Miami Marlins week in review: Takeaways from spring training as team breaks camp
Spring training has officially come to an end.
Now, the real season begins.
The Miami Marlins open the 2023 season, the first under new manager Skip Schumaker, against the New York Mets on Thursday at loanDepot park. Sandy Alcantara will take the mound for his fourth consecutive Opening Day. A slew of offseason acquisitions will make their Marlins debuts.
And Miami will attempt to keep pace with an ultra-competitive National League East.
As we prepare for the start of a new season, here are six takeaways from spring training.
▪ The Marlins break camp (mostly) healthy. Only two players who had a chance to make the Opening Day roster in relief pitchers Tommy Nance (right shoulder stiffness) and Steven Okert (left adductor soreness) are expected to start the season on the injured list. Other than that, all of the team’s main contributors — including all five starting pitchers in the rotation and all of their primary position players — left Jupiter healthy and ready for the season.
▪ The rotation has a chance to be special. Alcantara obviously is the headliner as the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. Jesus Luzardo and Edward Cabrera are looking to build on solid albeit injury hampered 2022 seasons, while Trevor Rogers impressed in camp as he tries to put his 2022 season behind him. The team also has 15-year veteran Johnny Cueto to round out the group.
“I don’t think there’s really a limit or a ceiling for us,” Luzardo said. “I feel like we could be potentially one of the best rotations in baseball as long as everyone goes out there and pulls for each other and does what they need to do.”
▪ What to make of Yuli Gurriel’s role. Barring something surprising between now and Opening Day, the Marlins will add the veteran infielder to the 40-man roster and he will be part of the club when the 2023 season begins.
General manager Kim Ng said, for now, Gurriel’s role will be to back up first baseman Garrett Cooper. The 38-year-old Gurriel, who spent his first seven MLB seasons with the Houston Astros, will also likely get spot starts at designated hitter and be valued as a pinch-hitter off the bench.
“He puts together a pretty professional at-bat,” Ng said. “If we need the ball in play, he’s gonna be a pretty good guy you can call on.”
▪ The Marlins seem content with Joey Wendle and Jon Berti as their primary shortstops. Both have primarily been utility players in their career up to this point, but now they will platoon at shortstop.
Wendle, who plays all around the infield, has made just 69 career starts at shortstop, with 22 of those coming last year with the Marlins. Berti, who has played every position except first base, catcher and pitcher in his MLB career, has just 34 career starts at shortstop.
“Look, these guys have been in the league for a fairly long time,” Ng said. “They know the rigors of the position and I think they’re doing the best job they can out there. Both players have put together workman-like effort out there. It’s probably not as comfortable as what they’re used to, but kudos to them for doing what the team needs.”
Beyond Wendle and Berti, the team has Jose Iglesias waiting in the wings. Like Gurriel, Iglesias signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins on March 10. Unlike Gurriel, he did not make the team out of camp but opted to stay in the organization.
▪ Expect Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s adjustment to center field to continue into the season. Schumaker and Chisholm alike have noted the strides Chisholm has made since transitioning from middle infield to center field.
But by no means is Chisholm a finished product just yet.
“He’s much better than Day 1, but he’s still going,” Schumaker said. “You never stop learning. He knows that. He continues to grow and ask the right questions. When you have [outfielders coach] Jon Jay in your back pocket, that’s really good. ... Jazz is trending in the right direction. That’s what we need him to do is continue to get better.”
▪ Will the offense be better? The results certainly weren’t there at the plate for the Marlins in spring training.
The team has a new hitting coach staff led by Brant Brown, who is implementing a new philosophy. That takes time. The staff was hands on throughout camp. A share of players were tinkering with their mechanics throughout camp to find ways to improve offensively.
“We’re focused on these guys becoming good hitters and understanding what that means,” Ng said. “We’ve asked some of them to change their approach and to really take on a lot of information that Brant and his staff are giving to them. ... It’s been a lot on their plates, but I do think that we are seeing progress. It might not show up in the numbers, but I personally see it. Maybe a guy has a good day and then the next day is not as good, but now I see it shrinking to making in-game adjustments.”
‘Home of Béisbol’
The 2023 World Baseball Classic turned Miami’s loanDepot park into the “Home of Béisbol” for about two weeks this spring training.
The combined announced attendance for the 15 World Baseball Classic games played at loanDepot park — 10 during pool play, two quarterfinals, two semifinals and the championship — was 475,269, an average of 31,684.6 fans per game. Nine games had more than 35,000 people, including 36,098 for the championship on Tuesday between Japan and the United States.
“Once you taste this,” Marlins president of business operations Caroline O’Connor said, “it’s hard to get the memory out of there.”
The Marlins, historically among the lowest in MLB in average attendance, want to find ways to replicate those crowds during the season.
More on that here.
In honor of March Madness and the NCAA basketball tournament, the Marlins held a ping-pong tournament in the clubhouse over the course of spring training. It’s the first time the team was able to hold the tournament since 2019.
The event wrapped up on Sunday, with utility player Garrett Hampson beating left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Nardi in straight sets (11-4, 11-6). The team moved the championship event from the clubhouse to the batting cages, with the rest of the big-league club, coaching staff and some front-office executives watching.
Stories from the week
▪ Jesus Sanchez’s mentality this spring as he competed for a roster spot: “Just trust in myself”
▪ How Jon Berti, MLB’s reigning stolen base champ, is learning to take advantage of the pitch clock
▪ What the team saw from top prospect Eury Perez during his first big-league camp
▪ The Marlins will wear teal throwback uniforms for all but two Friday home games.
Next week’s schedule
Thursday: Vs. New York Mets, 4:10 p.m.
Friday: Vs. New York Mets, 6:40 p.m.
Saturday: Vs. New York Mets, 4:10 p.m.
Sunday: Vs. New York Mets, 1:40 p.m.