Inbox: Who's winning competition at first?
Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers Marlins fans' questions
Has manager Fredi Gonzalez said who the starting first baseman is going to be? I think it should be Gaby Sanchez, but I don't know much about Logan Morrison.
-- Mark P., Miami Lakes, Fla.
If you look at statistics, the numbers say Sanchez is in the lead at this stage of Spring Training. But Gonzalez is letting the competition go down to the wire. "I'm not even looking at the numbers right now," he told reporters the other day. "Just let them go out and play. A lot can happen."
Still, it's hard to ignore that Sanchez is producing right now, while Morrison has struggled. In fairness to Morrison, he has been robbed of some hits on hard-hit balls. An observation being made in camp is Morrison this year is where Sanchez was a year ago. Entering Spring Training in 2009, Sanchez was provided with the chance to win a starting job. Yet, from the start of camp, Sanchez had a tough time in the field and at the plate. Then he hurt his knee, and he opened the season in Triple-A New Orleans.
Thus far, Morrison has been a bit shaky. But don't read too much into it. Morrison is a terrific-looking prospect, who should have a tremendous future. Yes, there are a few more weeks and plenty of chances for Morrison to build a stronger case. The safe assumption right now is that Sanchez will win the job.
Why isn't there much talk about keeping John Baker in the No. 2 hole, where he was at last season? He was great there.
-- Joey T., Boca Raton, Fla.
The Marlins are considering batting Cameron Maybin second, and having Baker hit sixth or seventh. That isn't etched in stone, as Baker and Maybin have been slowed by injuries in camp. Baker has been out with a right forearm muscle strain, and Maybin is nursing a strained left groin.
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Baker may indeed get his share of batting second, but first he has to get back on the field and show that he is healthy. He could be playing in games by the end of the week. In 2009, Baker had 67 at-bats batting second, and he hit .284 with a .368 on-base percentage. The majority of his at-bats, however, came in the fifth spot. In 123 at-bats there, he hit .228 with a .307 on-base percentage. The thinking with Maybin hitting second is to get him in a more favorable spot to see pitches, especially with Hanley Ramirez behind him. Keeping Maybin at the top of the order also adds a speed threat.
If Maybin isn't ready or he struggles at the No. 2 spot, I wouldn't be surprised to see Baker get some chances there.
Why not sign a John Smoltz-type presence, a veteran who could be either the fifth starter or win a spot in the bullpen? Smoltz would be a veteran influence that the team has lacked since 2008. Developing players is, of course, important. But so is winning. Besides, there's something to be said of learning by example.
-- Sean M., Miami Beach, Fla.
First off, the Marlins have no interest in Smoltz. The veteran's name came up a few times in the offseason, and nothing progressed. Keep in mind, Smoltz will turn 43 on May 15. With his Hall of Fame-caliber resume, he may have some demands of his own -- like preferring to start over relieve. Perhaps the biggest question is, would he really help the Marlins? In 2009, his numbers with the Red Sox and Cardinals were 3-8 with a 6.35 ERA. He threw 78 innings last year.
So if you're the Marlins, you ask yourself: Would you go with Smoltz, or let 23-year-old Sean West continue to develop? As a rookie in 2009, West was 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 103 1/3 big league innings. When you match numbers, it's hard to say the team would be better off with the veteran in that case. Now, I used West as an example. But you could apply the same argument to Chris Volstad, Rick VandenHurk, Hayden Penn and Andrew Miller. All are still developing.
You mention "learning by example." Sometimes having a veteran to help mold a younger player is important. Bottom line is, though, if a veteran isn't producing, his message can get lost. The 23-year-old Marlins pitchers right now are watching and listening to what 26-year-old Josh Johnson has to say.
Why didn't the Marlins bring back Alfredo Amezaga? Sure he was injured, but he is better now.
-- Gabriel M., Miami
It was a tough choice to not retain Amezaga. The front office wrestled with its decision to non-tender him. The team also considered re-signing him, but was worried about his medical risk. Amezaga had microfracture surgery on his left kneecap, and he didn't start running until January. The Dodgers ended up signing him, and the Marlins now are looking at other utility options. Emilio Bonifacio can fill a similar role, meaning he can play in the infield and the outfield. Whether Bonifacio produces the way Amezaga did, remains to be seen.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.