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Pierre, Figgins together again like good ol' days

Pierre, Figgins together again like good ol' days

JUPITER, Fla. -- Fifteen years later, and it feels like Portland, Ore., all over again for Juan Pierre and Chone Figgins.

Their friendship started in 1998 in -- where else? -- a batting cage. The two have stayed close ever since.

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Once again, they are teammates, this time with the new-look Marlins.

"When we are in the cages, it feels like Portland, Ore., because that's where we were at," Pierre said. "In Portland, we started hitting and would keep hitting and keep hitting. Now we got older, and we know how to work. He does different drills now, and I do pretty much the same drills I did back then."

No longer are they wide-eyed 20-year-olds trying to move up the Minor League ranks. They are now 35-year-olds who still carry their same staunch work habits and youthful enthusiasm.

"They're pretty similar players," manager Mike Redmond said. "They are similar guys. I've already watched them. They talk a lot to the other players. I know our young guys have a lot of questions for them. Having their presence, the way they work, they show up early and they go about their business.

"A lot of people don't think about that stuff. As a manager, you see that, and the players see it. It's not something they have to talk about. They see the way they work. To see how many hits those guys have collected over their careers, it's hard to not sit there and go, 'Man, maybe I should emulate this guy, it might help me.' That's why they're here."

They've combined for 3,426 hits, with Pierre contributing 2,141 of them.

The sagas of Pierre and Figgins pretty much mirror what the Marlins are currently going through as an organization. All parties have something to prove.

A fan favorite and key member of the Marlins' 2003 World Series title team, Pierre is in his second stint with the organization. He signed as a free agent and is projected to play either left field or center.

Figgins, meanwhile, has less of a guarantee. Shortly before the start of Spring Training, he signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to camp. The veteran is a candidate for a utility role.

One thing they remind themselves is to treat every day in the big leagues like it could be their last.

"That's what I tell him, 'We're one bad year away from going to the house,'" Pierre said. "People already are saying we're old and can't do this. The skill level is not that. So if we don't do it, it's probably to the house for us. That's a driving force so we have to go out there every day and perform."

Dealing with doubt is certainly nothing new for the two speedsters.

It started in 1998, when they both were prospects in the Rockies' system.

Figgins, listed at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, was Colorado's fourth-round pick in 1997. Pierre, 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, came aboard a year later as a 13th-round choice.

In a game where power is in high demand, the two got by largely because of their speed.

Figgins recalls seeing Pierre for the first time in 1998. After practice, the two were the only ones left in the complex. Not finished working, they decided to take more batting practice.

"I remember him walking across the field, and I didn't know who he was," Figgins said. "After practice, we were kind of sitting there. Everybody was gone. We looked at each other, and said, 'Want to go to the cage?' It was dark. Everybody was gone. We flipped the lights on, and it's been the same ever since. The same thing."

Once they started hitting, neither wanted to stop.

They'd hit a few rounds, and ask, "You good?"

The answer was typically, "No. More."

"It's always been who's going to say, 'I'm good,' first," Figgins said. "It's like, 'Are you good? Ah, I can take some more. Are you good? I can take some more.' And it hasn't changed. That doesn't happen in baseball too often."

Despite being drafted by the Rockies, Pierre and Figgins spent just one season as teammates.

A natural infielder, Figgins was asked by the Rockies to also learn to play the outfield. He became a versatile asset who never actually played for Colorado in the big leagues. In 2001, he was traded to the Angels, where he became an all-around threat.

Figgins has experienced the highs and lows in a long career. He batted .330 with the Angels in 2007, and in eight seasons with the organization, he hit .291.

But the past two years in Seattle, his numbers slid. His batting average in each of those seasons was below .190.

In 2010, Figgins signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the Mariners, who are on the hook for just about all of the $8 million he is owed in '13.

"The work ethic never changed," Figgins said. "It's just tough when you sign a four-year deal, and the second year of the deal, you're already sitting on the bench. That's hard to swallow."

A year ago, Pierre also found himself in Spring Training with no guarantees. He was a non-roster invitee with the Phillies.

Humbled, Pierre did what he always does. He took advantage of his opportunity, made the team and batted .307 with 37 stolen bases in 130 games.

"That's why I'm excited to be here with the Marlins, because the whole team is basically like that," Pierre said. "It's like, 'Oh, you can't do this, you can't do that.' This is a team collectively full of guys who either are, 'You're too young to do it, or too old or you just don't have the skill set.'"

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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