Marcel Ozuna and Justin Bour were the biggest losers for the Marlins during the winter offseason.
And that’s a good thing.
When they report to spring training next week, the Marlins expect the two starting position players to each weigh roughly 20 pounds lighter than they did last season. For Ozuna, that’s a significant departure from this time a year ago when he showed up overweight.
The Marlins feel that, consequently, the extra body baggage caused him to struggle.
“He wasn’t the same guy in center field,” Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations, said of Ozuna’s reduced mobility in 2015. “He came in last year and he was like 240 [pounds]. The last report I got he was 220. So he looks like the guy who we called up two years ago.”
The Marlins were so frustrated with Ozuna that, in addition to sending him to the minors for six weeks last season, they listened to trade offers for him during the winter.
But they never received any offers to their liking and decided to hang on to him.
As for Bour, the burly first baseman more closely resembled the offensive lineman he was in high school than a big-league player.
“He was too big,” Hill said. “There were guys playing on Sunday [in the NFL] who weighed less than he did, and that can’t happen in our sport. It’s tough to carry around a lot of weight over 162 games.”
As a result, the Marlins “challenged” Bour to lose weight. The Marlins had him listed at 250 pounds in last year’s media guide.
“He literally worked his tail off this offseason,” Hill said. “We challenged him and he took it to heart. He’s coming in leaner, lost inches off his waistline.”
The Marlins are trying to determine whether Bour can serve as their everyday first baseman, or whether he will platoon. Bour hit all 23 of his home runs against right-handers while struggling against lefties.
“We’ll see if he can be an everyday guy,” Hill said.
Two spots up for grabs in Marlins rotation
The Marlins are sure on three starters for their rotation: Jose Fernandez, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler.
But the other two spots are up for grabs and will be determined in spring training.
Hill mentioned Jarred Cosart, Edwin Jackson, Adam Conley, Justin Nicolino, Brad Hand and David Phelps as the top candidates.
A year ago, Cosart was a cinch for the rotation when he pitched well for the Marlins after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Astros in 2014.
But his stock slipped last season when issues with vertigo caused him to struggle. He was limited to 13 starts, going 2-5 with a 4.52 ERA.
“Cosart has a lot to prove from having pretty much a lost year,” Hill said. “He’ll be a starter somewhere for us, and it’ll be up to him where that is. Nobody’s going to be given anything. Who knows how it will shake out?”
As for a couple of the others, Hill had this to say:
▪ “Conley (4-1, 3.68 in 11 starts as a rookie last season) showed why we took him in the second round, and he really pitched extremely well.”
▪ “I don’t think we saw the best of Nicolino (5-4, 4.01 in 12 starts), so he’s coming with a lot to prove.”
Veteran lefty Craig Breslow could enhance Marlins bullpen
While the Marlins signed left-handed reliever Craig Breslow to a minor-league deal, don’t be surprised to see him break camp with the big club. Breslow, 35, provides a wealth of experience with 10 major-league seasons to his credit, and would give the Marlins a second southpaw in the bullpen to go with Mike Dunn.
“Ideally, I think that just gives [new manager Don Mattingly) more options,” Hill said of a second lefty reliever. “We’ve done it with one lefty. We’ve done it with no lefties. I’d say a more traditional sense is to have two.”
Hill noted that, once again, Hand could also fill that bill.
Breslow was outstanding in 2013 in helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series, going 5-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 61 appearances. And he has pitched equally well against both left-handed and right-handed hitters.
But he has slipped the past two seasons, going 2-8 with a 4.98 ERA in 105 total appearances.
“I think he’s battled a little arm fatigue,” Hill said. “I think that may have effected his success. We bringing him to the National League and putting him in our division, it potentially could be a good fit.”