Miami Marlins Building Hope For The Future

It is almost time to pack up the Spring Training bags and head north – south, if you are the Miami Marlins. Outside of a couple of odd years, the Marlins have never been big winners in March, and it is never much of an indicator of regular season success. Just ask the Kansas City Royals, 20-10 in Grapefruit League play in 2011, and 71-91 during the regular season. This is the time of year when hope springs eternal for fans of most teams.

With three games left in the Grapefruit League schedule (including today’s tilt vs the New York Mets), Miami is 10-12 in exhibition games. The hitting hasn’t been sharp, but that will probably turn around a bit in the regular season with the return of regulars Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton to the lineup full-time after battling injuries in March. The addition of SS Jose Reyes is a boost, and the Marlins are hoping Hanley Ramirez returns to form after a difficult season in 2011.

The pitching staff appears to be April-ready, logging a 3.10 ERA this Spring – second only to the Toronto Blue Jays. There are a lot of question marks about how the arms will last over the course of the season, however. Can Josh Johnson make it through the entire season healthy? Can Anibal Sanchez stay healthy? Can Carlos Zambrano find the stuff that made him the workhorse leader of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff throughout most of the 00s? If the answers to those three questions are “yes,” then the Marlins ought to be able to contend this year.

The schedule for April isn’t too bad – 11 of 23 games will be against teams with winning records in 2011, including the beasts of the NL East the last few years, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. September could be a tough road ahead, with the Milwaukee Brewers, Phillies (twice), and the Atlanta Braves (twice) appearing on the schedule. There is a lot of time between now and then. With any luck, those games will matter to Miami.

The Marlins get an extra dose this year with new uniforms, a new ballpark, and a new fiery manager, Ozzie Guillen. The ballpark has a roof, so rainouts won’t be happening, and the crowds may be bigger. The manager won a World Series with a team that hadn’t won one in 87 years.

For one brief night this Wednesday, the Marlins will share the baseball stage with the St. Louis Cardinals to kick off the regular season in their new digs. How long can the hope last? Will we still be hopeful in July. Time will tell, but as the regular season is about to begin, it is all about optimism and hope.

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Tags: Anibal Sanchez Braves Brewers Cardinals Carlos Zambrano Cubs Diamondbacks Giancarlo Stanton Jose Reyes Josh Johnson Logan Morrison Marlins Ozzie Guillen Phillies Preview Royals

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