McGehee's comeback year recognized by Sporting News

Third baseman earns NL honor after returning from Japan to play for Miami

McGehee's comeback year recognized by Sporting News

Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee has a trophy to go with his trove of frequent flier miles after he was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year by Sporting News on Monday.

McGehee's comeback was more literal than most, as he played in Japan in 2013 before returning to Major League Baseball on a one-year deal with the Marlins. He made the most of a career-high 160 games played, batting .287 with four home runs, 29 doubles and 177 hits -- the National League's fourth-highest hit total.

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"When I went over [to Japan], I wasn't necessarily thinking about coming back. I had it in my mind that this is where it was going to be," McGehee said in September. "I had to come to terms with that. When I found out I had a chance to come back, it meant a lot to me. There have been a lot of guys that have went over there and had success that haven't been able to come back, for whatever reason. I knew the chances of that happening weren't very good to begin with. I guess I'm proud of being able to say I went there and was able to come back."

The Sporting News honors were decided in a vote of Major League players. With 26 votes, McGehee topped runners-up Tim Hudson of the Giants (17 votes) and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers (15 votes) in the NL comeback player poll.  

Mariners right-hander Chris Young was the Sporting News' American League Comeback Player of the Year.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Marlins likely to seek talent with playoff experience

Vets changed clubhouse culture in '14; Shields, Panda would continue trend

Marlins likely to seek talent with playoff experience

MIAMI -- Success often breeds success, which is a major reason the Marlins last offseason placed a high emphasis on acquiring players with postseason experience. Many of their major pickups had previously played into October.

Expect more of the same when the hot stove season gets underway after the World Series. Miami made strides in the standings in 2014, largely because of a cultural change that focused on finding players with winning in their pasts.

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed as a free agent after winning a World Series with the Red Sox. Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal, Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson all had postseason experience. Even Casey McGehee, who spent 2013 in Japan, won a championship overseas.

Granted Saltalamacchia and Jones had their struggles in 2014, and Furcal was injured pretty much all season. Still, they were big parts of helping change the culture in the Miami clubhouse, along with setting examples for a young nucleus.

Beginning in November, the Marlins again will look to infuse more talent. If they happen to have gone through the rigors of October, all the better. There are at least a handful of players who were involved in these playoffs who could be targets for the Marlins. The top five possibilities are:

1. RHP James Shields, Royals
Shields will likely be at the top of Miami's shopping list. Big Game James would be a game-changer for the Marlins, elevating the rotation to another level.

A high-end starter is the Marlins' top offseason priority. The club wants another established arm to help bridge the first few months of 2015 until Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery) is ready.

But Shields, who made $12 million this year, will be highly coveted on the open market.

2. 3B Pablo Sandoval, Giants
The playoffs seem to bring out the best in Panda. A switch-hitter with power who is accustomed to the big stage, Sandoval would be an ideal middle-of-the-lineup bat to help offer protection for Giancarlo Stanton.

Sandoval earned $8.25 million in '14, and he is headed for a big pay day. Prying Panda away from San Francisco won't be easy.

A major selling point for the Marlins on any power hitter they approach is the fact that he would be joining a lineup that includes Stanton in the No. 3 spot and Christian Yelich leading off. Marcell Ozuna is another talented young threat.

Miami is an inviting opportunity. If the Marlins were able to obtain Sandoval, McGehee could be moved to first base.

3. RHP Justin Masterson, Cardinals
Masterson is coming off a down season. But the right-hander, who made $9.76 million this year, could be primed to bounce back.

Masterson opened the year in Cleveland and was traded to St. Louis, where he was used sparingly. After the trade, his ERA was 7.04 in nine games with six starts. He had his struggles in the first half with the Indians, as well, going 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA.

But in 2013 in Cleveland, he was 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA.

The hope with Masterson is catching him at the right time, when the Marlins can get him at an affordable rate, and he returns to his old form.

4. 1B/LF Michael Morse, Giants
A South Florida native, Morse is another power bat on the brink of hitting the free-agent market.

In San Francisco, the 32-year-old is already a postseason hero with his pinch-hit home run in Game 5 against the Cardinals. Again, a big bat behind Stanton would make the Miami lineup more imposing.

Morse, who made $6 million this year, appeared in 83 games in left field and 42 games at first base for the Giants in the regular season. Miami would be looking for him to play first.

5. 1B Ike Davis, Pirates
Second-year arbitration eligible, Davis is a left-handed hitting first baseman with power. He made $3.5 million in 2014, a season in which he belted 11 homers and drove in 51 runs. His slash line was .233/.344/.378.

The question the Marlins would have to ask: Does Davis, 27, have more upside than Jones, 33, who hit 15 homers and drove in 53 runs with a line of .246/.309/.411?

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Miami's next challenge: Finding 10 more wins

By adding starting pitcher, more power to lineup, Marlins aim to be contenders

Miami's next challenge: Finding 10 more wins

MIAMI -- Improving by 15 games returned the Marlins to respectability. To reach the postseason in 2015, the front office's next challenge is adding the pieces to pick up an additional 10 or so wins.

The World Series-bound Giants did just that, going from 76-86 in 2013 to 88-74 and earning a Wild Card berth this season. For the Marlins to make a similar leap, they'll need their young core to keep progressing, along with addressing their needs.

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"Those next 10 wins are what we're looking for, to get into the high 80s to 90s where you have a chance to get into the playoffs," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "Obviously, that will be a challenge. But we've got a very solid core group of guys here, and a great team."

If you look at the three most basic phases of the game, the Marlins ranked near the middle of the National League pack in '14. On offense, they scored 645 runs, seventh most in the NL. Their pitchers allowed 674 runs, with 613 earned, which rate fifth in both categories. Defensively, they were pretty solid. Their 97 errors were the 11th most.

Compared to 2013, when the Marlins went 62-100, being in the middle of the pack marked major improvement. If not for injuries to Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery) and Giancarlo Stanton (facial fractures), the organization believes it would have finished above .500 and made a more realistic playoff push.

Minus their two All-Stars, Miami stumbled to the finish line and ended up 77-85.

"Obviously, you're not where you want to be because you're not playing into October," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "But to think of where we were last year, having lost 100 games, we're happy with the step we've taken."

The Marlins stayed on the Wild Card fringe until Stanton was struck in the face by a pitch on Sept. 11 at Milwaukee.

"To think you lose your Cy Young candidate, and you lose your MVP candidate, and you're still able to do some of the things this club has done, that's why you're excited," Hill said. "That's why you're happy with the year that you had. But we know, this is a tough business. There are 30 teams trying to play into October."

By the end of the month, the front office will meet with owner Jeffrey Loria and put together their offseason plan. As the Marlins prepare to look forward, here's a look at how the '14 club stacked up in the National League.

Offense: Miami ranked seventh in the NL in runs (645), batting average (.253) and RBIs (614), and sixth in on-base percentage (.317). A couple of areas that need improvement are power and putting the ball in play. Stanton paced the NL in homers with 37, but the team had 122 total -- 12th overall. They also were eighth in slugging percentage (.378). Strikeouts were an issue. They fanned 1,419 times, second most in the NL. The fact that the Marlins aren't a big homer-hitting team makes putting the ball in play much more important, especially in spacious Marlins Park.

Pitching: The loss of Fernandez clearly hurt the overall numbers. The team's ERA of 3.78 was 11th in the league, and opponents hit .264 (13th). When Fernandez went down, he was pacing the National League in strikeouts. But as a team, Miami had 1,190 strikeouts, which ranked second to last in the NL. Adding a starting pitcher is an offseason priority.

Defense: Overall, the team defense was solid, posting a .984 fielding percentage, good enough for fifth best in the NL. Much of the everyday roster will be back, but changes could be made at first and second base.

The core is in place, but across the board there is room for improvement.

"What we will work on this offseason is to close that gap, and do whatever we feel is necessary to get to that next level," Hill said. "Will it be easy? Definitely it will not be. But that's what's in front of us."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Inbox: When will Stanton talks begin?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers Marlins fans' questions

Inbox: When will Stanton talks begin?

When do you think the Marlins will start negotiations with Giancarlo Stanton? Do you think a deal will get done? -- Eddie C., Orlando, Fla.

How the Stanton saga plays out will be one of the most followed stories of the Hot Stove season. In the next week or two, Miami's management team will get together for their annual offseason meetings. They will set the budget for 2015 (expected to be around $60 million), and put together their offseason plan.

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Stanton is at the top of their priority list. My guess is talks will heat up around the time the General Managers Meetings in Phoenix get underway in mid-November. Money and organizational commitment will be two important factors. The front office has made it clear they want to build around Stanton. Now, they have to sell the two-time All-Star that Miami is a place to commit to for the next five or six years.

For a deal to get done, I think the Marlins will have to make a creative offer. The team already appears willing to bend its no-trade clause policy. They may also have to agree to move in the fences over the length of the contract, and commit to beefing up payroll to remain competitive. Stanton wants to be part of a contender, and the team has to show it is on the verge of playing in October.

I see Jose Fernandez is throwing again. When is the earliest he might return? -- Martin S., Tampa, Fla.

Fernandez started his throwing program on Oct. 1, and he is tossing on flat ground three times a week. There is no set time to throw off the mound, but it could be in January.

The hope is he will rejoin the Marlins around the All-Star Break, or 14 months removed from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in May. Fernandez seems willing to show patience. He wants everything to heal properly, and not risk a setback.

Whenever he does come back, look for Fernandez to be on a pitch and/or innings limit. He will still be handled carefully.

Casey McGehee did a wonderful job this year, but is he part of the plans for the Marlins in 2015? -- Ann F., Hollywood, Fla.

McGehee is arbitration-eligible, and the Marlins are planning on retaining the veteran for at least one more year. He is such a big part of the team, impressing with his leadership and clutch hitting. Now 32 years old, he did wear down at the end of the season.

Next year, look for McGehee to get some more days off in hopes of keeping him fresh for the entire season.

What are the Marlins' priorities in trades and free agency? -- Steve D., Kendall, Fla.

