Saltalamacchia’s HR sign of what could be

JUPITER, Fla. — A home run at any time is a cause to celebrate. When Jarrod Saltalamacchia delivered his first blast of Spring Training, it brought a sly smile to the faces of Marlins manager Mike Redmond and ace pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Redmond and Fernandez were in the dugout talking when Saltalamacchia unloaded on a solo shot in the fourth inning on Tuesday in Miami’s 3-1 win over the Twins at Roger Dean Stadium.

“Jose and I got a good little chuckle out of that when we were sitting there talking,” Redmond said. “That’s fun to see. He’s going to be a nice piece in our lineup, for sure.”

After all the hardships of losing 100 games last year, the Marlins are focused on moving forward to brighter days.

Based on what they’ve seen thus far in Spring Training, there is a growing confidence among the players, coaches and front office. Saltalamacchia is a big piece to the puzzle.

Delivering the go-ahead home run was a reason to rejoice. Redmond and Fernandez picked up on that after the clutch homer.

“We were like, ‘Hey, we could have a little fun this year,’ ” Redmond said.

Pitching. Pitching. Pitching.

Tom Koehler is in line to win the fifth starter spot, but the 26-year-old knows there are no guarantees. The right-hander probably has the edge to secure the job. If he doesn’t, Koehler could find himself in the bullpen or in Triple-A.

Working in his favor is the experience he picked up on last year. His fastball was clocked at 95 mph, which showed his arm strength was there. The question is whether he will throw enough strikes. When he does, he is tough.

Koehler also knows there are plenty of quality arms in the organization positioned to win a roster spot, either by Opening Day or during the season.

“There are a lot of good arms in here,” Koehler said. “That’s not a secret. From top to bottom, upper Minor League levels, guys competing for spots. There are some serious arms in this clubhouse. I don’t know if there are many organizations, when you go on pure ability, rival the ability we have in this clubhouse.”

What is lacking is tons of experience. But quality is quality.

“Experience is one thing,” Koehler said. “You learn a lot from experience, and you learn how to handle situations. That’s something we all still need to learn.

“There is still some experience to be had there. But when you go on pure ability, there are some serious arms in here.”

Joe Frisaro

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