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Young players thriving with Marlins

Former Tigers take advantage of opportunities in Florida

By Alyson Footer / MLB.com

 

The Florida Marlins have passed the decade mark since they first implemented their signature tear-it-down, build-it-back-up business model, so when a bunch of new faces report to Spring Training every couple of years, it's hardly surprising.

 

But few could have imagined the team would be off and running so soon after it traded away its two biggest superstars in exchange for six talented, but largely unknown and unproven prospects.

 

Sure, it's early. And certainly, the Marlins have a challenge ahead of them as they compete with National League East opponents, including two who are seemingly "powerhouses" -- the Phillies and the Mets -- and another, Atlanta, which many believe has enough to contend this year.

 

But in the infancy stages of 2008, the Marlins are showing promise. They won 11 of their first 18 games behind good pitching and a seemingly improved defense, which finished last in the league in 2007, and entered Monday atop the NL East. In many ways, the Marlins are no

 

 

t unlike many other teams throughout the league -- they have young players and good pitching, with a handful of veterans mixed in. And the early returns are impressive.

 

Call the Marlins the antithesis of the Detroit Tigers, who are off to a shockingly slow start after being picked by many to win their division. The two teams are linked, of course, by "The Trade" -- the blockbuster Winter Meetings swap that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Motown for six players, including a couple of former No. 1 Draft picks.

 

"Those are not easy trades," said Marlins president of baseball operations Admin Beinfest. "But so far, so good. They've all pretty much come as advertised. Some of them are prospects that aren't proven. Some are getting a chance right now to help us in the big leagues."

 

In the latter category are three who are currently making modest contributions and showing huge promise. The other three are in the Minor Leagues, but chances are they, too, will be in the Majors at some point this year.

 

Left-hander Andrew Miller, the first overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and regarded enough to land a Major League deal, had exactly 122 days of big league service time when he was traded. He has struggled in four starts, but there is little doubt that he will become a reliable piece of the rotation puzzle. He pitched better in his last start, on Friday, settling down after allowing three early runs.

 

"He battles," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He doesn't give in. He doesn't fold the tent. We were trying to get him through six innings, one batter at a time there.

 

"As far with Andrew, you see improvement. You see his confidence level still there. I think it's encouraging, the second through fifth innings."

 

Two lesser-known commodities are also with the Marlins. Catcher Mike Rabelo began the season on the disabled list, but slid into the starting mix 12 days into the season, while right-hander Burke Badenhop is considered the possible sleeper of the group. The sinkerball pitcher appears to have the tools and the makeup. The only thing missing was experience.

 

All six reported to Jupiter, Fla., for Spring Training this year and were met with opportunities, not road blocks.

 

"We talked to a lot of our young guys going back to '06, after the '05 trades," Beinfest said. "If you're a young player, this is a great place to be because you're getting opportunities you may not get elsewhere. If you do your job, you're going to get an opportunity."

 

Take Rabelo, for instance. In Detroit, he was stuck behind 14-time All-Star Ivan Rodriguez. With the Marlins, the switch-hitting catcher had no such hurdles.

 

"With Pudge in Detroit, you don't have to be Peter Gammons to realize that guy's not going anywhere," Rabelo chuckled. "It was definitely a better opportunity for me here."

 

Miller, who made his big league debut the same year he was drafted, cut his teeth with the Tigers over a 13-game span in '07. He factored into 10 decisions, compiling a 5-5 record and a 5.63 ERA. Had Miller remained with the Tigers, he may have had a chance to start. With Florida, it wasn't a matter of "possibly." Instead, Miller was a "probably."

 

"It's kind of different here, because you had a situation here where it's a lot of younger guys," Miller said. "Whereas in Detroit, every year they're looking for free agents, or they're looking for the big trade to bring in the veteran guys. It's a different atmosphere."

 

Miller had no hard feelings when he was traded and focused on the only thing that really mattered: Being a Marlin simply means he has a chance to accelerate his path to the big leagues.

 

"That was a big one," Miller said. "It's not going to be necessarily easier, but I think the opportunity might present itself a little bit easier here than in Detroit. Detroit, they obviously went out and got Dontrelle. They were looking for a guy like that -- they were going to be looking for consistency rather than the unknown of having a young guy out there."

 

The Marlins, cash-conscious and historically unable to hold onto their superstars once they reach their financial peaks, are quite the opposite. They're looking for youth, talent and, most importantly, a low price tag.

