7/2/2013 7:58 P.M. ET
Marlins start second half with renewed optimism
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- The All-Star break may be July 15-18, but technically, the Marlins' second half began on Tuesday.
The Marlins were 30-51 over their first 81 games, the exact halfway point.
While they sport the worst record in the National League, the team is clearly in the midst of a turnaround. They went 15-10 in June and are 17-10 since May 31.
A number of key players, including Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison, have returned from injury. The rotation has added Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner, and Henderson Alvarez is coming off the disabled list to pitch Thursday at Atlanta.
The Marlins have a healthy roster and a renewed optimism that they will become more competitive in the second half.
"We're a different team," manager Mike Redmond said. "Different attitude. Different everything. Those first two months, we had 11 or 12 guys on the DL. That was rough. We just didn't have the guys to bring up to recover it. Now, to get everyone back, especially the pitching.
"Now as a manager, this is the team we initially thought we would have out of Spring Training. We were hoping we would be able to evaluate those guys since the first of the season. Really, it has just started over the last few weeks. I like the depth that we have now. I like our pitching, and our offense is scrappy."
Brantly seeking consistent approach at, behind plate
ATLANTA -- High-energy by nature, Rob Brantly is seeking a more steady approach.
The Marlins catcher remains an unfinished product, behind the plate and in the batter's box.
Like so many young players with the Marlins, Brantly is being groomed as the catcher of the future. Along the way, he's enduring his ups and downs. Still, he's relatively new to the big leagues.
Tuesday's start against the Braves is career game No. 80 for Brantly, 49 of them coming this year.
"The thing with me is consistency," said the left-handed hitting catcher, who turns 24 on July 14. "It's constantly building that consistency, to be the rock behind the dish.
"I've felt like since the beginning, I've made some great strides behind the plate, as far as what I'm doing physically. My throws have been spot on. Blocking has gone really well, and my receiving is getting better every day. My confidence in calling a game is getting better every day. Now, it's just eliminating those one little hiccups."
Brantly has been charged with six passed balls, and he's developing his game-calling skills.
Entering Tuesday's contest, in games in which Brantly has been behind the dish, Marlins' pitchers have a 4.41 ERA in 416 1/3 innings. Veteran Jeff Mathis, by comparison, has not committed a passed ball. In 175 1/3 innings of catching, Miami's pitchers have a 2.41 ERA when Mathis is catching.
Both have been solid at throwing out potential basestealers.
Mathis has caught 11-of-16 attempting to steal, a remarkable 68.8 percent. Brantly, with twice as many chances, has a respectable 12-for-33 (36.4 percent).
Brantly is learning from watching Mathis.
"He's consistent," Brantly said. "He throws runners out. He calls a solid game every time he is out there. He's exactly what you want out of a catcher. I want to learn from his ability to be consistent."
Redmond endorses Fernandez for All-Star Game
ATLANTA -- If those selecting the National League pitching staff for the All-Star Game are on the fence, Mike Redmond is giving his endorsement to Jose Fernandez.
Quite frankly, Fernandez was dominating in the Marlins' 4-0 win over the Padres on Monday evening at Marlins Park.
The 20-year-old rookie struck out 10 and allowed just two hits over eight scoreless innings.
Fernandez lowered his ERA to 2.72, moving ahead of St. Louis' Shelby Miller (2.79) to lead all NL rookie starters in ERA. Overall, Fernandez ranks 10th among National League starters.
Asked if Fernandez should be an All-Star, Redmond said on Tuesday: "I don't make those decisions, but I think he should be. He's been consistent. He's pitched well. I guess it just depends on what do they need? Do they need another starter? He's pitched really well for a young kid."
On a team with 30 total wins, Fernandez sports a 5-4 record, and he has 94 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings.
Redmond sees Fernandez's impact similar to that of Dontrelle Willis, who was an All-Star as a rookie in 2003.
"I think back to Dontrelle. He came up and won nine straight games," said Redmond, a backup catcher on that team. "Had we had maybe this team from the first start, maybe [Fernandez's] record would be a lot better."
According to STATS LLC, on Monday, Fernandez became the third pitcher since 1921, age 20 or younger, to combine for 10-plus strikeouts, two hits or fewer and one walk or fewer in a game. Dwight Gooden (1984) and Kerry Wood (1998) were the others.
"You look at a game like that," Redmond said. "He was dominating."
Fernandez defected from Cuba five years ago, and he made the leap to the big leagues without pitching higher than Class A.
Fernandez's next start is scheduled for Sunday at St. Louis.
"I think you are looking at the guy who has the ability to be the face of our franchise," Redmond said. "A guy who is 20-years-old, and he's come to the big leagues, and he's been so good for us. You look at his story and what he's been able to do. He's a great story. He's got the ability to be a No. 1 pitcher for a long time."
Solano provides depth, versatility to lineup
ATLANTA -- When the season got underway, Donovan Solano was the Marlins' regular second baseman. He now rejoins the team in a utility capacity.
The Marlins officially recalled Solano from Triple-A New Orleans, where he had hit safely in all 17 games he played for the Zephyrs.
Derek Dietrich took over at second base after Solano went on the disabled list on May 7 with a strained left intercostal muscle. Upon being reinstated on June 9, he was optioned to New Orleans, where he batted .379.
Solano adds another right-handed bat off the bench after left-handed hitting Jordan Brown was optioned to New Orleans on Monday night.
"Having Solano on the bench gives us some double-switch opportunities," manager Mike Redmond said. "He can play multiple positions."
Solano and Ed Lucas can fill in at third base, second base and shortstop. So Solano could give shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria an occasional breather. He also could make starts at second base against left-handed pitchers.
"We can mix and match, or run him out there against a lefty in an all-righty lineup, as well," Redmond said.
• With Alvarez joining the rotation on Thursday, three starters are being given an extra day of rest. So the rotation for the St. Louis trip will be Turner (Friday), Eovaldi (Saturday) and Fernandez (Sunday).