The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Break out the brooms again

Despite trailing 5 – 1 at one point last night, the Marlins came back and beat the Phillies 8 – 7 in twelve innings. Obviously Mike Lowell was the star of the game – given that he made some sparkling plays in the field and hit three home runs (he also threw one ball away, but that’s largely irrelevant now).

What was interesting was the performance of the Marlins pitching staff. After throwing five shutout innings to open the game, Carl Pavano was roughed up a bit in the 6th, giving up five earned runs in one-third of an inning plus. He was removed from the game and succeeded by six relievers, five of whom appeared before extra innings. While the bullpen did give up two runs (both by usually – at least since the Red Sox released him – reliable Chad Fox), three of the six relievers used by the Marlins last night had ERAs of 0.00 (yes, I know it’s early). Even after giving up two runs in relief, Fox’s ERA is only 3.00. This is encouraging for the Marlins as the bullpen (and for some reason not Alex Gonzalez) was supposedly the team’s biggest question mark coming into the year. So far, the bullpen is a big reason why the Fish are off to a 10 – 4 start.

Rumors have circulated lately on both sides of the fence about the status of Phillies’ manager Larry Bowa’s job security. After a loss like last night’s, I would have to think that his standing with the team is on thinner ice than before. Should the Marlins be able to finish off the sweep against the Phillies today, Bowa’s grasp on the job will become even more tenuous. Unfortunately for Bowa, the Phillies luck with the bullpen so far this year has been about exactly opposite that of the Marlins. After struggling last season with the bullpen, the Phillies went out and acquired an array of arms that offseason prognosticators were sure would be locks to finish out games for the Phillies. But in a performance endemic of their season to date, the Phillies bullpen gave up seven runs (three earned) in six innings last night. High priced acquisitions Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell, and Roberto Hernandez were all roughed up in the melt down. Lost in this performance was a fairly solid outing from Phillies starter Eric Milton.

Pitch Counts – or the Club that brought you AJ Burnett’s arm problems now brings you…
Marlins pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal was interviewed on the radio this morning and when asked about pitch counts and how the club is working to keep their young pitchers fresh over the duration of the season, Rosenthal said that they are being mindful of pitch counts. He was quick to note that in only three of the Fish’s first fourteen games has the Marlins starter thrown more than 100 pitches. He also pointed out that two of those totals were 102 and 107. Rosenthal failed to point out that two of the three high pitch count outings this year were Dontrelle Willis’s and that most who are concerned about young Marlins pitchers getting tired are worried about Willis having a repeat performance this season of his post-All-Star break numbers last year. It’s early though and Willis’s first high pitch count outing was the result of him rolling along through the Expos lineup so smoothly (retiring a dozen in a row at one point). It was simply difficult to take him out at that point, but his pitch count did end up around 120. In the other start where he exceeded 100 pitches, Willis was just being allowed to finish out an inning where he really hadn’t encountered any trouble. That said, one of the other reasons Rosenthal and McKeon have said that they are allowing some pitchers to work deep into games early this year (and in Spring Training too) because many of the Marlins showed up in such great shape this season. Allegedly they missed the banquet circuit that so many World Champions succumb to…

From the around the league…
Oddities from last night… Barry Bonds did not homer. It’s absurd to say, but that’s news. Barry has raised expectations to the point where everyone expects him to homer in at least every game if not every at bat. But that was a difficult thing to do last night. In the Giants’ last two games, Barry saw 29 pitches. Five of those were strikes. Barry swung at only one and hit that for a home run into McCovey Cove. Largely lost in Barry’s homer barrage is that the Giants are 3 – 6 (including last night’s homer-less game) since Bonds started on his most recent tear.

Alex Rodriguez did hit a home run last night, and so far this season that’s as big of a story as Barry Bonds not hitting a home run. The funny thing about’s homer last night was that he didn’t think it was headed out of the park when he hit it. In fact, he seemed to think that it was a foul ball initially. When he realized that it was well fair, took off towards first (it was a low liner and looked like it might hit off the wall). The fact that’s half swing produced an opposite field home run and that he didn’t even realize it speaks volumes both to his strength and also to the depths of the fun that he is in (and possibly breaking out of given last night’s blast) right now.

Trade rumors that I’m starting…
Alex Gonzalez’s play at shortstop has been frustrating of late. Many of you probably remember seeing Miguel Cabrera play shortstop versus the Cubs in last year’s NLCS. I’d like to see a lot more of that sometime soon – like as in this season. Cabrera was signed by the Marlins as a 16-year old as a shortstop. He was moved to third base in hopes that would allow him a quicker path to the majors, as it was expected at the time that Gonzalez would be in his way. But then Mike Lowell developed into as much, if not more, than what people hoped, so Cabrera was quickly converted into a left fielder last season during his stint in AA. Cabrera’s move was also aided by the total lack of production from any left fielder at the major league level. As much as Todd Hollandsworth, Brian Banks, and company are nice people, they simply weren’t getting the job done last year (and that’s starting to sound a little bit like this year with Jeff Conine out there).

But moving Cabrera to shortstop and sending Gonzalez and some prospects to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez or Carlos Lee or to Kansas City (who would have less use for Gonzalez) for Carlos Beltran would be a huge upgrade for the Fish. The specifics of whom for whom probably aren’t well conceived on my part, I’ll give you that, but the concept is something very intriguing. Even without a trade, moving Cabrera to short might be a way to get Abe Nunez’s bat into the lineup more frequently, which would also likely provide the Fish with an offensive upgrade (or at least limit the offensive offense produced by Alex Gonzalez).


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