Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Super Bowl may have just ended football season; but believe it or not, it’s almost baseball season.
The highly anticipated Miami Marlins season will officially kick off when pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Jupiter, Florida on Wednesday February, 22.
After that, the position players will report on February 26, which will also be the day of the first full workout.
Expectations are running high for the Marlins this season after ownership finally decided to loosen the purse strings and make some big signings in free agency.
At the top of the free agent crop for the Marlins was shortstop Jose Reyes.
While the Marlins already had a shortstop in Hanley Ramirez, the team rolled the dice and signed Reyes for more than $100 million and moved Ramirez to third base.
After initially protesting the move, Ramirez has come around in recent weeks and now seems to be on board with the switch to the hot corner. Part of what has helped the switch is new manager Ozzie Guillen.
The often outspoken Guillen has made it a point to make sure Ramirez buys into the plan the Marlins have for him and the team in general.
So far, the combustible personalities have been on the same page, which the Fish hope will last through any bumps in the season.
The Marlins also spent big on pitching this offseason. The Fish acquired starting pitcher Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell to fortify the rotation.
Buehrle has been with Guillen in the past and has averaged 13 wins a season over the past three years.
Bell came into his own as a closer over the past few years, averaging more than 40 saves a season during that span.
The Marlins season though will be determined by how starting pitcher Josh Johnson returns from a season-ending injury.
Johnson missed most of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury, and is only recently starting to throw from the mound.
If the Marlins can get Johnson back at full-strength, it will help a rotation that could be quite good in 2012.
The Marlins will have Johnson, Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, and Carlos Zambrano as the team’s starting five pitchers.
Zambrano could make the rotation really good if he’s gotten over all of his issues that led him to quit on the Chicago Cubs last season.
Meanwhile, the Marlins will send up a lineup that will feature Jose Reyes leading off, followed by Emilio Bonifacio, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, and Logan Morrison.
Still, the Marlins are in arguably the toughest division in Major League Baseball and will have to overcome the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves to get into the playoffs.
But, for the first time in years, there’s hope with the Marlins powered by newfound spending and a new stadium. Marlins fans, and owner Jeffrey Loria, want that hope to turn into victories and sold-out crowds.
Otherwise, it may be a long time before Marlins fans see free agent spending like they did last year.