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Mailbag 2/12/07

Eddie Altamonte

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http://florida.marlins.mlb.com/news/articl...sp&c_id=fla

Mailbag: How will Pinto be utilized?
02/12/2007 10:00 AM ET
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

What is the status of Renyel Pinto? He pitched much better last year than Yusmeiro Petit and Sergio Mitre, yet he is not considered a candidate if Josh Johnson or Anibal Sanchez can't go.
-- Manny B.
Unless there has been a change of thinking, the organization has been considering using Pinto as another left-handed option in the bullpen. Obviously, he has been a starter, and should Pinto join the rotation, it would mean the Marlins would be going with three lefties.

Right now, we can speculate who will be battling for positions. But once Spring Training starts, we will get a much better indication. While Petit had his struggles when with the big-league club last year, he was put in a tough spot, working long relief and being used sparingly. The team still feels he can battle as a starter. Mitre, meanwhile, impressed the coaches last spring and that's why he was the No. 2 starter when the season started. If healthy, the club believes Mitre can be very effective, and he will get every chance to win a spot.

With Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez battling through aching arms, I'm looking for Mitre to step up and be a capable fill-in. The team believes Mitre has the makeup and talent to be a quality starter.

Let's suppose that Alex Sanchez wins the center-field spot. He is a natural leadoff hitter, so what kind of arrangements will be done in the lineup? Also, Jeremy Hermida was slotted to bat second in the lineup in 2006. If healthy, will he do it this year? With this scenario, what will be the batting spots for Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, third and fifth? I would like to see the following lineup: 1. Sanchez, CF; 2. Hermida, RF; 3. Ramirez, SS; 4. Miguel Cabrera, 3B; 5. Uggla, 2B; 6. Josh Willingham, LF; 7. Mike Jacobs, 1B; 8. Miguel Olivo, C.
-- Rolando C.

Interesting lineup you outlined. I'm a believer that a player has to prove himself to justify his place in the lineup. That being the case, I wouldn't create as drastic a change as you made. Ramirez won the National League Rookie of the Year, and he stole more than 50 bases. I wouldn't slide him out of the top spot for Sanchez, who has been out of the big leagues a while. Granted, in time, Ramirez may be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. For now, I like his power and speed leading off, basically because I want him getting as many at-bats a game as he can. The same holds true for Uggla batting second. Hermida has to show he is worthy of batting at the top of the order and Uggla would have to show he isn't producing. I also would want Cabrera batting third, not fourth, because in this lineup, I want him batting in the first inning. So my lineup would be: Ramirez, Uggla, Cabrera, Willingham, Jacobs, Hermida, Olivo and Sanchez. I do like the points you make, though.

What is the status on Logan Kensing? Will he be ready for Opening Day?
-- Rafael R.

Unfortunately for Kensing, he may not be ready until sometime after the All-Star break, and that's being optimistic. He had Tommy John elbow ligament surgery late in the 2006 season, and recovery time often is 12-18 months. Kensing is throwing on flat ground and making progress, but timetables on Tommy John surgery patients are very difficult to predict.

What was the starting lineup on Opening Day last year for the Marlins? I have every other year but can't find 2006. Can you help?
-- Rick S.

The Marlins actually made modern-era baseball history on Opening Day 2006. Six rookies were in the starting lineup, the first time that's happened in more than 100 years. The lineup was: Ramirez, SS; Hermida, RF; Cabrera, 3B; Jacobs, 1B; Willingham, LF; Uggla, 2B; Olivo, C; Eric Reed, CF; and Dontrelle Willis, P. All but Cabrera, Olivo and Willis were rookies. The Astros won, 1-0, with Roy Oswalt collecting the win and Johnson suffering the loss in relief.

Why didn't the Marlins make more offseason moves like sign experienced players? They could have done much more than they did.
-- Thomas J.
Since the end of the 2006 season, I tried to make it clear in mailbags and other stories not to expect too many major moves. Sure, they team explored trades, but in reality, the team was not eager to part with any of the five starting pitchers it had last year. Some fans who have e-mailed me assumed when the team hinted it had pitching depth to trade that the Marlins meant they would deal a starter like Nolasco or Johnson.

While trading any player is possible, the Marlins ideally were thinking of moving younger pitching, not one of four rookies who won 10 or more games in 2006. But the fun part of being a fan is speculating and coming up with trade scenarios. The reality is it is very difficult to trade players who are not yet arbitration-eligible for other team's players who are not arbitration eligible. You don't often see trades for top prospects for top prospects. Those players usually are moved for established big leaguers. The Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota trade that brought Ramirez and Sanchez here from Boston is an example.

Once the market set itself where established players were making so much money, it also limited the Marlins' chances to make moves. Another factor is, while the team is looking for an upgrade in center field, it wasn't looking to weaken its pitching to improve in the outfield.

With this organization, pitching is just about always the priority. So the team will lean toward staying stronger pitching than weaken itself there to address another area. That's been the history of this front office, and it's been pretty consistent since they took over in 2002.

With the Caribbean Series just completed, I've noticed Juan Gonzalez is playing very well. It looks like he's healthy again and is a free agent. Why don't the Marlins invite him to Spring Training? He could really be a big help for the team, and a good mentor.
-- Randy R.

I was fortunate to be asked to help cover the Caribbean Series in Puerto Rico for MLB.com, and I was able to watch Gonzalez play. I also spoke to scouts covering the event. Granted, Gonzalez has slimmed down and he's in great shape, but the question among the baseball insiders is whether he can catch up with the big-league fastball right now. His bat was slow against fastballs, although he was handling offspeed pitches better. Defensively, he is limited to playing a corner outfield spot. Willingham will anchor left field, and the Marlins are committed to keeping him in left and playing regularly.

Great explanation on why more trades weren't made. I thought right on target
 

Hammerhead

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What is the status of Renyel Pinto? He pitched much better last year than Yusmeiro Petit and Sergio Mitre, yet he is not considered a candidate if Josh Johnson or Anibal Sanchez can't go.
-- Manny B.
Unless there has been a change of thinking, the organization has been considering using Pinto as another left-handed option in the bullpen. Obviously, he has been a starter, and should Pinto join the rotation, it would mean the Marlins would be going with three lefties.
Not ready to be a major league starter. I'd really prefer Pinto as a reliever. I'd like him most as our closer but I doubt I'll get what I want.
 

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