A frontline starting pitcher is a very high priority, if not the highest. You are seeing the importance of pitching and defense in these playoffs, and the Marlins would like to follow that model.

Miami has the makings of a strong rotation, especially when Fernandez returns. Adding a top-of-the-rotation arm will help bridge the gap until Fernandez is back. Free agent James Shields is an ideal candidate. But the free-agent market for Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer will be very costly. Justin Masterson could be worth watching.

To attract the type of starter the Marlins are seeking, they may have to make a trade.

Stanton led the National League in home runs, but McGehee ended up with four. What options do the Marlins have to hit cleanup, behind Stanton? -- Gordon M., Miami.

In free agency, look for the Marlins to express interest in Michael Cuddyer, who dealt with hamstring issues with the Rockies in '14. The 35-year-old was an All-Star and National League batting champ in '13 when he hit .332 and hit 20 homers.

Cuddyer is an option to play first base and provide some more protection behind Stanton. The Marlins feel they can lengthen their lineup with McGehee hitting fifth or sixth.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Marlins eye in-house left-handers for rotation

Heaney, Hand among young arms who could step up in 2015

Marlins eye in-house left-handers for rotation

MIAMI -- Atop the Marlins' offseason shopping list is a starting pitcher. The market will determine their options, but an ideal candidate would be a left-hander to offset a predominantly right-handed unit.

A lack of lefties has been an issue for years, dating back to when Dontrelle Willis was traded to Detroit eight years ago. In 2012, Mark Buehrle was dependable, but no southpaw has solidified a spot since then. This season, Miami had just 26 total starts by lefties, with Brad Hand's 16 being the most.

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Willis is the franchise's all-time best lefty starter. In 2005, he set the club record by any pitcher with 22 wins, posting 236 1/3 innings.

Buehrle went 13-13 in 2012, and he logged 202 1/3 innings. Willis, Buehrle and Scott Olsen (201 2/3 in '08) are the only lefties in club history to top the 200-inning plateau for a season.

As starters, Hand threw 89 1/3 innings this year, while Andrew Heaney added 24 2/3 and Brian Flynn four. All three also pitched in relief. Randy Wolf made four starts and threw 20 2/3 innings before he was designated for assignment in June.

Having one or two southpaws in the rotation would give manager Mike Redmond and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez more options to mix and match against opposing lineups.

Internally, the organization has some lefty options who promise to battle for rotation spots in Spring Training. Five internal southpaw candidates are:

1. Hand: The 24-year-old made great strides, and he showed stretches of why the organization thinks he has tremendous upside. The key is command. An example is reflected by his four-start stretch from July 20 to Aug. 5 when he had a 2.28 ERA over 27 2/3 innings. Out of options, Hand has to perform to remain in the rotation. The quality of his stuff, plus his 94-mph fastball, has the organization hopeful he wins a job.

2. Heaney: Chalk up 2014 as a learning experience for Miami's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com. The 23-year-old opened the season at Double-A Jacksonville, and as expected, he was dominant -- 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA in nine appearances with eight starts. Rather than make the leap directly to the big leagues, the lefty was promoted to Triple-A New Orleans, where he was tested. He was 5-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 83 2/3 innings. On June 19, he made his MLB debut, and he had his struggles in the big leagues, going 0-3 with a 5.83 ERA.

Commanding both sides of the plate and improving his secondary pitches will determine whether he makes the Opening Day roster. If not, he likely will start off at New Orleans.

3. Justin Nicolino: The Organizational Pitcher of the Year, Nicolino was 14-4 with a 2.85 ERA at Jacksonville. He saved his best for last, going 8-1 (2.19) in his last 10 starts. Nicolino was the ace on a team that won the Southern League championship. Ranked as Miami's No. 4 prospect, Nicolino may have moved ahead of Heaney in terms of being big league ready now. He turns 23 near the end of November, and he will get a chance to win a spot in the spring. Nicolino struck out just 81 in 170 1/3 innings, which raises concerns as to if he will miss enough bats, but he walked just 20.

4. Flynn: Flynn remains a bit of a mystery. He's had a couple of chances in the big leagues the past two years, but the results were shaky. Still, like Hand, Flynn is just 24, and he also shows promise. He stands 6-foot-7 and has quality stuff. He hasn't thrown enough consistent quality pitches. At New Orleans, Flynn threw 139 2/3 innings. If he can put it together, he would give the organization something to think about in Spring Training.

5. Adam Conley: A triceps strain to his left elbow mired Conley's season, as he didn't throw in a Minor League game after July 20. The club expects he will be ready for Spring Training. Starting off at New Orleans again is likely, but he is an interesting option. His velocity approaches 100 mph. Command was a problem, as he walked 28 and struck out 50 in his 65 1/3 innings.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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To McKeon, Beckett a standout competitor

Retiring righty hurled himself into World Series lore with former Marlins skipper

To McKeon, Beckett a standout competitor

MIAMI -- In their history, Marlins pitchers have combined to throw 141 complete games in the regular season, and four more in the postseason. None are more memorable than Josh Beckett's World Series-clinching gem at Yankee Stadium in 2003.

At 23, the hard-throwing right-hander cemented his legacy in Marlins history, and became the face of the franchise's second championship team. "There is no question about it, he was the key," said Jack McKeon, who managed the '03 club.

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Now 34 and dealing with a torn labrum in his left hip, Beckett announced his retirement after the Dodgers were eliminated by the Cardinals on Tuesday night in the National League Division Series.

McKeon, a Marlins special assistant, has always heaped praise on Beckett. Both are bonded together in Miami postseason lore because McKeon rolled the dice and went with Beckett on short rest in Game 6 of the World Series.

The Marlins prevailed, 2-0, shocking the baseball world.

It was no small task, taking on the high-powered Yankees in the Bronx. But with a chance to clinch, Beckett went the distance, tossing a five-hit shutout, while striking out nine.

Fittingly, the series ended with the ball in Beckett's hands. On his 107th and last pitch, Jorge Posada tapped a slow roller that Beckett gloved and applied the tag for the final out.

"He was a competitor," McKeon said. "If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have been there. He was a tough cookie. No complaints out of him. He just went about his work. He was like a 'Dead End Kid.' He wanted the ball. 'Give me the ball.' He wasn't afraid of anybody."

Picked second overall by the Marlins in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Beckett made his MLB debut in 2001. His career in Miami was mired by blister problems. From 2002-05, the Spring, Texas, native went to the disabled list five times due to blisters on his right middle finger. He also had a DL stint for a "skin tear" to the same finger.

In five seasons with the Marlins, Beckett was 41-34 with a 3.46 ERA.

"Josh [is] a special talent but also a special man," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said in a statement. "We celebrated many exciting moments together both on and off the field. His zest for life will serve him well moving forward, and I'm proud to call him a friend."

Beckett's heroics in 2003 helped re-energize the franchise, and the championship season played a factor in the organization eventually securing their new stadium, Marlins Park, which opened in 2012.

"Josh Beckett will always hold a special place in Marlins history," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "From being the team's first-round pick in 1999, to winning the World Series MVP after his complete-game shutout at Yankee Stadium to clinch the World Series in 2003, he has meant a lot to this organization. We congratulate him on a great career and we wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors."

In November 2005, Beckett and Mike Lowell were traded to the Red Sox as part of a package that brought Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez to South Florida.

With Boston, Beckett won his second World Series in 2007, and in 2012, he was dealt to the Dodgers.

Beckett faced the Marlins' twice in 2014, picking up a win and a loss. He finished his season at 6-6 with a 2.88 ERA. The highlight of his season was no-hitting the Phillies on May 25.

To McKeon, no Beckett start is more memorable than beating the Yankees in '03.

"When Beckett was pitching that sixth game of the World Series, he wasn't coming out until they tied the game," McKeon said. "If they tied the game, he might have been coming out of there. But I was going with my horse."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lucas claimed by Texas; Valdespin to Triple-A

Marlins begin reshaping roster early into offseason

Lucas claimed by Texas; Valdespin to Triple-A

MIAMI -- Ed Lucas, dependable in a utility role the past two seasons for the Marlins, was claimed off waivers Friday by the Rangers.

Also on Friday, Miami outrighted infielder Jordany Valdespin to Triple-A New Orleans.

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The two moves are among the first of the offseason housecleaning, as the organization puts in place its plan to shape up the roster.

Lucas and Valdespin became expendable with the addition of Enrique Hernandez to the roster. Donovan Solano could take on a utility role if the Marlins bring in a regular second baseman this offseason.

In the second half, Solano saw a bulk of the action at second base.

Lucas, 32, appeared in 69 games and batted .251 with one home run and nine RBIs. In two seasons with Miami, he hit .255.

A Dartmouth graduate, Lucas was an eighth-round pick of the Royals in 2004. He was set to make Miami's Opening Day roster, but a few days before the season opened, he broke a bone in his left hand after being hit by a pitch.

Lucas plays all four infield spots, as well as the outfield corners. He also was an emergency catcher but never was needed in that role.

Valdespin, who turns 27 in December, saw action at second base with Miami, and he played some outfield down the stretch. A left-handed hitter, he batted .214 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 52 games.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Samson sees Marlins trending upward for 2015

Fifteen-game bump and fan interest has team president feeling confident

Samson sees Marlins trending upward for 2015

MIAMI -- After years of uncertainty, the Marlins firmly believe they are entering an era of stability. The product on the field improved by 15 games in 2014, and the perception around the community is changing, reflected by increased season-ticket renewal numbers and more overall interest in the club.

"I think it really is the Marlins' time in Miami to shine," team president David Samson said. "We have a unique opportunity right now. We are truly getting better off the field and on the field at the same rate. That's what is so exciting to me."

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One of the surprise teams in the league, the Marlins ended up a respectable 77-85 a year after finishing 62-100. The club remained on the fringes of the National League Wild Card chase until the final two weeks of the season.

Samson noted more fans are signing up at this point for season tickets, and those already locked up to plans in 2014 are coming back for next year.

