As workers and dignitaries took turns laying sod at Marlins Park on Thursday, team president David Samson spent time with reporters discussing baseball topics. Among them:
-- While the Marlins continue to negotiate with Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban outfielder hasn't scheduled a visit to Miami to tour the ballpark. "I'm not sure he is going to visit," Samson said. "If it can be arranged and he wants to come see our ballpark and see Miami, it would be great. From our standpoint, we're aggressively negotiating a contract." Teams are currently allowed to negotiate, but not finalize a deal, with the free agent. "He has not been officially unblocked by governmental entities that need to do whatever they need to do to allow him to be employed in the United States. But MLB has given the right to teams to negotiate with him and come to a conclusion. But, again, our offseason is not dependent on signing Cespedes at all. This is an interesting player."
-- Samson said Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) will "probably not" start the season with the Marlins based on a number of variables that make it difficult to predict his status. Oviedo is continuing to work through legal hurdles in the Dominican Republic that are needed for him to return to the United States and play in the majors. "I hope that things get cleared up and we'd love to have him in camp and getting ready for the season," Samson said. But Samson said there's a chance that Oviedo could face disciplinary action from Major League Baseball because "there was an acknowledged violation of the law" by the pitcher, who had pitched under an assumed name. "If you ask me will he be at spring training, my answer would be 'probably yes,'" Samson said.
-- Samson said Hanley Ramirez has taken batting practice in the Dominican Republic and the initial reports have been good on the third baseman, who underwent shoulder surgery after the season. "Looks great, feels great, ready for Opening Day," Samson said of Ramirez. "We think he'll be ready to go (for the start of spring training). He is swinging a bat. He took some B.P. We'll see what happens when he reports, but we feel pretty good."
-- Samson said the team has no plans to negotiate a contract extension with Anibal Sanchez, who will be eligible for free agency after the coming season. "We're going to let him go through the season," Samson said. Sanchez and the Marlins will face off Friday in an arbitration hearing to determine the pitcher's 2012 salary. Sanchez is asking for $8 million. The Marlins will be arguing for $6.9 million. Emilio Bonifacio will have his hearing next week.
-- First baseman Gaby Sanchez was unable to break glass -- which is a good thing -- when he threw baseballs a few weeks ago at the team's backstop aquarium. Sanchez was brought out to test the fish tank to make sure it could withstand the impact of a baseball. "He threw a ball as hard as he could against the tank, and it didn't even make a mark, and nothing moved inside the tank because we have an extra layer of glass in front," Samson said. "No ball will hit the tank as fast as Gaby threw it."
-- Samson said about 1,000 tickets "at most" will be available through the lottery for Opening Night. Fans must register online to be included in the lottery.