Results tagged ‘ Leo Nunez ’

Showing faith in the pen

Leo Nunez didn’t have to do much of a sales job to get an opportunity to close on Thursday.

Shortly before the Marlins faced the Mets in their series finale in New York, Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire checked with Nunez.

leonunez1aa.jpg“I’m ok,” Nunez said. “I can go.”

The message was relayed to manager Fredi Gonzalez. It’s all he needed to hear to throw his closer back into action a day after he threw 40 pitches on Wednesday night.

If there was any signs of fatigued based on 40 pitches in 1 1/3 pitches the night before, Nunez didn’t show it. Instead, he neede 10 pitches (with seven strikes) to collected his first save of the season.

Gonzalez says he doesn’t talk to his pitchers about their well being because he doesn’t always get a straight answer. So he leaves that to St. Claire.

“I don’t talk to those pitchers,” Gonzalez said. “Randy and them have a good rapport. I hope they’re honest with Randy. When I come up, they say, ‘I feel good.’ “

The bullpen had a rough time on Wednesday, especially Renyel Pinto and Jose Veras. Gonzalez says when a players struggles, he tries to throw them back in as soon as possible to build back their confidence.

“I’m a big believer in putting guys in positions where they can succeed,” Gonzalez said. “I’m a believer in run those guys out there, and build their confidence. We can sit here and talk about how much confidence we have in that bullpen, but you have to show it. Those guys, the Pintos, the Verases, get ready to pitch, because you’re going to be used.”

— Joe Frisaro


Cracking the WHIP

From the first day of Spring Training, manager Fredi Gonzalez talked about the importance of the thrownig strikes.

Gonzalez added that an important statistic, in his mind, is the WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched).

What the Marlins saw on Wednesday night in their wild 7-6 win in 10 innings over the Mets is what can go wrong when pitchers aren’t throwing strikes.

After building a five-run lead on Dan Uggla’s homer in the top of the seventh, the Marlins pitchers lost track of the strike zone. The Mets rallied to force extra innings, and Florida was fortunate to prevail.

Ricky Nolasco uncharacteristically walked the first two batters to start the seventh. But the real damage came when the Florida starter exited with two outs in the seventh.

Renyel Pinto, Jose Veras and Leo Nunez worked 2 1/3 innings, but all three struggled to find the plate. They combined for six walks, a hit batter and a balk. The three totaled 82 pitches, but just 40 were strikes. Throwing 49 percent of their pitches for strikes created a reason for alarm.

“We can’t do that because we’re going to get our heads beat in,” Gonzalez said.

Pinto faced three batters and didn’t log an out. The lefty walked one, allowed one hit and hit a batter. Veras did get out of the seventh, but with some good fortune.

Veras’ first pitch was a high fastball to David Wright. The ball sailed off John Baker’s glove, and as it rolled away from the catcher, Fernando Tatis tried scoring from third. Baker retrieved the ball, and threw home to Veras, who applied the tag.

“I tried to throw a fastball away, and it was a little high,” Veras said. “The ball stayed close, and we got that guy out. That was a huge play with the bases loaded right there and David Wright hitting.”

Nunez worked 1 1/3 inning, and entered in a tough spot — the bases loaded — in the eighth inning. Because Nunez threw 40 pitches, with 19 strikes, he won’t be available for Thursday. Tim Wood, who had a 15-pitch (10 strikes) save, on Wednesday is a candidate to close in the series finale.

Veras noted that it was just one game, and most of the relievers hadn’t thrown in a game since last Saturday.

“We tried to get the job done. It happens in the ball game,” Veras said. “Maybe we tried to be too perfect. The best part is we won the game, and tomorrow is another day.”

— Joe Frisaro



VandenHurk, Wood optioned

Shortly after the Marlins beat the Nationals, 9-5, on Tuesday, the Marlins made a roster move that completes how the pitching staff will shake down.

Rick VandenHurk and Tim Wood were each optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. VandenHurk will be in the New Orleans rotation, while Wood will pitch in relief.

The transactions came a few hours after Florida obtained lefty Nate Robertson from the Tigers in exchange for lefty prospect Jay Voss.

The starting rotation will be — Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Robertson.

Clay Hensley is making the team as a long reliever, instead of the fifth starter.

Barring any other moves, the bullpen will feature: Leo Nunez, Brian Sanches, Jose Veras, Renyel Pinto, Dan Meyer, Burke Badenhop and Hensley.

— Joe Frisaro


Speculating on final roster

For weeks, Marlins coaches and officials have been evaluating. Now, the time is getting close to make the tough final decisions and set the 25-man roster.

Opening Day is a week away (April 5 at the Mets), and there are still some unanswered questions.

