It’s an exciting time of year for baseball fans as Spring Training is finally here. First it was pitchers and catchers reporting for duty, but starting on Tuesday the entire Miami Marlins squad will be present and accounted for. Fans in South Florida have reason to be extra excited this year following the moves made by the Marlins during the offseason.READ MORE: Nearly 11-Foot Gator Found Hanging Out In Florida Pool
Miami has added several key players to its already young and exciting core group and it appears that the team is building a winner for years to come. With Spring Training now in full swing and the first games less than a week away, there are several things to keep an eye on as the Marlins prepare for their season opener on April 6th when they host the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park.
The biggest changes that you’ll see on the 2015 Miami Marlins is in their infield. Only one starter, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, is returning from last season. Second base was a real problem area for Miami last year and several players had a chance to take the job and run with it but nobody stepped up to the plate (pardon the pun). Now Miami has speedster Dee Gordon at second and it will undoubtedly help Hechavarria to have a consistent double play partner in the lineup day in and day out.
New third baseman Martin Prado has always been known as a solid defensive player and should provide stability for the Marlins at the hot corner. On the other side of the diamond, Michael Morse was brought in to provide a power bat behind Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup and will take over duties at first base as well. Morse has been used mostly as an outfielder in recent years despite first base being his natural position, and he’s very happy about getting to return to his position of choice.
The Marlins have already said that they will be keeping their new infielders together for the entirety of Spring Training so that they can work on their on-field chemistry as much as possible. This is certainly something that will have a close eye kept upon it throughout the month of March, but the prospect of having a solid defensive infield is very encouraging.
READ MORE: Miami-Dade Commission Tackles Development Proposal Near Homestead, Cutler Bay
In all likelihood the Marlins will enter the season carrying twelve pitchers on their roster, which means that there will be seven bullpen options. Players that we know will be in the pen are Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos and Bryan Morris. The favorites to land the remaining spots are Aaron Crow, Brad Hand and David Phelps but guys like Nick Masset, Andrew McKirahan, Vin Mazzaro, Chris Narveson and Andre Rienzo could have a strong spring and end up in Miami’s bullpen come April.
It’s a good problem for the Marlins to have as there are several strong candidates for the limited number of spots available. It also means that should Miami have to deal with any injuries during the season, there will be solid options to call up from the minors. The battle for the bullpen spots should be an intriguing one during Spring Training, especially considering how deep the stable of pitchers is.
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton had his season come to an abrupt end last September when he was hit in the face by a pitch during a game in Milwaukee. Stanton has had a full recovery and is ready to start the new season as the face of the Marlins franchise, especially after signing a monster deal with the team worth $325 million over 13 years.
Stanton has already said that he will wear a face guard on his batting helmet to start the season and is unsure when, if ever, he’ll remove it. He arrived at the Marlins Spring Training home in Jupiter a couple weeks ago and has been hitting every day, reporting no ill-effects from the scary injury. Stanton said that he anticipates pitchers trying to intimidate him by throwing inside but he fully expects to pick up right where he left off and resume being the intimidating force that anchors the Marlins lineup. Still, his at-bats will be closely monitored during the spring to make sure that he is in fact back to normal.
As mentioned earlier, it’s very likely that the Marlins will carry 12 pitchers into the season. That means there will be room for five bench players to go along with the eight position starters. It’s probably a safe bet that Ichiro Suzuki, Jeff Baker and backup catcher Jeff Mathis will occupy three of those five spots, leaving just two jobs up for grabs amongst all the Spring Training attendees.
The list of players vying for those spots include Donovan Solano, Justin Bour, Derek Dietrich, Jordany Valdespin, Reed Johnson, Miguel Rojas, Don Kelly, Reid Birgnac, Tyler Colvin and Scott Sizemore. While it’s easy to give the advantage to guys like Solano, Bour and Dietrich considering they all played roles on the Marlins last season, the good thing about the spring is that everyone gets a clean slate. It will be very interesting to see who takes the bull by the horns and makes the squad come April.MORE NEWS: Police Investigate Possible Road Rage Shooting In NW Miami
Follow David on Twitter (@DavidDwork)