Spring Training officially got underway on Wednesday for the Miami Marlins as pitchers and catchers reported for duty. Several players had already been in camp but this was the first day that as team, they worked out and met with manager Ozzie Guillen. Most of the position players were present as well even though they were not required to attend as of yet. Some of the highlights included Carlos Zambrano’s first session as a Marlin, and Josh Johnson’s throwing session.
The media frenzy continued for the Marlins as ESPN hosted an edition of Baseball Tonight from Roger Dean Stadium highlighting several aspects of the team including interviews with Guillen and new closer Heath Bell. Later this Spring, the Marlins will have a game against the Boston Red Sox televised nationally as well. All of this media attention will lead up to Opening Night when the Marlins will be on ESPN’s national broadcast to kick off their 2012 season. It wasn’t all good news in the national media department however on Wednesday for the Marlins as it was announced that TBS will not feature the team on it’s broadcasts for the first two months of the season. ESPN will also not have any of their Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts involve the Marlins through May.
Zambrano who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs this past off-season had a throwing session in his first official work with the Marlins. Looking to be in better shape and with a very confident approach — Zambrano is giving the team a lot of hope for a bounce-back season. “Big Z” as he is known is also becoming quickly acclimated with his new teammates especially closer Heath Bell. The Palm Beach Post had this quote from the right-hander yesterday when he was asked about Bell – “Having a guy like him,’ Zambrano said, “you realize you’re not the only crazy guy on the team” .
Johnson took the mound in a welcome sight for the Marlins as he threw the ball to John Buck in what MLB.com called an “impressive bullpen session”. The Marlins’ ace was quoted as saying his “arm felt great”. Without a doubt, Johnson is the key to the Marlins’ chances this season. If he can stay healthy, the team can not only stay in playoff contention but would have a legitimate shot at grabbing the division . Staying healthy is something Johnson has struggled with in his career thus far. To nobody’s surprise, Johnson will start Opening Night according to Guillen — an honor he has held for the past two seasons as well. He will be followed in the rotation by Mark Buehrle. The remaining spots will be determined later this Spring.
Also on Wednesday, Hanley Ramirez continued his progress on switching to third base as he fielding more grounders at the hot corner. The Marlins have reportedly asked the All-Star to not dive during Spring Training as he recovers from a shoulder injury that shortened his 2011 season. The hope is that Ramirez is 100 percent ready on Opening Night and will be able to play without any restrictions. ESPN mentioned during their Baseball Tonight coverage that Ramirez’s switch to third has been eased by the fact his friend and former Marlin Miguel Cabrera is making the same position change. This off-season, Ramirez spent time working out with Cabrera and he will receive plenty of attention from new infield coach Gary Thurman. Omar Infante should be able to assist as well if needed.
Wednesday was the beginning of what promises to be a very interesting and exciting marathon of baseball for the Marlins.