We’re just 11 days away from pitchers and catcher reporting to spring training in Jupiter, Fla., and the Marlins will have a very busy camp lined up, with more than 70 players competing for 25 Opening Day roster spots.
The club released the list of non-roster invitees for the spring, many of whom could end up in New Orleans if they don’t crack the big league team. It also includes top prospects such as Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich, who are expected to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville.
For the first time in 14 years, a Major League Baseball team is coming to New Orleans.
The New Orleans Zephyrs will host their parent club, the Miami Marlins, in an exhibition game at Zephyr Field on Saturday, March 30 at 1 p.m. The Zephyrs and Marlins are entering their fifth season as player development partners after extending their agreement last August.
“We are excited to be a part of bringing a Major League Baseball team back to New Orleans,” said Zephyrs General Manager Mike Schline. “This is something we have wanted to do for some time now, and we appreciate everything the Marlins have done to make this happen.”
“This will be a wonderful event to showcase the young talent that has come through Zephyr Field in recent years, and to get people energized about the 2013 season.”
“The Miami Marlins are looking forward to bringing our Major League team to New Orleans to play the Zephyrs,” said Brian Chattin, Marlins Director of Player Development. “With so many former Zephyrs on our Major League club, it should be an exciting and memorable game for both our players and Zephyrs fans alike.”
An “early bird” ticket offer of $14 for lower reserved seats or $12 for upper reserved seats will be available when tickets go on sale to the public on Thursday, January 3. Groups of 50 or more can receive discounted admission of $2 off per ticket for upper and lower reserved seats, and hospitality areas will be available for rental.
The Marlins will be guided by first-year manager Mike Redmond, and feature slugging All-Star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who finished second in the National League with 37 home runs in 2012, as well as a host of recent Zephyrs such as Logan Morrison, Bryan Petersen, Donovan Solano and Wade LeBlanc.
The Marlins’ visit will mark the first by a Major League club to the Crescent City since the Houston Astros played an exhibition contest at Zephyr Field on April 4, 1999.
Following the exhibition, the Zephyrs will travel to Nashville to open the 2013 season, before returning to Zephyr Field for the home opener against the Round Rock Express on Friday, April 12.
Class A Jupiter fell to Lakeland last night, 2-0, in the decisive Game 5 of the Florida State League Championship. Rett Varner, who pitched in two games over the final week of the Zephyrs’ season, took the loss by allowing both of Lakeland’s runs in the eighth inning, after the teams combined for just four hits through seven scoreless frames. Jupiter’s Robert Morey held the Flying Tigers to one hit in seven innings, fanning eight and walking one, before Lakeland broke through against Varner in the eighth.
The core of the Hammerheads’ playoff team won the South Atlantic League crown with Greensboro last year, and that club is in search of back-to-back titles, currently tied with Asheville at one game apiece in the SAL Championship.
Double-A Jacksonville wrapped up its season at 70-70, but missed out on a playoff berth by just 1½ games after coming in second to Montgomery in the second half standings.
Gil Velazquez is the latest Zephyrs infielder to move on to the big leagues, getting promoted to the Marlins prior to last night’s game. Velazquez has been one of the PCL’s hottest hitters over the last two months, carrying a .361 batting average in 42 games since June 20th.
Over the last three weeks, the Z’s have lost their entire starting infield (not counting Mike Cervenak, who has shuttled between first base, third base, left field and DH): Donnie Murphy, Nick Green, Gaby Sanchez, and now Velazquez. But the Z’s keep finding ways to win, relying heavily on the best pitching staff in the PCL. After Brad Hand pitched six hitless innings against Sacramento on Tuesday, Elih Villanueva kept things rolling last night by limiting the River Cats to two hits in seven innings as the Zephyrs notched their league-leading 11th shutout. New Orleans has now won 17 games this season when scoring three runs or fewer, including 11 games where they scored just two runs. So while guys like Chase Lambin, Shawn Bowman and Jeff Dominguez assume more playing time, the Z’s continue to hang in the division race.
Tonight’s lineup, as the Zephyrs go for their sixth straight win:
The Z’s have won nine of their last 10 games at Zephyr Field, and tonight could move 11 games above .500 for the first time since August 1, 2007. A win would also mark the first time New Orleans has won consecutive series against the Fresno Grizzlies since taking the first three series ever played between the clubs, in 1998-99. The Z’s need to keep pace with Albuquerque, who has won four of their last five to maintain a four-game lead in the division.
The Marlins promoted catcher Rob Brantly from New Orleans this afternoon, following Miami’s 5-0 loss to the Dodgers. Brantly had hit .365 with four doubles, two home runs and 11 RBI in 14 games with the Zephyrs since being acquired from the Detroit Tigers in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade. He also helped slow opponents’ running games – Brantly threw out 7 of 17 baserunners (41.2%), while all other Z’s catchers this season have only thrown out 16 of 93 (17.2%).
In a corresponding move, the Marlins have optioned catcher Brett Hayes to New Orleans, where he played most of the 2009 season and the first part of 2010. Hayes went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Sunday against the Dodgers, and was hitting .202 with six doubles and no home runs in 39 games this season, striking out 41.5% of the time.
The Zephyrs remain four games behind Albuquerque in the division race, and will send the other piece of the Sanchez/Infante trade, right-hander Jacob Turner, to the mound tonight against Fresno:
The Zephyrs lost a day off the calendar, but nothing else after last night’s 9-2 loss to Fresno in the first of an eight-game homestand. Albuquerque was blitzed by Reno, 22-8, keeping the Z’s four games out of first place, while Oklahoma City got blanked by Sacramento, 3-0, so the Z’s remain a half-game up on the RedHawks for second place.
Tom Koehler takes aim at his 12th win tonight, which would tie him with John Ely, Eric Hacker and Sean O’Sullivan for the Pacific Coast League lead. The lineup:
After one final scheduled off day yesterday, the Zephyrs open an eight-game homestand tonight against the Fresno Grizzlies. For the first time in five years, the Z’s find themselves in a pennant race heading into the final 3+ weeks of the season, sitting in second place just four games behind Albuquerque. Tonight’s game is on Cox Sports Television, in case you can’t make it out to the ballpark.
The Zephyrs have made their semiannual longest trek from home, venturing 2,097 miles to Tacoma, Washington for a four-game series with the Rainiers. After a seven-game win streak, the Z’s dropped the final three games in Salt Lake and Sunday’s opener in Tacoma before getting back on track last night. It’s the Zephyrs’ first trip to Cheney Stadium since the park, built in 1960, underwent renovations before the 2011 season. Nothing resembling New Orleans weather in the Pacific Northwest, where it’s a refreshing 68 degrees at tonight’s first pitch.