07/13/2003 12:42 PM ET
Notes: Marlins midterm review
Managers and players look at first-half highlights
MONTREAL -- Once Sunday's game is in the books, the Marlins will have completed 95 games of their 162-game calendar. With most of the players having at least three days to get away from the everyday grind of Major League baseball, it was a good time to take a look back at the first three months of the season.
By Pierre Moussette / Special to MLB.com
"From what I've seen -- and I haven't been here all year -- we hadn't been playing too well when I took over," manager Jack McKeon said. "About two weeks later we started to come together as a club. Now we have some great camaraderie among the players on this team, guys pulling together for each other. They've blended into a cohesive unit. Winning had a very positive effect on the attitude of the team."
A few of the Florida players were asked to nominate a player and pitcher of the first half of the year. Among those who answered, most named Mike Lowell as offensive player of the year and all named Dontrelle Willis as the team's best pitcher.
"He's come up and really sparked the team. Right now there's no question that he's our MVP," catcher Mike Redmond noted. "He's got eight wins and 10 or 11 quality starts. He's given us exactly what we needed after we lost our ace A. J. Burnett. We needed someone to come in and energize our team. It's refreshing to have a guy like that on your side."
"Juan had a diving catch in Boston. He made a diving catch and then doubled the runner off at second to end the game."
-- Marlins catcher Mike Redmond
"Dontrelle has been a huge boost for us," said Lowell. "He's been pitching great. Even when you don't score, we can still win games 3-1 or 4-2."
Some Marlins also pointed to outstanding defensive accomplishments of the first part of the season.
For individual play of the year to date, Juan Pierre received votes for two different highlight plays.
"He had one catch at the wall in Philly," Lowell said, "I don't how he caught the ball."
"He must have jumped like he was blocking a shot in the NBA," Willis said of the play against the Phillies.
"Juan had a diving catch in Boston," Redmond added. " He made a diving catch and then doubled the runner off at second to end the game."
Many players had trouble coming up with one individual play that caught their attention. But Redmond hinted that perhaps no play in franchise history could be as remarkable as an inside-the-park home run by a slow-footed catcher, a feat Redmond accomplished in August 2001 that still has his teammates shaking their heads in disbelief.
Pierre noted that from his vantage point in center field, the tandem of Luis Castillo and Alex Gonzalez provides more spectacular defense than he ever could.
"Every day I just say 'Wow!' I'm right behind those two and the way they work together and turn double plays, you almost have to see it every day to appreciate what they do."
The team's radio voice, Dave Van Horne, shared Pierre's view that it's not one individual play, but a consistently reliable defensive team up the middle that has played a huge part in the team's turnaround since late May.
"Without [Castillo and Gonzalez] the team would not have had a good May and June," Van Horne said. "Every good team is strong up the middle. With Rodriguez behind the plate, the two middle infielders and Pierre in center, this is a very strong defense up the middle."
Pierre pointed to a six-game losing streak in May as the low point of the year. Now that things are going in the other direction, Pierre looks to that stretch of the calendar as the turning point so far.
"After dropping six straight in L.A. and Montreal, we played at home and we got on a roll," Pierre said. "The confidence level went up for everybody. We were a lot better than [on that losing streak] and we wanted to go out there and prove it to everybody."
Wallach sighted in Marlins' clubhouse: Tim Wallach has been on hand for the entire series between the Marlins and the Expos which culminates today with Tim Wallch Bobblehead day at Olympic Stadium.
Wallach has close ties to the West Palm Beach area, where the Expos had their Spring Training site for more than 20 years. There are also a large number of Marlins employees who had been with the Expos during Wallach's playing days in the 1980s and early 90s.
The California native signed balls for the likes of Brad Penny, who invited Wallach's sons into the Florida clubhouse for autographs. The first name on the kids' list was Willis.
McKeon shuffles rotation: In the last two games before the All-Star break, the Marlins sent out their two left-handed starters, Redman and Willis. After the four-day break, McKeon will break up the two lefties, inserting Penny between them for the series with the Cubs. The rotation for the next homestand will begin with Redman, Penny and Willis against the Cubs and Josh Beckett and Carl Pavano versus Montreal.
Pierre Moussette is a special contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.