New faces, new manager, less fanfare for Miami Marlins

On the first day of spring training, manager Mike Redmond and Juan Pierre share memories of seasons past.

02/12/2013 12:01 AM

07/31/2014 5:15 PM

Now that Mike Redmond is his manager, Juan Pierre has to stop himself from calling his former teammate on the Marlins by his old nickname — “Mike Obliqueman” — a tongue-in-cheek reference to Redmond’s torso during his playing days.

That would be too chummy, Pierre figures, and he wants to keep it professional.

After all, Redmond is now his boss.

“It’s so weird,” Pierre said.

Weird describes a lot of things for the Marlins this spring. Only two of the nine players from their Opening Day lineup of a year ago are still around, and the manager who wrote out that lineup, Ozzie Guillen, has been replaced by Redmond after only one season at the helm.

Their Opening Day closer is gone.

So, too, are four of the five pitchers in the original starting rotation.

There were a lot of unfamiliar faces among the group of pitchers and catchers who trickled in and out for routine physicals Monday at the team’s spring training headquarters at Roger Dean Stadium.

There was nary a hint of last year’s media circus that converged here like locusts a year ago to detail and document the unveiling of the rebranded Marlins, with their new Miami name, new uniforms and new ballpark.

The New Yorker and New York Times Sunday Magazine did not send representatives this time, and the production crew for The Franchise series was no longer about with cameras rolling.

Instead, only a handful of sportswriters and one South Florida TV station showed up Monday.

And then there were Pierre and Redmond, members of the 2003 World Series team who haven’t been seen around these parts in more a half dozen years after one was traded off and the other became a free agent and signed elsewhere. Now both are back, only in vastly different roles.

“It’s taking me some time getting used to,” Pierre said of having Redmond as his manager.

Pierre is one of only three position players from the ’03 team who is still swinging a bat in the majors. The others: Miguel Cabrera and Alex Gonzalez. Redmond’s playing days ended in 2010, though he threatened a comeback more than once when he was managing in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system.

“My running joke when I was managing with the Blue Jays and they were struggling, I would yell into the dugout and say, ‘Hey guys, don’t make me activate myself,’ ” Redmond said, smiling.

But just to be clear, he added: “I just had my physical, and my shoulder’s torched and the rest of my body is heading south, too.”

It was exactly 10 years ago that the Marlins started training in Jupiter, having moved south from their old spring stomping ground in Viera, further up I-95.

Few imagined it at the time, but that team would go onto win the Series. Pierre, who had just joined the Marlins in an offseason trade with Colorado, said he was just trying to get acclimated to his new surroundings.

“I don’t think anyone ever mentioned World Series,” he said. “There wasn’t any talk of it at all.”

The most vivid memory Pierre has of spring training in ’03: Driving a theretofore unknown rookie pitcher named Dontrelle Willis from the team hotel to practice every day.

“He was just a minor-leaguer, and I didn’t know who he was,” Pierre recalled. “I just remember telling him, ‘I’m getting up at 6. If you want to come, I’ll give you a ride. But I’m not waiting around.’ Every morning he was in the lobby waiting for me. The rest is history after that.”

When Redmond showed up for work just after 5 a.m. on Monday, he half expected to find Pierre — a habitual early bird — already there, working out. But Redmond, excited to get the ball rolling, arrived first.

“[John] Silverman, our clubhouse guy, was there,” Redmond said. “But I’m gonna beat him [Tuesday]. All I care about is I beat J.P. there. I blew him out. We didn’t even talk about it. I didn’t want to bring it up to him.”

Redmond smiled and winked.

When he walked through the clubhouse before sunup Monday, while it was still empty and quiet, Redmond said he couldn’t help but glance over to the locker he once used during spring training.

“I found myself at times gravitating back into the clubhouse,” Redmond said. “There are a lot of good memories in there.”

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