It’s hard to picture Tommy Hutton outside of baseball, and with good reason.
Hutton will celebrate an impressive milestone — his 50th year involved in the sport — in 2014. He enters his 18th season as the FOX Sports Florida’s Marlins analyst in 2014.
His knowledge and stories of the game make broadcasts that much more entertaining and enlightening to viewers.
FOX Sports Florida’s Christina De Nicola spoke with Hutton, whom you can follow on Twitter (@THUT14), about the 2014 Marlins. She’ll catch up with Hutton throughout the 2014 season for insight on the club.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: Looking at the spring so far, what’s been the biggest surprise story that has been developing?
TOMMY HUTTON: I don’t think I could pinpoint a certain player, but I think the biggest surprise and the most encouraging thing is the overall attitude of everybody and the way everybody has gotten their work in. The collective group of guys here — I think there’s a good mix of veteran and young players, and that helps. Overall, I think the attitude that I’ve seen.
FSF:How far do you think that could take them this season?
HUTTON: You have to have skills and you have to produce, but to start with you have to have that (attitude) too. That’s good to see. They had some areas last year, obviously, last in most offensive categories. It helped that a little bit by bringing in (Jarrod) Saltalamacchia, bringing in a Garrett Jones. A versatile guy, a veteran guy like (Jeff) Baker who can hit lefties. A Reed Johnson who can hit lefties really well. And then you want to see the maturation of the young guys like (Christian) Yelich, hopefully (Marcell) Ozuna. You know that if they all do what they can and get a little bit better that just helps Giancarlo Stanton. If he stays in the lineup there’s no telling what he can do.
FSF: I think that leads us to the next one. What are some of the keys to 2014?
HUTTON: I think keeping (Stanton) on the field. People say he’s not going to get pitched to. He’s going to see pitches. He saw pitches last year, and I think he is going to be able to adjust to that better this year because he experienced it last year. That will help him, and with guys around him if Saltalamacchia gets hot, Garrett Jones. That’s going to help. I have no worries or fears about Jose Fernandez. He’s going to be as good if not better than he was last year, and he’s going to throw more innings, so that’s even better.
If you see progress in (Jacob) Turner and (Nathan) Eovaldi and (Henderson) Alvarez… Tom Koehler’s looked great. Brad Hand’s looked great. The real encouraging part is you have all that at the big-league level, and they sent guys down that there’s a good chance we’ll see. That’s a great situation to have.
FSF: Who are some players to watch and why? You’ve touched on a few of them already.
HUTTON: If you don’t like watching Stanton hit, then there’s something wrong with you. Don’t go get that sandwich, or if you’re watching on TV and Rich Waltz gives you, ‘Coming up in the next inningâ¦’ If Stanton’s one of the names, don’t go away. I want to see progress in (Adeiny) Hechavarria this year. I think he can be better, and I want to see him get better. Casey McGehee at third base could be a nice little piece there because the Marlins didn’t get any power out of third base last year. Hopefully that’s something to watch, too.
FSF: So maybe Hechavarria and McGehee are the dark horses to watch per se?
HUTTON: They’re not guys you depend on to do a whole lot, so just do what they’ve done and get a little bit better. You’d love to see Casey McGehee have the kind of year he had a few years ago with Milwaukee when he had 100 RBI. I think he learned a little bit more how to hit in Japan. If you go there and you don’t adjust to all the forkballs and breaking stuff, then you’re not going to have success. He had success, so that tells me he worked on some things and made some adjustments.
FSF: I won’t necessarily ask expectations, but what do you think heading into the season and over the course of the season would be reasonable hope for the team?
HUTTON: You get a little excited because if everything’s healthy, then that can factor in how the team will perform against the Braves who’ve already lost two of their starting pitchers to Tommy John surgery, to the Phillies who are getting older, to the Mets who aren’t going to have Matt Harvey and they’ve had some issues with Jonathon Niese in spring training. You think about all that stuff and all of a sudden health is a big factor. If you’re healthy you never know what can happen.