Valentine an obvious upgrade for Marlins

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Keeping a team controlled by the game’s most tight-fisted owner in contention is no easy feat, and Fredi Gonzalez has a perfectly acceptable .499 winning percentage in his three years at the helm of the Marlins. Still, Florida’s success owes far more to the underrated Larry Beinfest than anyone else in the organization. Gonzalez has proven to be a liability time and time again with his managerial decisions, and the Marlins would be in better hands with Bobby Valentine at the helm.
Gonzalez simply has too many blind spots. His biggest this year was named Emilio Bonifacio. The 24-year-old became the everyday third baseman and leadoff hitter out of spring training this year, though little in his record justified the decision. He proved to be a big liability after a hot first two weeks, yet he was still impossible to pry out of the lineup until upper management forced his hand by acquiring Nick Johnson, requiring that Jorge Cantu be moved back to third.
Gonzalez just doesn’t seem to have any idea what constitutes good offense. His lineups are always a mess. Hanley Ramirez is, of course, awesome whether hitting first or third. But outside of the third spot, the Marlins got more offense from the sixth and eighth places in the order than any other this year. They received completely inadequate production from the second, fourth and fifth spots surrounding Ramirez, and they only did well in the leadoff spot because of Chris Coghlan’s incredible performance after supplanting Bonifacio.
This is nothing new. In 2008, their top spots for offense, besides Hanley Ramirez way up in the leadoff spot, were sixth and then fifth. Those guys were rarely coming up in the same inning as Ramirez.
Gonzalez has perhaps fared a little better when it’s come to pitching, though his fixation on making the hardest thrower in the pen a closer has been a problem. In 2007, it was Jorge Julio who started off with the job. In 2008, Kevin Gregg was kept in the closer’s role well after his season was shot. In 2009, it was an injury, not a 6.52 ERA over the first 2 1/2 months, that cost Matt Lindstrom his job.
I can’t blame Gonzalez for the Marlins’ defensive woes, as that’s clearly a team effort. Gonzalez seems to have the clubhouse behind him, so if he’s put in a position in which he could have a set lineup without much need for maneuvering, he’d be an adequate manager. He’s no Valentine, though, and he’s probably not the guy to take the Marlins to the next level. Unlike with the Joe Girardi fiasco, a switch was warranted this time.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.