JUPITER, Fla. (CBSMiami) – Miami Marlins pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Wednesday to start what fans hope will be a new era for a team that has two World Series titles, but has fallen on hard times in recent years.
The Marlins spent big on free agents in the offseason, including pitchers Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. Buehrle has worked with new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen in Chicago, while Bell has just recently come into his own as a dominating closer.
For the Marlins, much of the season will rest on the right shoulder of number one starting pitcher, Josh Johnson. The massive starter spent most of last season on the shelf with shoulder inflammation that doctors could never completely figure out.
Johnson’s expected to be ready to start the first game ever at the new Marlins Park in Little Havana. But his long-term prognosis isn’t good as shoulder inflammation can reoccur at any time and potentially shelve him for much of the season.
As was evidenced last year, when Johnson went out, the Marlins began to struggle mightily. After he was benched, the Marlins tanked hard in June and July and went from tied for first to arguably the worst team in baseball.
Team president Larry Beinfest told MLB.com that overall, he’s encouraged by the overall health of his lineup.
“I think it’s pretty good, considering how awful it was last year — especially in the second half,” Beinfest said. “All signs are good with Hanley. All signs are good with Josh. LoMo had his knee cleaned up, and it feels good. Coghlan had his knee cleaned up, and we’ll take a look and see how that responds every day, once we get into Spring Training.”
Looking deeper into the pitching rotation, the Marlins are confident with their number two and three starters as Mark Buehrle and Anibal Sanchez will likely hold down both of those spots. Buehrle is a dependable 16-19 game winner per season and Sanchez played very well filling in for Johnson last season.
After Sanchez, the order is still a little bit up in the air, but the team expects it to be either Ricky Nolasco or Carlos Zambrano in the four spot with the other pitcher in the five hole.
“I’ve got an idea,” manager Ozzie Guillen said of the order. “But [pitching coach Randy] St. Claire will make that decision for me. Right now, we have something in mind. But we haven’t started Spring Training yet. We’re going to try to figure something out.”
Overall, Guillen said he likes the quality of his staff and is confident heading into the regular season. But, one of the big question marks will be Zambrano.
The former Chicago Cub quit on his team after a terrible outing last season and never made it back to the field for the Cubs. He was traded in the offseason to the Marlins and the team hopes Guillen can get Zambrano dialed back into the form he once commanded.
If Zambrano can get back to his season average of 14 wins with a 3.60 ERA in the four/five spot in the rotation, it will really give the Marlins staff a punch. Zambrano is a low-risk, high-reward player if he can get back his old self and not his 2011 quitting-self.
A slogan on a hallway at the Marlins’ spring training complex reads “Pitching + Defense = wins.” The Marlins hope they’ve addressed the first part of the equation with their offseason moves. Only time will tell if can solve the problems with defense, but pitching looks to be in good hands heading into the season.