 

Badenhop fits that bill. He's 25, fearless and until April 9 had never pitched above Double-A. If he was still with his former team, it's unlikely he would have catapulted to the big leagues this quickly.

 

"Any time a trade goes down, I guess there's pluses and minuses," Badenhop said. "The minuses are you met a lot of good guys in the Tigers organization, but I took a lot away from what I learned there. I took it here, where there's more opportunity. Obviously, I'm here today. Would I be [in the big leagues] in Detroit? Probably not. And that's what you shoot for, the Major Leagues."

 

Gonzalez knew when he was hired by the Marlins in October 2006 that there was a strong possibility they could lose Willis or Cabrera, or both. But the skipper has no regrets, and he gushed about the quality the Marlins received in return.

 

"Their makeup is unbelievable," Gonzalez said. "Good, solid baseball guys. Detroit did a nice job bringing these guys along their farm system. They're all fundamentally sound, all of them are sharp kids. We've got quality individuals with great work habits."

 

He hasn't seen the half of it -- literally. Three more Tigers acquisitions are continuing to hone their skills in the farm system and could arrive to south Florida sometime this year. The biggest name is center fielder Cameron Maybin, 21, the Tigers' first-round pick in '05. Maybin struggled with a hamstring issue during Spring Training, but he had a fast start to the regular season with Double-A Carolina.

 

"It's only a matter of time," Beinfest said. "He is our center fielder of the future and we expect him to assume that role whenever he's ready."

 

Dallas Trahern, a right-handed starter, is currently at extended spring in Jupiter, rehabbing a right thumb injury that required surgery during Spring Training. He could join Triple-A Albuquerque by the end of the month. Eulogio De La Cruz, whose fastball has been clocked at 100 mph, has had a slow start with Albuquerque but is considered a candidate to either start or relieve.

 

"What was lost in the trade was some of the young pitching that we got back," Beinfest said. "We thought it was equitable to put Dontrelle in the trade if we were going to get that pitching back. And so far, so good. They need to come up here and perform, but we're happy with the guys we have."

 

Alyson Footer 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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:gofish

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Young players thriving with Marlins

Former Tigers take advantage of opportunities in Florida

By Alyson Footer / MLB.com

 

The Florida Marlins have passed the decade mark since they first implemented their signature tear-it-down, build-it-back-up business model, so when a bunch of new faces report to Spring Training every couple of years, it's hardly surprising.

 

But few could have imagined the team would be off and running so soon after it traded away its two biggest superstars in exchange for six talented, but largely unknown and unproven prospects.

 

Sure, it's early. And certainly, the Marlins have a challenge ahead of them as they compete with National League East opponents, including two who are seemingly "powerhouses" -- the Phillies and the Mets -- and another, Atlanta, which many believe has enough to contend this year.

 

But in the infancy stages of 2008, the Marlins are showing promise. They won 11 of their first 18 games behind good pitching and a seemingly improved defense, which finished last in the league in 2007, and entered Monday atop the NL East. In many ways, the Marlins are no

 

 

t unlike many other teams throughout the league -- they have young players and good pitching, with a handful of veterans mixed in. And the early returns are impressive.

 

Call the Marlins the antithesis of the Detroit Tigers, who are off to a shockingly slow start after being picked by many to win their division. The two teams are linked, of course, by "The Trade" -- the blockbuster Winter Meetings swap that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Motown for six players, including a couple of former No. 1 Draft picks.

 

"Those are not easy trades," said Marlins president of baseball operations Admin Beinfest. "But so far, so good. They've all pretty much come as advertised. Some of them are prospects that aren't proven. Some are getting a chance right now to help us in the big leagues."

 

In the latter category are three who are currently making modest contributions and showing huge promise. The other three are in the Minor Leagues, but chances are they, too, will be in the Majors at some point this year.

 

Left-hander Andrew Miller, the first overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and regarded enough to land a Major League deal, had exactly 122 days of big league service time when he was traded. He has struggled in four starts, but there is little doubt that he will become a reliable piece of the rotation puzzle. He pitched better in his last start, on Friday, settling down after allowing three early runs.

 

"He battles," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He doesn't give in. He doesn't fold the tent. We were trying to get him through six innings, one batter at a time there.

 

"As far with Andrew, you see improvement. You see his confidence level still there. I think it's encouraging, the second through fifth innings."

 

Two lesser-known commodities are also with the Marlins. Catcher Mike Rabelo began the season on the disabled list, but slid into the starting mix 12 days into the season, while right-hander Burke Badenhop is considered the possible sleeper of the group. The sinkerball pitcher appears to have the tools and the makeup. The only thing missing was experience.

