By David Dwork

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JUPITER (CBSMiami) – Love may be in the air, but it better watch out for flying baseballs.

Valentine’s Day has special meaning for South Florida baseball fans this year as it also marks the beginning of Spring Training for the Miami Marlins.

Pitchers and catchers will be reporting in Jupiter on Tuesday, with position players arriving later in the week.

The first full-squad workout is set for Friday, February 17th.

Eight days later, the Miami will open their Spring Training exhibition schedule against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium, the facility shared by the two ball clubs.

The Marlins enter the spring featuring one of the more well-rounded lineups in baseball.

Top to bottom, Miami’s batting order can go toe-to-toe with just about any in the league.

Tentatively, it projects to be Dee Gordon (2B), Martin Prado (3B), Christian Yelich (CF), Giancarlo Stanton (RF), Marcell Ozuna (LF), Justin Bour (1B), J.T. Realmuto (C), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS) and the pitcher spot.

It’s worth noting that Realmuto is expected to play some first base, likely for days when Miami faces a left-handed pitcher in order to spell Bour.

The Marlins signed veteran backup catcher A.J. Ellis with this role in mind.

Miami’s bench players will include Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas and the ageless Ichiro Suzuki.

It’s clear that the team’s offseason goal was to improve the pitching staff, and it appears they did just that.

Starters Edinson Volquez, Dan Straily and Jeff Locke were added to join Tom Koehler, Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino to battle for spots in the 5-man rotation.

Koehler, Chen, Volquez, Conley and Straily are projected to be the top five but a lot can change during Spring Training.

As for the Marlins bullpen, Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa were free-agent adds to compliment a young and talented squad.

David Phelps, Dustin McGowan and Kyle Barraclough are all returning following solid seasons, as is closer A.J. Ramos who made his first All Star Team in 2016.

That leaves two spots in the bullpen, assuming Miami carries eight relief pitchers.

Those spots will be battled for by Jose Urena, Nick Wittgren, Brian Ellington and whichever starters don’t make the rotation, likely Locke and Nicolino.

The Marlins enter the spring with more depth than we’ve seen from this team in a long time.

It’s not terribly surprising considering Miami enters the 2017 season with a payroll of approximately $115 million, which is a franchise record.

Now it’s just a matter of seeing which players step up and play to their potential, and if it’s enough to Miami back to the playoffs for the just the third time in team history.


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