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Yelich getting a head start on Spring Training prep

Yelich getting a head start on Spring Training prep

MIAMI -- Marlins position players report to Spring Training on Feb. 20, but that hasn't stopped Christian Yelich from getting a head start.

Since shortly before Christmas, the 22-year-old left fielder has been doing basic baseball drills near his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., working out with Minor League outfield coordinator Tarrik Brock. He's already been hitting, throwing, running and picking up pointers on fielding his position.

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"I feel like it's good work," Yelich said. "I did all that before I came to Spring Training last year, and I felt like I was ready. I felt good. It's a good thing to get you going, and getting you ready."

If last year is any indication, the early preparation should pay off, as Yelich was perhaps the Marlins' biggest surprise of Spring Training in 2013. Though he entered camp knowing he would be opening his season at Double-A Jacksonville, he gave Miami's coaching staff and front office plenty to think about. He was a standout in the spring, leading the team in Grapefruit League batting average (.364), home runs (five) and RBIs (14).

Because he was 21 at the time and hadn't played above Class A, the Marlins were not going to rush his development and kept him at Double-A. He dealt with some injuries that prevented him from being called up to the big leagues in June but was brought up in late July, and he became the everyday left fielder.

The Marlins' first-round pick in 2010, Yelich enjoyed a solid rookie season, batting .288 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 62 games.

Now he will head to Spring Training as the starting left fielder. After batting leadoff for most of the second half of the season in 2013, he likely will hit second behind Rafael Furcal in the revamped lineup.

Although the Marlins lost 100 games last season, the young nucleus learned some valuable lessons as they move forward.

"It wasn't really a lost year," Yelich said. "We got some experience ... some valuable experience. We have a lot of young players who kind of found out what it was like being in the big leagues, myself being one of them. I can't speak for the whole year, because I was only there from the end of July. But you could see on certain nights that it was there. We've got great pitching. We've got great, young talent. Spring Training is going to be awesome. It's going to be exciting."

Offseason moves have landed the Marlins several new players. The team addressed four positions with free-agent acquisitions Furcal (second base), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (catcher), Garrett Jones (first base) and Casey McGehee (third base).

Furcal and Saltalamacchia have been on World Series-championship teams.

For such young players as Yelich, regarded as a rising star, sprinkling in veterans with playoff experience will be beneficial.

"It's awesome. It's exciting," Yelich said. "Spring Training should be an exciting time. It always is. There are going to be some new faces. That's just part of it. It should be a really exciting year. We've brought in players with a lot of good experience."

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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