ATLANTA — To make room for Henderson Alvarez on the roster and in the team’s starting rotation, the Marlins optioned rookie Tom Koehler to Triple A New Orleans.Alvarez made his first start of the season Thursday after returning from a stint on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.Koehler had been in the rotation since May 12 and made 10 starts, going 1-5 with a 4.70 ERA. In his last start Tuesday, Koehler finished with a no-decision after pitching five innings and allowing three runs, two earned.Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Koehler would continue to start for the time being at New Orleans.“I thought Tom did a good job when he was here, giving us some flexibility where he could start and come in out of the bullpen,” Redmond said. “He got some valuable experience. He threw the ball well and threw strikes and did all the things we talked about in spring training that he needed to do to be successful. He got some opportunities because guys were hurt, but now guys are coming back.”
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At the end of May, things were already looking dismal. The Fish were in the midst of a 9 game losing streak after getting swept by their in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays, and were going to face the New York Mets. That was May 30th.
Now, the Marlins are 12-9 since. They are heading back to Miami after defeating the defending champion Giants 3 out of 4 games in San Francisco. The city is thrilled, and they are throwing a parade. Of course, it is for the repeating NBA champion Miami Heat, but it might as well be for the Fish the way they are starting to play these days.
“Awesome road trip. It’s kind of exciting to come to the ballpark. We’re having fun. That’s all I can say. We’re having fun. I don’t think we’ll see April and May again.” You can understand Justin Ruggiano‘s enthusiasm. He hit two home runs to assert his team lead (11) and help put the Marlins in a position to make a statement against the Giants.
Suddenly the Marlins outfield has lots of depth. Ruggiano is hitting and can play multiple positions defensively. Juan Pierre offers a change of pace with speed and contact and leadership. Giancarlo Stanton is healthy and was tearing the cover off the ball heading into this road trip, suddenly snapping out of a month long funk upping his home run total to 7. Marcell Ozuna resumes his tear through the league hitting his 2nd home run and driving in critical runs against the Giants – while previously slumping himself (.184 in previous 10 games).
And we still haven’t even begun to consider the impact of players like Christian Yelich and Justin Marisnick, two of the Marlins top 5 prospects getting some R&R at AA Jacksonville. It is only a matter of time until they get plane tickets to Miami. Chris Coghlan, who was looking like vintage ROY material circa 2009, hurt his back but was also thickening that OF, too. In fact, he was hitting .349 over his last 10 games and was slated to get time at 3B just to get his bat in the game.
Which brings us to the infield. Ed Lucas has quietly been replacing Placido Polanco and hitting the ball, too. He’s hitting .301 in 19 games since his callup, after languishing for 10 years in the minors. With the Marlins thin on prospects at 3B (keep an eye on AA Sun Ryan Fisher who is showing some pop) a long term answer has yet to emerge but it looks like Mike Redmond will use the position to rotate in a hot bat to bridge the offense a bit.
Adeiny Hechavarria has shown a lot of promise. Defensively, he’s a Gold Glover and Perry Hill is reportedly a believer. Offensively, Hech continues to progress; he stays back on the ball and drives pitches. He’s hitting a solid .278 over his last 10 and has a three game hit streak going. He has speed, plenty of it with 5 triples already. He has ambitions to be an All-Star and if he continues to develop, he will be soon.
Second base is also very promising. Donovan Solano was the de facto starter to open the season but he got injured and opened the door for prospect Derek Dietrich, acquired as part of the Toronto deal as Yunel Escobar was dealt to the Rays in exchange for Dietrich. The Marlins seemed to have gotten the better of that deal as Dietrich has shown tremendous promise at 2B, drawing comparisons to Chase Utley. He has 6 home runs, so the power is there, but he is slumping now. He is hitting just .094 in his last 10 games, dropping him below the John Buck line (.199). Yet, like Ozuna, will be afforded the opportunity to work his way out of his slump – which is a critical lesson for any young player to learn. That said, Solano is trying his darndest to get back to the Fish, hitting a grand slam and with a .375 average. Worst case scenario would be a platoon at 2B which would boost up the possible trade value of a guy like Solano if the Fish should feel comfortable enough with Dietrich. Or they could move one or the other over to 3B to get their bat in the lineup – truthfully, putting Dietrich at 3B may offer the best long term scenario should Solano prove again he is the future 2B for the Fish.
