March 2011

Badenhop optioned to New Orleans

The Florida Marlins finalized their pitching staff on Tuesday night, optioning right-hander Burke Badenhop to New Orleans.

Badenhop had a strong spring for Florida, pitching to a 2.13 ERA, but was the victim of having a remaining minor league option, while the other contenders for bullpen jobs did not. Edward Mujica and Brian Sanches, both out of options, made the club.

“Hopper” has pitched in 14 games with the Zephyrs over the last two seasons, including 12 last year, when he had a 2.81 ERA in 16.0 innings.

In another move Tuesday, outfielder Dewayne Wise opted out of his contract after being informed he would not make the Major League club. Wise was on track to make the team before suffering a toe injury last week, and the Marlins decided to keep Scott Cousins as the fourth outfielder. Wise’s departure opens another spot on the Zephyrs’ roster, which should be known in the next 24 to 36 hours.

The Z’s are off today, and will begin the final three-day stretch of spring training tomorrow with a game against the Memphis Redbirds. Anibal Sanchez is expected to make the start, to keep him on track to pitch Florida’s fourth game of the season on Tuesday against Washington.

Dominguez sent down, Raynor released

The Marlins’ top-ranked prospect, third baseman Matt Dominguez, will open the season with the New Orleans Zephyrs.

Dominguez was sent to minor league camp on Thursday, after hitting .190 (8-for-42) in the Grapefruit League. Known as an excellent defensive third baseman, Dominguez was given a chance to skip Triple-A and earn Florida’s starting job in the spring if his bat was up to par. He will instead open the year in New Orleans, with Emilio Bonifacio and Donnie Murphy expected to log most of the playing time at third base in the majors.

In other moves, outfielder John Raynor, who was sent down earlier in the week, asked for, and was granted, his release from the Marlins organization. Raynor spent all of 2009 with the Zephyrs, leading the club in at-bats, hits, runs and stolen bases. Following the season, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule V Draft, but played sparingly in the first month of the 2010 season and was returned to the Marlins. He injured his hamstring shortly after rejoining the Zephyrs, and missed much of last season.

The Zephyrs roster added four more players on Thursday, as pitcher Frank Mata, outfielder Josh Kroeger and infielders Joe Thurston and Ruben Gotay were assigned to minor league camp.

Villanueva, Raynor sent down

Right-hander Elih Villanueva and outfielder John Raynor were among the four players reassigned to minor league camp by the Marlins over the weekend.

Villanueva had an impressive run in the Grapefruit League, going 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four games, including one start. The reigning Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year allowed just 10 hits in 13.0 innings. He is in line to join Shawn Hill, Sean West, Tom Koehler and Alex Sanabia in the Zephyrs’ starting rotation.

Raynor also had a solid spring, going 6-for-18 with two doubles and three RBI in 14 games. He figures to join Bryan Petersen in the Zephyrs’ outfield.

Also sent down were Tim Torres, who is seeing time in the outfield to give him added defensive flexibility, and catcher Clint Sammons.

Spring training notables:

All eyes have been on Florida’s top prospect, Matt Dominguez, to see if
he is ready to assume the everyday third base job in the big leagues,
but the 21-year-old has slumped over the last 10 days, with his batting
average plummeting to .175. If the Marlins decide he isn’t ready, he
will open the year in New Orleans.

The battle for a spot as a backup outfielder with the Marlins is heating up heading into the final week of spring training. Scott Cousins has struggled, hitting .209 with 13 strikeouts in 43 at-bats, while veteran Dewayne Wise has come up with some timely hits and is batting .244.

Thanks to a bevy of offseason moves, the Marlins’ bullpen is overcrowded. Leo Nunez, Clay Hensley and Ryan Webb are locks at the back end of the ‘pen, with free agent signee Randy Choate serving as the left-handed specialist. The candidates to comprise the rest of the relief corps include Edward Mujica (7.27 ERA), Mike Dunn (8.10), Burke Badenhop (3.00) and Brian Sanches (3.68). Mujica and Sanches are out of options, meaning the Marlins would have to pass either through waivers before sending them to the minors.

Starting rotation taking shape

The Florida Marlins sent 11 players to minor league camp on Wednesday, including several pitchers who will make up most of the club’s starting rotation to begin the season.

Right-handers Alex Sanabia, Shawn Hill and Tom Koehler were sent to the minors along with lefty Sean West. Sanabia and West have already been assigned to New Orleans, and it is expected that Hill and Koehler will also end up with the Zephyrs.

The fifth spot in the rotation could go to Elih Villanueva, if he doesn’t make the big league club. Otherwise, Adalberto Mendez has already been sent to the Z’s, and would be the likely fifth starter.

Relievers Steve Cishek and Dustin Richardson have been added to the Zephyrs’ bullpen, which already includes Jose Ceda. Bryan Petersen, who played in 91 games with the Z’s last year, will begin 2011 in the New Orleans outfield.

With the team taking shape, the Zephyrs will take to the field as a unit for the first time tomorrow afternoon, when they host the Buffalo Bisons, Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets. We’ll have coverage of each spring game on Zephyrsbaseball.com.

Ceda, Mendez optioned to Z’s

The first round of spring cuts have been made in Marlins camp, with right-handed pitchers Jose Ceda and Adalberto Mendez being sent to New Orleans.

Ceda, who is listed at 288 pounds, showed up to camp about 10 pounds overweight, and allowed two runs on one hit and three walks in two-thirds of an inning in his only spring appearance. He is a candidate to close games with the Zephyrs.

Mendez was one of the most consistent Zephyrs pitchers last year while shuffling between the starting rotation and the bullpen. The nine-year veteran made a splash in his Major League debut last September, blanking the Phillies on just one hit over six innings. The Marlins sent Mendez outright to New Orleans, meaning he was removed from the 40-man roster.

One of the pitchers opening eyes in camp is Elih Villanueva. There’s speculation he could be fighting for a spot in the starting rotation if ailments to Javier Vazquez and Anibal Sanchez don’t clear up before Opening Day.

Marlins’ spring games on TV

Spring training is underway, and tomorrow marks the first of five Marlins games shown live on MLB Network this month.

All times are Central:
Saturday, March 5th: Marlins at Red Sox (12 p.m.)
Saturday, March 12th: Marlins at Red Sox (12 p.m.)
Monday, March 14th: Marlins at Twins (12 p.m.)
Thursday, March 17th: Marlins vs. Cardinals (12 p.m.)
Wednesday, March 30th: Marlins at Mets (11 a.m.)

Notable spring performances thus far:

Scott Cousins and Bryan Petersen are battling for a spot as a reserve outfielder are on the Marlins, and both are off to hot starts. Cousins is 6-for-10 with two doubles, two RBI and three runs scored, while Petersen is 3-for-9 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.

Top prospect Matt Dominguez is considered the favorite to open as the Marlins’ starting third baseman, and homered in his spring debut, but otherwise has gone 0-for-5. If he does not make the big league squad, Dominguez will open the year with the Zephyrs.

Elih Villanueva, the Marlins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, gave up one hit and walked one in two scoreless innings in his spring debut. Adalberto Mendez also tossed two scoreless frames in his first game, while Steve Cishek has not allowed a hit in three innings, fanning three and recording a save.

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