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Marlins Pitchers Give Fans & Team Hope

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Marlins pitchers and catchers reported to the team for spring training Sunday starting what every Marlins fan, player, and executive hope will be a quick turnaround for the downtrodden franchise.

What really helps teams make a quick turnaround is solid pitching and this year the Marlins have a pitching ace in house along with plenty of solid prospects. At the top of the pitching rotation is last season's National League Rookie of the Year, Jose Fernandez.

The second-year player dominated in 2013 on a team that gave him little to no help. Fernandez finished the season with a 12-6 record, and ERA of 2.19, 187 strikeouts to 55 walks and allowed opponents to hit just .182 off of him in 28 starts.

The Marlins shut down Fernandez with a few weeks remaining in the season to not wear out his arm in his rookie season. This year, Fernandez is expected to take on the staff ace role and lead a talented, though still young pitching corps.

Behind Fernandez will be starters Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. Both are considered rising talents in the majors and should slot well right behind Fernandez. After that, Jacob Turner appears to be the odds-on favorite for the fourth starting spot in the rotation.

The fifth position could go to any number of pitchers including: Brian Flynn, Brad Hand, Kevin Slowey, or Andrew Heaney or Justin Nicolino. The last two names are of the most interest to Marlins fans.

Heaney is considered the top left-handed pitching prospect in the minors and would provide an excellent starter at any spot in the rotation. Heaney will likely be called up to the main squad at midseason, barring injury or a stellar performance in spring training.

The Marlins could sport a deadly 1-2 punch in the rotation next year if Fernandez and Heaney continue to develop at the current pace.

All of the pitchers will have a "salty" veteran catcher to help bring them through their seasons. The Marlins signed free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the offseason to help lead the young pitching corps for the next few seasons.

Saltalamacchia is coming off a solid season that saw him hit .273 with an OBP of .338 and a slugging percentage of .428. Saltalamacchia hit 25 home runs two years ago, but the Marlins would be happy with him hitting for average like he did last season, his best hitting year in the majors.

Finally, don't forget the Marlins have one of the best young closers in the game in side-armer Steve Cishek. Last season, Cishek converted 34 of 36 save opportunities while posting an ERA of just 2.33. For his career in the bullpen, he has converted 52 of 58 save opportunities with the Marlins and for the first time gives the team a bullpen to have confidence in.

All around the pitchers and catchers for the Marlins is hope and projecting a solid future for the players and the team. The only question is can the pitchers reach their potential this season, or will it be one more year before the Marlins fully hit their stride?


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