Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen speaks to members of the media, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, in Miami. The Marlins finished last in the NL East in 2011 and haven't reached the playoffs since 2003. But this year they're expected to contend for a postseason berth. With spring training a week away, Guillen spoke Monday about the Marlins' offseason makeover, which included a name change and spending spree as the franchise moves into a new ballpark. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
MIAMI — Ozzie Guillen says Hanley Ramirez is reluctant, Carlos Zambrano is rejuvenated and the Miami Marlins’ much-maligned uniforms are redeemable.
“They look bad,” Guillen said Monday. “But if we win, those are going to be the best uniforms in the game.”
With spring training a week away, Guillen spoke at the Marlins’ media day about the team’s offseason makeover, which included new colors, a name change and a spending spree as the franchise moves into a new ballpark. Among the acquisitions were manager Guillen and former All-Star pitcher Zambrano, two ex-Chicagoans in the market for a fresh start, along with All-Star free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.
When asked if Ramirez has embraced his move to third base so Reyes can play shortstop, Guillen said no.
“I don’t think he’s 100-percent on board,” Guillen said. “Not yet. I don’t expect him to be.”
Guillen said he has talked with Ramirez only once since the signing of Reyes. But he expects Ramirez to accept the position switch once he realizes it gives the Marlins their best chance to win.
“This is Hanley’s team,” Guillen said. “Those guys they brought from outside are to help him to win the championship. When you lose it’s not fun to come to the ballpark. That happened to Hanley a lot.”
The Marlins finished last in the NL East in 2011 and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2003. But this year they’re expected to contend for a postseason berth — and make lots of headlines.
The transformation of the Marlins’ profile is such that they’ll be the focus of Showtime’s series “The Franchise” this year, Major League Baseball said Monday. Thanks in part to Ramirez, the talkative Guillen and the combative Zambrano, the program could become a soap opera.
Zambrano wore out his welcome with the Cubs feuding with teammates, management and umpires. The Marlins believe they can revive his career by pairing him and fellow Venezuelan Guillen.
“I have people in Venezuela betting to see when’s the first time me and Carlos are going to fight,” Guillen said. “He did a lot of bad things in Chicago. He was out of hand. He was kind of like phony. But Carlos is a great guy. He’s healthy. He’s hungry. He’s going to show people who Carlos Zambrano is.”
The historically thrifty Marlins acquired Zambrano in a trade and spent $191 million to sign Reyes, Buehrle and Bell. They were spurned in courtships with Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who signed Monday with the Oakland Athletics, and with top free-agent prize Albert Pujols.
“You don’t land everybody you want to land,” president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. “But I think we’ve been aggressive. We’re really happy with the way the club looks.”
Beinfest said the team should be fully healthy heading into spring training. That includes ace Josh Johnson, who has been throwing off a mound after making only nine starts in 2011 because of right shoulder inflammation.
“I feel great,” Johnson said. “No problems. I haven’t really been sore yet, and I’ve been letting it go.”
If Johnson’s healthy and Zambrano takes advantage of his fresh start, the rotation is set. The bullpen and defense should be much-improved, and the top of the order looks potent with the speedy Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, followed by 2009 batting champion Ramirez and precocious slugger Mike Stanton.
The start of spring training is always a time for rosy predictions, but this year the Marlins’ optimism seems justified.
“We made a big push to get really good,” first baseman Gaby Sanchez said. “We should not only compete, but be able to win the division. I feel like every other team knows that, too.”
Guillen said he expects to win the NL East, despite formidable competition from the Phillies, Braves and even the improved Nationals. At the very least, his team should be colorful — and not just because of those orange, blue, black and yellow uniforms.