Marlins hope to keep Stanton, Fernandez healthy for a change
MIAMI (AP) — The last time Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and ace Jose Fernandez were in the lineup together was May 9, 2014.
The Marlins lost that day 10-1, and have lost the majority of their games since. But if they can keep Stanton and Fernandez healthy, they might win a lot in 2016.
Miami has little depth but a solid cast of regulars, and getting the starting lineup to opening day without injury will be the primary goal of spring training. If the Marlins can do that, they believe they’ll be a playoff team for the first time in 13 years.
“Our goal is to be one of 10 in 2016,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “We feel like we’re poised to do that.”
Here are things to know as the Marlins prepare to open camp Friday in Jupiter, Florida.
STANTON’S STATUS: For the second year in a row, Stanton reports for spring training coming off a season-ending injury. Last year, the first of his record 13-year contract, he was leading the majors in homers and RBIs when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand June 26. He was expected to be sidelined four to six weeks but never returned.
Stanton resumed swinging a bat in November, and camp begins with the Marlins eager to get him on the field — and keep him there. He has missed 190 games in the past four years but has still hit 125 homers during that span.
FERNANDEZ’S STATUS: Fernandez also reports for camp with lingering doubts about his health. He returned from Tommy John surgery in July — shortly after Stanton was hurt — and went 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts. But he returned to the DL for a month late in the season with a strained right biceps.
When healthy, Fernandez is unbeatable at Marlins Park. His 17-0 record at home is the best career start in the modern era. Overall he’s 22-9 with a 2.40 ERA in 47 starts, and he’s still only 23.
ANOTHER MANAGERIAL CHANGE: Newcomer Don Mattingly is owner Jeffrey Loria’s seventh manager since June 2010, and he’s clearly an optimist. He said he plans to be in the job for at least 10 years.
Mattingly finished above .500 in each of his five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which sounds good to the Marlins. They won only 71 games last year and haven’t had a winning season since 2009.
The Marlins last made the playoffs in 2003, when they went on to win the World Series. The only team with a longer playoff drought is Seattle at 14 years.
CELEBRITY HITTING COACH: Barry Bonds will work full time for the first time since his final season as a steroids-tainted home run king in 2007.
He’ll be the Marlins’ hitting coach, and they can use his advice. Last year they ranked next to last in the majors in runs and home runs.
SPRING DECISIONS: The lineup around Stanton is mostly set. Leading off will be Dee Gordon, who led the NL in batting (.333), hits (205) and stolen bases (58) to earn a new $50 million, five-year contract. He’ll be followed by Christian Yelich, who started poorly but batted .329 in his final 102 games.
Rookie first baseman Justin Bour hit 23 homers, all against right-handers. Mattingly will decide whether to platoon him with newcomer Chris Johnson.
The pitching staff is more unsettled. Free agent left-hander Wei-Yin Chen signed an $80 million, five-year deal and will be slotted as the No. 2 starter behind Fernandez, and the rotation is also expected to include Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler. David Phelps, Justin Nicolino, Jose Urena and Adam Conley are among the contenders for the other spot.
Carter Capps, who consistently threw 100 mph last year, will challenge incumbent A.J. Ramos for the closer’s job.