Logan Morrison‘s return has stabilized 1B in the lineup and provided much needed protection for Stanton in the lineup. His shit-eating grin has been missed, too, and he adds a little spice to the locker room to get guys fired up. Behind him the Marlins have a plethora of options with Joe Mahoney, Casey Kotchman, and even Greg Dobbs getting time in there. We’ll see if LoMo’s batting eye is back; he was drawing rave reviews from evaluators and fans for his K:BB ratio and ability to get on base with power. If he can deliver on his promise, the Marlins have another All-Star in the making. Mahoney has put up similar numbers in 9 games as Morrison and his lefty bat has some serious pop but he is still working his way back from injury. Right now, this is Morrison’s show at 1B and he is capable. Dobbs goes back to his preferred role of pinch hitting, Kotchman can be a defensive replacement.
So, the offense is definitely on the rise. There is a lot more depth with the return of hitters like Stanton and Morrison in the mix. Guys go back to their preferred roles, too. The even scarier thing is that the pitching is the strength of this team and it is only getting better.
Ricky Nolasco mans the #1 starter spot and has been fairly consistent as the top dog in the rotation – yet his days are numbered as the Marlins will look to move his $11M salary and pending free agent status to a team in contention. That leaves the rotation with Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi, Jose Fernandez, and Tom Koehler.
Turner has totally rebounded. Slated as the team’s number two heading into Spring Training, his command and velocity were just off. He was sent down for extended ST and has made quite a return. He has an ERA currently under 2 (1.97) and is impressing the coaching staff. He is very efficient with his pitches (only used 83 to face 26 batters against the Giants recently) and has a solid K:BB ratio (20:11). Whether or not he can keep this up remains to be seen; his velocity has to remain in the 90-93 MPH range which is where it should be.
Velocity is not a problem for Eovaldi or Fernandez. Eovaldi had over 60 of his pitches recorded yesterday in the 95 MPH range. He has electric stuff and it is just a matter of harnessing it. Fernandez, despite never pitching above AA and being only 20, has put in a very solid rookie campaign and shows the stuff – and the personality – to be an ace in this league.
Koehler is coming of an impressive first ever win and has been quietly solid for a 5th starter in this rotation. He has kept his team in games and continues to put up decent numbers for the soon to be 27 year old. But his spot may be up for grabs as Henderson Alvarez is getting work in on his rehab starts in the minors. In fact, Alvarez is coming off an impressive debut with the Suns in which he also homered to help his own cause.
Steve Cishek seems to have righted his funk and is closing games with commanding stuff. He has 9 Ks in 7 IP and 7 Saves over his last 10 games. He is getting it done. The bullpen is loaded with quality arms that are getting the job done. As a group, they are currently ranked 17th in MLB in ERA (3.85) they also have 204 Ks in 245.2 IP (which is 9th most in MLB).
But don’t take the “eye-ball” test as proof. You should expect this team’s performance to improve after the bar was set so low to start the season. Most of that was due to the rotating door on injuries. Based on the metrics of a site like TeamRankings.com, the Marlins have a power rating over their last 10 games of 102.4, making them #4 overall and #1 in the NL East.
You can’t look at the overall stats on the season to get a total picture. You have to consider the way this team is playing now with everyone back. This is the team that we picked to contend for a wild card spot at the start of the season – before the injuries set in. With a 25-50 record, the Marlins would have to go 35-10 just to make it back to .500. Is that attainable? They are 11-9 in June so far, so they would have to make a considerable leap to go on a tear just to get back to .500 – so no one is predicting a playoff contender here. This team, however, is built looking towards the future and if this trend should continue, that future of returning to contention just got more immediate.
With the Marlins bolstering their farm system, things are looking really bright for the immediate future.
As I go around town lately, everyone is donning Miami Heat paraphernalia. It’s good to see endless speculation about your Heat, too – the praise is finally nice to see. History has been rewritten. Lebron James has transitioned from villain to good guy as the result of winning.
And I can’t help but wonder is this will happen for the Miami Marlins, too.
