Spring crucial for Reyes-Infante duo
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com | 03/09/12 11:00 PM EST
JUPITER, Fla. -- At last, the Marlins feel like they're able to pick up the pace.
Not surprisingly, the player spearheading their shift into a faster gear is energizing shortstop Jose Reyes.
The Marlins are making every effort to keep Reyes and second baseman Omar Infante on the field together throughout the Grapefruit League season.
The reason is simple. They're Miami's new double-play combination, and they're being counted on to lead what the club hopes is an improved defense.
"Jose makes everybody on this ballclub better, the way he goes about his business," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He's very enthusiastic. I think the Marlins were missing that in the past. I don't know how they were in the past. But Jose, his enthusiasm, his love for the game, and he enjoys the game."
Reyes and Infante are two slick fielders, and Spring Training is where they are learning how to work together.
In Friday's 3-0 win over the Nationals, the two turned a quick, 4-6-3 double play on Rick Ankiel's grounder in the fifth inning.
"It takes a little bit of time," Reyes said. "But me and Omar, we've been together three weeks. Every drill that we do we do together ... I think a big part of this will be communication. If we have the right kind of communication, it's going to be no problem at all.
"We've been working a lot on the back field, working together. If we play the game as we did today, as a team, as a group, I think we're going to be successful." In the first week of games, the Marlins have lacked continuity due to a pair of split-squad days.
On Tuesday, they faced the Tigers in the afternoon and the University of Miami at night. Wednesday was just as hectic, as Miami took on the Mets during the day and Florida International University in the evening.
On Thursday, Reyes and Infante were given the day off when the club traveled to Port St. Lucie to take on the Mets.
They were together on Friday night, and will have a quick turnaround, as they will start on Saturday afternoon against the Cardinals, which is being televised on FS Florida.
"We've been playing so many split-squad games, traveling here and there and going all over the place," Guillen said. "I think today, we settled down a little bit. I think, from tomorrow on, this ballclub will play the way we should. The last couple of days it was very tough for the players, they handled it well. You'll see a better job out there as well."
Infante, in his second season with the Marlins, worked with shortstop Hanley Ramirez a year ago. Now, Ramirez is playing third base, and Infante is getting used to the pace that Reyes plays at.
It didn't take long for Infante to realize that Reyes moves at top speed. When Spring Training started, the double-play combination worked together on the back fields.
On the first double-play ground ball Reyes fielded, he delivered a sharp throw, which reminded Infante that he needed to get to second base in a hurry.
"The first time he threw hard to second base on the double play," Infante said. "I think the more we practice together and play together in Spring Training, I think we'll get more comfortable."
Bench coach Joey Cora, who also instructs the infielders, has done extensive practice on double plays with Reyes and Infante.
Reyes certainly is one of the most accomplished shortstops in the game.
Infante, meanwhile, is more of an under-the-radar performer, who plays second base at a high level.
"He's one of the best defensive second basemen in the game," Reyes said of his new double-play partner. "I got the opportunity to watch him a couple of years. He's fun to watch. Now, I think, he's going to make me an even better shortstop this year."