The Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate Jacksonville Suns began the season with a sizzling 5-1 start, however since our last report the Suns have gone 1-6 and are now under .500 at 6-7.
The hitters are having a tough time getting going at the plate, with Jacksonville’s team batting average at .203, which is next-to-last in the Southern League.
After winning the first two games against the Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays) last week, the Suns lost the next three games to drop the series. In this series against the Biloxi Shuckers (Milwaukee Brewers), the Suns have lost three of the first four games for a second straight series loss.
Here’s a look back at those games from where we left off last week.
The Suns looked poised for their sixth straight win last Friday, and the comeback magic shown in the first two games against Montgomery almost came back in the ninth inning. The Suns entered that frame trailing 3-1 before Justin Bohn’s RBI single put the Suns to within a run. However with the tying run at third base and Bohn at first, Isaac Galloway grounded into a game-ending double play that snapped Jacksonville’s five-game winning streak.
Saturday’s contest featured the most offense we’ve seen in a Suns game this season. After the Biscuits went in front 3-0 in the top of the fourth, the Suns rallied in the bottom of the inning for five runs to go back in front 5-3. The Biscuits matched that with a five-run top of the fifth inning, then poured on three runs in the sixth and a run in the eighth to win 12-5. Montgomery hit four homers in the game, and Austin Brice suffered the loss by allowing six runs on six hits in his four and a third innings of work.
The Biscuits took the rubber match of the series 2-0 last Sunday, scratching runs off Suns spot starter Matt Tomshaw in the second and third innings. Brian Ellington and Sean Donatello were impressive out of the bullpen, not allowing any runs in the final three innings of the game. No Suns had a multi-hit game, and Jacksonville did not have an extra-base hit in the contest.
Monday’s first game of the series between the Suns and Shuckers was postponed due to rain, setting up a doubleheader on Tuesday at Bragan Field. The Shuckers, serving as the home team due to construction delays of their ballpark in Biloxi, gave Marlins prospect Trevor Williams his first loss of the year. Williams allowed five runs on eight hits in his four and a third innings on the mound. The Suns lone hit came from Carlos Lopez, as the offense was stifled by the strong pitching of Biloxi starter Brooks Hall, who also hit a home run to help his cause.
The Suns regrouped and won the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader 5-2. After the Shuckers scored a pair of runs off starter Chipper Smith in the bottom of the first, the Suns came right back with a Terrence Dayleg RBI double in the second to make it 2-1. Jacksonville went in front in the fifth with a two-run home run from Matt Juengel, and Ryan Rieger had a two-run triple in the seventh to put the final score at 5-2.
Kendry Flores suffered his second straight loss while the offense had a tough time getting going in a 4-1 loss to the Shuckers Wednesday afternoon. The game featured the first Double-A home run for prospect Justin Bohn, yet it was only one of three hits for the Suns and Jacksonville didn’t have any hits in the final six innings of the game.
The Suns were nearly shutout in the fourth game of the series, yet a Biloxi wild pitch in the ninth brought in the lone Suns run. Terrence Dayleg was the only Sun with a multi-hit day going 2-for-4, while Austin Brice had his first professional hit. Yet Brice on the mound suffered his second straight loss, allowing five runs on seven hits in three and a third innings pitched.
MARLINS CATCHING COORDINATOR BOBBY RAMOS Q&A
In addition to Jacksonville’s coaching staff led by manager David Berg, the Marlins have roving instructors that check in with all levels of the organization for further coaching for Miami minor leaguers. One of those instructors is Bobby Ramos, who is now in his fourth season in the Marlins organization and as the Catching Coordinator. Ramos, who played six years in the big leagues with the Montreal Expos, is also the Latin Coordinator for the Marlins, and I visited with him in Jacksonville on Thursday.
Hoover: Bobby welcome back to Jacksonville, how have you been?
Ramos: Awesome! Last year was a great year winning the championship here in Double-A and I appreciate the beautiful ring!
Hoover: How exciting was that for you to keep up with, the Suns had to win their final 10 games of the year to make it to the postseason and then took care of business in the playoffs and ended up winning 16 of the final 17 games?
Ramos: To be honest, everybody was following the games. We could not believe what was happening and the way they did it. They did it in a good old fashioned way, great baseball, and I know how exciting it must have been for the people here, they were grinding it out every day for over 140 games. And to get to see something like that at the end of the year – it’s awesome.
Hoover: The Suns now in this 2015 season trying to get going and new catchers for Jacksonville after we saw J.T. Realmuto be the everyday catcher the past two seasons. But now Brandon Bantz and Sharif Othman behind the plate for the Suns, what have you seen out of those two?
Ramos: They’re doing a great job defensively. Those guys have a lot of experience. Othman is a switch-hitter, Bantz had some time in the big leagues and also Triple-A, he’s proven that he can play at this level. We’re excited to have those two guys, especially after we lost the guys that we had – Austin Barnes and J.T. Realmuto – we did a great job with those kids and these guys are going to do a great job too. They’re handling the staff real well. We’re playing .500 ball now but we’re going to get hot and start rolling again.
Hoover: A lot of times you’re working with very young catchers at the GCL or Dominican level, is it fun when you’re at the upper levels of the organization to get a veteran like Bantz who has a lot of tools already, now it’s just a matter of fine tuning them?
Ramos: These guys are a little more developed, they’re more polished, so now you get into the mental aspect of how to call a game. We watched video, watched some things about how to attack the hitters, how to get prepared mentally to play against the other clubs. I love the five game series so you get so see every team a lot, and by the second or third game you should have an idea about how to attack hitters and play them in the field.
Hoover: When you come on a visit like this to Jacksonville, I know you like to spend a lot of time with the catchers and maybe do some drills that they don’t typically get to do before a game, what did you work with them on this week?
Ramos: We taped Othman in between innings, his throws to second base and also had videos of his blocking, and we made little adjustments on his mechanics and all that helps. We’re going to do the same thing with Bantz, and hopefully we’ll have a couple of throws to second base in the game and see where he’s at. Those guys catch the ball clean, they are blocking really well and they’ve been throwing guys out too.
Hoover: We mentioned J.T. Realmuto earlier, how proud are you that J.T. is getting another chance to play in the major leagues and have you seen him improve from last year to this year?
Ramos: Oh yeah. We have to remember that he is a convert from being a shortstop and he’s only caught maybe 400 games? So I’m very proud of the way he’s handling himself at that level, especially at his young age. It was not going to hurt him if he spent the whole year at Triple-A but he’s responding really well to the task.
Hoover: In addition to being the catching coordinator you are the Latin coordinator as well for the Marlins and mentor a lot of young players coming to the United States for the first time, is that a role you are proud to have?
Ramos: Yes. Basically we have English classes on another level the guys that are here for the first time. So we have English classes in place, one in Greensboro, and we really have quality people there. And Brian Chattin (Marlins Director of Player Development) Marty Scott (Marlins Vice President of Player Development), John Pierson (Marlins Field Coordinator) all have done a great job with these things so we’ve made a lot of improvement to make it an even easier transition for those Latin kids that are here for the first time.
The Suns look forward to teaming up with Fish Stripes all season long to give you these Jacksonville Suns reports. You can also find more information about the Suns by visiting our official website: jaxsuns.com, blog: sunsradio.com, Facebook page, Twitter page, and by listening to The Jacksonville Suns Podcast.