On Monday, the Marlins did settle who will be the starting first baseman. As expected, Gaby Sanchez was given the nod when Logan Morrison was reassigned to Minor League camp. Morrison will start off at Triple-A New Orleans. Don’t discount the 22-year-old making an impact at some point during the season. A year ago, Chris Coghlan was in Triple-A until May, and he went on to become the N.L. Rookie of the Year.

The rotation also has come together, with Clay Hensley securing the fifth spot.

Still to be resolved are at least one bench player, as well as a bullpen spot.

Over the past few days, Marlins personnel evaluators have been in Jupiter, consulting and meeting. Final moves can happen any day now.

While nothing has been officially announced, for recreational purposes, here is a look at how the 25-man roster may shake down. There are a few factors that will come into play, like how players fit into the 40-man roster. Currently, nine non-roster invitees are still in camp.

Again, this is for conversational purposes only, and not an officially announced 25-man squad.

Catchers: John Baker, Ronny Paulino

Infielders: Gaby Sanchez, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Wes Helms, Brian Barden, Mike Lamb

Outfielders: Chris Coghlan, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross, Emilio Bonifacio

Starting pitchers: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, Clay Hensley

Bullpen: Leo Nunez (closer), Brian Sanchez, Jose Veras, Burke Badenhop, Tim Wood, Renyel Pinto, Dan Meyer

On this projected roster, there are four non-roster invitees who will have to be added to the 40-man roster — Hensley, Lamb, Barden and Veras. Currently, there are 37 on the 40-man. So that means, if they all make it, one current 40-man player would be removed.

The Marlins did clear a 40-man spot when pitcher Hayden Penn was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on Monday.

Barden, Donnie Murphy and Hector Luna are are vying for a utility position. All three are non-roster invitees. Murphy has impressed several other teams who have been watching him in camp. But Barden may secure the job. Working in Barden’s favor is his ability to play shortstop defensively at a high level. Of all the players in camp, Barden appears to be the best insurance policy to Ramirez. Barden also can play left field.

Bonifacio, of course, is a natural middle infielder. For now, it looks like he will be used in a super utility role previously held by Alfredo Amezaga.

The Marlins appear to be leaning toward not carrying a primary backup outfielder. Bryan Petersen, a highly regarded prospect, has impressed. But he likely will be in Triple-A.

The Marlins don’t have the need for a regular outfield backup because the starters — Coghlan, Maybin and Ross — won’t be replaced for defensive purposes. Now, if there is an injury situation, the team would likely make a move to call up an outfielder. Brett Carroll, who will open the season on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, is an option once he is healthy. Jai Miller, Scott Cousins and Petersen (if he doesn’t make the team) are other choices.

Barden also gives some flexibility if the Marlins slide Cantu over to first base in the late innings. The Marlins could go with Barden or Helms at third, or use them as pinch-hitters. Lamb is expected to be the lefty bat off the bench.

Gaby Sanchez adds value in the fact he could be the emergency third catcher. This is important because it means either Baker or Paulino — the catcher who doesn’t start — could be used as a pinch-hitter.

The bullpen battles have been tightly contested all spring. Seth McClung, a non-roster invitee, has more big league experience than Wood. McClung alsohas a clause that allows him to opt out of his contract on April 1. Not being on the 40-man roster may work against McClung and for Wood.

If Wood makes the team, he would be a middle relief candidate. The hard-throwing right-hander has been impressive in camp, and his slider has improved.

Badenhop is a long relief, and spot starter candidate. He’s had a solid spring. Veras has been throwing 95 mph all spring, and he has big league experience in a setup role.

Much can still change in the next few days. But the picture of how the team may look is becoming a bit more clear.

— Joe Frisaro

Avoiding tipping his hand

Spring Training is a time to work on things, make corrections and prepare for the regular season.

For Leo Nunez, it’s also time to figure out something glaring he has been doing wrong.

leo-nunez-46-2009-mlb-florida-marlins.jpgA couple of days ago in Fort Myers, pitching coach Randy St. Claire pointed out that the Marlins closer has been tipping his pitches. Basically, but his glove positioning, Nunez was telegraphing when he would throw his fastball and changeup.

In looking at video from this spring and last year, it seems Nunez had been getting into this habit.

“It’s something I’m working on every day,” Nunez said. “For my changeup, I’m a little bit here [by his belt]. And my fastball, I’m a little here [glove closer to his face]. I have to do everything the same.”

St. Claire picked up on something being possibly wrong on March 11, when the Marlins faced the Cardinals. Entering in a save situation, Nunez gave up five runs (three earned) in two-thirds of an inning.