Can Jeffrey Loria migrate from sourpuss villain to civic hero? If he is going to go through a Lebron James-like reformation, it, too, will take winning.
The Heat opened up the wallets and went and got their targeted players. Pat Riley knew what he was doing – if he could endure a short term loss for a long term gain, he did so after getting the #2 pick and turning that into a windfall in the 2010 free agent season, landing James and Chris Bosh to go along with a returning Dwyane Wade. 3 of the top 5 picks in the 2003 draft class are on the Heat and have now made 3 straight Finals appearances, winning two of them. The dynasty is being established as this team looks to the future to try to prolong the winning over the next several years.
Yet it all came from the mind of Riley who maintained a plan. Are the Marlins doing the same thing? All indicators show perhaps, but there has been some mixed signals along the way.
The 2007 trade of Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers may just be one of the most lopsided in MLB history (read a great write-up by Greg Stoda from the Palm Beach Post). “Miggy” continues to produce after his triple-crown season last year and is looking like the best player in the game today. He was recently interviewed on Sportscenter for their Sunday Conversation. He’s come a long way but it was notable to see the lack of mentioning the Marlins’ involvement at all in his career. Even the mention of his debut 10 years ago, in winning a World Series, no mention of “Marlins” was made.
Imagine what this lineup would look like today with Cabrera hitting with Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup? What would it have looked like with Hanley Ramirez and Cabrera in the same lineup? Would that have driven folks out to games?
As you look at the “Big Three” of the Miami Heat, it is clear that fans are driven to the games here in South Florida because of the potential for winning. They want to be a part of the hype. Fans here in South Florida are fickle – they want to be seen in the trendiest places. Aside from clubs, getting down to the AAA is another hot spot “to be seen”. Pat Riley’s blue-collar mid 90′s model was a winning machine, but they didn’t have the sizzle.
The Marlins could have had that if they stuck with Cabrera. Yeah, he was getting bloated (literally and figuratively) but he turned it around. It just took the right environment. The same path of destruction lays before Hanley Ramirez, but is he in the right place to turn that around? Regardless the Marlins had a chance and they blew it.
Which is why it is critical that they approach this situation with a new attitude. It is apparent that this team is a different animal with Stanton in the lineup. Add Logan Morrison back to the mix and the offense suddenly looks dynamic. They are not all the way back but there are key pieces in place – Marcell Ozuna, Derek Dietrich. Adeiny Hechavarria is starting to become a very solid hitter and has electric speed to go with his glove to man SS for years. There is still Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick waiting in the wings at AA Jacksonville. They have some very strong power arms in the rotation with Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi (is back from injury) and even Jacob Turner is starting to show he belongs. There are other arms down in the minors that could also bring big upside (Brian Flynn, Justin Nicolino, Andrew Heaney).
The Marlins have to make a splash though. Not the kind of splash they tried last offseason as a nouveau-riche team but instead as an established program looking to build a dynasty. They need to re-sign Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison to long term deals. They need to continue to develop the core they have. And, one final thing that may help this team arrive for years to come – go after Miguel Cabrera the second he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. Bring Miggy back home to wrap up his career – and hopefully, win another title with the Fish.
That said, a plan has to be put into place and it seems it has. Sure, trading Matt Dominguez for Carlos Lee last season looks like another schizo deal to go along with so many others in this regime’s run. But, if like Pat Riley, they maintain the course they are one they will surely get the payoff in the end. Getting Cabrera back in Miami would be about as big as landing Lebron James was for the Miami Heat, too.
Maybe its because of his tweets and the freeness with which he shares his opinions, but Logan Morrison is starting to rub even Marlin fans the wrong way. Yes, fans of a team that could desperately use some power in their lineup are starting to turn away from a guy who could provide more pop.
Maybe it is all the self promoting? Guess who has another charity project starting up? Why not; being on the DL for 60 days certainly must involve some thumb twiddling. And of course, we all know that Morrison lost his father to cancer – lung cancer. One side of this story that isn’t told publicly is apparently how Jeffrey Loria secured a private jet for their family during this critical time. It was also his father’s death that certainly shattered Morrison’s personal life and the tale has been shared publicly with Marlin fans and others across baseball. It is a cause that Morrison is very passionate about.
