JUPITER, Fla. – Jack McKeon stood outside the batting cage, savoring the sight as a muscular left-handed hitter took his first spring training swings.
“He’s some guy we just picked up off the street,” McKeon said. “He might have a chance to make the club.”
Yes, Carlos Delgado is pretty good, which is why the Florida Marlins were glad to have their new first baseman arrive at camp Sunday.
His entrance was less than grand, because the former Toronto slugger was unfamiliar with the Marlins’ complex. Delgado signed a few autographs before a security worker pointed him toward the clubhouse door.
“This is more like the first day in a new school,” Delgado said. “It’s a little awkward right now, but it’s cool. Obviously I need to get a feel for what’s going on here and learn my way around, but I’m pretty sure the bases are still going to be 90 feet apart, so I’ll figure it out.”
Delgado was on the field a short time later, grinning as he took his cuts at short underhand tosses from batting coach Bill Robinson, while several new teammates and manager McKeon watched.
McKeon already likes Delgado, and not just because they both smoke cigars.
“To see that left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup — wow,” McKeon said. “Isn’t that going to be nice?”
Florida won a bidding war for Delgado on Jan. 27 when he agreed to a $52 million, four-year deal, the most lucrative annual average in team history. He’s slotted to bat cleanup between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Lowell, and with 336 career home runs, he’s expected to help the Marlins contend for their third World Series title in eight years.
Delgado flew to Florida on Saturday from his home in Puerto Rico. He said he has found an apartment close to the team complex and may ride his bicycle to work, as he did in Toronto. He also hopes to live close to the ballpark in Miami.
With the initial full-squad workout not until Tuesday, Delgado spent much of his first day introducing himself. He knew only a handful of the 64 other Marlins in camp, and he could recall playing with only one during his 11 seasons with Toronto — left-hander Al Leiter.
Delgado was assigned a locker next to young Cabrera.
“I’ve heard of him,” Delgado said. “I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’ve watched him play and heard a lot of great things. I think he’s going to be a superstar.”
Since signing with Florida, Delgado said he has spoken with several former Toronto teammates, including Roy Halladay and Alex Rios, and they’ve wished him luck. They knew he was headed elsewhere because of the financial lure and chance to play for a title contender.
Delgado has never been to the postseason. And while he’s new to the Marlins, he’s well aware of their 2003 World Series title.
“Now,” he said, “I get to play with guys who’ve been where I want to go.”
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