Suns Announce 2015 Field Staff

By Brian Delettre / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Suns will have a new manager for the first time in four seasons as David Berg takes over as the field manager for the 2015 season.

Berg is the first skipper change for the Suns since the 2011 season and fourth overall manager since the team’s affiliation with the Marlins began in 2009. Rich Arena is back in Jacksonville for his new role as hitting coach and Derek Botelho, a former Jacksonville Suns pitcher from 1981-82, was named pitching coach following a 12-year coaching career in the Atlanta Braves system.

Cesar Roman and Scott Smith are back for their second season in Jacksonville as trainer and strength and conditioning coach, respectively, to round out the staff.

Berg, who is in his sixth season in the Marlins organization, has spent two of the last three seasons as manager for the single-A affiliate Greensboro Grasshoppers. In 2014, Greensboro finished the year with an 87-53 record, tied for first in the division and earned a playoff berth. He spent the 2013 season as the Marlins minor league infield coordinator after leading Greensboro to the South Atlantic League Championship series in 2012. Berg began managing in the Marlins system for the Jamestown Jammers in 2010.

As a player, Berg was selected by the Marlins out of the University of Miami in the 38th round of the 1993 First-Year Player Draft. He made his Major League debut for the Marlins on April 2, 1998 and he became the lowest-ever draft pick by the franchise to reach the Major Leagues. Berg hit a career best .313 average for the Marlins in 1998. Following the 2001 season, Berg signed with Toronto where he played for three seasons.

Arena enters his third season working with the Suns and fourth overall with the Miami Marlins organization. For the past two seasons, he was the Suns third-base coach and worked with the Suns hitters during daily sessions. Arena spent the 2012 season as the hitting coach for the Jamestown Jammers.

Before getting back into affiliated coaching, Arena worked at Team One Management from 2010-11 and coached as his alma mater, Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School, from 2007-09. He spent the previous 10 years as a scout and coach in the New York Yankees minor league system.

Botelho brings more than 35 years of coaching experience as he enters his first season with the Marlins organization. In 2014, he was the Braves minor league pitching rehabilitation instructor where he was based out of the team facility located in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and worked with minor league pitchers on rehab. Botelho previously served as pitching coach for six Braves affiliates, including the Mississippi Braves in the 2007-08 seasons. Botelho was the pitching coach for the U.S. team in the Future’s Game during the 2009 season. Before the Braves organization, Botelho spent 12 seasons as a pitching coach in the Reds’ organization and 10 years as a player and coach in the Venezuelan winter leagues.

Originally drafted as a shortstop in 1974 by Philadelphia, Betelho eventually signed as a pitcher in 1976 with the Phillies. He compiled more than 100 wins in the minor leagues, and had two stints in the majors in 1982 (Kansas City Royals) and in 1985 (Chicago Cubs). Botelho pitched for the Suns when they were a Royals affiliate during the 1981 and 1982 seasons, combining for 102 innings of work.

Roman is in his ninth year overall as a trainer in the Marlins organization. Before the Marlins, he worked in the Texas Rangers organization (2003-06), while also serving as an athletic trainer for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and 2013 and for Team Panama in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Smith is in his second year in the Marlins organization as strength and conditioning coordinator after working previously at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Ga. Prior to his time in Georgia, Smith was a strength coach with minor league teams in the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals organizations.

The Jacksonville Suns open the season on April 9 to kick off a 20-game home stand at Bragan Field. Season tickets, group outings and sponsorship opportunities for the 2015 season are available by contacting the Suns front office at 904-358-2846 or visiting the team website at jaxsuns.com.

20-Game Homestand Highlights April in Jacksonville

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By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

Jacksonville Suns baseball fans will have plenty of opportunities to watch the club early in the season, as the Suns will start the regular season with the first 20 games being played at Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

In addition to the April 4 exhibition against the Miami Marlins at Bragan Field, a scheduling twist has given added home dates to an already packed April schedule in Jacksonville.

The Suns were set to start the year with a 10-game homestand, first welcoming the Jackson Generals starting with Opening Night on April 9 before the Montgomery Biscuits come in for five games beginning on April 15.

The Suns were slated to travel to Biloxi for the inaugural series of Biloxi Shuckers baseball at MGM Park, but construction delays have forced the Shuckers to alter their April and May schedule, so that series has been moved to Bragan Field.

The Shuckers will be the home team for the five games beginning on April 20, and will wear home uniforms and will go into the boxscore as the home club, despite the Suns playing the games in their home ballpark.

Following the series with Biloxi, the 20-game homestand will conclude with a five-game series with the Birmingham Barons from April 25 to 29.

The month of April won’t truly all be in Jacksonville, with the Suns playing their first true road game of the season on April 30 against the Chattanooga Lookouts in Tennessee. But 20 regular season games and 21 games all together with the Marlins exhibition makes for quite the historic start to the season as the Suns get settled in for the 2015 campaign.

