In America's pastime, to some the best sport around, in order to maintain your job at the big league level, you must be successful at the plate. Those that do not hit get demoted until they are able to contribute to their team the way their organization believes that they can. Batting .300 or above is considered successful, and those that stay in the .250 zone all season tend to keep their positions as well. "Baseball is the only game that you can hit the ball 3 out of 10 times and be considered amazing" the critics insist. Fielding can only get you so far, as one young man in the Marlins organization has now learned.
After the mid-season call-ups of outfielders Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton, those that assessed the Marlins' farm system came to the conclusion that the best prospect in their system is third baseman Matt Dominguez. Dominguez, only 21 years of age, knew that this spring he was going to have an opportunity to win the third base job. Two of Dominguez's fellow teammates know exactly how he felt. Both Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison had an opportunity to make the 25 man roster the past two springs, and in each of their first attempts, they were both unsuccessful.
Dominguez has been noted as a future gold glove winner, however he was very well aware that his offense must improve to ensure a spot on the big league roster. The start of the spring was fine for Dominguez: Hit a little, and played some defense, all of which was expected of him once camp broke out. Towards the middle of the Grapefruit League schedule, Dominguez began to tank: He was out in front of several pitches, and he was taking that frustration into the field with him. The front office and other personnel, including manager Edwin Rodriguez, made it clear that Dominguez did not need to be rushed to the big leagues. After a few more rocky games, the frustration grew and the confidence lowered, signs that it was time to remain in the minors. Dominguez was demoted, and nobody wearing a Marlins uniform was panicking.
Internal options were available, and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest made it clear that the organization is not afraid to look externally. Luis Castillo was brought up for a few short moments, but after the team didn't show much interest, the Phillies took the chance with the former All-Star second baseman. Castillo was recently released, not performing as expected. One option was for former Braves second baseman Omar Infante to slide over to third base and put Emilio Bonifacio at his most comfortable position, second base. It was very, very likely that Bonifacio would make the team anyway, which made the team ponder a little longer.
One of the hottest bats all spring long belonged to Donnie Murphy. He was hitting around .260, and getting time at third base. His defense was above average, and more importantly he was healthy. After severely injuring his wrist in a game last September, Murphy was unsure of whether he would be ready for the spring. A few short months later, Murphy found himself as the opening day third baseman of the Florida Marlins.
Wes Helms, a leader and veteran presence in the Marlins' clubhouse, was given a contract last year and of course had his typical "so-so" spring. Helms was not as successful last season as in the past due to the fact that he had no lefty to accompany him on the bench. The Marlins signed former Phillies great Greg Dobbs, and after one of the best spring trainings of his career, Dobbs made the team as Helms' partner in crime. One spot was on the roster was left, and most speculated that it belonged to Dewayne Wise. Wise had a good spring himself, however after injuring a toe, Wise was released, and Scott Cousins, who was with the team in September of last year , made the sqad as an additional lefty bat and fourth outfielder.
The rotation was set, leaving absolutely no surprises. Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Javier Vazquez, Anibal Sanchez, and Chris Volstad was how it was set up since early November. The bullpen had drama, as Brian Sanches Edward Mujica, and Burke Badenhop had to compete for two of the final spots. Sanches and Mujica were selected primarly because they were out of options, and Badenhop was not. Exposing Sanches and Mujica would probably mean losing them.
Leo Nunez, Clay Hensley, Mike Dunn, Edward Mujica, Brian Sanches, Randy Choate, and Ryan Webb shape up the bullpen. John Baker will spend the beginning of the season on the DL, which means that John Buck will get most of the playing time. Opening Day 2011 will be Edwin Rodriguez's first opening day as a major league manager. Perry Hill and a promising defense are expected to follow. Another long anticipated, dramatic baseball season awaits. The last of Sun Life Stadium for the Fish of southern Florida.