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Marlins counting on arms in '07

Marlins counting on arms to lead the way in '07

Officially, Spring Training opens for the Marlins on Saturday. In reality, a number of players already have gotten a head start in getting ready for the workouts to begin at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

In recent weeks, a stream of players have filtered into South Florida, resolving housing issues and getting in some practices on the back fields of the stadium complex.

The Marlins embark on their fifth season of Spring Training in Jupiter. Pitchers and catchers report on Saturday, with drills beginning Sunday. Position players arrive on Feb. 19, and full-squad workouts begin Feb. 21.

Under new leadership this season, the Marlins look to build on their 2006 success with manager Fredi Gonzalez, formerly the Braves' third-base coach.

Gonzalez inherits a team that finished 78-84, but was over .500 and in the thick of the Wild Card race in early September.

Strong starting pitching was the trademark of the team in 2006. Marlins starters combined for a 62-56 record with a 4.22 ERA.

The 2007 rotation will again feature some of the top young arms in the game.

Ace Dontrelle Willis looks to have a bounce-back year after going 12-12 with a 3.87 ERA. In 2005, the D-Train paced the Major Leagues in victories with 22.

Four rookies from 2006 look to keep maturing in the rotation. Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson became the first rookie foursome in Major League history to top the double-digit mark in wins.

A close eye will be kept on Sanchez and Johnson because both experienced arm discomfort the past few weeks. Sanchez had a precautionary MRI on his right shoulder, but he is again pitching off the mound.

Johnson, bothered by irritations in his biceps/triceps areas, is moving along more slowly. The goal is to get him ready for Opening Day. So his throwing will be limited early.

Solidifying the bullpen is one of the keys for the team. And general manager Larry Beinfest says the closer will likely from within the group of pitchers who will be attending Spring Training.

Some of the closing candidates are Taylor Tankersley, Matt Lindstrom, Henry Owens and Kevin Gregg.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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