Reporting Tim Kephart
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JUPITER, Fla. (CBSMiami) – The new-look Miami Marlins will take the field Monday for the first time in 2012 Grapefruit League action against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
It’s the first step towards what management is hoping will be a long season that will end with a postseason berth. The Marlins have a new ballpark, new logo, and plenty of new players to break in. But it’s a current player who will draw the most attention Monday.
For the first time since May 16, 2011, right-handed starting pitcher Josh Johnson will take the mound for the Marlins. Johnson will be the glue that gets Miami to wherever it is the team wants to be. Last year, Johnson battled shoulder inflammation, but the team’s hoping that is behind him.
Johnson was 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA, 56 strikeouts, and 20 walks before heading to the disabled list in May 2011.
The Marlins are coming off a disappointing season in 2011, but an offseason to remember. The Marlins signed free agent shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Heath Bell, and starting pitcher Mark Buehrle in a span of five days at the baseball winter meetings.
Reyes will slide into shortstop and move Hanley Ramirez over to third base to give the Marlins arguably one of the best left side of the infields in the National League, when both are healthy. Hanley is looking for a bounce back season after struggling at the plate in 2011.
Reyes hopes to continue his torrid hitting from last year when he led the National League in batting.
All of the new and old Marlins will have a new man at the helm as well. Manager Ozzie Guillen is starting his first season with the team Monday and is looking to turn the National League’s perennial doormat, not named the Cubs, into a winner.
Guillen will have plenty to work with in 2011. His pitching staff, assuming all are healthy, will feature the aforementioned Johnson and Buehrle, plus Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano, and Ricky Nolasco; and they will have Heath Bell coming in at the end to close out games.
But it all begins Monday in Jupiter against the St. Louis Cardinals. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.