Roughly two weeks away from Opening Day and things are starting to take shape in the Marlins camp. The biggest news so far has been the “return to sender” policy of Rule 5 pick Jorge Jimenez back to the Red Sox. The Marlins save $25K of the $50K they spent on Jimenez for not including him on this year’s lineup, but got barely anything for Matt Lindstrom from the Astros besides some low level prospects. Be that as it may, the decision to release Jimenez makes the infield picture look more in focus, more importantly 3rd and 1st base.
Third base is now where Jorge Cantu will primarily play, while Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison continue to fight for the 1B job. Although, Gaby has looked pretty good so far holding a smooth .387 through Saturday (T-2nd on team with 12 hits) and connecting on his 1st spring home run to almost secure the position. Logan on the other hand has had a rough start out the gate and just recently got his average up to the Mendoza line (.200 avg). Although those few hits have been extra base hits (3 doubles & 1 triple producing 6 RBIs), his defense has been shaky trying to adjust to 1B at the major league level. There’s still some time left but I’m beginning to see it’s more likely Gaby Sanchez will be starting on April 5th.
Now let’s move to the pitchers…
As expected, a slew of the pitchers were sent back down to AAA New Orleans or re-assigned to minor league camp. Familiar roster names like Jose Ceda, Cristhian Martinez, and Taylor Tankersley trying to make it back onto the roster will have to work on pitch control as a member of the Zephyrs. Speaking of comebacks, Derrick Turnbow’s attempt is over barring he gets a whole new arm. His mechanics haven’t been the same since 2006 and the Marlins released him almost the second he came out of the game last Tuesday against the Nationals
The stronger candidates for bullpen and rotation spots are budding their heads out like the spring itself. Anibal Sanchez has gone out on the field every start and showed why he belongs in that 3rd spot in the rotation. That leaves 2 spots left for the remaining pitchers in the mix. Sean West was recently sent down to AAA after walking 7 in 3 innings of a B-game last week, halting his chances to return to the rotation where he finished 8-6 last year.
Chris Volstad might have pushed his name forward as the 4th spot with his last outing against the Nationals. His bread and butter sinker was really working and forced quite a few ground outs, which is what the Marlins wanna see out of the 6′ 8″ righty. That 5th spot is looking pretty nice for Clay Hensley if he can keep up the good work. He’s looked excellent forcing the grounders as well as getting out of situations, holding a 0.00 ERA through 10 1/3 innings. You can’t ask for more from a pitcher, but Hensley does have an opt out clause if he is not on the roster by April 1st.
If the Marlins decide on throwing Hensley in the bullpen with Burke Badenhop (also looks great) as a long reliever, that might make Rick VandenHurk or Andrew Miller the viable choice. Hayden Penn has shown his true colors and should be moved soon, taking him out of consideration in my book. Between Vandy and Miller the smarter decision would be promoting VandenHurk, while Miller still has an option left on his contract to start the year in AAA without losing him. Miller’s delivery is being retooled for the 3rd time and looks like he will still need time to feel comfortable with it.
And finally, the off-the-bench position players are fighting for 2 spots and Jorge Jimenez was in the running for both. The competition for left handed pinch hitter looks like it might have a winner with the resurgent Mike Lamb. The release of Jimenez on Sunday morning must’ve motivated Lamb because, he knocked a pinch hit 3-run double to all but solidify that late inning bench role. The other roster spot is an infield reserve that’s not Emilio Bonifacio (in case he’s already out there). Without Jimenez the Marlins seem to be leaning towards Brian Barden who was with the Cardinals AAA team last year. He plays all over the infield and has .292 avg with 6 RBIs this spring.
At 10-9 and 2 weeks to go it could be worse, but plenty of positives to take out of it. Ronny Paulino and Chris Coghlan are already on fire (14 hits a piece), just note worthy and hope they can keep it up. Until next time…
The time is finally here for all baseball maniacs to get excited, as pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training all this week. And for a team that hasn’t made many off-season acquisitions, it’s not surprising the Marlins picked up another piece for their bullpen before everyone starts working out. Of course the big money went to 9 arbitration eligible players (Cody Ross just won his case for $4.45 million), so the Marlins are still being thrifty about who they want to bring into camp.
Former All-Star Mike MacDougal has been given a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite by the Marlins. The deal is worth $700K if he makes the big league roster, including $75K in performance bonuses. Without any major league deals outside the organization, MacDougal was offered the 2nd highest amount of money this off-season on a minor league contract (Seth McClung gets $800K for making the team).
Pitching most of his career in the AL with the Royals and White Sox, MacDougal was very hit or miss. In 2003 he reached All-Star status grabbing 27 saves for Kansas City and 21 more in 2005, but was eventually traded to Chicago mid-2006. By 2009 he had a 12.46 ERA after 5 games and was released by the White Sox, eventually getting scooped up by the Nationals in mid June. The switch to the NL was just what the reliever needed, as most pitchers perform better within the land of no DH. MacDougal was thrown into the closer role in Washington after they ran out of options (trading Joel Hanrahan to Pittsburgh and Joe Beimel to Colorado). He then converted 20 of 21 save opportunities with a 3.60 ERA on a last place team.
Having already hired Randy St. Claire as the new pitching coach (Washington pitching coach ’03-’09), the decision to bring MacDougal aboard makes total sense. He has experience closing games if everything doesn’t work out with Leo Nunez in that role. Hopefully changes don’t need to be made and these newly acquired relievers like MacDougal, Derrick Turnbow, and Seth McClung will be signed and help bolster our bullpen.
