Marlins' catchers prep for no contact at plate
Backstops working in advance of rule to eliminate collisions at home
JUPITER, Fla. -- The first couple of days, Marlins catchers worked on blocking pitches in the dirt. On Tuesday, they were introduced to how to no longer block the plate.
In anticipation of the new Major League Baseball rule aimed at eliminating home plate collisions, the Miami catchers did some preliminary drills on how to tag without bracing for possible contact with a runner.
Specifics on the rule change are expected on Thursday, the Marlins' first full-squad workout at Roger Dean Stadium.
"For the catchers, we've got to try to prepare them for what's coming, until we find out exactly how they're going to implement it," manager Mike Redmond said. "The good thing is, you always work on catchers catching the ball and making the tag anyway. We're going to continue down that path."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia notes there will be an adjustment.
"It's going to be tough," he said. "You're asking guys who have been doing it since they've been kids to change what they've been accustomed to."
In Tuesday's drill, the catchers positioned in front of the plate, fielded a toss and applied an imaginary tag while sliding a few feet on one knee.
"As a runner, you have to slide," Saltalamacchia said. "You've been doing that forever. But as a catcher, you have to think about so many things at a split second."
Saltalamacchia also said there must be some direction from the umpires.
"We've got to set a rule, and we're going to need the umpires to come out and kind of explain it to us, because it's going to be on them," Saltalamacchia said. "It's not going to be a video review, from what I understand. We need them to be like, 'We're going to be OK with that, or we're not going to be OK with that.' We need to know."
Marlins remove ban on beards for players
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins aren't making any "fear the beard" claims, but the organization no longer is frowning upon them.
Miami has officially relaxed it's facial hair policy, and beards are now allowed.
"This year, we're going to let them have beards, but they have to keep it trimmed up," manager Mike Redmond said.
The same also holds true for slightly longer hair.
"We just don't want it to be sloppy," Redmond said.
For the players, it's a small victory. From the organization's point of view, it's being flexible.
"We're just always adjusting," Redmond said.
For many years, the Marlins have had a pretty tight policy when it came to facial hair and longer hair in general.
In 2006, the policy was even tighter in Joe Girardi's lone season as manager.
In recent years, players have sported goatees, again, as long as they were groomed.
Even last year, Ricky Nolasco sported a mild beard on occasion, but he had to keep it closely trimmed.
The modified rule benefits reliever Chaz Roe, a non-roster invitee who came to camp with a longer beard than most. The beard stays, but it isn't as wild.
Hair on the back of the neck also has to been under control.
Lefty Brian Flynn said he had 3 1/2 inches of hair taken off the back of his neck to adhere to team policy.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who joins the Marlins after being with the Red Sox, is fine to keep his beard. His hair length also is fine.
"Salty is good," Redmond said.
"I've always kind of had one, so it's good for me," Saltalamacchia said. "The game is changing. You're starting to have to adapt to some of the younger guys coming up, and things are changing. ... I'm not against rules. Just don't take advantage of them."
Saltalamacchia noted that owner Jeffrey Loria has agreed to bend the policy a bit, and now it is up to the players to not go too far.
"This has been a rule for a long time, I understand," Saltalamacchia said. "He's allowed us to do it. We need to take advantage of it, and not go too far."
The Marlins have one of the younger teams in the league, which prompted Redmond to say: "We've only got a handful of guys who can grow a beard."
Slowey aims to repeat spring camp history
JUPITER, Fla. -- Different season, same situation for Kevin Slowey.
Last Spring Training, Slowey entered Marlins camp as a non-roster invitee with no guarantee of making the club. The veteran right-hander impressed and ended up finding himself as the Game 2 starter.
This year, Slowey finds himself back with the Marlins as a non-roster candidate trying to win a spot among a group of promising young pitching prospects.
It wasn't a given Slowey would return.
After the 2013 season, he declined a Minor League assignment and became a free agent. He then weighed all of his options.
On Jan. 8, the Marlins announced the right-hander had agreed to rejoin the organization.
"There are always opportunities out there," Slowey said. "But for me, there is nothing better than a known commodity. Not just knowing the players in this clubhouse but the front office and the staff."
The 29-year-old also was a teammate of Marlins manager Mike Redmond during his tenure with the Twins.
"I know they're going to be honest with me, and shoot straight with me, and tell me if there is an opportunity," Slowey said. "If there is, great. If there is not, we'll find somewhere else to go."
Slowey went 3-6 with a 4.11 ERA in 20 games -- 14 starts -- last year.
After logging 92 innings, his season ended in late July due to right forearm discomfort.
Slowey was examined by Dr. James Andrews, who claimed the pitcher was bothered by a flexor strain. Six weeks of not throwing was recommended.
"By the end of last year, before we left, I had thrown a couple of bullpens," he said. "I felt confident going into the offseason. Then I started up with bullpens at the middle of November to the end of November."
Prospect Suggs lends another power arm
JUPITER, Fla. -- Fastball velocity is not registered by the height of a pitcher.
Marlins prospect Colby Suggs is among a growing list to prove hard-throwers come in all sizes. The 22-year-old right-hander has had his fastball velocity clocked as high as 99 mph.
"There are a lot of short guys out there who are throwing pretty hard right now," Suggs said. "I'm not your prototypical 6-foot-5 pitcher. I go out there and compete. That's what I bring to the table."
At his recent physical, Suggs was measured at 5-11 1/2.
"Six foot in shoes," he said.
Suggs is quick to remind Craig Kimbrel and Fernando Rodney are small in stature but possess power arms.
A compact, 230-pounder who is one of the strongest Miami prospects in the weight room, Suggs is regarded as a bulldog on the mound.
"I work out hard, I'll say that," he said. "I like to have fun off the field. Once you step on the field, it's all business. I like to attack hitters and just dominate them. I think that is everybody's goal when they're on the mound."
The Marlins plan on getting a good look at Suggs on the mound in Spring Training.
A non-roster invitee, the right-hander was Miami's compensatory second-round Draft pick out of the University of Arkansas last year.
Like they have with many of their young prospects, the Marlins are giving Suggs a taste of big league camp, and what to expect down the line.
Suggs made 22 Minor League appearances last year, posting a 3.29 ERA in 22 appearances. He struck out 38 in 27 1/3 innings and saw action in 14 games at Class A Advanced Jupiter.
"Right now, I'm just trying to soak it in, and just enjoy the experience," he said. "You try to get better by watching some of the older guys, and getting to know them a little bit. I'm trying to get comfortable picking their brains. It's pretty cool to see all these guys who have had a lot of success."
In college, Suggs was primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher. He describes the curveball more as a "slurve" with the way it breaks. He's been working on a changeup, but it isn't yet polished.
"It's a developing pitch right now," he said. "I've been working on it hard in the offseason. It's coming along. Obviously, I'm not going to learn a new pitch in a year after I've been pitching for so many years."