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The Marlin's Bench


Eddie Altamonte
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http://florida.marlins.mlb.com/content/pri...13/c1801379.jsp

 

Around the Horn: Bench

02/14/2007 10:00 AM ET

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

 

The following is the last in a series of weekly stories on MLB.com examining each Major League club, position by position. For the past seven Wednesdays, we've previewed a different position. Today: Bench.

MIAMI -- From an organizational standpoint, the Marlins ideally prefer to stock their bench with experienced players.

 

The club's thinking is players with big-league track records tend to adapt better to being used occasionally. A second reason is the team wants its younger players seeing daily action in the Minor Leagues instead of sitting in a Major League dugout.

 

A year ago, Wes Helms exemplified that veteran role of producing when called upon. But Helms now has moved on, signing as a free agent with the Phillies.

 

The Marlins view 33-year-old Aaron Boone as a strong replacement for Helms.

 

Signed as a free agent, Boone is taking on a different big-league challenge. A career third baseman, he will work extensively at first base when Spring Training begins on Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

 

The right-handed-hitting Boone provides a platoon option with lefty-hitting Mike Jacobs at first base.

 

"We have Booney, who is a veteran guy," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He will help us out at first base and spell Jacobs sometimes against a tough lefty."

 

Boone's role will also include spotting three-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera at third base and being a pinch-hitter.

 

Boone, who has never played first base in the big leagues, also can play both middle-infield spots in case of an emergency. And if necessary, he has purchased an outfield glove, giving the team another choice if he is needed at a corner spot.

 

"Booney has been around the league, and he's not going to panic," Gonzalez said. "I feel great about him hitting off anybody."

 

A year ago, the Marlins carried 12 pitchers the entire season, which meant they had five bench spots.

 

Considering how young the staff is, it is again likely the team will go with 12 pitchers. So, versatility is important for all of the Marlins' reserves.

 

"I like having some speed on the bench, too," Gonzalez said. "That's why I like Alfredo Amezaga."

 

The switch-hitting Amezaga was one of the unsung players on the 2006 squad. A natural middle infielder, he ended up playing every position but catcher and pitcher a year ago.

 

For most of the second half, he was the primary center fielder.

 

"A lot about our bench depends on who wins that center-field job," Gonzalez said.

 

Barring anything unforeseen, every starting position is filled except center field.

 

Non-roster invitee Alex Sanchez will be given a strong chance to win the job. Amezaga, Cody Ross, Reggie Abercrombie and Eric Reed also are in the mix.

 

Joe Borchard, a switch-hitter with some power, is a corner-outfield possibility who may see some work in center.

 

A year ago, the Marlins kept five true outfielders, with Ross and Borchard as the main reserves. Using Amezaga in the outfield so much limited the depth in the infield.

 

As they did a year ago, the Marlins are expected to go with two catchers. Miguel Olivo won the starting job in 2006, and he saw action in 127 games.

 

Matt Treanor again is the front-runner to be the second catcher. The 30-year-old played in 67 games, and he matched up frequently with the two left-handed starters in the rotation: Dontrelle Willis and Scott Olsen.

 

If possible, Gonzalez is thinking about lining up his catchers with specific starters. However that breakdown goes will be determined in Spring Training.

 

"Catchers work a certain amount of games anyway, like 125 or 130," Gonzalez said. "If you do that, why not have a catcher with the same [pitcher] if it works out?"

 

Treanor is regarded as a strong defensive catcher who handles pitchers well. Staying productive offensively has been his biggest challenge. He batted .229 with two home runs and 14 RBIs a year ago. He also made 50 starts and had a .993 fielding percentage.

 

Considering the extreme South Florida heat, keeping the catchers fresh will be a challenge for Gonzalez.

 

While Olivo and Treanor are the only two catchers on the 40-man roster, five non-roster invitees also will be in camp.

 

Brad Davis and Brett Hayes are promising prospects who will get a look. Chris Ashby, Nick Trzesniak and Paul Hoover also will log some innings behind the plate.

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