Inbox: When will Reyes spark the lineup?
Marlins beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from fans
The way Jose Reyes hit in Spring Training, I thought he was going to have a fast start. It hasn't happened. Why do you think he is slumping?
-- Loren R., Sunrise, Fla.
It's safe to say that one reason the Marlins are having a hard time scoring runs so far is due to Reyes' rough start. You're right, the four-time All-Star shortstop has had a rough time after a strong Spring Training. In 61 Grapefruit League at-bats, he batted a solid .311.
Right now, it's been a struggle for the Miami shortstop, who carries a .230 regular-season average. A year ago, Reyes won the batting title, hitting .337. He got off to a solid start, batting .308 in April. Certainly, there is plenty of time to pick things up. However, if Reyes is to be a .300 or better hitter this season, it is important for him to have respectable numbers in the first month. In 2010, Reyes finished with a .282 average, after hitting .238 in April.
Scoring runs is an issue. It is something that is a concern and will the team look for another bat in a trade?
-- Tim V., Coral Gables, Fla.
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Early in the year, numbers can turn around in a hurry. A few days ago, the Marlins were tied for sixth in the National League in runs scored. Now after the two games at Washington, they've fallen into the bottom half of the NL in runs. Clearly, they've had a stretch of facing high-quality pitching. Manager Ozzie Guillen recently said the overall pitching in the NL is better than he thought.
In time, I think you'll see a more consistent offense. Health will play a factor. Keep in mind, Logan Morrison is being given periodic days off to rest his right knee, which underwent surgery in December. And Giancarlo Stanton isn't at full strength with his left knee. Now, Omar Infante, who opened the season as the team's hottest hitter, has missed a few games with a strained left groin.
More than personnel, I see it as a lack of continuity right now. When the lineup is together and healthy, the production should dramatically pick up. As for a possible trade, it's way too early to consider something like that.
Should we worry that Omar Infante's injury will linger? Infante is having a great season and it would be a bad break if he is out for a while.
-- Andres H., Miami
If not carefully taken care of, these minor ailments can last a while. That's why Infante has not started since last Tuesday. He has a mild left groin strain, and the hope is he will be back on Tuesday at the Mets.
The timing of the injury is tough, because Infante is off to a hot start. In the short term, Donnie Murphy or Emilio Bonifacio are filling in. The positive you have to take out of Infante being out is it allows some bench players an opportunity to contribute. In order to be a playoff-caliber team, the Marlins will need their bench to step up. Now is one of those times.
What do you make of Josh Johnson's velocity and his strikeouts being down? JJ hasn't been the same. Is he OK?
-- Mitchell P., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Physically, Johnson says he is fine. A number of baseball insiders I've spoken to agree. There are no indications that the strength of his shoulder is an issue. Obviously, Johnson hasn't been throwing 96-97 mph as he did in the past. But his velocity touches 95 on occasion, and it is regularly at 93.
A slight dip in velocity isn't that uncommon for pitchers returning from shoulder injuries. Still, the Marlins feel Johnson's velocity will increase as the weather warms up and the season progresses. You see that often with many pitchers, who build up during the long year.
The dip in strikeouts certainly is something to monitor. Johnson has always been a power pitcher, and he's been able to blow away hitters with his fastball. Key for him is his slider, which is among the best in the game when he is sharp.
What's taking a little while to develop is Johnson's sharpness. It's understandable because he missed so much time last year. Look for better strikeout numbers when his secondary pitches get sharper.
It was tough to watch Carlos Zambrano pitch the way he did at Washington the other night and still lose. If Zambrano keeps throwing the way he's been, he should be just fine. Big Z needs some run support.
-- Christian M., Doral, Fla.
Cleary, Zambrano deserves better than an 0-1 record after three starts. His ERA is an impressive 2.84. Probably the most encouraging part of Zambrano's seven-inning outing last Friday at Washington is that out of his 80 pitches, 53 were strikes. He didn't walk anybody, which is huge considering he struggled finding the plate in previous starts.
Overall, it is very encouraging to see how Zambrano has thrown. He's been going deep into games, and his velocity has been 92 and sometimes 93. Zambrano has also been able to use his secondary pitches to get strikeouts.
The downside is you hate to waste quality outings. Zambrano has thrown well and the team has lost all three times he's started.