So, you’d think a guy who suffered an immense loss and is a likeable figure on the field would be a hit with Marlin fans yet, he’s slowly becoming the poster child of what was wrong with the Marlins in recent history. Full of promise, but short on results. All sizzle but no substance. LoMo got in trouble for several tweets in the past. There was the breastfeeding debacle that made him look like an insensitive ass. Then there was the suggestion that LoMo was being demoted in 2011 because of his tweets. Not the fact that he was hitting .249 and seemed to lose his way at the plate. His agent suggested it was something else; Larry Beinfest was esoteric in saying Morrison needed to focus on baseball.
Yet, “Trader” Jack McKeon’s words may have proved more prophetic than salty:
“You’ve got to leave your distractions at the door,” McKeon said. “Too many young guys come into the game today and think they’ve got it made. They’re the darlings of the media and they want to run their mouth instead of tending to business. The record books are full of one- and two-year phenoms.”
Recently, Morrison drew the ire of more fans for his comments on Jason Collins’ coming out party. The blog, StripClubWithStanton (appropriately named) attacked Morrison for a seemingly insensitive tweet about possibly receiving fashion advice from a potentially gay teammate.
The MarlinsDaily cataloged LoMo’s incessant annoyance via Twitter and also remarked that this was how Morrison is “branding” himself. Yet Morrison has always been “honest” or at the very least, transparent with his opinions. Here he is commenting openly about disagreeing with the firing of then hitting coach, John Mallee.
It would seem someone doesn’t get it. Morrison continues to spout off at the mouth via Twitter and gets himself into unnecessarily hot water. He seems to think it is his prerogative to share his opinions with everyone else and frankly, it is for this very reason Twitter is successful. People don’t necessarily want inspiring, uplifting tweets, they want garbage and things that tear others down. That is how our society works today and anyone who doesn’t realize that, well, they are just being blind. That said, it is surprising that Morrison continues to tweet AND underperform. Does he realize that no one cares about his tweets precisely because he has no real success in MLB?
Dave Samson noted that no one would care about his tweets if they were coming from New Orleans. Right now, it looks like Morrison will resort to anything in order to tread the water of relevancy. Let’s hope he has a speedy recovery so we can find out once and for all if he is a servicable big leaguer who is more than just bombastic tweets. If anything, we could find ourselves wanting Ozzie Guillen back if that was all Marlin fans wanted.
Batting .321 with 1 home run will not get you a longer stay, it seems. Nick Green, who was pied in the face after helping the Marlins get a win in 15 innings the other night, will reportedly be sent back to AAA New Orleans once SS Adeiny Hechavarria returns.
Green is just a victim of injury and roster needs. Sure, the Marlins could use another utility IF that can apparently hit a bit, but they already have Chris Valaika, who is a bit younger and, pun not intended, greener. But you got to reward the guys who you came in the door with and Mike Redmond is trying to build a team for the future – Nick Green, apparently, has missed that boat.
You feel bad for the guy and you’d like to see him stick, but the fact of the matter is the Marlins already have enough middle infielders with solid gloves and who can make contact. Hechavarria adds a slick glove and his bat was coming along before the injury. It will remain to be seen if he can continue to improve his approach at the plate.
Looks like the Steve Cishek experiment may be over fairly soon. Sporting a 15.43 ERA in this three appearances, it seems that the plug is being pulled on Cishek, which may be a smart move considering the Marlins already have a lot of rookies and young players at high-stake positions.
So the Marlins went out and signed David Aardsma to a minor league deal, as he will report to AAA New Orleans to get some work in. The Marlins had the worst bullpen, but that distinction seems to belong to the Washington Nationals – for now. Enlisting a veteran arm, a guy who has recored 38 and 31 saves before, may be a solid move. Getting Cishek back into a setup role may give him back his confidence and routine while also adding more depth to the pen.
Reports that the Marlins were going after Francisco Rodriguez were false but indicative that the Marlins were thinking of bolstering the pen and making a move.
Let’s face it, this Marlins team is not generating offense right now but its pitching seems to be very sustainable. Continuing to improve the pitching side of the equation will give this team hope for the future while it assesses its talents on offense.