New-look Marlins infield to present challenges at spring training
Marlins infield coach Perry Hill won’t require nametags when he arrives in Jupiter, Fla. next month for the start of spring training.
Hill does, however, expect it to take some time for Miami’s infield additions to acclimate themselves to their teammates and organization.
Over the offseason the Marlins upgraded their lineup with the signings of veterans Rafael Furcal, Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee. Even the man behind the plate, Jarrod Saltamacchia, is new.
That means a different look for the infield, which returns just shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.
Eight years ago during his first stint in South Florida, Hill worked with a similar situation when Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Mike Jacobs assumed starting roles.
"I don’t think it’ll be as long as it was in 2006 when we had all guys out of Double-A," Hill said. "That took a little longer. These guys have been in the big leagues before. I’m sure there’s going to be an adjustment period, but I don’t think it’s going to take the full six weeks to figure it out."
Even though the guys brought in have yet to wear a Marlins uniform, they’re familiar to Hill, who enters his 19th Major League season (28th in professional baseball).
Furcal spent six of his 13 Major League seasons with the National League East rival Braves and happens to be good friends with former Marlins second baseman and Gold Glove winner Luis Castillo.
"We used to talk about footwork, so we’ve already developed a rapport from when he was on the other side," Hill said. "We’d talk about stuff. Raffy and I aren’t strangers by any sense just because we haven’t been on the same team."
Yet Furcal will be moving from shortstop to second base, a bigger change than one might initially think.
According to Hill, just because it’s a shorter throw doesn’t mean it’ll be a quick transition. Furcal’s positioning on the diamond will be different when he covers steals as well as double plays.
"It’s always been my contention that it’s easier to go from second base to shortstop than shortstop to second base the reason being that shortstop — everything you do is in front of you," Hill said. "When you think about ground balls or double plays you’re facing first base. Half of what you do at second base is going away.
"He’s going to make the transition because he’s a good athlete and he’s a good baseball player, but there’s going to be a few tweaks we’re going to have to do to be comfortable."
Jones and Hill worked together in Pittsburgh in 2009, especially after the Pirates traded Adam LaRoche to the Red Sox. Jones shifted from right field to first base where he committed one error in 30 games.
Pittsburgh would set a club record for fielding percentage (.988) and lead the Majors in that statistic.
President of baseball operations Michael Hill, general manager Dan Jennings and manager Mike Redmond each spoke with Hill about Jones for another opinion prior to signing the sixth-year player.
"The advantage he has is he’s been exposed to it before so it shouldn’t be much of a problem for us to get back in sync," Hill said. "I think he’s very comfortable playing first base, so I don’t see any problem whatsoever."
McGehee, the last piece of the infield puzzle, will man the hot corner. After five seasons in the big leagues, he played last year in Japan.
Hill hopes to watch McGehee for a couple of days before offering any suggestions. First-step quickness is essential at third base.
After Closing Day, Hill gave Hechavarria a list of things to work on over the offseason. The schedule — how many he does and when — is up to him.
"Hech’s big thing for me is working on his funnel and getting the ball prepared to throw correctly and his footwork," Hill said. "Replacing his feet once the ball’s in his glove and not cross his feet."
Despite the new additions, Hill doesn’t foresee any issues. The players should mesh well once they’re comfortable with each other.
Aside from his usual group routine, Hill will keep guys after practice if need be.
"That’s what’s spring training’s for," Hill said. "We’ve got six weeks. I’m sure we’ll figure it out."