Numerous reports have former Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen Miami bound while popular Marlins manager Jack McKeon announced his retirement Monday September 26th. Guillen, who is under contract thru 2012, met with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf twice in the past three days and asked to be released from his contract. The Chicago Sun Times is reporting the Marlins and White Sox were close to completing a deal that would allow Guillen to make the move to Miami. The feisty Guillen went 678-617 in Chicago while leading the White Sox to the 2005 World Championship. Meanwhile, the 80 year old McKeon will retire after the 2011 season is complete. This is his 2nd tour of duty with the Marlins and he famously led the club to the 2003 World Championship after taking over a 16-22 team on May 11th. Trader Jack will be missed, a great, great baseball character! Best wishes in his retirement.
The real world collided with the sports world this week and the result might be catastrophic for Florida Marlins closer Leo Nunez(36 saves in 42 chances,4.06 ERA). The right hander was placed on the restricted list September 22nd and Nunez returned to his home in the Dominican Republic to deal with a legal issue. Things took an amazing turn Friday September 23rd when it was revealed Florida’s closer was living under an assumed name, Nunez admitted to using fake identification and documents to sign a pro contract more than a year ago. The AP is reporting that Nunez’s real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo and that is a year older than his media guide listed age(29 instead of 28). A man linked to Nunez’ was arrested for his involvement.”You hate to see it because he’s a good kid,” Marlins Manager Jack McKeon said of Nunez. “I don’t know the details. I hope it’s nothing serious and he gets a chance to play again, and everything works out for him.” Nunez makes $3.65 million but will not be paid while he is on the restricted list. Now speculation moves to whether the Marlins closer will be cleared by MLB and the United States government to pitch in 2012. On the field, McKeon plans to use a committee approach in the final 6 games with RHP Edward Mujica(9-5,2.64) the favorite to close most games. Rookies Steve Cishek and Chris Hatcher are viewed as the future not the present.
With the 2011 campaign in the final weeks, lets look at some noteworthy news items regarding the Florida Marlins(70-84 starting play September 20th).
KING JACK: With a 3-0 win September 16th, Marlins Manager Jack Mckeon became the franchise’s all-time winningest manager. The 80 year old has gone 36-43 since taking over as interim manager June 20th and is 277-250 in 2 stints as skipper of the Marlins. In his 16 year career he is 1047-983(as of September 16th). The popular McKeon took over a struggling team in 2003 that was 6 games under .500 in May only to rally to win the 2nd World Series in Marlins Franchise history.
UPDATE ON JOSH JOHNSON: Marlins ace RH Josh Johnson(3-1,1.64 in 9 starts) threw a bullpen session September 19th, tossing 50 pitches including his slider. Johnson has been on the DL since May 17th with inflammation in his right shoulder. All went well with no complications and the team plans to have him pitch either light batting practice or a simulated game vs hitters on Thursday(September 22nd) and next Tuesday(September 27). The goal is to have Johnson go into the offseason with no further health concerns.
OH MY, OMAR! Marlins INF Omar Infante hit his 1st career walk-off homer with a man on leading Florida to a dramatic 6-5 victory over the wild card leading Atlanta Braves September 19th in Miami. The homer is even more impressive when you consider Infante hit it off of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who has set a new major league record for saves by a rookie. More importantly, the loss does tremendous damage to Atlanta’s post season hopes as they now lead the 2nd place St. Louis Cardinals by only 2.5 games.
HANLEY UPDATE: The Marlins believe star SS Hanley Ramirez will be ready for spring training after undergoing season ending shoulder surgery September 15th. Dr. James Andrews, a world renowned sports injury specialist, performed the operation. Hanley had surgery on the same left shoulder after the 2007 season and he was ready from day 1 of spring training.
JAVY TO RETIRE?: Reports have veteran RHSP Javier Lopez set to retire after the 2011 season. His performance has been incredible over the 2nd half and even more dominant in his last 4 outings. In his past 16 outings, Vasquez has gone 8-1 with 1.96 ERA while in last 4 starts, he is a 4-0 with a microscopic 0.31 ERA!
LO MO SAGA: LF Logan Morrison continues to battle injuries in his right leg. He badly bruised his knee September 9th and missed about a week after an MRI revealed a bruised patella and chronic patella tendinitis. Morrison then was given a day off September 18th after he hit a wall with the knee the previous night. He returned to the lineup September 19th and homered in the Marlins come from behind win. Morrison also filed a grievance September 15th against the team for his controversial demotion to the minor leagues on August 13th. The 24 year old was sent down after batting third that night and many believe the team was trying to punish him for his off the field attitude and teach him about “being a major leaguer”, a quote that team president Larry Beinfest put out the day after the move. Morrison was second on the team in OPS and homers and 3rd in rbi at the time of the transaction. The grievance process could take up to one year and could go in front of an arbitrator. Sad situation and I believe the Marlins will trade LoMo in the offseason.
