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Beckett and Burnett throw successfully first day


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JUPITER, Fla. -- It didn't take long for the Marlins' power-pitching duo of Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett to take the mound.

Both flame-throwing right-handers threw for about 12 minutes off the mound Thursday afternoon.


Catcher Josh Willingham, who caught Beckett, said the Texas native looked in midseason form. Beckett was limbering up with fastballs, but mixed in some curveballs and changeups.


About the only thing bothering Beckett now is a blister. No worries, Marlins fans. This blister isn't on his right hand. Recently, he developed a very minor blister on the bottom of his right foot.


"I'd rather have one on the bottom of my foot than have one on my hand," Beckett said.


Beckett's career has been marred by recurring blisters to his right middle finger.


Burnett, meanwhile, is starting off slowly.


Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Burnett is determined to not push it in Spring Training. While tossing his bullpen session with catcher Matt Treanor, Burnett wasn't breaking any speed records. He threw nice and easy, and Treanor was impressed with Burnett's changeup.


"My goal is to pace myself," said Burnett, who isn't looking to trigger the radar gun at more than 95 mph for now.


In the past, the competitor in Burnett has reacted by trying to overpower hitters, even in Spring Training.


Valdez excused until Sunday: Projected fifth starter Ismael Valdez will arrive at Spring Training on Sunday due to an excused absence.


General manager Admin Beinfest said Valdez is taking care of a "family issue" and will be in Jupiter on Sunday, the day position players officially report.

Valdez is currently at his home in Mexico.


$1,000 for a number? Well-traveled reliever Todd Jones has a standing offer on the table for closer Guillermo Mota.


Jones is willing to give Mota $1,000 for the rights to the No. 59.


Suiting up for his eighth team in 12 Major League seasons, Jones isn't wearing No. 59 for the first time. That's because it belongs to Mota.


Jones doesn't expect Mota to accept the offer, so he is prepared to wear No. 50. And Jones is making the best of his new number.


"I'm looking for anything that is kind of slimming, and 50 is kind of slimming," Jones joked.


No. 59 is sentimental for Jones, who pitched last year with the Reds and Phillies. At every team he has played for, No. 59 was available.


Not so with the Marlins. Before Jones would get a stab at it, starting right-hander Ismael Valdez would want No. 59.


"I'm third in line," Jones said.


Mota gets first shot: As expected, Mota will get the first chance at being the Marlins' new closer. But if he struggles, McKeon says he will seek other options.


"We have three guys who have been closers," McKeon said.


Along with Mota, who had four saves with the Marlins when Armando Benitez was hurt last year, Jones and Antonio Alfonseca have been closers at some point in their careers.


"You always have backups," McKeon said. "You can mix and match. In Cincinnati, I had two guys. Who says you can't have two here?"


McKeon makes no secret about the fact he will go with the hot pitcher. Unlike last year, when Benitez had a proven track record, there are questions about whether Mota will adapt to the role.


In terms of his talent, the Marlins are confident that Mota will successfully make the transition. It's just a matter of doing it.


Thirty-six pitchers: Because the Marlins have 36 pitchers in camp, McKeon says he may have to be blunt with a number of them: there may not be a ton of opportunities for some.


A year ago, McKeon focused on getting his starters ready for Opening Day. The philosophy was to get the starters prepared to go seven innings or throw 100 pitches early.


"Get the pitchers ready," McKeon said. "That's the name of the game. That's the task we have here."


To accommodate all the pitchers, the Marlins are considering playing a number of scrimmage games against themselves. They also are setting up possible B games with other teams.


Carrying 11 or 12 pitchers? For the most part, the Marlins have carried 11 pitchers on their 25-man roster. McKeon isn't sure whether the team will increase that number to 12.


A wild card in the equation is 6-foot-8 left-hander Luke Hagerty, a Rule 5 Draft pickup from the Cubs. By rule, Hagerty has to make the Marlins' final roster or be offered back to his former team.


"I think that is going to sort itself out," McKeon said of how many pitchers to keep. "We have the Rule 5 guy. Do we make him the 11th guy and not carry 12, or do we make him the 12th guy and not carry an extra [position] guy? Or does somebody else light our eyes up?"


Last year, Matt Perisho was the lone left-hander in the bullpen for much of the season. Hagerty presents an intriguing option, because of his size and the fact he throws 94 mph.


"It's nice to have a couple of 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 guys out of the bullpen," McKeon mused.


High expectations: Optimism is on the rise for the Marlins because of the signings of Carlos Delgado, Al Leiter and the additions made to the bullpen.


Arguably, no Marlins team has ever had this high a level of expectations entering Spring Training. The 1997 World Series title team is close, based on moves the team made that offseason.


Not even last year's club, coming off the 2003 World Series title, had so much preseason enthusiasm. While McKeon expected to win in 2004, many predicted the Marlins were due for a letdown, especially after they lost Ivan Rodriguez and Derrek Lee.


"What management did in the offseason generated a lot of enthusiasm to the other guys to say, 'Hey, they went out and tried to do the best that they can. Now, it's up to us,' " McKeon said. "You have to walk the walk."


The Marlins certainly stack up with the rest of the National League East, which has greatly improved.


"I said last year, I thought four clubs could win it," McKeon said. "I say the same thing this year, maybe five clubs. Washington has improved. All of those clubs have made improvements. You never know. Injuries play a role. Off years play a role. Above average years play a role. We just hope we can do what we did in 2003 and have a couple of guys have breakout years. If the pitching comes through, we'll have some fun."




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Righties use their left foot to kick off the mound, right?


Anyway, I don't want to see any form of ailment on Beckett this season. He had better not get hurt again...


Righties use their right foot to kick off the mound and they plant their left foot in front of them, vice versa for lefties.

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Righties use their left foot to kick off the mound, right?


Anyway, I don't want to see any form of ailment on Beckett this season. He had better not get hurt again...


Righties use their right foot to kick off the mound and they plant their left foot in front of them, vice versa for lefties.


You are so right...Did you know that?


I haven't pitched in a couple years (since HS), and I guess I saw it differently in my mind...

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