Internally, team officials wonder what might have been if NL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Giancarlo Stanton didn't get hit in the face by a pitch at Milwaukee on Sept. 11. Losing Stanton at a time they were hopeful of making one last postseason push was too much for the team to overcome.

Looking at the big picture, the organization recognizes what it is building. All signs are pointing up, and Samson sees the Marlins' brand catching on in South Florida.

"You see it with the people who are at the ballpark and the way they enjoy themselves at Marlins Park," Samson said. "You see the way they enjoy watching games. You see the way the team fights for 27 outs. You see the way the crowd stays in it for 27 outs, because they never know what they're going to see."

What Samson also sees are the dark clouds of uncertainty that mired the franchise for nearly two decades are starting to disappear. When Jeffrey Loria assumed ownership of the club in 2002, the Marlins shared Sun Life Stadium with the NFL's Miami Dolphins, and they had no guarantee of a home of their own.

In 2012, the Marlins finally moved into their own building, state-of-the-art Marlins Park, complete with its retractable roof.

"All of the distractions that have accompanied this franchise since 1993 [the team's first year], I feel as though now, 21 years in, the franchise is finally at a place of stability," Samson said.

Improvement on the field came a few years later than the club had anticipated. But the Marlins are tracking in the right direction. Manager Mike Redmond was rewarded on the final day of the regular season with a contract extension through 2017.

The performance and promise of 2014 has raised optimism for next year and beyond.

"We finally have an opportunity to grow and have continued and sustainable growth," Samson said. "That's something the franchise never had before I got here, or since I've been here. There was always something that was next. Something that had to happen next.

"All that's next is to try to make the playoffs. [The process] started with the first year, getting better than we were last year. And next year, getting better than we were this year."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Versatile Marlins may look to shuffle players' roles in 2015

Versatile Marlins may look to shuffle players' roles in 2015

MIAMI -- In the National League, where pitching changes and double-switches are common, the Marlins realize the importance of versatility. The more roles a player can assume, the more options it presents to manager Mike Redmond.

Miami's front office continues to put an emphasis on building a roster with players who can adapt to various situations. Currently, on the 40-man roster, there are a handful of players who may find themselves in different spots in 2015.

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At the end of the month, the Marlins will have their organizational meetings, in which they will break down each player on the roster and determine how to move forward in 2015.

Here are five players who could be candidates for changes.

1) Christian Yelich -- LF to 1B: This would be a shocker. But the speculation already is out there that Yelich could switch from left field to first base. The reasoning is the market is thin on first-base candidates, and an outfielder could be easier to acquire. Yelich did play first base in high school and he is athletic enough to make the transition.

Still, this scenario is a real long shot. Yelich is a rising star, and he's quite comfortable in left field. The Marlins feel they have the best young outfield in baseball, and the organization isn't leaning towards breaking up the trio of Yelich, Marcell Ozuna (center) and Giancarlo Stanton (right). Expect Yelich to remain in left field and in the leadoff spot.

2) Nathan Eovaldi -- Starter to reliever: The fastball velocity is certainly there, but Eovaldi's secondary pitches continue to be a work in progress. The 24-year-old finished the season with two promising starts, but he had a rough campaign overall, going 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA in 33 starts. He did log 199 2/3 innings.

If Eovaldi's offspeed pitches improve, there is no question he will remain in the rotation. If not, he could be headed to the bullpen, where he could get by with a fastball and breaking ball. As a starter, he needs at least three pitches to keep hitters off balance.

3) Derek Dietrich -- 2B to 1B or OF: Dietrich was Miami's Opening Day second baseman, and he saw action in 44 games at the position. But he had his problems in the field, making 10 errors. He also appeared in one game at third base and had an error there as well.

A left-handed hitter with power, Dietrich remains an intriguing offensive player. Over the last two seasons, he has 14 big league homers in 106 career games. He's also dealt with injuries, missing substantial time this year with a strained right wrist. He finished the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

Because of his defensive issues, and the fact Donovan Solano and Enrique Hernandez are on the roster, Dietrich's future with the Marlins may be at another position. In September, he took steps to increase his versatility by participating in Miami's instructional league, getting work at first base and left field.

4) Rob Brantly, C to 1B/3B: When he was acquired from the Tigers in July of 2012, the book on Brantly was he could hit, but he needed work behind the plate. The defensive struggles remain, and he spent all of 2014 at Triple-A. Hoping to get the most of out Brantly offensively, the 25-year-old spent time in the instructional league, also getting work at first base and third base.

For the first time in years, the Marlins have depth at catcher. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is under contract through 2016. Although Saltalamacchia had a down year, the club is expected to retain the 29-year-old. Jeff Mathis has a club option of $1.6 million next year, and Miami is leaning towards picking that up. J.T. Realmuto is regarded as the catcher of the future. If Brantly can handle another position or two, it could increase his value. He is a left-handed hitter with power potential.

5) Tom Koehler, starter to reliever: Koehler was a workhorse in the rotation, making all 32 of his scheduled starts, and he threw 191 1/3 innings. The 28-year-old is highly valued by the organization. He's also versatile.

Heading into Spring Training, Koehler will be a frontrunner to secure a rotation spot. But he may not be a lock.

High on Miami's shopping list this offseason is landing another starting pitcher. If that happens, Koehler could moved to the bullpen. Also, when Jose Fernandez returns, perhaps around the 2015 All-Star break, some shuffling to the rotation will occur.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Fernandez practicing patience with throwing program

Ace says he's 'never felt this good,' but wants to avoid reinjuring elbow

Fernandez practicing patience with throwing program

MIAMI -- Balancing progress with patience will be one of Jose Fernandez's biggest challenges as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. The 22-year-old isn't planning on rushing anything on his road to recovery.

"Going with the flow" may be easier said than done for the energetic Miami ace. But he's following doctors' orders in his throwing program, which continued with 25 light tosses off flat ground on Friday afternoon at Marlins Park. He started off with 10 lobs at 30 feet to trainer Sean Cunningham. He ended his 10-minute session at 45 feet.

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Fernandez began his throwing program on Wednesday, and Friday was his second time out. Next week, he is scheduled to throw Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

"It felt like I was ready to pitch," Fernandez said. "Obviously, it's a process. It's a slow process. I'm really happy it's a slow process. I want to be here a long time. I don't want to come back and be the first one to come back from Tommy John and in a year be hurt again. We're going to be patient and enjoy the ride."

If Fernandez has learned anything since sustaining the ligament tear in May, it is patience. He had his surgery on May 16 and is anticipating a 14-month total recovery timeline.

The eagerness to get back on the mound is there, but he understands the importance of not risking a setback.

"The most important thing is to just go with it," the hard-throwing right-hander said. "No matter how you feel, you just have to remember, it's a new tendon that has to become a ligament. They're giving you all the reasons why you can't rush it. I'm really just going with the flow, and whatever the doctor says. I'm going step by step."

There is no firm return date for the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year.

"We haven't talked about that," Fernandez said. "We've talked about 14 months, maybe later, maybe before that. We'll see. Now, I'm just focusing -- Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Just getting my arm feeling great and going with the plan."

It will be a few months before Fernandez is back on the mound. For now, he is impressed with how his arm feels after two flat-ground sessions.

"It's funny," he said. "The ball is just flying out of my hand incredibly. I've never felt this good. The ball is coming out of my hand effortlessly. I'm just excited."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Right-hander Beckett announces plans to retire

Nursing hip injury, veteran ends 14-year career that includes Series MVP, no-hitter

Right-hander Beckett announces plans to retire

ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett, who threw a no-hitter in May but was on the disabled list for most of the last three months of the season, announced his retirement after the team was eliminated from the National League Division Series in a 3-2 loss in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Beckett's season ended with torn labrum in his left hip. He said he will undergo surgery in May. Although many pitchers return from the arthroscopic operation and the resulting three-month rehab, Beckett said that's not in his plans.

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  Date   Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   STL 10, LAD 9 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   LAD 3, STL 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   STL 3, LAD 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   STL 3, LAD 2 video

"I just don't see me going through that rehab and coming back to pitch at this point in my life," he said.

Beckett, 34, went 6-6 with a 2.88 ERA in what was looking like a comeback-of-the-year season after he missed most of 2013 with surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome by removing a rib near his neck.

On May 25, he no-hit the Phillies on the road and became the ninth pitcher of all-time to throw a no-hitter and be the MVP of the World Series. He ends his 14-year career with a 138-106 record and 3.88 ERA, having won the World Series with the Marlins in 2003 and Red Sox in 2007.

He came to the Dodgers from Boston in the 2012 blockbuster trade with Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto for James Loney and four Minor Leaguers.

Beckett would have been a free agent in the winter, so his departure frees up $15.75 million in payroll.

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Marlins prospect DeSclafani sparkles in AFL start

Baseball's top prospect Buxton goes 1-for-4 for Salt River

Marlins prospect DeSclafani sparkles in AFL start

While many of his Salt River teammates got to rest during September between the end of the Minor League season and the start of the Arizona Fall League, right-hander Anthony DeSclafani was busy working out of the Marlins bullpen. He pitched in six games, ending the season with 5 1/3 scoreless innings over five appearances.

Saturday, DeSclafani returned to his typical role as a starter, as Salt River visited Glendale. He held the Desert Dogs to one run in three innings and the Rafters went on to win, 2-1. Since an Opening Day loss, they have won four straight games.

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DeSclafani struck out two batters and allowed three hits. Glendale scored its lone run in the third inning thanks to back-to-back singles and a sacrifice bunt.

"I felt good," DeSclafani said. "Everything was working well. They got a few hits and a run on a pushed bunt. I'm here to concentrate on location and my secondary stuff."

Improving his offspeed stuff has been a focus of DeSclafani's for much of the season. He made three stints with the Marlins before getting called up for September and said those experiences taught him his offspeed pitches needed to be more consistent and he needed to throw them more often when he was behind in the count.

DeSclafani said he saw better results in the Major Leagues when he started incorporating those adjustments in September and he hopes to continue his progress during the AFL. He also is working to improve his curveball, a new addition to his arsenal. He started throwing it in September after talking with Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and bullpen coach Reid Cornelius.

