro

DJ expresses thanks for support

PITTSBURGH — As he was being carted off the field on Thursday night, Marlins reliever Dan Jennings raised his right hand to signal he was going to be alright.

It was the symbolic thumbs up that prompted a loud ovation from the stunned-silent crowd at PNC Park.

After being tested at a local hospital, it appears Jennings indeed is going to be just fine.

A CT scan came back negative, and Jennings was diagnosed with a concussion after being struck on the left side of the head on a comeback liner by Jordy Mercer.

The incident brought PNC Park to complete standstill in the seventh inning of the Pirates’ 7-2 win over the Marlins.

Jennings never lost consciousness, and he responded to questions, knowing where he was and what day it was.

After being tested at the hospital, Jennings used social media to express his gratitude to the fans and all those who have reached out to him.

On his @LtDanJennings Twitter account, Jennings tweeted: “@Pirates fans showed amazing support tonight – as always @Marlins fans supporting too.”

DJ also tweeted a medical update: “The scans were negative-it seems I’m going to be ok. The support shown tonight has been unbelievable, speechless. God is amazing.”

Another tweet read: “God was definitely watching over me tonight.”

Jennings’ injury is the latest reminder of how players risk so much every time they step on the field.

Miami pitcher Brian Flynn, who also has been a teammate of Jennings in the Minor Leagues, noted that he says a quick prayer before every inning.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who dealt with a concussion on a foul tip earlier in the season, says the time is now for baseball to explore more ways to protect pitchers, who are less than 60 feet from home plate after delivering a pitch.

“Hopefully they can find something that works that will protect pitchers,” Saltalamacchia said. “I know they’ve done a pretty good job protecting catchers. I think it’s time we need to start worrying about those guys, too.”

Joe Frisaro

Yelich shows power against lefty

PITTSBURGH — PNC Park has some special meaning to Christian Yelich.

As a rookie last year, the Miami outfielder connected on his first big league home run at the home of the Pirates. It was an opposite-field shot to left.

On Wednesday night, Yelich went deep yet again at PNC Park, blasting a no-doubt, two-run drive to right field off Jeff Locke.

It was the 22-year-old’s ninth blast of the season, and first off a left-hander. The left-handed hitting Yelich has 13 career home runs, with two off southpaws.

A year ago Yelich had his struggles while facing left-handers, batting .165 against them, compared to .362 off righties.

This season, the numbers have changed a bit.

Yelich’s splits are a little surprising. The leadoff hitter is batting .301 (28-for-93) off lefties, compared to .260 (75-for-288) vs. right-handers.

But his on-base percentage is about the same against both — .359 (LHP), .351 (RHP).

Joe Frisaro

Cosart scratched; Gregg having surgery

PITTSBURGH — Jarred Cosart paid a price for his first big league hit. The Marlins right-hander ended up tweaking his left oblique during the at-bat, and now he has been scratched from his start on Thursday at Pittsburgh.

The injury isn’t believed to be serious, and Cosart will not be headed to the disabled list. The club anticipates he will start on Tuesday against the Cardinals at Marlins Park.

Brian Flynn will start in place of Cosart on Thursday.

Miami hasn’t announced Saturday’s starter, but it is expected to be Brad Penny, who is currently at Triple-A New Orleans.

Cosart was acquired from the Astros on July 31. He made his first start for Miami on Aug. 1. Making the transition to the National League means Cosart now has to bat. In his start against the Reds, he had an infield single, which was his first big league hit. He ran hard to first base, and in the process ended up with a sore left oblique.

The Marlins rotation already is without Henderson Alvarez, who is on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Alvarez played catch on Wednesday and he is progressing nicely. The expectation is the All-Star will be reinstated on Aug. 14, the first day he is eligible to return. Miami faces Arizona that day.

Also, reliever Kevin Gregg on Thursday is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow.

Joe Frisaro


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