The Suns and Shuckers were also scheduled to meet at MGM Park from May 16 to the 20, however that series has been moved to Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville, Alabama, the previous home of the Huntsville Stars. The Stars franchise moved to Biloxi this offseason, and Joe Davis Stadium will be hosting its final baseball games this season with expected demolition of the 1985 structure set by the end of the year.

With these scheduling twists, the Suns and Shuckers will not face each other in Biloxi this season, making the earliest meeting possible in 2016 barring a South Division Championship Series meeting in the 2015 playoffs.

The Shuckers will also face the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park with Biloxi serving as the home team in early May, and other home series have been scheduled for the Shuckers in Huntsville. According to a Shuckers press release, an occupancy date for MGM Park has not been set, but Biloxi will give a seven-day notice to the Southern League to move games to Biloxi once the park is ready to open.

Tickets are available for the April 20-game homestand along with the April 4 exhibition with the Miami Marlins on http://www.jaxsuns.com or by calling the Suns box office at (904) 358-2846.

Suns face Barons in 2015 Rickwood Classic

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By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

One of the Southern League’s great traditions will feature the Jacksonville Suns this season, as the Suns will play the Birmingham Barons in the 20th annual Rickwood Classic at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday May 27 at 12:30 p.m. CT.

This will be Jacksonville’s third appearance in the classic, losing 3-2 in 2007 before picking up a 4-2 win the next season in 2008. The Suns and Barons are 1-1 in Rickwood Classic meetings.

Former Rookie of the Year, eight-time Major League Baseball All-Star, and four-time World Series champion Darryl Strawberry headlines the game as the Guest of Honor and is available for autographs during the game.

Strawberry spent 17 seasons in the Majors, was elected to eight consecutive All-Star games from 1984-90 and was named National League Rookie of the Year in 1983. During his career, Strawberry suited up for the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees. The slugger won his first World Series title in 1986 with the Mets before winning three with the Yankees (1996, 1998, 1999). The outfielder led the league with 39 home runs and a .545 slugging percentage in 1988 to claim his first of two Silver Slugger awards. Currently, the former big leaguer and his wife, Tracy, are pastors and the founders of Strawberry Ministries.

While the Barons will wear replicas of their 1948 flannels, the Suns will wear their all-yellow uniforms that debuted last season for Sunday throwback games.

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The Rickwood Classic was named Minor League Baseball’s Promotion of the Year in 2010, deemed the most desirable Minor League Baseball game to attend in a poll on MiLB.com in 2009, and was included in the “101 Things All Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die” column written by ESPN.com’s Jim Caple. Over 120,000 people have attended the Rickwood Classic since its inception in 1996 and has been covered by dozens of local and national media outlets – including HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Rickwood Field is America’s oldest ballpark, opening in 1910. The historic field was the longtime home of the Barons until the 1987 season, but the Barons have returned to Rickwood each year since 1996 for the Rickwood Classic.

Tickets for the Suns and Barons in the Rickwood Classic are available through the Barons ticket office by calling (205) 988-3200 or visiting www.barons.com.

#MarlinsMonday – January 26, 2015

New baseballs for the 2015 season with the signature of commissioner Rob Manfred.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

Late last week the Miami Marlins made it official, signing Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal. Ichiro will be a fourth outfielder for the Marlins, taking over the roll that we saw Reed Johnson fill last season.

While Ichiro will not be playing every day, he is another good veteran presence for the Marlins to have in the clubhouse with the young players, especially his fellow outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna.

There continues to be some James Shields to the Marlins chatter, but most of it now is that a deal is unlikely given how much Shields is asking for.

The baseball world lost an icon on Friday, when we learned that Hall of Famer and Cubs legend Ernie Banks passed away. I grew up a Cubs fan, so the news hit home for me, and I wrote about what he meant to the game and my family here.

Here are today’s #MarlinsMonday links:

Marlins.com: Finding at-bats for Ichiro a good problem for Marlins
Marlins.com: Realmuto No. 8 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 C Prospects list
Miami Herald: Greg Cote: Marlins can narrow gap on Nats by adding James Shields
Sun Sentinel: Marlins in running for hosting 2017 All-Star Game
Fish Stripes: Juan Pierre impressed by Marlins’ offseason
Yahoo! Big League Stew: New commissioner Rob Manfred open to defensive-shift ban
MLB.com: Presenting the official 2015 MLB baseball
Chicago Sun Times: Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, leaves this world to play two, if not more
Chicago Tribune: For ebullient Ernie Banks, day at the ballpark was a day in paradise
The New York Times: New Commissioner With a Long-Term Mission

Marlins Announce 2015 Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees

Viosergy Rosa is one of several former Suns that are non-roster invitees to Marlins spring training. Photo Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

The Miami Marlins announced the list of non-roster invitees to spring training on Wednesday afternoon. In the list are 15 minor league free agents along with 10 players from the organization, and in the group are six former Jacksonville Suns.

