The Miami Marlins officially started Spring Training this week, and a new era of South Florida baseball has begun. The offseason hype surrounding the team has simmered, but the enthusiasm of the players has not. The first few days of training have reeled in a few solid headlines of the Marlins, and the outlook is looking good.

New shortstop Jose Reyes was nothing but smiles on his first day with the Marlins.  Manager Ozzie Guillen said whenever Reyes shows up in the clubhouse he is, “smiling…happy to be in baseball.” Reyes, along with many other new Miami players, is glad to part of the team. “The energy, and the passion…that’s something that I love,” said Reyes of his first day at camp. He will be manning the left side of the infield with Hanley Ramirez, who discussed his new role at third base this week.

Ramirez said that he is excited to be playing alongside Reyes, and believes that he can make an All-Star third baseman of himself. Ramirez also mentioned the projected top of the order, which Marlins fans are yearning to watch. With Reyes leading off, Emilio Bonifacio batting second, and Hanley in the three-hole, Miami has, hands down, the fastest one-two-three in baseball. Reyes and Bonifacio can steal 30-40 bases per season each, and even if Hanley is sub-30, that lineup is more effective than any. Since Ramirez’s 2009 campaign, he has been in the 20-steals per year range, which marred the offense’s production. But with the addition of Reyes, if Ramirez has any semblance of his 2009 season, an aggressive, run-producing offense is imminent.

Even with so much talent on the team, a healthy roster will not just be an added bonus, but rather a key to success. Josh Johnson’s health is vital to the stability of the Marlins. After injury-shortened seasons in 2010 and 2011, JJ needs to keep up his metabolism to fulfill his number one starter role. With such a talented team, health is the key factor for this season. We know everybody can perform, but if the players cannot stay on the field for the entire season, that talent will go to waste. “Obviously health is gonna be a big issue,” Mark Beuhrle said, “I think if we stay healthy, we’re gonna be right there at the end of the year.”

The players who signed with the team during Miami’s big spending spree did not sign in vain. Everybody feels the Marlins are legitimate contenders this year. New closer Heath Bell spoke of his desire to be with the team, and he’s confident that Miami is a serious playoff contender. “I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t feel it was a team that couldn’t get to the promised land…and win the World Series.”

Ozzie Guillen won a World Series in just his second year managing the White Sox, and he can’t wait to see his new team perform. “If you play the game right with the talent we have, everything’s gonna fall into place,” said the new manager of Miami’s team. Mike Stanton impressively displayed his power during batting practice this week, and Guillen spoke of his bright future with the team. He  has confidence in Hanley Ramirez’s ability as well, who also put on a show during BP.

All this is going down in Jupiter, Florida, a small ocean-side town just north of Palm Beach. Spring games begin at Roger Dean Stadium on March 5th. Last week, I found out that I will be traveling to Jupiter at the end of March. I’ll be seeing a Cardinals game at Roger Dean Stadium before heading down to Miami for one of the Yankees exhibition games at Marlins Park. I’m thrilled to get this opportunity, so make sure to stay tuned for updates.

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