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Spring is in the air

Miami’s rookie manager excited as camp gets under way

JUPITER, Fla. – New manager Mike Redmond arrived at the Miami Marlins’ spring training facility around 5 a.m. Monday.

A few hours later, slugger Giancarlo Stanton arrived, a few days earlier than his requested reporting date.

Expectations may be low for the Marlins, yet their excitement level about getting spring training started is clearly high.

The last get-ready day for the Marlins was Monday. Boxes were wheeled in and out of the spring facility, a moving truck loaded with equipment was outside and there were plenty of acquaintances being made for the first time. Today, workouts officially begin, pitchers and catchers having their first session of the spring.

“It was good to see all the guys and get to finally meet some of the guys that I’ve read so much about,” said Redmond, the former Gonzaga Prep and Gonzaga University standout. “Like I said, everybody’s excited. Obviously, we’ve got a tremendous opportunity for guys in this camp and I think everybody realizes that. It’s a fresh start.”

For everyone, that is. Himself included.

Redmond was a backup catcher on the Marlins’ team that started the 2003 season with limited expectations and wound up winning the World Series – a season that began, just as this one will, at the spring facility in Jupiter. He’s now the man in charge, taking over from Ozzie Guillen as part of the Marlins’ big offseason revamping, one that carved off huge portions of the team’s payroll and ushered in a rebuilding era.

Picked by some as a title contender last season, the Marlins sputtered except for one dazzling stretch in May. They finished with 69 wins, only good enough for last in the N.L. East.

“We’re done talking about what happened last year,” Redmond said, standing outside on a breezy 79-degree morning. “It’s over. We’re moving forward. We’re going to talk about, day to day, what goes on and how we can build this thing back up and get this thing headed in the right direction. It doesn’t matter what you did last year. We’re focusing on what you can do for us and this team in the future and tomorrow and the next day after that.”

Even before the first pitch of the spring gets thrown, Redmond has his first win. His beat-the-sunrise arrival time put him at work about an hour before Juan Pierre – a notoriously early riser – arrived to get his day started.

Some paperwork, some final planning for the first few workouts, his own physical, things like that were all part of Redmond’s Monday routine. Come today, it’ll be off to the manicured practiced fields, ready for real work.

“If he beats me here, that’s no problem,” Pierre said.

“It’s just fun to be back at it. But we’ll see how long that lasts.”

Stanton did not take questions from reporters as he and pitcher Ricky Nolasco walked into the clubhouse, and he didn’t join teammates at a fan event at the Marlins’ ballpark in Miami – about 90 minutes south of the spring-training site – during the weekend.

He was certainly going to get some questions from Redmond, who was slightly eager to meet his best hitter.

“I hadn’t seen him,” Redmond said, not long after Stanton’s arrival. “Looking forward to getting a chance to talk to him a little bit.”

For as much as Redmond talked about moving forward, both as individuals and a franchise, Monday was tinged with nostalgia for Miami’s first-year skipper. He said he found himself regularly gravitating from the manager’s office toward the clubhouse, looking for his old locker that, as he put it, was far from where the Marlins’ star players would be assigned space.

Even the food room off the clubhouse brought back memories. Redmond said he remembers a time where whenever he would walk into that room, Miguel Cabrera’s father would be in there dining.

“A lot of good memories, you know? … Remembering what we went through, all the good times, it brought back a lot of good memories,” Redmond said. “To say that I’m excited about (today) and this season is an understatement.”

Pierre said his teammate- turned-manager’s excitement level is unmistakable, and those 5 a.m. arrivals is one way for it to show.

“I don’t think he was here that early when I played with him,” Pierre said. “But I think he’s as excited as ever. His first go-round as a manager, that’s a big deal. That’s not anything to take lightly, because guys have been waiting years and years to become a manager of a team and for him to do it so quick. … We always knew he was going to be a manager. He always had that demeanor.”

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