Also, the Marlins are inviting some position players to camp hoping to fill that lefty off the bench role. It’s not anyone like my suggestion of Hank Blalock (although keep your eyes on him), but names you might not of heard from in a while.
Mike Lamb was invited to camp, who you might remember from his Houston Astros days when he averaged 12 HR/60 RBI from ’04-’07. He last played in the majors in 2008 splitting time between Minnesota and Milwaukee for their playoff push. Lamb signed with the Mets last season but never got the call back up to the big leagues. For all the injuries the Mets had through out the year they should’ve taken a chance on him since he plays 1B/3B/OF.
Jason Lane is another former Astros outfielder trying to re-emerge from the trenches. He last played in 2007 for Houston, then was given to San Diego as part of a conditional deal playing in only 3 games the rest of the year. Since then he signed with the Yankees and Boston in 2008, as well as Toronto in 2009 with no luck of a roster spot.
The Marlins aren’t just giving away bench positions though, so it should be a tight race between the veterans. If none of them work out, I can see a trade during Spring Training to bring in some talent.
Remember going to card shows and each person’s station had larger packs of cards wrapped in paper bags? They usually contained a bunch of cards with mediocre players or the vendor already had 4 copies of it. You would also get a chance for insert cards once in a while, but most likely got to pick out 5 more grab bags than receiving any card with significant value. The Marlins are selecting those grab bag-esque players, hoping for a raise in value over the next year. Most of the players aren’t the most recognizable names, yet some carry a reputation that needs rebuilding or even a foundation.
The Marlins lineup is only looking for a few pieces to fill up their returning cast. These low-risk/high reward players are a perfect fit to sprinkle in some bullpen help as well as bats off the bench. Players like Derrick Turnbow, Seth McClung, Jose Veras already have big league experience with speculation of improving the team along with themselves in a new environment. Kiko Calero was last year’s example of bullpen help resurrecting a career and adding value with his 1.95 ERA in 67 games (1 HR allowed). As expected, he jumped back onto the market for more dollars and had to be replaced.
Another puzzle piece that needs to be added before Opening Day will be a left-handed pinch hitter that can take over in the late innings. Wes Helms secures the right-handed bench role and still works 3B/1B very well. Ross Gload was last year’s lefty who could play 1B/OF and led the league in pinch hits with 36, although he signed with Philly this off-season after the Marlins declined his $2.6 million offer. Russell Branyan was a name popping up recently that sounded intriguing with his 31 HR in 2009, but ultimately was diminished without an offer being made.
So who would be a good option for a veteran lefty off the bench? A lot of names are disappearing by the day as were days away from pitchers and catchers reporting. Names like Adam Kennedy, Chad Tracy, Frank Catalanotto are gone; Jim Edmonds came back after a year so how about Geoff Jenkins or Cliff Floyd? The list is small on players who won’t cost much, but as it gets closer to Spring Training the prices will come down if they are desperate for a job somewhere.
Try this name on for size, Hank Blalock. He’s a 2 time All-Star that has yet to find a team willing to take a chance on a 1B/3B/DH averaging 27 HR/95 RBI a season and is only 28 years old. His batting avg dropped in 2009 to .234 but raised all other stats after 2 down years in Texas. The National League may be a good move for him, as he’s already used to the heat and needs to find a job. Who else could the Marlins pull out of the grab bag to fill this bench role?
Announcing it’s about time wouldn’t be appropriate because patience is half of what being a Marlins fan is all about. Having said that, “It’s about time we made a move!” (Thanks Curb). Less than a month before pitchers and catchers report, the Marlins make the first meaningful move outside of the organization by bringing in some major league experience.
The Fish signed Derrick Turnbow to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. He will earn $600K if he makes the team roster this April. People mostly remember Turnbow as the closer for the Milwaukee Brewers throwing 39 saves, 7-1 with 1.74 ERA in 2005. Earning his 2006 All-Star appearance he claimed 24 saves, but dropped to 4-9 and 6.87 ERA by season end losing his fireman role.
Well if your looking for resurrection, South Florida is the perfect fit for a former reliever that hasn’t pitched since 2008. A slew of veteran bullpen pitchers seeking that second chance have ended up in Miami and thrived, giving their careers a bounce. Derrick Turnbow is the next in line to follow the molds set by Armando Benitez, Brendan Donnelly, Joe Borowski, Kiko Calero (still available), Joe Nelson and Todd Jones. Turnbow pretty much quit baseball last May after 8 games at Texas AAA (Oklahoma City), putting the ball down altogether to figure things out. Recently though he worked out for a dozen teams and showed he still can throw 95mph with a “slick” slider.
Should be a win-win situation for both parties concerned. Turnbow might be slotted as an 8th inning man at the moment, but if Leo Nunez can’t handle the role of closer don’t be surprised if Derrick gets the call. He’s got experience and can lead the way for most of the bullpen probably showing them a thing or two along the way.
If that wasn’t enough, the Marlins also signed RHP Jose Veras and INF Danny Richar to minor league contracts with spring invites. Veras has played with the Yankees since 2006 until he was traded to Cleveland last season, posting a career 9-6 with 4.42 ERA in 128 innings. Richar spent time with the White Sox and Reds the past 3 years sparingly, but plays all over the infield.