DeSclafani threw a few curveballs Saturday, both to begin at-bats and when he was behind in the count. He said he was pleased with the results.

"It breaks their timing up for sure," DeSclafani said. "It's slower than everything else I throw. It's another pitch they have to worry about and I'm excited to take that into Spring Training."

While DeSclafani was on top of his game Saturday, the Rafters offense wasn't able to get him much run support. Left-hander Wei-Chung Wang held them to one run on two hits in two innings and right-hander Parker Bridwell, the Orioles' No. 12 prospect, followed with two hitless innings of relief.

Salt River took the lead in the sixth with a run off right-hander Chris Bassitt. Outfielders Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario led off the inning with back-to-back singles and third baseman Rio Ruiz followed with a ground out to second base, scoring Buxton.

Buxton and Rosario, the Twins' Nos. 1 and 10 prospects, collected three of the Rafters four hits. Buxton, baseball's top prospect, went 1-for-4, while Rosario finished the night 2-for-4 with a stolen base.

Glendale's offense was led by shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox No. 2 prospect, and center fielder Tyrone Taylor, the Brewers' top prospect. Both went 2-for-3 and Taylor drove in Anderson for the Desert Dogs' lone run of the night.

Even once DeSclafani was relieved to start the fourth inning, Glendale's offense fared no better. Five Salt River relievers combined for six scoreless innings to end the game. Their best chance came in the ninth when a walk and two singles loaded the bases with one out against right-hander Jake Reed. But he escaped the jam with a strikeout and a fly out to end the game and pick up the save.

DeSclafani said Reed did a good job of bearing down to get out of the inning unscathed.

"It got a little hairy, but it's a testament to him staying focused and not giving in," DeSclafani said. "He filled up the strike zone and got out of it."

At the end of the first week of the AFL season, Salt River stands alone with four victories. DeSclafani said all aspects of the team are working well together at the outset of the fall.

"We've gotten solid pitching, hitting, defense," DeSclafani said. "Really, we're doing everything right now. We've got everyone working well together."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Prospect Kolek motivated by success of Draft 'mate

Impressed by Finnegan's AL Wild Card Game contribution, righty eyes bigs

Prospect Kolek motivated by success of Draft 'mate

MIAMI -- As Brandon Finnegan was dazzling for the Royals in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night, Tyler Kolek was preparing for his final Instructional League start in the Marlins' system. The two pitchers share a common tie in they were first-round picks in June's First-Year Player Draft.

Their current paths also are a reminder that every prospect is on a different time clock. The 21-year-old Finnegan pitched for Texas Christian University a few months ago in the College World Series, while Kolek, 18, was overpowering prep players at Shepherd High School in Texas.

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Like millions of baseball fans, Kolek saw how impressive Finnegan was in 2 1/3 innings of relief in Kansas City's 9-8 win over the A's in 12 innings.

"What he did was amazing," Kolek said. "For someone 21 years old, it's crazy."

Seeing a member of his Draft class make a postseason impact fuels Kolek's desire to reach the big leagues.

"Oh yeah, of course," the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder said.

Advancement, however, will come in time.

The Marlins aren't rushing a raw talent who has the makings to be a future ace. Kolek -- ranked second in the Marlins' system by MLB.com -- made nine appearances and eight starts for the Gulf Coast League Marlins; he was 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA. He threw 22 innings, struck out 18 and walked 13.

More than results, he is working on his overall game -- fielding his position and holding runners. In terms of his delivery, he creates a downward plane with his pitches, which will help him miss barrels of bats. The ease of his arm action, and power stuff are other reasons why the organization feels it has a future star.

Heading into 2015, a realistic starting part for the right-hander could be Class A Greensboro.

"I think he comes into Spring Training at least competing for a Greensboro job," said Marlins vice president of player development Marty Scott. "I can't see him any higher than that. If everything goes well, he could get an opportunity there."

Greensboro is the level just below Class A Jupiter of the Florida State League.

"It's something you really don't want to rush him on, and if he is ready, he will show it to us," Scott said. "If he needs more seasoning at extended spring [camp], that wouldn't be a setback to me."

Three months after being picked second overall, Kolek has shown flashes of why he is so touted. His physical presence and 95-plus-mph fastball are attention-grabbers. But he's also young. He turns 19 on Dec. 15. Adjusting to life in professional baseball is a big change from where he was raised about 90 minutes outside Houston.

"You're traveling a lot," Kolek said. "You've got to get used to the schedule, being here early and at the field until 4 o'clock. It's hot, and all that stuff. At the end of the day, it's all worth it."

Wednesday was another day that was all about business. Kolek was pitching two innings at noon, on a summer-hot day on a back field at the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He struck out two and gave up one run in a game filled with mostly 17-19-year-olds.

On the Royals' playoff roster, meanwhile, Finnegan (17th overall pick) is already making a big league impact.

Kolek has known of Finnegan for a while. Although they never met, the Marlins' prospect had a commitment to TCU that he was prepared to honor if he hadn't signed with Miami.

A realistic arrival to the big leagues for Kolek is 2017, or after two more full Minor League seasons.

If that holds true, Kolek will be 21, or the same debut age as Finnegan.

For now, the right-hander is getting his first taste of what it takes to advance.

"I'm learning to just calm down," Kolek said. "Whenever I used to throw, I would just rear back and see how hard I could throw it. Now, things have changed a bit. Here, the hitters are smarter. It kind of just brings you down to earth, and makes you appreciate throwing the ball to where you want to throw it."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Continuity key as Marlins continue to rebuild

Continuity key as Marlins continue to rebuild

MIAMI -- Extending manager Mike Redmond's contract through 2017 was a big step toward establishing organizational stability. Not that the Marlins were considering a change, but without a new deal, the issue would have lingered into next season.

The Marlins made a 15-win jump in 2014, and after finishing 77-85, they are trending in the right direction. The last thing they wanted was to create doubt about the future of their manager, initially signed through 2015. With Redmond locked up, the front office can now focus on maintaining continuity in other areas.

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Before turning their attention to rounding out the roster, the Marlins realized the importance of rewarding Redmond, who is molding a young squad into contenders.

"Mike Redmond was an overachiever as a player, and brought that workmanlike, grinder attitude to the field as a player," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "Those were the same qualities that made him attractive to us as a manager. I think those qualities have rubbed off on his team."

With the offseason underway, here are five areas in which the Marlins are looking to retain stability.

Coaching staff

Without an extension for Redmond, members of Miami's staff may have sought other options. After all, if the manager wasn't safe, how could they be?

Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, hitting coach Frank Menechino, infield/first base coach Perry Hill and outfield/third base coach Brett Butler all were on multiyear deals. All are expected to return. The same is true for bench coach Rob Leary and bullpen coach Reid Cornelius. Also expected back are bullpen coordinator Jeff Urgelles and Major League administrative coach Pat Shine.

Catcher

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, coming off a down year, is signed for two more seasons. The hope is Salty will bounce back. Adjusting to the National League wasn't as smooth as the veteran catcher would have liked, but he is just 29 and still is a power threat at the plate. Having a full season working with the staff also should be beneficial.

The status of Jeff Mathis still must be addressed. The 31-year-old has a club option of $1.5 million, which the Marlins have until five days after the World Series ends to exercise. Indications are the team will pick up the option.

The Marlins are grooming a talented young pitching staff, and Mathis is seen as part of that process. In 2013, for instance, Mathis was highly praised for how he worked with Jose Fernandez.

J.T. Realmuto, a promising prospect, is getting closer to being an everyday big leaguer. For now, he is waiting his turn.

Outfield

The Marlins feel they have the best outfield trio in the NL, and they intend to keep it together. The club is on record saying it will seek a contract extension with Giancarlo Stanton. With or without a multiyear deal, the two-time All-Star will be with Miami in '15.

The front office also is considering long-term contracts for Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.

Closer

Steve Cishek, entering his second season of arbitration, is due a nice raise after making $3.8 million. His price tag will rise, but so have his numbers. He saved 39 games, and that figure is hard to replace.

If another option surfaced, perhaps Cishek would be traded. The way things are shaping up now, it appears the 28-year-old will return for a figure that could be close to $6 million.

Shortstop

You hear the word "special" often used by member of the organization when they talk about shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. The 25-year-old made big strides at the plate, batting .276. Defensively, the team feels he is Gold Glove-caliber.

Hechavarria also is a candidate for a multiyear extension.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Changing clubhouse culture put Marlins on cusp in '14

Injuries to Fernandez, Stanton were setbacks, but Miami still contended late

Changing clubhouse culture put Marlins on cusp in '14

MIAMI -- Change the culture and ultimately you can change the results. The Marlins steadfastly stuck to that message, first in assembling their 2014 squad and secondly in how they went about their business on a daily basis this year.

It's hard to argue with the plan, because when looking at the big picture, Miami's mission was accomplished. A cynic can certainly argue that little actually changed in the club's fifth straight losing season. But a realist can see the dramatic improvement in one year and the fact that the organization is clearly trending toward playoff contention.

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The Marlins were one of the surprise teams in the big leagues, rebounding from a 100-loss 2013 campaign to sticking around in the Wild Card race before officially being eliminated with nine games remaining in '14. Who knows? If not for one of the most gruesome injuries in recent memory, All-Star Giancarlo Stanton being struck in the face by a pitch, Miami may indeed have made a push all the way to the postseason.

We'll never know what might have been. But we do know, through adversity and serious injuries to Stanton and ace Jose Fernandez, who had Tommy John surgery in May, the Marlins remained tightly-knitted together and competitive deep into September.

Much of their success is attributed to the culture the organization created and manager Mike Redmond never let disappear.

"When we started Spring Training, we had goals of what we were trying to accomplish in terms of building the culture in that clubhouse and the mentality of every player looking out for one another and taking care of one another, and doing what needs to be done for us to get better," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We never put a goal on how many games we wanted to win. We just wanted to be better than we were last year."

The Marlins did more than anyone expected. And they did so without their ace for most of the season and their MVP-candidate right fielder down the stretch. How they picked up for themselves and grew together is why there is so much optimism moving forward.

