AL BEHRMAN / AP Enlarge
CINCINNATI - With some hair flowing from under his cap and his socks pulled high, Burke Badenhop barks encouragement to his Florida Marlins teammates as they whip the ball around the infield.
The Perrysburg resident and rookie Florida pitcher wants the Marlins to play like he pitches: Nice and loose.
"It gets me locked into the game," Badenhop said of his on-field behavior. "I hope to have fun out there and I hope the guys have fun playing behind me."
Badenhop is known to occasionally hop around the mound between hitters. With that and his last name, no wonder Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez calls him "The Hopper."
Badenhop also pounds his glove and competes - whether the game is baseball or Connect Four.
"I love him," said Florida's veteran left fielder, Luis Gonzalez. "I've been around 18 years, and I love the energy he brings when he pitches."
The Marlins also like Badenhop, a graduate of Perrysburg High and Bowling Green State University, because he can pitch.
Badenhop was effective again last night for Florida, pitching well despite the Marlins' 8-7 loss to the Reds in front of 15,233 fans at Great American Ball Park - crowd that included about 25 of family members and friends who made the trip to Cincinnati. The rookie right-hander allowed three earned runs (four total) on six hits in six innings in his sixth major league start.
Promoted from Double-A Carolina after one start there this year, Badenhop is 1-2 with a 5.97 ERA in seven appearances for the Marlins, but has sparkled in his last three starts. He allowed three runs in six innings in a no-decision against the Dodgers on May 1, and was charged with two runs in picking up his first major league victory last week against Milwaukee.
"It'd be pretty hard not to [improve] from the way I started," said Badenhop, who lost two of his first three starts. "I'm settled in more and am throwing more strikes."
Badenhop was disappointed with his effort last night for two reasons. The Marlins' seven-game winning streak was snapped on his watch, and his team gave him a three-run lead with three homers that he couldn't hold.
But his manager saw it differently. Fredi Gonzalez reminded reporters that one run scored on a throwing error by third baseman Jorge Cantu, and another scored with two outs on a wild pitch.
"For me, this wasn't a bad start," the Marlins manager said. "He's fine. If he keeps going out there he'll keep gaining experience and confidence, and he'll keep getting better."
Badenhop, 25, was drafted by Detroit in the 19th round in 2005, and made it as high as Double-A Erie. He was part of the eight-player trade this offseason in which stars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis became Tigers.
Since he joined the Marlins, Badenhop's teammates have taken to him quickly.
Luis Gonzalez remembers a time last week in Milwaukee when Badenhop was engaged in a heated game of Connect Four with a teammate. It was almost as if sweat poured from Badenhop's brow.
"My kids play that game," Gonzalez said with a laugh.
Other teammates say they never know what Badenhop might do or say next. Like the Marlins, who have shocked everyone by surging to first place in the National League East, Badenhop is a bit of a wild card.
And that's why they like him.
"He's a character, that's the best way to put it," said Matt Treanor, a Florida catcher. "When you've been around guys that are the same every day, you might get stale.
"He's a goofy guy, but he's intense. I think he fits in really well with our clubhouse."
Contact Joe Vardon at:
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