 

All six reported to Jupiter, Fla., for Spring Training this year and were met with opportunities, not road blocks.

 

"We talked to a lot of our young guys going back to '06, after the '05 trades," Beinfest said. "If you're a young player, this is a great place to be because you're getting opportunities you may not get elsewhere. If you do your job, you're going to get an opportunity."

 

Take Rabelo, for instance. In Detroit, he was stuck behind 14-time All-Star Ivan Rodriguez. With the Marlins, the switch-hitting catcher had no such hurdles.

 

"With Pudge in Detroit, you don't have to be Peter Gammons to realize that guy's not going anywhere," Rabelo chuckled. "It was definitely a better opportunity for me here."

 

Miller, who made his big league debut the same year he was drafted, cut his teeth with the Tigers over a 13-game span in '07. He factored into 10 decisions, compiling a 5-5 record and a 5.63 ERA. Had Miller remained with the Tigers, he may have had a chance to start. With Florida, it wasn't a matter of "possibly." Instead, Miller was a "probably."

 

"It's kind of different here, because you had a situation here where it's a lot of younger guys," Miller said. "Whereas in Detroit, every year they're looking for free agents, or they're looking for the big trade to bring in the veteran guys. It's a different atmosphere."

 

Miller had no hard feelings when he was traded and focused on the only thing that really mattered: Being a Marlin simply means he has a chance to accelerate his path to the big leagues.

 

"That was a big one," Miller said. "It's not going to be necessarily easier, but I think the opportunity might present itself a little bit easier here than in Detroit. Detroit, they obviously went out and got Dontrelle. They were looking for a guy like that -- they were going to be looking for consistency rather than the unknown of having a young guy out there."

 

The Marlins, cash-conscious and historically unable to hold onto their superstars once they reach their financial peaks, are quite the opposite. They're looking for youth, talent and, most importantly, a low price tag.

 

Badenhop fits that bill. He's 25, fearless and until April 9 had never pitched above Double-A. If he was still with his former team, it's unlikely he would have catapulted to the big leagues this quickly.

 

"Any time a trade goes down, I guess there's pluses and minuses," Badenhop said. "The minuses are you met a lot of good guys in the Tigers organization, but I took a lot away from what I learned there. I took it here, where there's more opportunity. Obviously, I'm here today. Would I be [in the big leagues] in Detroit? Probably not. And that's what you shoot for, the Major Leagues."

 

Gonzalez knew when he was hired by the Marlins in October 2006 that there was a strong possibility they could lose Willis or Cabrera, or both. But the skipper has no regrets, and he gushed about the quality the Marlins received in return.

 

"Their makeup is unbelievable," Gonzalez said. "Good, solid baseball guys. Detroit did a nice job bringing these guys along their farm system. They're all fundamentally sound, all of them are sharp kids. We've got quality individuals with great work habits."

 

He hasn't seen the half of it -- literally. Three more Tigers acquisitions are continuing to hone their skills in the farm system and could arrive to south Florida sometime this year. The biggest name is center fielder Cameron Maybin, 21, the Tigers' first-round pick in '05. Maybin struggled with a hamstring issue during Spring Training, but he had a fast start to the regular season with Double-A Carolina.

 

"It's only a matter of time," Beinfest said. "He is our center fielder of the future and we expect him to assume that role whenever he's ready."

 

Dallas Trahern, a right-handed starter, is currently at extended spring in Jupiter, rehabbing a right thumb injury that required surgery during Spring Training. He could join Triple-A Albuquerque by the end of the month. Eulogio De La Cruz, whose fastball has been clocked at 100 mph, has had a slow start with Albuquerque but is considered a candidate to either start or relieve.

 

"What was lost in the trade was some of the young pitching that we got back," Beinfest said. "We thought it was equitable to put Dontrelle in the trade if we were going to get that pitching back. And so far, so good. They need to come up here and perform, but we're happy with the guys we have."

 

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

print this page

 

 

:gofish

 

Well now that it is public I will address Dallas' surgery. I told Admin when it happened but didnt want to use it as an excuse. He actually had one surgery on his pitching thumb and then had to have a 2nd procedure to get rid of a wart under the skin. He has been doing very well in his rehab and will pitch at Jupiter on Thursday night.

 

Im kind of disappointed because Albuquerque is playing here in Oklahoma on Friday and I was hoping to get to see him pitch.

 

Anyway, he is PUMPED and ready to play for real!

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