The Marlins were able to stay relevant when Fernandez went down, because Henderson Alvarez stepped up and pitched like an ace. One could always see the talent in Alvarez, who no-hit the Tigers in the 2013 season finale. But he didn't find consistency until 2014, when he rose to the occasion and joined Stanton as a National League All-Star.

Miami was also able to play meaningful games late because Stanton was a steady rock in the middle of the order, belting 37 homers and driving in 105 runs before he was hit in the face by a Mike Fiers fastball on Sept. 11 at Milwaukee.

"Through all the adversity that we faced, there was never anyone who felt sorry for anyone," Hill said. "We knew that things happen in this game, and it's a game of adjustments and the next man has to step up."

Fernandez's injury, for instance, prompted the front office to bolster the bullpen. They did so by acquiring right-hander Bryan Morris from the Pirates for a competitive-balance Draft pick in early June.

"When things happen as they always do, it's our job and Red and the coaches' jobs to make adjustments and find a way," Hill said. "I think it's a credit to Red and his staff on what they've had to maneuver around this season."

Record: 77-85, fourth place in National League East

Defining moment: For all the big home runs and crucial runs he drove in, the lasting image of the season became Stanton going down against the Brewers. At the time, the club was positioned to make a late push. The Marlins were 4 1/2 games out in the Wild Card standings and three games behind the Braves for second place in the NL East. Along with removing Stanton from the lineup, the injury had a huge emotional impact on the team.

What went right: Plenty. Until his injury, Stanton was an NL MVP frontrunner. The trio of Stanton in right field, Christian Yelich in left, and Marcell Ozuna in center statistically ranked among the best outfields in the Major Leagues. ... Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria made steady progress and showed signs of becoming a future All-Star. ... The addition of Jarred Cosart, acquired from the Astros on July 31, added a solid middle-of-the-rotation right-hander. Closer Steve Cishek had another strong season, and Alvarez pitched as an ace after Fernandez went down. Tom Koehler won the No. 5 starter spot in Spring Training and didn't miss a start all season.

What went wrong: The club can't help but wonder what could have been if Fernandez stayed healthy. Miami got just eight starts from their 22-year-old ace. Stanton's injury was another devastating blow and one that was too much overcome. The other jarring injury came at Pittsburgh in early August when reliever Dan Jennings was struck in the side of the head by a line drive, causing a concussion and serving as another reminder of how risky the game can be. ... Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and first baseman Garrett Jones had inconsistent seasons offensively and defensively. ... Rafael Furcal was expected to be the Opening Day second baseman, but hamstring and groin ailments limited the former All-Star to nine games. … A crucial 3-1 loss on July 31 to the Reds featured a controversial overturned play at the plate.

Biggest surprise: Casey McGehee spent 2013 in Japan, and it was uncertain if he would get another big league chance. The Marlins gave it to him and the veteran delivered, becoming one of the most productive NL third basemen in the first half. McGehee was moved to the cleanup spot early in the season and offered protection for Stanton. While he only hit four home runs, McGehee repeatedly came up with clutch hits, and he was a difference-maker with men on base (76 RBIs).

Hitter of the Year: Stanton, no surprise here. He matched a career high with 37 homers and won the Marlins' first homer crown, and he set a personal mark with 105 RBIs. Stanton was in position to threaten to break Gary Sheffield's single-season homer mark of 42 in 1996. Now with 154 career blasts, Stanton has matched Dan Uggla's team record.

Pitcher of the Year: Alvarez doesn't wow you with strikeouts, but he amazes with the crispness of his stuff and his competitiveness. The right-hander opened the season as the No. 3 starter, and he took on the role of ace after Fernandez went down, making his first All-Star team. Alvarez has the ability to pitch at the top of the rotation and become a perennial star.

Rookie of the Year: No single Miami rookie made a significant long-term impact. Many had chances, like top prospect Andrew Heaney, who made a handful of starts and relief appearances. So did right-hander Anthony DeSclafani. Catcher J.T. Realmuto showed promise in limited action. The most interesting rookie was first baseman Justin Bour, who got a look on an everyday basis in the final 10 days of the season. Bour was a standout at Triple-A New Orleans, belting 18 homers. The lefty-hitting first baseman demonstrated a solid approach, and he could compete for a starting job in Spring Training.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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With superstars returning, '15 looks bright in Miami

Fernandez to lead rotation; Stanton to round out top-notch outfield

With superstars returning, '15 looks bright in Miami

MIAMI -- "Wait till next year" is far from an empty saying for the Marlins as they set their sights on 2015. From upper management down to the players, there is legitimate optimism that the club is on the cusp of contending.

If not for some serious injuries that helped derail their hopes this year, the Marlins may have shocked the baseball world and competed in October. Those hopes were dashed when Giancarlo Stanton was struck on the face by a pitch on Sept. 11, forcing the slugger to join ace Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery in May) on the sidelines.

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As an organization, management isn't planning on wasting much time lamenting about what might have been in 2014. Instead, Miami is focused on regrouping and building toward a better tomorrow. All indications are that the club plans on hitting the offseason running, formulating a plan and identifying areas to address.

At the top of the list will be approaching Stanton about a multiyear contract. The two-time All-Star is coming off an MVP-caliber season, and he is entering his second year of arbitration. With or without a long-term deal, Miami has made it clear it intends on keeping Stanton, who in the short term will continue his recovery from facial fractures sustained when he was hit by a pitch in Milwaukee.

Establishing payroll parameters also must be addressed. It may be just under $60 million, but that figure could sway either way. In the coming weeks, the front office will catch its breath and figure out which direction to go by the free agency and the trade period that begins after the World Series.

"We'll get our baseball operations group together, and we'll take a step back and really dig into everything about this team and what we need to do to take that next step forward," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We'll be open, we'll be objective of what shortcomings we've had this year and areas where we think we need to improve and put a plan in place and then do our best to execute that plan."

Arbitration-eligible: OF Stanton, RHP Steve Cishek, LHP Mike Dunn, 3B Casey McGehee, RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Nathan Eovaldi.

Donovan Solano is a borderline Super 2 candidate, but the team doesn't believe he will qualify for arbitration.

Free agents: OF Reed Johnson, INF Rafael Furcal, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Brad Penny.

Club option: C Jeff Mathis ($1.5 million 2015).

Rotation: Once Fernandez returns, the rotation immediately will be elevated. How best to bridge the gap will consume the organization's attention in the meantime. As is, the starting five should be pretty impressive. Alvarez, fresh off an All-Star season, assumed the role of ace after Fernandez went down. For now, Alvarez projects as the team's No. 1, with Jarred Cosart factoring into the top of the rotation. Eovaldi had his second-half struggles, but he's coming off a career-high in innings. The hope is the experiences of this year will help in Eovaldi's development. Tom Koehler once again will be a frontrunner to secure a spot. Lefties Brad Hand, Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino, the organization's Pitcher of the Year, will be competing for jobs. Rookie Anthony DeSclafani is a right-hander who gained big league experience in 2014.

Bullpen: An impressive stable of power arms projects to return. Closer Cishek and lefty Dunn are both entering their second year of arbitration. Right-handers A.J. Ramos, Bryan Morris and Chris Hatcher all stepped up to secure setup roles. Carter Capps is the hardest thrower of the group, and that's saying something. There are a handful of candidates who throw 98 mph. Capps topped off at 101 mph. If Capps stays healthy, he may wind up as a late-innings candidate. Lefty Dan Jennings made strides in '14, and right-hander Sam Dyson runs his fastball up to 98 mph.

Catcher: It wasn't an entirely smooth transition back to the National League for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The 29-year-old had his struggles at the plate and defensively. Having a full season in Miami's organization should be beneficial as the veteran looks to bounce back. A switch-hitter, he is a threat to knock the ball out of the park. The belief is that Mathis will have his option picked up. If so, he would be entering his third year with the club. J.T. Realmuto, the organization's Player of the Year, comes off a championship season at Double-A Jacksonville, and he's gained some MLB experience.

First base: Garrett Jones is signed for 2015, but the team may seek other options. The veteran labored at the plate and in the field. He showed flashes of power, but lacked consistency. Down the stretch, Justin Bour, also a left-handed hitter with pop, gained experience at first. If Jones is not back, Bour could be a candidate to take over. If the team got creative, McGehee or possibly Christian Yelich could be switched to first base. Those options may be on the table, but most likely won't happen. Jeff Baker is signed for next year, and he is a right-handed-hitting backup option.

Second base: Furcal's hamstring injuries limited him to nine games and put second base in flux for most of the season. Solano, Derek Dietrich, Ed Lucas, Baker, Jordany Valdespin and Enrique Hernandez saw time at second. The front office is expected to explore outside options. An ideal candidate would be someone with speed to lead off. Solano or Hernandez could be frontrunners if Miami stays with candidates already on the roster.

Shortstop: The strides Adeiny Hechavarria made at the plate and in the field reinforces the team's belief that it has a special talent at a premium position. The Marlins feel Hechavarria is an All-Star and Gold Glove-caliber player. Hernandez may wind up as the utility backup.

Third base: After spending 2013 in Japan, McGehee's return to the big leagues was successful, as he spent much of the season batting cleanup behind Stanton. Arbitration-eligible, McGehee projects to return. An All-Star candidate in the first half, the veteran had a dip in production down the stretch. But he had a knack for the clutch hit, and he projects to secure third base in 2015.

Outfield: You'd be hard pressed to find three more productive starters in any outfield in the National League. The trio of Stanton (right field), Marcell Ozuna (center) and Yelich (left) was highly productive. First and foremost, the club wants Stanton to get healthy. The same holds true for Ozuna, who sustained a high right ankle sprain with a week remaining in the season this year. Locking up Yelich and Ozuna to multiyear contracts could also be in the works in the coming weeks.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stanton wins first NL homer crown in Marlins history

Despite missing last 17 games of season, slugger paced league with 37

Stanton wins first NL homer crown in Marlins history

WASHINGTON -- Missing the final 17 games did not cost Giancarlo Stanton a chance to become the first player in Marlins history to win the National League home run crown.

