Inbox: Will club call up top prospect Heaney?
Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers Marlins fans' questions
If Jacob Turner remains out for an extended period of time, do you think Andrew Heaney will get a chance soon? So far, in a small sample size, he has looked pretty good.
-- Steven J., Jacksonville, Fla.
The Marlins, like many teams, wrestle with the question of when a player is ready. We're seeing the D-backs dealing with a similar situation right now with pitcher Archie Bradley, their top prospect.
According to MLB.com, Heaney is the No. 1 lefty pitching prospect in the Majors. He is living up to the billing at Double-A Jacksonville, where he is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA in three starts, including 16 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. Still, I don't expect to see Heaney before June, but it's a fluid situation.
The Marlins are in no hurry, but if there is an emergency, they could change their mind. Keep in mind, Heaney is a big piece of the future, and the club is being careful with him.
Yes, there is the business side of the sport, and the issue of arbitration and Super Two status are factors. It's no secret many teams delay service time when they can.
But Miami does have a lot of pitching depth, and right now, there isn't an urgency to make a quick call.
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The Marlins are also hopeful that Turner (right shoulder sprain) isn't far from being ready to return. And with some upcoming days off, the team is leaning toward going with a four-man rotation until early May. In the meantime, Heaney can keep developing and work on aspects of his game, like holding on runners and pitching out of the stretch.
Although Miami expects to be more competitive this season, the organization doesn't want to take shortcuts and make hasty moves. A year ago, Jake Marisnick reached the big leagues in July, and while he did get a taste of Major League life, he is in the Minors smoothing out his overall game.
There is no harm in overdeveloping a player.
Giancarlo Stanton has been so hot this month, do you think that he is happy here now and is willing to sign long-term with the Marlins, or he will end up being traded?
-- George D., Sunrise, Fla.
We might as well get the obligatory "Stanton's future in Miami question" out of the way, because it always seems to come up. The past few seasons, the slugger has struggled early, mostly because of health issues, and he's then picked it up during the season. We're seeing what Stanton can do when healthy and he has runners on base in front of him.
As for Stanton's future, keep in mind he is in just his first year of arbitration, and he isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season. He's making $6.5 million, so he remains affordable for Miami.
Before the season, the Marlins made it publicly known they were open to talking about a contract extension with Stanton. But he and his agent, Joel Wolfe, made it clear they wanted to wait and see regarding the level of long-term stability within the organization. The club also wants to see if Stanton can stay on the field.
Negotiations are not expected during this season, and I continue to believe a deal could get done after the season. That is, if the club is heading in the right direction.
If Miami rebounds from this rough stretch and makes a strong push, it would increase the chances of a multiyear deal getting done, in my opinion. If the season unravels, the trade rumor questions will certainly pick up. They always do. Who knows if there will be an offer presented that will make the organization listen.
Until this point, the Marlins have made it very clear Stanton is considered a big part of their future.
What is going on with the bullpen, and why won't manager Mike Redmond use A.J. Ramos more? Ramos is the best setup man on the team. There have been too many late-inning issues.
-- Ricardo S., Miami Gardens, Fla.
Bullpen struggles have underscored the losing stretch. In the last nine games, Miami's relievers are 0-4 with a 7.31 ERA, and they've given up an astonishing seven home runs.
They have especially been burned in the eighth inning, as we saw again Wednesday night. Mike Dunn allowed the go-ahead home run to Zach Walters of the Nationals to lead off the eighth.
Execution of pitches has been a big problem. You can also say pitch selection is an issue. There have been a lot of breaking pitches by pitchers who throw 95-plus mph that are finding too much of the plate.
In the past week, offspeed pitches have been belted for homers in the late innings by Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Walters.
What started the tailspin was the final game of the San Diego series. The decisive homer came off Nathan Eovaldi, a starter. But the home run was by Alexi Amarista, who hit a slider off one of the hardest throwers in the game.
As for Ramos, he's already been in eight of 16 games, and projects to lead the team in appearances. The Major League leaders entering Thursday were J.P. Howell and Kenley Jansen, each of the Dodgers, with 10.
As Redmond said, he needs Ramos, Dunn and Carlos Marmol to all pitch the eighth.
There has been so much talk about how big Marlins Park is and how the Miami hitters would like to see the fences moved in, but the team seems to be scoring a lot of runs at home. Should the fences be moved in or stay the same?
-- Stephanie B., Aventura, Fla.
My feeling is the walls should be moved in a bit in center field and the gaps. Lowering the height of the fences also would help, as it would reward hitters without really compromising the pitching.
That said, the front office's offseason plan to piece together a lineup that fits the ballpark is working. The team is using the park to its advantage.
Let's compare last year to this. Through April 17, 2013, the Marlins had played nine games at home. In that span, they scored 18 total runs, hit nine doubles, one triple, one home run, had 17 RBIs and batted .179.
The same time frame this year, Miami has played 10 home games, and the team has scored 58 runs, hit 23 doubles, three triples, six home runs, has 55 RBIs and is batting .293.
Does it mean in that Marlins Park has become a hitters' park in its third season? Not necessarily. But the players assembled are taking advantage of the spacious gaps and getting plenty of extra-base hits and scoring runs.
When will Rafael Furcal be ready? When he gets back, which infielder goes down?
-- Brett H., Pompano Beach, Fla.
Furcal (left hamstring strain) is on a rehab assignment, and the team expects him to use pretty much all 20 days allotted. He could be back around May 5 at home against the Mets.
This week, Furcal has been playing with Class A Jupiter, and next week, he likely will go to Double-A Jacksonville.
Who gets sent down is tough to say, because so much can happen between now and then. Derek Dietrich has been starting at second base and he needs to play every day. But if he is producing, it would be difficult to make that move. Donovan Solano also is a candidate to be optioned.