“I have to do everything the same, with my changeup, fastball and slider,” Nunez said. “I’m working every day.”

In terms of how he is throwing the ball, Nunez is doing fine. His fastball is gaining life, and his changeup is considered an “out pitch.” He says his slider is also coming along.

“Every day I’m working on my slider,” he said. “Every day it is getting better.”

Nunez has made six appearances in Spring Training, and he’s lined up for a few more outings, including working a two-inning stint before Opening Day on April 5 against the Mets in New York.

— Joe Frisaro


Is Leo tipping his pitches?

To Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire, something didn’t look right when Leo Nunez faced the Cardinals on March 11.

In that game, the Florida closer was tagged for five runs (three earned) in two-thirds of an inning. Nunez was looking to collect a save, but instead, he was slapped with the Grapefruit League game loss to the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

The way the Cardinals were on Nunez, ripping four hits, had St. Claire wondering if the closer was tipping his hand.

As it turns out, he was.

“He was tipping his pitches,” St. Claire said. “It looked like these guys knew exactly what was coming. The way they hit the fastball, the way they stayed on the changeup, all of it.

“I went in to look at it, and it was really, really obvious from the video. So we’ve been working on it his last couple of outings.”

The way Nunez was positioning his glove made it clear to keen-eyed opposing hitters who detected the closer was telegraphing what he was throwing.

“It was easily recognizable,” St. Claire said. “Older, veteran lineups like the Cards picked up on it.”

Since then, the Marlins are checking to see how Nunez’s hand is going into his glove before delivering his pitches. Nunez struggled a bit on Wednesday against the Twins in Fort Myers, giving up one run on two hits in one inning. He had a strikeout and two walks.

St. Claire detected the tipping by reviewing video from this spring and last year. As it turns out, Nunez was also tipping at times in 2009.

Nunez has appeared in six games, and he’s thrown 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander has given up six runs on six hits with six strikeouts and four walks.

Nunez is in the process of adjusting his glove to prevent hitters from knowing what pitch is coming.

— Joe Frisaro


Bullpen shaping up

Perhaps there is just one bullpen spot left to fill at Marlins camp.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez shed some light on some of the relievers who are moving closer to winning spots on the Opening Day roster.

pinto4a.JPGThe Marlins anticipate carrying 12 relievers, and Leo Nunez is locked in as the closer. The team anticipates carrying two lefties. They are expected to be Renyel Pinto and Dan Meyer. Both are out of options.

Also strong possibilities to make the team are right-handers Brian Sanches and Jose Veras, in camp on a Minor League contract. Burke Badenhop is a frontrunner to be the long reliever.

“This can change,” said Gonzalez, noting that other candidates may pop across the waiver wire.

If these five hold true, there will be one reliever spot open.

Candidates include Mike MacDougal, Seth McClung, Tim Wood, Chris Leroux and Scott Strickland. 

The team may also decide to keep someone like Clay Hensley, who is in the mix for a rotation spot. If Hensley isn’t in the rotation, he could be an option in relief. The same would hold true for Rick VandenHurk and Hayden Penn, who are currently being used as starters.

— Joe Frisaro


Throwing in Jupiter

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Marlins out of options

Who is out of options factors into finalizing every big league roster.

A year ago, because shortstop Robert Andino was out of options, he became a primary trade target because he was blocked by All-Star Hanley Ramirez. So late in Spring Training 2009, Andino was dealt to the Orioles for right-hander Hayden Penn, who also was without options.

The Marlins currently have seven players who are out of options, which means they have to be on the 25-man roster, or the club risks losing them.

When a player has options, he can be sent up and down to the Minor Leagues all season.

Here are the seven Marlins without options for 2010: Penn, Dan Meyer, Renyel Pinto, Brian Sanches, Wes Helms, Cody Ross and Leo Nunez.

Rule 5 addition Jorge Jimenez also must make the 25-man roster, or he will have to be offered back to Boston.

— Joe Frisaro


Nunez agrees for $2 million

The Marlins on Tuesday reached agreement on a one-year, $2 million deal with closer Leo Nunez.

Nunez, 26, will head into Spring Training as the frontrunner to close. The right-hander is in his

first season of arbitration, and he collected 26 saves in 33 opportunities a year ago.

Acquired from the Royals for Mike Jacobs in 2008, Nunez appeared in 75 games and he finished 4-6 with

a 4.06 ERA. He tossed 68 2/3 innings, striking out 60 while walking 27. He was hurt by the long ball,

allowing 13 home runs.

When 2009 began, Nunez was in a setup role to Matt Lindstrom, who was traded to the Astros in


Nunez made $414,500 in 2009.

— Joe Frisaro