Stanton's 37 homers held up by a sizable margin, as he ended up pacing the league. Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, who homered on Sunday, finished second with 32.

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If not for being struck in the face by a pitch at Milwaukee on Sept. 11, who knows how much better Stanton's numbers could have been.

"All of us were crushed when his season ended, not just because of the impact he had on our lineup," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "But the kind of year he was having. To see a guy so driven, so focused. He was really having a breakout year. We all wanted to see where he would finish up. It didn't end the way any of us anticipated."

Stanton matched his season high previously set in 2012. The two-time All-Star was hopeful of playing in all 162 games. If he had, he may have eclipsed Gary Sheffield's franchise record of 42 home runs in 1996.

The 24-year-old sensation also has 154 career homers, which matches Dan Uggla for the all-time franchise lead.

Along with leading the NL in home runs, Stanton paced the league with his .555 slugging percentage.

"[Stanton] is a special player," Redmond said. "He's a huge part of our team. I think we all realized how big a part, especially over the last few weeks without him. He had a tremendous year. I saw a lot of growth in him, not only as a player, but as a guy in the clubhouse. I think he really enjoyed himself.

"To be playing meaningful games into September, we really saw the best out of him. That was fun."

Before suffering multiple facial fractures, Stanton was considered a frontrunner for the NL Most Valuable Player Award.

In the eyes of the Marlins, he still is deserving. But Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates have increased their chances, especially since their respective teams are headed to the postseason.

Miami has never had an MVP. In 2009, Hanley Ramirez was second to Albert Pujols.

"I still feel like [Stanton] should win that," Redmond said. "I know I'm his manager, but for me, he's the MVP."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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This time, Marlins on wrong side of last-day history

Zimmermann hurls no-no; Alvarez on losing end a year after his feat

This time, Marlins on wrong side of last-day history

WASHINGTON -- Fate came full circle for Henderson Alvarez and the Marlins on Sunday afternoon. This time, Alvarez was on the losing end of a season-finale no-hitter.

Jordan Zimmermann etched his place in MLB history by tossing a final game no-hitter in Washington's 1-0 victory over the Marlins in front of 35,085 fans at Nationals Park.

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The final out was not an easy one, as Zimmermann's 104th pitch was lined by Christian Yelich into the gap in left-center, but Steven Souza Jr., made a no-hit-saving, diving catch, prompting the Nationals to rejoice in their first no-hitter since moving to Washington in 2005.

"We lined out a bunch today," Yelich said. "Stuff like that happens. That was my fourth time facing him today, so I had a pretty good idea of what he was doing and what kind of stuff he had. I put a good swing on the ball, and the guy made a heckuva a play.

"In the heat of the moment, and that on the line, that might be one of the best plays I've ever seen, ever. Hats off for him for making that play. Hats off to Zimmermann for pitching a great game."

It's the third time the Marlins have been no-hit, with the last being Roy Halladay's perfect game for the Phillies on May 29, 2010. That game also was a 1-0 affair. Ramon Martinez of the Dodgers no-hit the Marlins on July 14, 1995.

Miami capped its season by dropping three of four at Washington and finishes at 77-85, in fourth place in the National League East. The Nationals, meanwhile, ride a high into the postseason.

"There isn't a whole lot to say -- the guy pitched great," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "Then the guy makes a great play out there in left. That probably caps up the season they've had as they head to the playoffs."

Last year, on the last day of the season, Alvarez no-hit the Tigers. Miami won that game 1-0 in unconventional fashion. The winning run scored on a wild pitch in the ninth inning with Alvarez standing on deck.

"Things just happen from one year to the other," Alvarez said. "Basically, he was just pitching in the bottom of the zone. It was just Zimmermann's day -- excellent day for him."

On Sunday, Zimmermann struck out 10 and walked just one, Justin Bour with two outs in the fifth inning. Alvarez, meanwhile, scattered 11 hits and gave up one run in seven innings.

Alvarez retired the first four batters he faced before Ian Desmond connected on a one-out homer in the second inning. The blast to left center was his 24th of the season, and it was the only run Zimmermann would need.

Zimmermann's defense came up big early and late.

Yelich led the game off with a 10-pitch at-bat that ended with a screaming liner to right that was run down by Bryce Harper.

"We hit some balls hard today, but they just found some people," Yelich said. "That's what you need to have a no-hitter happen. He's a great pitcher, with great stuff. You combine that with getting some balls hit at some people, and it has a chance to be a special day. Credit him for making those pitches at the end. That's tough to do, and he did it."

Donovan Solano followed with a sharp grounder that was snared at short by Desmond for the second out.

In the fifth inning, the Marlins laced three line drives, all at Washington defenders. Garrett Jones opened the inning with a sharp liner that was right at Tyler Moore first. Reed Johnson ripped a liner to third that was gloved by Kevin Frandsen. J.T. Realmuto lined to left to end the inning.

Miami's second baserunner came in the seventh inning, when with two outs, Jones struck out. But the pitch got past catcher Wilson Ramos. A wild pitch was charged to Zimmermann, allowing Jones to take first.

Ramos, however, made a heads-up play behind the plate. On a ball to Johnson, the Washington catcher picked Jones off first base.

"[Zimmermann] was working quickly," Johnson said. "Defense is on their toes all the time. He was pounding the strike zone. He did everything he needed to do to throw a no-hitter."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Marlins extend manager Redmond through 2017

Marlins extend manager Redmond through 2017

WASHINGTON -- The Marlins are striving for franchise stability, and a major step was made in that direction on Sunday when the organization announced it has extended manager Mike Redmond's contract through 2017. The 43-year-old former big league catcher would have been entering his final season of the contract he signed when he took over after the 2012 campaign.

The extension was signed before the Marlins faced the Nationals in their season finale on Sunday at Nationals Park. Redmond, a backup catcher on the Marlins' 2003 World Series title team, met with owner Jeffrey Loria.

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"Jeffrey sat down with Mike and expressed to him that his leadership has really helped get this team in the right direction," Marlins president David Samson said. "There was really a unanimous feeling amongst the entire front office.

"Mike Redmond is the perfect leader for this team. Watching our growth, it's just been such a spectacular season. The feeling we have is this team is going in the right direction. This is a great step towards continuing that growth, and continuing as we build towards being one of 10 and making the playoffs, and hopefully winning a third ring for this organization."

The Marlins wrapped up a 77-85 season on Sunday, suffering a 1-0 loss to the Nationals in a game Jordan Zimmermann tossed a no-hitter.

Still, the Marlins made a dramatic improvement in one year, and the club clearly believes it will contend in 2015.

Redmond was hired under difficult circumstances, taking over a rebuilt team loaded with rookies and young veterans in 2013. The club finished 62-100.

"Last year, it all started," Redmond said. "We lost 100 games, and we did it together as a team, with a lot of these young guys. We sat down as a group, as an organization and figured out how we could get better and improve the ballclub. We were able to do that by 15 games in one year, which is not easy to do. We've got a lot of great talent in that room. We learned how to win and how to compete."

This year, the club made tremendous strides, staying mathematically in the National League Wild Card race until nine games remained.

"I realize the guys in that [clubhouse] get a lot of credit for the success of our season," Redmond said. "The coaching staff has helped me out a lot. I'm just excited to continue this process of building this team and this organization in the direction we know is the right one, and to see us making the playoffs. That's what I came here for, to turn this around, and get us back to the playoffs. We want to be where [the Nationals] are headed."

Miami stayed competitive in a season in which its ace, Jose Fernandez, underwent Tommy John surgery in May. And on Sept. 11, NL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Giancarlo Stanton was struck in the face by a pitch at Milwaukee, causing multiple facial fractures.

Through adversity, Redmond kept the club moving forward.

"We're appreciative to Mike," Samson said. "We've known him for a long time. When we brought him in two years ago, we knew we were bringing him into a situation where he was going to grow with the team. We've watched that happen. The team and Mike have grown in lock-step, and we're continuing that path."

The team also announced the entire coaching staff will be back. That includes bench coach Rob Leary, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, hitting coach Frank Menechino, infield/first base coach Perry Hill, outfield/third base coach Brett Butler, bullpen coach Reid Cornelius, bullpen coordinator Jeff Urgelles and Major League administrative coach Pat Shine.

"You talk about continuity and you talk about stability, that's something Jeffrey really wants for this franchise," Samson said. "It's a really good day for the Marlins. It's the perfect way to start this offseason."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Alvarez views thrilling no-hitter from different perspective

Marlins starter tossed no-no nearly one year before being on opposite end

Alvarez views thrilling no-hitter from different perspective

WASHINGTON -- History sometimes repeats itself, and entering Sunday, Marlins manager Mike Redmond was thinking Henderson Alvarez might again have a memorable final day of the season.

Redmond was certainly right. Alvarez found himself part of history, but this time, it was in reverse. It was Jordan Zimmermann being mobbed by his teammates after no-hitting the Marlins in Washington's 1-0 victory in front of 35,085 at Nationals Park.

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On a day that could have been about playing out the string, baseball showed how quickly fate can turn. Zimmermann struck out 10 and walked one, Justin Bour with two outs in the fifth inning, in a masterpiece that lasted two hours and one minute.

"I had a vision -- it was of Henderson doing it again," Redmond said. "Not against us."

The twist is simply too poetic, or maybe it falls into the category: "That's baseball."

What are the odds? On Sept. 29, 2013, Alvarez no-hit the Tigers at Marlins Park in the season finale. The final score was, coincidentally, 1-0. On Sunday, he was on the mound in a defeat that will go down in Nationals' lore.

"You don't normally see too many no-hitters as it is," Miami reliever Mike Dunn said. "And then in the final game, to have it two years in a row. ... We were lucky enough to be on the other side of it last year.

"We lost, 1-0, but it's always fun to see something like that happen. You just always hope you're on the other end of it."

Alvarez didn't have no-hit stuff on Sunday. He scattered 11 hits, but he was effective enough to allow just a second-inning Ian Desmond home run.

