Winter Warm-Up lets Marlins segue into spring
Event a fun way for players to get back to baseball, as camp opens on Sunday
MIAMI -- All week, the Marlins have branched out into the community, as players, coaches and front-office officials visited schools and youth ballfields. For five days, they mingled with fans and spread the word that Spring Training was approaching.
Saturday culminated a week of meet-and-greets with the Marlins' annual Winter Warm-Up at Marlins Park. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET, fans filtered through the ballpark, interacting with the players. There were autograph and photo sessions, as well as a variety of interactive games.
The week of bonding provided the perfect lead-in to Spring Training, which opens on Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. Marlins manager Mike Redmond feels the few days of fun with the fans is a good way to get the team back together.
"I think the biggest things [are] the hellos and the hugs," Redmond said. "It's good for everybody to see each other, because tomorrow, when we take the field, we're ready to focus on baseball and preparing ourselves for the season, and improving parts of our game that we needed to improve and tighten up, and working on our fundamentals."
It will be all business on Sunday. Pitchers and catchers will take the field about 1 p.m. ET, and the workouts are open to the public.
To build a more competitive club, the team put an emphasis on blending the right mix of players. Redmond, entering his second season as manager, feels team chemistry is essential to winning.
"You talk about a family, and chemistry," Redmond said. "This is all part of it. It's all seeing your buddies, seeing your teammates. We've been apart about four months now. Getting everybody back together in a room, and getting ready to compete, that's what it's all about.
"Chemistry is huge for me. It's always been important to me -- even as a player. I feel like you've got to have guys who are all on the same page and who all are willing to grind together. It's such a long season, you rely on the guy next to you to help you get through it. I know a lot of old-school guys think winning builds chemistry. But I think if you bring good guys in -- and you bring in guys who are winners and who have proven themselves in the big leagues -- [and] you mix those guys in with the young, talented players, it kind of helps the young, talented players through the process. It helps them to become leaders quicker. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about."
The Marlins will have 69 players in camp. Making sure they are all on the same page is step No. 1.
Before starting Spring Training, a couple of roster moves were announced. Right-hander Chris Hatcher cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A New Orleans. But outfielder Jimmy Paredes, who was designated for assignment recently, was claimed off waivers by the Orioles.
The Marlins' front office was aggressive in the offseason, making a number of changes to produce the club's first winning season since 2009. Jarrod Saltalamacchia bought into the program, and was the team's biggest offseason acquisition, signing a three-year, $21-million deal.
In Boston, Saltalamacchia experienced going from last place in 2012 to winning the World Series last year. What stood out about the '13 Red Sox was how the squad was built around unselfish players.
"You always hear about [chemistry]," Saltalamacchia said. "Just going through it last year, I honestly believe that's one of the biggest things you have to have to be on a World Series team. You see St. Louis, what they've had the past few years, that's chemistry. What we had last year, nobody can beat it. With the young group of guys we have this year, we very easily could have that chemistry."
After losing 100 games last year, the Marlins set a plan to build for 2014. The objectives were simple.
"Improve the offense, and hold onto pitching. Plain and simple," general manager Dan Jennings said. "There were other components. We felt like we needed a cultural change in the clubhouse, and we made it a point to interview and sit face-to-face with these guys before we brought them on board. There was one common denominator in each guy that we brought in. That was team first."
Like the roster, the front office also went through a shakeup. Jennings was promoted to general manager, and Michael Hill was named president of baseball operations.
When the team takes the field on Sunday, it will be focused on winning, and not so much on talking.
"If you make good baseball decisions, I think the splash is you can win more games," Hill said. "As we well know, we don't win pennants in the offseason. You do that on the field, by putting a team on the field that allows you to win games. Bottom line, you have to win games. You don't win it through press releases, or TV clips, you do it on the field. If we do our jobs, and bring the right players in, you'll see more Ws on the field."