JUPITER, Fla. -- It's the biggest question in Spring Training for the Marlins, and there is no way to predict the answer. As Miami opens camp, the general feeling is the club's chances of making the postseason will come down to whether Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy.
If so, the Marlins may emerge as a surprise team in the National League. But it's a big if, because both have missed so much time in recent years.
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"I'd be lying if I didn't say I was extremely excited to know that as we start camp, and the position players get on the field on Tuesday, that we are extremely happy to know that we have a healthy Giancarlo Stanton and a healthy Jose Fernandez ready for 2016," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.
In Fernandez and Stanton, the Marlins have two cornerstone players.
Fernandez, 23, is a true ace and is regarded as one of the top young starters in the game. Stanton, a three-time All-Star right fielder, is one of the most-feared sluggers in the sport.
But they haven't been on the field together since May 9, 2014, Fernandez's final start before he tore a ligament in his right elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery a week later.
Recovery from the procedure lasted nearly 14 months, and Fernandez returned on July 2, 2015. But Stanton, who fractured his left hamate bone on June 26, missed the remainder of the season after belting 27 homers in 74 games.
"It's the challenge of the 162-game season, trying to keep your best talent on the field, and trying to have enough depth to absorb whatever may come over the course of the season," Hill said.
In 2014, Stanton, the NL home run leader with 37, was on his way to perhaps breaking the franchise's single-season mark of 42 set by Gary Sheffield in 1996. But on Sept. 11, he was struck in the face by a Mike Fiers fastball at Milwaukee. His year was over after 145 games.
Injuries also proved costly for Stanton in 2013, when he played in 116 games, missing time due to a hamstring ailment. Since 2013, Stanton has played in 335 total games, an average of just under 112 per season.
Playing every day is risky. Aside from periodic off-days, there isn't much that can be done to keep a position player healthy.
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Since his rookie season in 2013, Fernandez has 47 Major League starts. To best maximize his usage in '16, Miami is implementing an innings range of around 180.
"When you talk about injuries, it's a part of the game and it's something you can't control," Hill said. "It's not something you obsess over. You just hope you can keep them on the field."