When you look at the story of the 2011 Florida Marlins the word injury might come up. The team is playing out the string and stands at 66-79 entering play September 12 but take a look who is missing. The ace pitcher, franchise shortstop and two young and promising corner outfielders with power potential are all out with varying levels of injury. Even the lefty specialist out of the bullpen(Randy Choate) is more than likely gone for the year with an elbow ailment. This is the ultimate small market homegrown franchise that cannot spend like the big boys. Injuries cripple these types of teams(see the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians) and Jack McKeon or no Jack Mckeon, you need players to win. Bottom line. The current Marlins lineup and rotation is Triple A level and the record verifies it.
INJURY UPDATES: Ace RH Josh Johnson(Inflamed right shoulder) threw 21 pitches off the mound September 5th for the 1st time since May 21st and was scheduled to have two more bullpen sessions before the club announces further plans. The Marlins front office has publicly mentioned they hoped to have Johnson throw a simulated game in either the minors or majors before the season ends. Meanwhile, the club was waiting on the results of a CT scan on the injured left shoulder of Ramirez. The team was hoping to get a better idea on recovery time for the shortstop, who needs season ending surgery to correct instability in the joint. RF Mike Stanton(Tight right hamstring) is day to day and has been dealing with the leg issue since September 3rd. Look for the Marlins to be especially careful with their power hitting 2nd year man, who is tied for third in the National League with 32 home runs, over the season’s 19 final games. Finally, LF Logan Morrison is battling a badly bruised knee he injured trying to make a catch September 9th. He was out all weekend and Mckeon listed him as questionable for games Monday and Tuesday, September 12 and 13. Sad because Morrison had the first 4 hit game of his career Friday September 10th and he added a homer with 4 rbis.
MARLINS NOTES: Veteran RHSP Javier Vasquez earned his 10th win on September 11th, marking the 12th straight season he has won in double figures. The 15 year year major leaguer has been the staff stabilizer in the 2nd half with a 2.65 ERA, quality starts in 8 of 9 outings while giving up one earned run or fewer 6 times…. INF Donnie Murphy has returned to the club after missing most of the season with a right wrist injury. After hitting .103 in 39 April at bats, fully healthy Murphy has hit .250 in 16 at bats and gives McKeon position versatility. .. Florida recalled 3 prospects from New Orleans on September 6th: LF Vinny Rottino, 3B Matt Dominguez and RHP Alex Sanabia. Dominguez is considered the top prospect in the Marlins system and had an outside chance to be the everyday third baseman breaking spring training in 2011 but had a disappointing camp. He rebounded to hit .258 with 12 homers and 55 rbi in 87 games.
This week showed a big reason why the Florida Marlins continue to flounder in the tough NL East(60-77 as of September 3rd). The two stars of the team, SS Hanley Ramirez and ace RH Josh Johnson, are both dealing with shoulder issues. About a week ago, Hanley appeared close to returning after hitting .385(5 for 13 in) in 4 games at Class A Jupiter but experienced pain in his left shoulder August 30th. An MRI revealed no structural damage but he has instability in the joint. Ramirez was scheduled to meet with Marlins physician Dr. Lee Kaplan over the weekend to discuss medical options. The major issue being how to treat the shoulder: rest or surgery. Meanwhile, ace RH Josh Johnson(Inflamed right shoulder) does not appear to be a good bet to pitch again for the Marlins in 2011. However, he is close to pitching off the mound. The team might have him throw a simulated game or at the club minicamp. Johnson has not pitched since May 16th but was 3-1 with a National League leading 1.64 ERA in 9 starts.
JACK TO JUMP?: Marlins Manager Jack McKeon reportedly decided to step away from the position after 2011 according to Sports Illustrated and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, who tweeted the news earlier this week. On September 2nd, the 80 year old said he would decide what to do after the 2011 campaign but he flatly denied already making a decision. The manager of the 2003 World Champion Marlins became the interim skipper on June 20th following the resignation of Edwin Rodriquez.
BAD MONTH: Marlin went 7-20 in the month of August and they appear to be limping into September. Several games vs teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers will not help! Could get ugly real fast in Marlin land.
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