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Catching on: Jarrod Saltalamacchia eager to get going with Marlins

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MIAMI - Jarrod Saltalamacchia can't wait to report to spring training with the Miami Marlins — and it has nothing to do with the short drive to their camp.

"I'm really excited to be here," Saltalamacchia said Saturday, when Marlins players met the media at Marlins Park a day before pitchers and catchers report. "With the pitching staff and the bullpen and the guys we got, it's going to be an exciting year."

One of the newest members of the Marlins, he happens to live in West palm Beach, not too far from the team's spring training complex in Jupiter.

The veteran catcher is looking forward to beginning a new phase of a baseball career that has taken him from World Series champion to a 100-loss team.

The 28-year-old Saltalamacchia signed a three-year, $21 million contract with Miami during the off-season. He spent the past 3 1/2 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Last year, he hit .273, with 14 home runs and 40 doubles, and he helped the Red Sox win their third World Series championship in the last 10 seasons.

With the signing of Saltalamacchia, along with first baseman Garrett Jones and second baseman Rafael Furcal, the Marlins look to add offence to a team that finished last in the majors in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.

"My goal is to go out there and be competitive as a team," Saltalamacchia said. "We all have to step it up. I'm not going to come in here and try to take over. Pitching has done a great job. We just have to score a few more runs and make sure everybody's healthy."

Although their offence struggled, the Marlins rave about their young starting rotation. Headed by NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, Marlins pitchers had a team ERA of 3.71 — 11th best in the majors.

"When we left here at the end of the season, we got together as a group and talked about some of the areas we needed to improve on," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "It's pretty obvious the positions that we needed. We were able to go out there and get some guys that not only are going to help us offensively but help us with our young core group of guys and to be mentors and leaders to them."

Saltalamacchia and Furcal, who was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals' World Series championship team in 2011 but sat out last season after undergoing elbow surgery, provide the Marlins with post-season experience.

"They've congratulated me. They said it must have been pretty cool to win the World Series," Saltalamacchia said of his new teammates. "I think everybody's goal each year should be that. I think we should take nothing less.

"The thing that really struck me was our pitching staff," Saltalamacchia said. "As a catcher, that's what you live for. It's something to be excited about, knowing that you're going to work with some guys that have been rookie of the year, guys that have thrown no-hitters."

Saltalamacchia said turnarounds could happen quickly. He indicated how the Red Sox went from a team that lost 93 games and finished last in the American League East in 2012 to World Series champion the following season.

"It's not a set number of wins you're setting for," Saltalamacchia said. "You're going to win as many as possible, get to the post-season. It can be that quick."

In addition to the signing of the veteran free agents, the Marlins expect a full season from their power-hitting right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton. A hamstring injury sidelined Stanton for five weeks last season and he hit .249. His 24 home runs were 13 off from the previous year.

"We're at a time right now that we want to get it going," Stanton said. "We can't wait to get it started.

"You always start fresh from day one. That's all you can do," he added. "We've got some pieces to put together. It really starts with the spring. People say spring is to get the body acclimated. But you need to play to your chemistry as well."

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