Reporting Tim Kephart
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JUPITER, Fla. (CBSMiami) – For the first time since they were renamed, the entire Miami Marlins roster will show up in Jupiter to start spring training for the upcoming 2012 season Sunday.
Marlins pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday, but Sunday will be the final day for everyone from Jose Reyes to Carlos Zambrano to be in house ready for the annual push towards opening day.
For Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, it’s a relief to finally be focused on the season.
“I think when you start doing stuff for real and get everything down; it’s more fun,” Guillen said Saturday. “It’s more fun and the more days that go by; it’s easier. Because then the games start. I’ll have a chance to see the players. It’s gonna be easier for everyone to judge what kind of ball club we’re going to have.”
The Marlins spent big on free agents in the offseason, including pitchers Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. Buehrle has worked with 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.
Still, Guillen has set the bar high for not just the team but also for himself.
“My expectations are very high. I shoot for the moon,” Guillen said. “Hopefully I can get halfway there.”
Guillen is also not going to stand for some of the problems the Marlins have had in the past with players talking behind the manager’s or other teammates back.
“Whenever you have anything to say, don’t go behind my back and say it, because I’m not going to go behind your back and say it,” Guillen said.
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.
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.
Guillen said he is ready and that no one is being held back by any injury, which is exactly what the Marlins fans and organization is hoping for in 2012.
The Marlins face a tough battle in the National League East, but it’s possible the team can jump the Braves if the pitching staff comes together and Reyes can stay healthy for the majority of the season.
No matter what, with Guillen leading the charge, the one thing that the Marlins will be all year long is entertaining.