It wasn’t the most orthodox way of how to win a 3-game series but for the first week of baseball the Marlins figured out a motivation tool to start the season 4-2. The first 2 series of the season had the Marlins losing in game 1 each time, only to come back and win the next 2. They got romped on Opening Day to the Mets, but despite the bullpen showing it’s flaws the Marlins battled back taking the next 2 games despite giving up a 6-1 lead in the 7th to walk 9 batters on Wednesday night. They next faced the Dodgers in their home opener on Friday and lost 7-3, but the Fighting Fish didn’t let that stop them from coming back again with a walk-off win on Saturday and Jorge Cantu’s heroics on Sunday.
The guy they call JOR-GEE is having another fabulous start to the season with an impressive first week. He has come away with at least one RBI in all 6 games, including the 5 RBIs he had Sunday to bring his total to 10. Not to mention his average is a cool .320 with 2 HR and 4 doubles, so it’s no secret Cantu loves April. His stats from last season for the month of April were .365 avg with 7 HR, 22 RBI, 5 doubles and hitting behind the Hanley Ramirez doesn’t hurt either. Both those players alone have the ability to lift the team on it’s shoulders and produce runs like the 3-4 combo of Chase Ugly and Ryan Coward.
The Marlins sit in 2nd place in the NL East behind the Phillies (5-1), who play the Nationals 6 times in their first 9 games. I’m not arguing with the scheduling because the Marlins played the Nationals 6 times in the first 12 games last season, ending up 11-1 to start. Although, the Marlins haven’t been to the playoffs since 2003 and its still an even match where as the Phillies are unfortunately back-to-back NL champs. Which makes me ask why should they play the team with over 100 losses last couple years to start a season? It isn’t really the most competitive of match-ups to start defending the NL title to, and if anything the league wants the Phils to jump out at 9-0 and let everyone else play catch-up all year long.
So depending on what happens with the Marlins against the Reds, as well as the aforementioned Nationals/Phillies series, this weekend’s upcoming games should be a blast. The Marlins come to Philly to face off for the first time this season and I’ll be there for damn sure to support my Fighting Fish, despite the sea of Red and cliche Boo’s I will be surrounded by. On that note, bring on week two!
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…
As I’m writing this Mike Stanton just jacked his 2nd homer of the spring, and Dan Uggla followed him with a solo shot of his own against the Astros. A sight I haven’t seen much of so far is that raw power to hit home runs. The most unlikely of names have been hitting it over the fence including Bryan Peterson and Emilio Bonifacio (no, that’s not a typo).
These young prospects with power like Stanton and Peterson have been turning heads early this spring, and could definitely see playing time somewhere during the 2010 season. Stanton is only 20 years old at this point, so a September call-up is probably the soonest you’ll see him. The talent is there and he looks just as good as Jason Heyward, you just don’t want to rush him. Although, I wouldn’t be shocked if Cameron Maybin’s groin injury lingers, Cody Ross moves to CF and Stanton takes RF by Opening Day.
If anything, the player who looks like he’s being rushed into the majors is Logan Morrison. The first baseman’s performance so far has not been promising and Gaby Sanchez seems to be handling the role a lot better. Of course, Gaby has a sprinkle of experience under his belt from last season and it shows with his average at .400 a week into the spring. Logan doesn’t seem to be adapting to any pitchers, carrying a .071 average in his couple appearances (although that one hit was a triple that produced 3 RBIs).
Don’t count out Jorge Jimenez to take over 3B, pushing Gaby and Logan out of the way for Jorge Cantu to play 1B again. Jimenez is looking to start the season on the Opening Day lineup, seeing as the Red Sox kept him off their 40-man roster. If he can’t secure the starting 3B job, he can still battle for the left-handed bat off the bench role. Jimenez has competition there though against veteran Mike Lamb, who has also shown signs of why his minor league deal should be purchased. Also, Hank Blalock decided to sign a deal with the Rays and made the choice a little easier by not coming to Marlins camp.
The pitching staff as a whole hasn’t done anything too drastic to cut themselves from the team, but I will tell you the highs and lows so far…
The lowest moment was the outing Seth McClung had on Monday against the Mets making me rethink his signing altogether. He pitched 2/3 of an inning and allowed 6 earned runs on 2 hits (one being a solo HR) and 3 walks. It’s early but in the bullpen you only get so many opportunities to impress with so many arms out there.
The highest moments were a tie between…
1) The pitching of Clay Hensley on Saturday against the Cardinals going 3 innings with 4Ks allowing 1 hit and no runs.
2) Rick VandenHurk coming into a 5-0 deficit against the Red Sox throwing 3 scoreless innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 2Ks. Worthy noting VandenHurk is my dark horse pick, he looked better than Andrew Miller and Sean West influencing me to consider an all right-handed rotation.
The Marlins are going to start making cuts soon and should eliminate the youngsters and high scoring comebacks all around the league. I know no lead is safe but during Spring Training you see the 2nd and 3rd string players come out to blow the scoring wide open for better or worse. Starting the spring 3-0 was nice but ending the 1st week 5-3 wasn’t too good, so let’s hope this 2nd week they kick it up a notch.
UPDATE: Thursday morning the Marlins made some moves with a few pitchers, right-hander Ryan Tucker was optioned back to AAA-New Orleans, and lefty Jay Voss sent to minor league camp.
So Before the full squad workouts start for Spring Training, I’m gonna take a stab at Opening Day’s lineup and rotation (hoping against injury)…
1.) Chris Coghlan – LF
2.) Cameron Maybin – CF
3.) Hanley Ramirez – SS
4.) Jorge Cantu – 3B
5.) Dan Uggla – 2B
6.) John Baker – C
7.) Cody Ross- RF
8.) Logan Morrison -1B
9.) Josh Johnson – P
1.) Josh Johnson – RHP
2.) Ricky Nolasco – RHP
3.) Chris Volstad – RHP
4.) Sean West – LHP
5.) Anibal Sanchez – RHP
Closer.) Leo Nunez – RHP
Nearing the deadline for arbitration figures, the news keeps rolling in that the Marlins are getting things done. Leo Nunez will earn $2 million in his first year of arbitration, being the logical choice to closing games in 2010. Nunez had 26 saves out of 33 opportunities last season after Matt Lindstrom got injured, and secured the closer position the rest of the way.
Also, Jorge Cantu signed his name on the dotted line for a $6 million contract minutes before the deadline this afternoon. Cantu is a very important piece to this lineup sitting in the clean-up spot, and his 42 doubles and 100 RBI prove it. Yes, his HRs were down from 29 (2008) to 16 (2009), but he had 8 HR in the first month of games last year. Battling through injuries and loopiness from his cholesterol medication to still play 149 games (batting .289) is hard to accomplish for any major league player.
Lastly, the only player to not reach an agreement with the team is Cody Ross. He will be going to a hearing sometime in February, as the Marlins team policy is to not negotiate after the deadline has passed. Cody earned $2.225 million last season and with his career he plans on cashing in like Dan Uggla did in 2008. Another 24 HR/ 90 RBI won’t be missing from the lineup, as I’m sure he’ll get signed. He’s a fan favorite that plays all outfield positions and only 4 total errors in the past 2 seasons.