"Things just happen from one year to the other," Alvarez said. "It was just his day, excellent day for him."

The Marlins had their hard shots, but each time, the ball found a Nationals' glove.

There were several standout defensive plays, but none more dramatic than Steven Souza Jr.'s diving catch in the gap in left-center to rob Christian Yelich with two outs in the ninth inning.

"We hit some balls hard, but I've seen a few no-hitters, and that's kind of the way they roll," Redmond said. "But you give him credit. He mixed his pitches, kept us off balance and shut us down."

Literally the final out of the game was Miami's most impressive hit. If Souza doesn't make that play, Yelich may wind up on third, representing the tying run.

"I was just running," Yelich said. "I thought it was going to be in the gap, and then I heard the crowd go crazy. That's when I knew it was bad news for the Fish right here.

"That's baseball for you. A year ago, we were on the other side of the clubhouse, celebrating Henderson's no-hitter. It's funny how that works, I guess."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stanton could begin contract talks soon into offseason

Marlins may open discussions with NL MVP candidate by Novemeber

Stanton could begin contract talks soon into offseason

WASHINGTON -- Before Spring Training, Giancarlo Stanton made it clear to the Marlins that he didn't want to talk about a contract extension during the season. With the offseason beginning on Monday, early discussions could begin in a matter of weeks.

First, Stanton is planning to go on vacation. The front office, meanwhile, will be finishing up business for this season and then put a plan in place for 2015. A realistic timeline for serious negotiations could be around the general manager meetings in Arizona in November.

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"We stay in touch with our players all offseason," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said on Sunday. "We've said we'd respect his wishes during the season and we wouldn't discuss it. But now we're into the offseason. That is our plan, to talk with him about extending him beyond his arbitration years."

Stanton, a two-time All-Star, enjoyed a potential National League Most Valuable Player Award season, leading the NL in home runs with 37. He is second in the league in RBIs with 105.

But the 24-year-old had has season abruptly cut short after he was struck on the face with a pitch at Milwaukee on Sept. 11.

Stanton made $6.5 million in his first season of arbitration. The Marlins have made it clear they plan on retaining Stanton in 2015 with or without a long-term deal.

Stanton is represented by Joel Wolfe of the Wasserman Media Group.

"We have to hear from them and what their goals are, and what they hope to accomplish," Hill said. "We have some ideas we'll streamline and tighten up as have those meetings. And hopefully we're on the same page and can get something done."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Marlins hire two pro scouts to 'beef up' department

Marlins hire two pro scouts to 'beef up' department

WASHINGTON -- The Marlins have made two additions to their scouting department, hiring David Keller and Dominic Viola to work on their pro staff.

Keller, formerly with the Red Sox, will be the assistant director of pro scouting, working closely with Jeff McAvoy, the director of pro scouting. Dominic Viola, previously with the Reds, was named a special assignment scout.

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"They're two new additions," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We're continually trying to beef up the department."

The Marlins have made a couple of other changes in their scouting department. Pro scout Brendan Hass has been informed that he is not being renewed, and Tommy Thompson is being switched to an advisory role in player development.

A year ago on the final day of the season, the organization promoted Hill to president of baseball operations and Dan Jennings to general manager. The aim was to gain as many experienced professional evaluators as possible. Miami last year hired McAvoy, Mike Berger (assisant general manager) and Craig Weissmann (vice president of player personnel).

The additions played big roles in two midseason trades. In June, Miami acquired reliever Bryan Morris from the Pirates for a Competitive Balance pick. And on July 31, right-hander Jarred Cosart and infielder/outfielder Enrique Hernandez were obtained from Houston for Jake Marisnick and Colin Moran.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Eovaldi closes year with seven strong in loss

Righty strikes out five, gives up two runs, but Stras quiets Miami bats

Eovaldi closes year with seven strong in loss

WASHINGTON -- It was the same pitching matchup as six days ago, and unfortunately for the Marlins and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi on Saturday, the results were agonizingly similar.

Eovaldi was impressive, giving up two runs in seven innings, but paired against Stephen Strasburg, it wasn't enough. Strasburg scattered two hits and struck out seven in six innings, as Washington beat Miami, 5-1, at Nationals Park.

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"I thought Eovaldi pitched great," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "It was nice to see him finish up on a good note. Once again, we didn't score him any runs. He pitched well enough to win that ballgame. We just couldn't get anything going against Strasburg. He was tough today."

Making the outing even more frustrating is the fact Eovaldi completed his season one-third of an inning shy of a personal goal. The seven innings in his 33rd start gives the 24-year-old 199 2/3 innings on the season.

"It's frustrating," Eovaldi said. "[Reaching 200 innings] was one of my goals at the beginning of the season. To come up one out away makes me look back at those outings I had before where I struggled to get through the fifth. It is encouraging for next year to continue to work hard and come in ready to go."

Mark Buehrle is the last Marlin to reach 200 innings, logging 202 1/3 in 2012.

The Nationals have now taken two of three in the four-game set to close out the regular season. In the first game of Friday's doubleheader, Doug Fister threw a three-hit shutout in a 4-0 Washington win.

Although Miami slapped out a season-high in runs (15) and hits (22) in Game 2 on Friday, on Saturday, the offense was quieted again.

"Today is as good as he has been all month," Washington manager Matt Williams said about Strasburg. "Really good fastball -- 96, 97 [mph]. Changeup and curveball to go with it. He threw it where he wanted it to. Just the same as he has been that last four or five starts."

The Marlins were limited to two hits entering the ninth inning, when they slapped out two more singles and scored an unearned run off Drew Storen.

Washington broke the game open in the eighth inning when Asdrubal Cabrera lined a three-run double off Carter Capps.

The upside was a second straight encouraging start by Eovaldi, who mixed up his breaking pitches to offset his 97-mph fastball. The adjustments he's been working on paid off in the fifth inning, when he doubled-up curveballs on the outside corner to strike out Bryce Harper with the bases loaded.

The 24-year-old finishes up at 6-14, including dropping eight straight decisions since beating the Reds on Aug. 8. But against the team with the best record in the National League, Eovaldi ended up with two quality starts. He allowed two runs in six innings in the 2-1 loss on Sunday at Marlins Park.

"My curveball felt good today," Eovaldi said. "These last two starts, we made some mechanical adjustments, mixing up the pitches, throwing to both sides of the plate."

Strasburg also victimized Miami in that game six days ago. At Miami, the right-hander threw seven shutout innings, allowing three hits while striking out five.

It was more of the same on Saturday. Off Strasburg, Miami managed a third-inning double by Jeff Mathis and a fourth-inning single to right center by Casey McGehee.

The Marlins got a generous call on McGehee's hit, because his drive to the gap was run down by right fielder Jayson Werth. Battling the sun, the ball popped out of Werth's glove. Initially, it was ruled an error. But after the inning, it was changed to a single.

"It was a tough day for us," Redmond said. "Offensively, we didn't get anything going, really. Just a couple of hits. Probably one hit was a little bit of a gift out there -- that play on Werth. They scored it an error, and then changed it when the guy didn't score."

Strasburg also factored into his team's first run. In the second inning, Strasburg was credited with an RBI as he dropped a sacrifice bunt that scored Harper, who had singled, from third.

The Nationals tacked on another run in the fifth inning on Adam LaRoche's RBI groundout to short. Denard Span, who singled with one out, scored from third.

"It was a playoff atmosphere, really," Eovaldi said. "They had a packed house. They had Strasburg out there on the mound. It was a lot of fun competing against him. It's definitely what we're competing for next year."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Samson aims to end playoff drought, re-sign Stanton

Miami team president says club is confident in core of young talent

Samson aims to end playoff drought, re-sign Stanton

WASHINGTON -- The Royals clinching a playoff spot on Friday night moved the Marlins up on an unenviable list of MLB teams enduring the longest postseason droughts.

Miami has gone 11 seasons without a playoff appearance, which is too long according to team president David Samson. To reach the next level, the organization is focused on retaining All-Star Giancarlo Stanton and its core of young talent.

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"It's been 11 years since we've made the playoffs, and that's too long," Samson said. "We all feel that. We want to be one of 10 [teams that earn playoff spots], and we just have to make sure we have the right personnel. We look around, and you talk about the best young outfield in baseball. That's very inviting to me."

The Royals will be going to the postseason for the first time since 1985. Kansas City's success means the Blue Jays (1993) now have the longest playoff lapse. The Mariners last made it in 2001. Toronto and Seattle are the only teams that have longer playoff droughts than Miami.

Since the Marlins won the 2003 World Series, they've had four winning seasons. Despite winding down a fifth straight losing season, the Marlins have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The team made great strides in a year it lost the services of Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery) and Stanton (facial fractures).

The team's outfield of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Stanton is among the best in the National League.

Stanton had an MVP-caliber season, belting a National League-leading 37 homers and driving in 105 runs. The slugger had his season cut short after being struck in the face by a pitch at Milwaukee on Sept. 11.

Stanton is the superstar of the Miami franchise, and the team plans to discuss a contract extension with the 24-year-old in the offseason. Stanton is eligible for his second season of arbitration, but the Marlins are hopeful they can work out a multiyear deal.

"I'm very much looking forward to sitting down and talking to Giancarlo at the end of the season, which we promised to do and we want to do," Samson said. "Because having him as a Marlin long past his arbitration years is something that is important to us. That's something for the offseason."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Prospects drive rout as Marlins split doubleheader

Hernandez belts first career grand slam; Miami tied for second in East

Prospects drive rout as Marlins split doubleheader

WASHINGTON -- The Marlins are doing more than just playing out the string. They're presenting opportunity for a number of prospects, and they took advantage in Game 2 of Friday's doubleheader at Nationals Park.

J.T. Realmuto drove in four runs and Enrique Hernandez delivered his first career grand slam as Miami rolled to a 15-7 win over the Nationals, salvaging a split after being blanked, 4-0, in the first game.

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Miami racked up season highs for runs and hits (22). The runs total was the most since the Marlins scored 16 against the Nationals on Sept. 1, 2010.

