As thousands of Miami Marlins packed into the team’s stadium Saturday to get autographs of their favorite players, there was an optimism of good things on the horizon – something astonishing considering the team finished the 2019 season with a 57-105 record, the second worst in franchise history.
For manager Don Mattingly, the optimism was cautious at best but still there as he addressed the media ahead of the team’s Spring Training debuts with pitchers and catchers reporting this week.
“You start gearing up and you know it’s coming,” said Mattingly, who signed a contract extension this offseason as he enters his fifth season leading the team. “Once the first of the year hits, you get a chance to see the guys and get excited about baseball again.”
One of the main reasons for optimism comes with the moves general manager Mike Hill and the team made this offseason – addressing the team’s struggles on offense by signing players such as infielder Jonathan Villar along with veterans like Francisco Cervelli, Corey Dickerson, Matt Joyce and even getting former Los Angeles Dodgers star Matt Kemp to sign up as a non-roster invitee.
“All I hear is optimism, optimism, optimism from everyone and I feel like I’m in that boat also,” Mattingly said. “I think as an organization, this is the first year of the last couple where if we don’t make significant improvement this year it will be a disappointment.”
The one advantage of being what could be nicely described as horrible last season? There is no where to go but up, and that’s the mindset the Marlins are taking into the spring and their 2020 season opener on March 26th against the division rival Philadelphia Phillies.
“You can be significant pretty easy when you win 57 games,” Mattingly said. “I think we have a group that’s going to be a lot more competitive. We know we’re in a tough division.”
That tough division includes teams like the Phillies as well as the Atlanta Braves and the rival New York Mets – oh yeah, and the defending world champion Washington Nationals. But, even the players shared in that cautious optimism trickling down from the top.
“We got a lot of good additions everyone should know about,“ said outfielder Lewis Brinson, a Broward County native who some think could be at risk of not making the active roster. “We’re going to have a fun year. We’re getting better and starting to progress as a team.”
Pitchers and catchers will hold their first practice Thursday ahead of the team’s first full practice on February 17th before their first game February 22nd against the Mets.