The 2017 baseball season is a chance for a new start for the Miami Marlins. Still, the demons that exist will remain fresh in the mind of manager Don Mattingly and his players. While Miami was a player in the 2016 NL playoff race until the final 10 games of the season, there is still plenty to improve on with a returning 79-82 franchise.
Miami has to push through memories of what could have been and of tragedy that struck everyone in the baseball community. If the Marlins plan to be a part of the second season party this year, things have to improve on the base pads and on the mound. Both will be scrutinized over the next couple of months with Spring Training clearly visible on the horizon.
"Things are going to have to still fall our way," Mattingly said. "We need to be able to stay healthy. That's why we sit in our rooms and talk over the winter. You talk about trying to create depth in your system, trying to create depth with your players so you can sustain injuries. And that's one of the things that we worry about."
Of course, injuries are a major part of the game, but mental health will also play a key role in how Miami plays baseball this season. The death of Jose Fernandez will still weigh heavy on players’ minds when the first game of the season is played.
"The loss of Jose puts us in a different spot because we've lost one of the best pitchers in the game," Mattingly said. "We're not going to be able to replace that."
Regardless of signing Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke to the rotation and the talk of possibly looking to sign Jason Hammel, the loss of the leader of this team will still remain the biggest loss of this year. Moving forward is key to the Marlins’ success.
A story on MLB.com by Joe Frisaro points out that no one starter is being asked to fill the void. But the front office made an effort to compile as many durable starters it could find, which was a difficult task because the free-agent market was thin and club-controlled options were expensive in terms of trade compensation. The current rotation must step up.
The bullpen must deliver as well. With new faces and new energy, will the arms in relief have the same impact in Miami as it did in Cleveland during the Indians’ playoff run?
Miami filled two spots by adding Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler, both formerly with the Red Sox. A.J. Ramos, an All-Star who had 40 saves in 2016, will likely remain the closer. David Phelps will start out in the bullpen, but could move to start on occasion. The Marlins also added Justin McGowan to the pen once again.