Marlins warming up for 2007

Marlins in camp, warming up for 2007 season

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins players slowly drifted into Roger Dean Stadium on a chilly Saturday morning. Having completed their physicals, they trickled in to get some work done before full drills get under way Sunday.

With temperatures in the low 50s, pitchers and catchers officially reported for the start of Spring Training.

A number of players have actually been in Jupiter for weeks, getting a head start on training. Dontrelle Willis was among the veterans who was working out on Friday.

New manager Fredi Gonzalez arrived at the park mid-morning after taking his physical and eating some breakfast with his family.

The Braves' third-base coach the past four years, Gonzalez is a big-league manager for the first time. One of the changes is he now has not one but two designated parking spaces with his name on it.

"A lot of guys have been here, working out on their own, getting ready for Spring Training," Gonzalez said. "That's great. This is what I like to do.

"I haven't looked at myself any different. I'm still a coach, I'm still a teacher. Instead of being a third-base coach, they put 'manager' on the back of my name, and I've gotten a little more responsibility. This is what I've always wanted to do."

The Marlins embark on their fifth season of Spring Training in Jupiter.

Before heading to an organizational meeting, Gonzalez took in the atmosphere. Some players were playing catch, and a few position players who arrived early were in the batting cage.

"I've been out here since Monday," Gonzalez said. "On Monday, it seemed like Sunday was never going to come. It has taken such a long time to come. Sunday will be here tomorrow, and I can't wait."

Pitchers and catchers will get a few days of work in before position players report for their physicals on Tuesday. The first full-squad workout is Wednesday.

Some position players came to Jupiter on Saturday, including All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla, first baseman Mike Jacobs and outfielders Reggie Abercrombie and Eric Reed.

Uggla is awaiting the arrival of the rest of the infielders: third baseman Miguel Cabrera, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and infielder/outfielder Alfredo Amezaga.

"I can't wait for Hanley, Cabrera and Amezaga to get here," Uggla said. "Then, you know it's time."

Gonzalez takes over 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.

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.

Hampered by some discomfort in his right elbow, Johnson is being held back from throwing drills until he feels ready. The right-hander was hoping to begin throwing on flat ground this past week, but he never did.

The team's goal is to get him ready for Opening Day.

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.

The past three years, the Marlins struck gold at the closer spot by using veterans who re-established themselves. In 2004, Armando Benitez set a franchise record with 47 saves, and then signed a three-year deal with the Giants.

Todd Jones became an impact closer in 2005, and landed a two-year contract with the Tigers. A year ago, Joe Borowski proved once again that he had the makings of being a dependable closer. In the offseason, Borowski signed as a free agent with the Indians.

The Marlins are exploring trade options for a veteran, but they are hopeful someone will step up in Spring Training.

A handful of non-roster invitees will get a strong look to win jobs at the back end of the bullpen.

Nate Field, Lee Gardner, Mike Koplove and Felix Rodriguez all signed Minor League contracts, but they have a chance to make the club.

The Marlins made a transaction late in the morning Saturday, releasing non-roster invitee pitcher Jimmy Serrano, who did not pass his physical.

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