The minor league free agent pitchers included right-handers: Ryan Chaffee, Nick Masset, Vin Mazzaro, and Ryan Reid. Left-handed pitchers are Pat Misch, Chris Narveson, and Pat Urckfitz. Former Sun Vinny Rottino earned an invitation as a catcher along with Jhonathan Solano. The list of minor free agents includes infielders Reid Brignac, Don Kelly, and Scott Sizemore, along with outfielders Tyler Colvin, Cole Gillespie, and Kenny Wilson.

Among players from the organization invited to spring training are former Suns: right-handed pitchers Nick Wittgren and Trevor Williams, catcher Sharif Othman, and infielders Austin Nola and 2014 Southern League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Viosergy Rosa. They are joined by right-handed pitcher Brian Ellington, infielders Justin Bohn, Avery Romero, and Jordany Valdespin, and outfielder Austin Wates.

These players will join members of the Marlins 40-man roster for spring training, which begins on February 20 with pitchers and catchers reporting to Jupiter, Florida.

Former Jacksonville Suns (19) on the Miami 40-man roster: pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Arquimedes Caminero, Steve Cishek, Adam Conley, Grant Dayton, Sam Dyson, Brad Hand, Tom Koehler, Justin Nicolino, A.J. Ramos, Matt Ramsey, and Jose Urena. Catchers are J.T. Realmuto and Jeff Mathis, along with infielder Derek Dietrich, and outfielders Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, and Christian Yelich.

The 19 former Suns on the 40-man roster along with six of the invitees puts 25 former Suns in spring training with the Marlins.

The first full squad workout is on Feb. 24, with the first exhibition game on March 2 against Florida International University. The final exhibition game will be in Jacksonville on Saturday April 4 at Bragan Field against the Suns, ticket information is available at http://www.jaxsuns.com.

#MarlinsMonday – January 19, 2015

Could Ichiro Suzuki be headed to Miami?

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

As we are another week closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, the Miami Marlins continue to fine tune their roster. Speculation continues that the Marlins could bring in Ichiro Suzuki or James Shields to add a veteran presence the club that will need veterans to compete in a rapidly improving National League Eastern Division.

The Washington Nationals have solidified their rotation with the signing of former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, adding to a talented stable of starting pitching along with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez.

There has also been some broadcasting news in the Southern League, as one broadcaster will have a new home in 2015. Chris Harris, who has been with the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx/Jackson Generals since 2009, will be the inaugural radio voice of the Biloxi Shuckers for this upcoming season. Chris is one of the hardest workers in this league and we look forward to seeing him in Jacksonville once again!

Here are today’s #MarlinsMonday links:

Marlins.com: Marlins open to two-year deal with Ichiro
Marlins.com: Focused on ’15, Cishek excited about Marlins’ direction
Miami Herald: Marlins avoid arbitration with four players, including Steve Cishek
Sun Sentinel: Report: Don Kelly signs minor league deal with Miami Marlins
Fish Stripes:Marlins ‘still in’ on James Shields
Ballpark Digest: Shuckers sell out luxury suites for opening season
The Jackson Sun: Chris Harris leaving Jackson Generals
Yahoo! Big League Stew: Cubs upgrade outfield by acquiring Dexter Fowler from Astros
Yahoo! Big League Stew: Max Scherzer makes the Nationals favorites to win World Series
ESPN Chicago: Wrigley minus bleachers until at least May 11
The New York Times: Nationals Place Early Bet That Aces Will Bring October Success

 

#MarlinsMonday – January 12, 2015

Remember former Sun Vinny Rottino? He’s signed a minor league deal with the Marlins and will report to spring training. Here he is with Jacksonville in Tennessee during the 2010 season. Photo Courtesy: Knoxville News Sentinel

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

With the eyes of the sporting world on the NFL Playoffs and tonight’s College Football National Championship Game, the baseball season continues to get closer and closer to beginning.

The action of course begins with Spring Training, and right now it appears that pitcher Dan Haren will be with the Marlins come late February, however a deal could still be in the works. Haren was acquired in the trade that brought Dee Gordon to Miami and saw the Marlins part with talented players including former Suns Austin Barnes, Andrew Heaney, and Chris Hatcher.

Haren is considering retirement, but that looks to be going by the wayside as he gets ready for the season. Now one of the biggest question marks for the Marlins will be to trade the right-hander to where he wants to be, with a West Coast club, or keep him in hopes that he will suit up for Miami.

The Haren news headlines today’s #MarlinsMonday links, enjoy Oregon vs. Ohio State tonight!

Marlins.com: Haren reportedly to attend camp, but status unclear
Marlins.com: Fernandez measuring up to Hall of Fame arms
Sun Sentinel:Report: Vinny Rottino signs minor league deal with Miami Marlins
Fish Stripes: Marlins interested in Will Venable, Andy Dirks
Fish Stripes: Marlins doing everything to sell fans on product
Yahoo! Big League Stew: MLB Network to launch new documentary series on January 13
NBC Sports Hardball Talk: Report: Yankees to hire Jeff Pentland and Alan Cockrell as hitting coaches
Ballpark Digest: Improvements pitched for Hank Aaron Stadium