Jose Fernandez still has another couple of months of rehab to go before he'll be back on the mound pitching alongside his Marlins teammates. But that hasn't stopped him from dreaming big in 2015.
"I think this team is amazing. I honestly think we can win the World Series -- honestly," the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year said Monday before going out and throwing another bullpen session as he continues to make his return from Tommy John surgery 11 months ago.
"This is a team," Fernandez said. "We're going to be tough. We're going to be real tough. And I'm going to do my part. I'm going to support until I can help."
Fernandez, on track to start facing live hitters at the end of the month and return to the big league team in late June, isn't alone. Starter Tom Koehler and closer Steve Cishek, both part of the Marlins 100-loss season two years ago, say there is an entirely different level of expectation now in the clubhouse among the players.
"There's just a whole different vibe -- not only in the clubhouse, but outside the clubhouse," Koehler said. "The guys who were here and dealt with the 100-loss season have now grown up and shown they belong in the big leagues and now expect a lot more of themselves than the veterans than we brought in. It started last year and with the new additions this year, it has everything steering in the right direction.
"[Winning the World Series] has to be the expectation. Otherwise, why are we playing? If they're keeping score we're trying to win whether it's a baseball game or a game of tiddlywinks. If anybody doesn't believe we can win the World Series then they shouldn't be in here."
Of course, there were big expectations for the Marlins not too long ago either. And 2012 turned out to be a big flop.
"We just had different types of players back then," Cishek said. "This is a totally different atmosphere in terms of team. Everyone is already close on this team. We have guys that aren't going to try to do too much. We have key role players on this team. I'm just excited to see this all unfold.
"Obviously you want to make the playoffs, but you really want to make it to the World Series. If you're not playing for that there is something wrong with you. If you don't have that goal in mind you shouldn't be playing."
The funny thing is Marlins management used to be the ones who talked a big game. But so far owner Jeffrey Loria has stayed away from setting any level of expectation for the Marlins. Monday, during a guest spot on FoxSports Florida's pregame broadcast, Loria said he has "great expectations" but wouldn't go beyond saying he's hoping the team is in playoff contention.
"It's the best clubhouse I've ever had," Loria said. "We had a pretty good clubhouse in '03. The guys in our clubhouse are first class. Everybody is trying to help the next guy. There's camaraderie like I've never seen. The whole idea of egos... we don't have any of those problems."
> Sidelined reliever Aaron Crow said he'll seek a second opinion on his throwing elbow Tuesday, but expects to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. Crow said it's a bad tear. The 28-year-old right-hander is under club control through 2016.
> The only Marlin on the Opening Day roster who will experience his first Opening Day today: reliever Sam Dyson, who made the team in large part because Crow was lost for the season.
"It's my first one so it's definitely special," said Dyson, who proved last year he's more than capable of being a reliever at this level. "Parents here, girlfriend's here. So it's special."
OPENING DAY LINEUPS
> Marlins: 1. Dee Gordon 2B, 2. Christian Yelich LF, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Michael Morse 1B, 5. Martin Prado 3B, 6. Marcell Ozuna CF, 7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 9. Henderson Alvarez RHP.
> Braves: 1. Eric Young Jr. CF, 2. Jace Peterson 2B, 3. Nick Markakis RF, 4. Freddie Freeman 1B, 5. Christian Bethancourt C, 6. Kelly Johnson LF, 7. Alberto Callaspo 3B, 8. Andrelton Simmons SS, 9. Julio Teheran RHP.