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Notes: Spooney feels relief
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com



Tim Spooneybarger is 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA over 42 innings in 2003. (Elsa/Getty Images)



MIAMI -- Relief took on a new meaning Wednesday for Marlins right-hander Tim Spooneybarger.
After five nervous nights worrying about his right elbow, Spooneybarger received word that his pitching arm will be all right. Results of an MRI revealed the 23-year-old has some tendinitis, but nothing serious.

Placed on the disabled list Monday, retroactive to June 12, Spooneybarger is eligible to be activated on June 27.

"I feel 100 percent better knowing it's not anything bad," said Spooneybarger, the Marlins primary right-handed setup reliever. "It feels good. I'll see what happens."

The Marlins recalled right-hander Blaine Neal from Triple-A Albuquerque after placing Spooneybarger on the DL. Allen Levrault will likely get more opportunities setting up for closer Braden Looper.

"We'll mix and match," manager Jack McKeon said. "I didn't think this was anything. Some guys need something like that [an MRI] to clear their mind. It gives them a little extra rest to get it checked out."


Spooneybarger has thrown 42 innings, the most of any Marlins reliever. He had a couple of stints lasting a personal-long 2 2/3 innings.

The 23-year-old will take a few days to recover from the MRI. He doesn't know when he will begin throwing again.

"We'll probably take as much time as we need to," Spooneybarger said. "There wouldn't be any sense rushing back into something today. I hope I'm not out long. I've missed five or six games already, and it feels like it's been all season. I want to get back out there."

Spooneybarger, who has pitched in 33 games, never had a tender elbow before. In the minor leagues a few years ago, he once had a tender shoulder.

Tender elbows are a sensitive subject around the Marlins clubhouse. A.J. Burnett is out for the season with Tommy John surgery, and Josh Beckett is on the disabled list with an elbow sprain.

"I see one of my best friends, A.J., not pitch for 1 1/2 years," Spooneybarger said. "And you think of what it might have been. It is kind of scary."

Spooneybarger says the Marlins have handled him properly by shutting him down as soon as he noted some tenderness.

Pitching regularly is the life of a reliever, and Spooneybarger admits he has to pace himself properly, even if it means he could be up throwing four or five straight days. Sometimes relievers are up that often, even if they don't get into the game.

"That's the job of a reliever," he said. "I want to be a reliever. I want to be a good reliever, and I want to play a long time and make a lot of money. If I can't do those things, I'm not going to be where I'm going to be. It's something I'm going to have to learn to do. Maybe, take care of my body a little better. I don't know. Maybe just do something. That's my job and I have to be able to do it."

If necessary, Spooneybarger is prepared to speak up when he feels his arm needs rest.

"I think that's the hardest thing in the world to do is say no," Spooneybarger said. "Every day I get here, I want to pitch. I want to be out there, I want to pitch. I don't think I'm really good at that yet. I'm young in that sense too."

McKeon says the team will be cautious with Spooneybarger, but noted that he didn't feel the reliever was being overused.

"I didn't know you signed relief pitchers to go one inning," McKeon said. "I may have been spoiled in Cincinnati. They didn't want to come out."

Beckett rehab on hold: The plan was for Beckett to throw about 50 pitches in a rehab assignment Wednesday night for the Class-A Jupiter Hammerheads when they traveled to Viera.

But the weather didn't accommodate. Wednesday's game was rained out. A doubleheader is scheduled for Thursday and he will pitch the first game, which starts at 5:05 p.m. He is expected to still throw about 50-55 pitches.

Beckett, on the disabled list with a right elbow sprain, is tentatively on pace to return to the rotation on June 28 at Boston.

Gaining consistency: Winning 15 of their last 24 games has given the Marlins some reason for optimism. The Marlins are 8 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the Wild Card chase, and McKeon believes the team will finish the season above .500.

"We've got to win at home to make up ground," center fielder Juan Pierre said. "Everybody feels we have talent. It's a matter of doing it. We have to keep a positive attitude. We just have to put it together. Winning brings confidence, especially for the young guys."

Draft signings: The Marlins announced the signings of seven draft picks. Reaching deals are shortstop Jonathan Fulton (third round), third baseman Lee Mitchell (sixth), right-hander Nathan Nowicki (19th), outfielder Brandon Tripp (21st), left-hander Anthony Watson (23rd), right-hander Roy Friesen (33rd) and left-hander Nicholas Lovato (37th).

Down on the farm: Double-A Carolina sensation Miguel Cabrera is being worked at a few positions other than third base. In the Mudcats' last game, he started in left field and handled two fly ball outs. Cabrera, 20, is rapidly making his way to the Major Leagues. He is batting .365 with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs, which tops the Southern League. In 67 games, he has a slugging percentage of .612 and an on-base percentage of .429. Cabrera has 95 hits, 28 doubles and three triples. He has struck out 46 times and walked 30.

In 17 games, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is batting .234 with one home run, two doubles and seven RBIs. Gonzalez, a first baseman and first overall draft pick in 2000, was dropped from Triple-A Albuquerque to Double-A a few weeks ago.

Class-A Jupiter bumped off Brevard County, 3-1, combining on a three-hit victory. Starter Donald Levinski allowed one run on two hits in five innings. Jason Stokes went 1-for-4. Angel Lopez belted a home run. Stokes is leading the Florida State League with 61 RBIs.

At low Class-A Greensboro, Jeremy Hermida went 2-for-3 with a run scored in a 2-1 win over Kannapolis. Hermida, the Marlins first overall pick last season, has raised his average to .279.


The skipper says: "[Al] Leiter has been a pain in the neck for me. Not necessarily here, but when I was in Cincinnati." -- McKeon on facing Al Leiter, the Mets starter Wednesday. In 1999, when the Mets played the McKeon-managed Reds in a one-game playoff to decide the NL Wild Card, Leiter was the winning pitcher
 

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