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Burnett's return will add yet more punch


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Burnett's return will add yet more punch




South Florida Sun-Sentinel



JUPITER, Fla. - (KRT) - Ask Marlins manager Jack McKeon for a historical comparison and his answers aren't always immediate. After all, McKeon managed his first major league game 31 years ago.


It makes for a lot of mental sifting, but McKeon did not hesitate when prompted to compare this starting staff to those of his former clubs.


He didn't hesitate to say it could be his best.


"The potential is great," McKeon said. "I don't think they've reached the top yet. When they do, look out. These guys are just coming into their own, and it takes a while. We can't go out and pick up a (Curt) Schilling or a (Greg) Maddux. It took those guys a while to come into the class where they are now."


This morning in Jupiter, the Marlins' starters begin their climb into the next class. A day after completing physicals, pitchers and catchers will go through their first formal workout. Several position players also have started filtering in with an eye toward taking their physicals before Thursday's first full-squad practice.


As good as Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Carl Pavano and Dontrelle Willis were last season, the consensus is 2003 was only a start. Led by Willis, who won 14 games, all established career bests in wins.


After McKeon took over May 11, the aforementioned starters combined to go 43-28 with a 3.70 ERA. Days earlier, Beckett sprained his elbow and would not pitch again until July 1.


What McKeon saw during the regular season is only part of why his expectations are so high. Beckett went 2-2 with a 2.11 ERA in the postseason. After struggling in the first two rounds, Penny won two World Series games. Pavano and Willis split their time between the rotation and the bullpen, and combined for one earned run in 122/3 World Series innings (0.71).


"You have five quality guys here that are going to give you quality starts every time they go out there," reliever Chad Fox said. "I don't think there's a question mark in (the rotation). Every year on the teams I've been on, there are always two, maybe three question marks. You've just got some solid starters. Then you look at A.J. (Burnett). He's going to be pretty close to being ready. When you get a guy like that back it makes you that much stronger."


Even before Burnett returns from ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow, this has the makings of McKeon's best starting rotation. He's got a potential 20-game winner in Beckett, who would be the third to reach that mark under McKeon.


Paul Splittorff went 20-11 for McKeon's 1973 Kansas City Royals. The next season, Steve Busby logged a 22-14 mark. Busby was a member of a Royals rotation in 1975 that featured three pitchers with 15 or more wins. McKeon managed that team for 96 games before being replaced by Whitey Herzog.


McKeon's 1988 Padres rotation included four guys - Eric Show, Dennis Rasmussen, Andy Hawkins and Ed Whitson - with 13 or more wins apiece. The youngest was Hawkins, 28.


The average age of the Marlins starters, including Burnett, is 25.


"They're just beginning to tap their potential," left fielder Jeff Conine said. "From here on out it's all mental. How they're going to be able to handle it mentally is going to determine how high they can go because the sky's the limit with these guys."



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that is impressive that the average age is 25! if and thats a big IF the team can keep the core starters together for a long time this could be a great run...


and to think we have Allison and Berzardo on the way

Look at what the Braves did with Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, even Avery. I think the FO knows that the key here is pitching and will spend the money on keeping the core pitchers (Beckett, Burnett) together. Can we keep Pavano, Penny, Willis around too? Probably not all three, but with Allison coming up and other pitching prospects, it may not be necessary as long as we are able to pump out another solid pitcher from the farm every couple of seasons. But that is if we DONT get a stadium.

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and to think we have Allison and Berzardo on the way

And Hutch... Hutch better pick up the pace


i mean he is going on 25 already and is still in AA ball


i mean he should be fighting for a spot on the roster in 05, but i mean he is getting old


a name to look for is 20 year old Scott Olsen though

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