MLB Team Report - Miami Marlins - INSIDE PITCH


MIAMI -- For the second straight year, the Miami Marlins' season ended with a no-hitter.

Henderson Alvarez pitched the no-no in 2013, but he was the losing pitcher in the season finale as the Washington Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann beat him 1-0.

But as spectacular a finish as that was -- including a diving grab by the Nationals' Steven Souza to rob Christian Yelich on the final out of the game -- let's focus on the Marlins' big picture.

Miami (77-85) made significant strides in 2014, improving by 15 wins over its previous season.

And if right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who was hit in the face with a pitch and missed the final 17 games, and right-hander Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery in May) quickly return to health at their pre-injury skill levels, the Marlins' future is extremely bright.

Other factors will be important, too, but none as significant as the health of the Marlins' two franchise players.

It is not only their talent that makes Fernandez and Stanton special.

Fernandez's upbeat personality is infectious, and his return to the ace role would give the rest of the rotation a chance to flow. Alvarez, a first-time All-Star this year, would be the second starter, Jarred Cosart follows at three and Tom Koehler and Nathan Eovaldi fill in from there.

Similarly, Stanton, who led the NL with 37 homers despite not finishing the season, anchors the batting order in the 3-hole.

Yelich had a brilliant year as the leadoff batter, and Casey McGehee and Marcell Ozuna serve as the primary protectors batting immediately following Stanton. That's important because when Stanton is Stanton, he gets pitched around often.

Beyond the return of Stanton and Fernandez, the other key figure is someone who doesn't even wear a uniform -- owner Jeffrey Loria, who has countless critics in Miami and elsewhere.

The feeling is that Loria doesn't spend the money needed to make the Marlins winners. That's an accurate assessment overall, and it will be interesting to see what Loria does to help shape the 2015 roster.

Loria can go the "cheap" route and, for example, get rid of successful closer Steve Cishek, opting for a less expensive option such as Carter Capps.

Or Loria can go the "all in" route, re-signing Stanton before he can leave as a free agent in 2016 while also adding veteran additions for 2015 at second base and in the rotation.

Loria and the Marlins' management team already made one vital step Sept. 28, extending manager Mike Redmond's contract through 2017.

"Jeffrey sat down with Mike and expressed to him that his leadership has really helped get this team going in the right direction," Marlins president David Samson said. "It was a unanimous feeling among the entire front office that Mike is the perfect leader for this team."

Redmond, who took over the team in 2013, said the Marlins have a lot of "great talent" for him to manage.

"For me to know I'm going to be here that long is great," Redmond said. "I think it sends a message that we're headed in the right direction."