"That's how baseball works sometimes," said Realmuto, the organization's Minor League Player of the Year. "We've been struggling scoring runs for the better half of this month right now. Sometimes it all comes out in one game. It was nice to see that out of our lineup. We got on a roll early, and once you get going like that, you kind of start to feed off each other, which was nice."

Andrew Heaney, the team's top prospect, was unable to qualify for his first big league win, working four innings and allowing four runs. The 23-year-old made his first big league start since July 5, and he finished up his season with 29 1/3 innings after opening the year at Double-A Jacksonville and moving up to Triple-A New Orleans.

"I felt good," said Heaney, who also recorded his first Major League hit on an infield single. "I just threw some fastballs up in the zone that got hit hard. I wasn't very good throwing secondary stuff. Once the fourth inning rolled around, I was able to get in the zone a little easier and able to mix pitches. Before that, it was just kind of flat and up."

In the ninth inning, Hernandez broke the game open with his grand slam. Miami scored five times off Craig Stammen in the inning, its second five-run frame of the game.

The big offensive showing comes at a time when All-Star Giancarlo Stanton (facial fractures) and Marcell Ozuna (right ankle sprain) are out of the lineup.

Their absence is creating opportunities for young players like Realmuto and Justin Bour, who had a two-run double in the seventh.

"Obviously, I want everybody to hit the ball well, but it's exciting for me to see J.T., Bour and guys I got to play with at the Minor League level succeed," Heaney said. "That's always fun."

The Marlins are now 77-83, which ties them with the Mets and Braves for second place in the National League East.

"It's actually pretty exciting to think about where we were last year to this year," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "No. 1, to be able to talk about a Wild Card spot as long as we were able to do it late into September. Now, to be playing for second place from last year to this year, that's a testament to those guys in the room over there. They've given me everything they have."

A year ago, Miami finished 62-100, the worst record in the NL.

A.J. Ramos, who threw a perfect eighth inning, was awarded the victory. Ramos is now 7-0. The last time an NL reliever finished the season 7-0 or better was Rheal Cormier (8-0) in 2003.

The Nationals, who clinched home-field advantage through the NL Championship Series with their Game 1 win, received a couple of home runs. Steven Souza Jr. went deep off Heaney in the third inning, and in the seventh inning, Tyler Moore connected off Chris Hatcher.

The Marlins grabbed the lead in a five-run fifth, doing all their damage with two outs and no one on against Washington right-hander Taylor Hill, making his first big league start. Reed Johnson had an RBI double, and after Bour was intentionally walked to load the bases, Realmuto ripped a three-run triple down the third-base line.

Realmuto's first MLB triple ended Hill's day after 4 2/3 innings and 90 pitches. Ross Detwiler entered to face Adeiny Hechavarria, who capped a 12-pitch at-bat with an RBI double, giving Miami a 7-4 lead. Hechavarria finished with four hits.

In 1 2/3 innings of relief, Miami's Brad Penny gave up two runs, making it a one-run game.

When Miami scored in the first on Casey McGehee's single, it snapped Washington's string of 18 straight scoreless innings.

"I wasn't sharp like I wanted to be," Hill said. "That's part of it. I found myself behind a lot of hitters. It ended up hurting me toward the end of the game."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cosart struggles with location in Game 1 loss

Righty walks eight, gives up three runs (two earned) in five innings

Cosart struggles with location in Game 1 loss

WASHINGTON -- With Jarred Cosart on the mound, the Marlins have become accustomed to a couple of things: The 24-year-old typically commands the strike zone and keeps the ball in the park.

In Game 1 on Friday afternoon at Nationals Park, the right-hander struggled in both areas. Cosart walked a career-high eight, while Doug Fister tossed a three-hit shutout in Washington's 4-0 victory over Miami.

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Antony Rendon belted a first-inning home run, but the way Fister was breezing along, he didn't need much run support to help the Nationals wrap up the top seed in the National League, giving them home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

"I didn't give my team a chance to have a quick inning and try to get some hits together," Cosart said. "It's on my shoulders. Hopefully, put this one behind [us] and get going next year.

"It's hard to get anything going against a guy like Fister when he's that good, and I'm out there having 20-minute innings, and my guys have to sit behind me and not get in there and try to get things going. But he was on his game today."

All three Miami hits were by Donovan Solano, who had two singles and a two-out triple in the ninth inning. Fister, who struck out a season-high nine, received a defensive lift with two outs in the ninth when Asdrubal Cabrera robbed Casey McGehee of a potential RBI hit.

By that point, Fister enjoyed a four-run cushion.

"He was really good all day long," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "He threw the ball where he wanted it to. He kept them off balance. [Starting with] the sixth inning, he threw a lot of curveballs. There were swings and misses and strikes taken. He was in command all day."

Cosart, a bright spot since being acquired from the Astros on July 31, had his shortest outing with Miami. He gave up three runs (two earned) in five innings, while allowing four hits and striking out three.

"Hey, I chalk it up to a bad day for [Cosart]," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "He's been really good for us. Today, it just seemed like he was fighting that fastball. He didn't have a great breaking ball to back that up. He was probably the opposite of Fister, right? He was having trouble getting his fastball down. He couldn't throw that breaking ball for a strike. It is what it is."

The walks were what stood out. Just six times in club history has a Miami pitcher issued eight or more bases on balls. The franchise mark is nine, set by A.J Burnett on the night he no-hit the Padres (May 12, 2001). Al Leiter walked nine on May 27, 1996.

Cosart joins Anibal Sanchez (Sept. 28, 2009), Pat Rapp (July 9, 1994), and Jesus Sanchez (Aug. 25, 2001) with eight. Cosart's previous high was six, set on Sept. 9, 2013, while he was with the Astros.

In four of his five innings, he stranded two on base.

"It's embarrassing," Cosart said. "I didn't give my team a chance from the beginning, at all."

The Nationals struck for two runs in the first inning, and Fister didn't look back. With one out in the first, Rendon went deep to left. Cosart entered the game having allowed just eight home runs in 175 1/3 innings this year, including one in 59 innings with Miami.

Since joining the Marlins, Cosart walked just 14 heading into Friday. But in the first three innings alone, he walked six.

After Rendon's 21st homer of the season got things rolling, Adam LaRoche singled and moved to third on Ian Desmond's double. LaRoche ended up scoring on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's passed ball with Bryce Harper at the plate.

The walks caught up to Cosart in the fifth inning, when he walked two. An infield RBI single by Cabrera gave Washington a three-run advantage.

Of Cosart's 99 pitches, 51 were strikes.

"It's one we're talking about wanting to forget and get ready for next year," Cosart said. "We've had too much good over the last few weeks to let this one ruin the season. It's definitely going to eat at me for a while. I didn't have it out there. I couldn't find the plate. That's pretty much it."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Fruits of '12 trade developing into core pieces for Miami

Deal brought Alvarez to Marlins, allowed club to trade for Cosart, Hernandez

Fruits of '12 trade developing into core pieces for Miami

WASHINGTON -- The fruits of one of the most controversial trades in recent history are starting to flourish for the Marlins. Two seasons later, several core pieces are now in place in Miami thanks to the 2012 deal with Toronto.

Either directly or indirectly from that trade two Novembers ago, the Marlins landed Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez, Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino and Derek Dietrich.

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In return, Miami moved a number of high-priced and popular players, such as Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck.

Because of the cost-cutting and breaking up the high-priced 2012 team after one season, the Marlins took a sizeable public relations hit. In terms of a baseball trade, however, now it is hard to argue with the results.

"I think now, when you look at that trade and the pieces that have come back, and what they are at the big league level and what they've turned into, it has ended up being a good baseball trade for both sides," Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said. "The problem was, at that time, the names we got in return were not household names like we gave up."

The actual trade was Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson, Bonifacio and Buck for Alvarez, Hechavarria, Mathis, Yunel Escobar, DeSclafani, Nicolino and Jake Marisnick.

Escobar was spun to the Rays for Dietrich.

In July, Marisnick and Colin Moran, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, were dealt to the Astros for Cosart and Hernandez. So the Toronto trade helped land Cosart and Hernandez, who may become a regular in 2015.

Alvarez was an All-Star this season and a top-of-the-rotation talent. Mathis is a respected backup catcher. Hechavarria is a front-line shortstop, while Cosart is a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. DeSclafani will compete for a rotation or bullpen spot next year. And Nicolino was the Marlins' organizational pitcher of the year, coming off a championship at Double-A Jacksonville. Dietrich, who has dealt with injuries, was the Opening Day second baseman.

The Marlins understood the backlash in 2012, but they have built a strong foundation for 2015 with the pieces they've acquired.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinions, and we respect that," Jennings said. "But at the same time, we can't let outside opinions interfere with the decisions we make as an organization."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cishek calls Jeter's final NY heroics 'remarkable'

Closer, Marlins teammates watched shortstop's last home game from plane

Cishek calls Jeter's final NY heroics 'remarkable'

WASHINGTON -- From 30,000 feet in the air, Steve Cishek and a number of his Marlins teammates couldn't help but root on Derek Jeter.

The Marlins were in flight to Washington on Thursday night when Jeter went out in grand style at Yankee Stadium. In his final home at-bat, the Yankees' captain slapped a walk-off single to right in the ninth inning against the Orioles.

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"It was remarkable," said Cishek, the Marlins' closer.

Cishek is from Falmouth, Mass., and he grew up a Red Sox fan. But the moment was too much to ignore.

"I tweeted something last night," Cishek said. "It was literally the first time I threw my hands up and cheered for the Yankees. I grew up a Red Sox fan and everything. You really couldn't have scripted it any better. That's why sports are so great. You can't plan for something like that."

"No one is trying to give up a hit," Cishek said. "[Yankees closer David] Robertson is not trying to give up three runs so Jeter could walk off. You could just see it all unfolding. You see a tie ballgame. You see Jeter was coming up third. We were like, 'Watch, he's probably going to do something crazy.'

"Sure enough, the leadoff guy singles, advances on a bunt, and Jeter is up. You just knew something awesome was going to happen."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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