Juan Pierre grateful for opportunity to play for Marlins, doesn't rule out possible return

Jonathan Ernst

Juan Pierre, who played several roles throughout the course of 2013, is thankful for the opportunities the Marlins have given him throughout his career. Pierre is unsure whether he will return in 2014.

Outfielder Juan Pierre thought he had won a starting job. Heading into the season, he anticipated playing in all 162 games and becoming a leader on a youthful team. Pierre was only able to do one of the two.

Because of the promotions of prospects Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna, Pierre's playing time decreased significantly. And he didn't play in all 162 games, but he did find a way to be involved in 113 of them.

When asked on the last day of the regular season where the future would take him, Pierre intentionally avoided the word retiring. Instead, he first said he will explore all options, and will be ready if a squad picks up the phone.

"I'm fine. I understand the situation," Pierre said in an interview with MLB.com. "I still love to play, that's no secret. I still work out like I'm going to be out there every day. I hope to get a chance to get a job for next year."

If 2013 was any indication, Pierre can still play. He batted .247 with a .284 on-base percentage and stole 23 bases. But if major league clubs aren't willing to take a chance, Pierre said he would be just as content if his career was complete.

"If not, and this is the last hurrah, I can't complain one bit. I can honestly say I never thought I'd play over 13 years in the big leagues. I'm grateful for every opportunity. Physically and mentally, I still feel like I can play at this level," Pierre said.

2013 was Pierre's second stint with the Marlins. He was also on the 2003 championship team, and is eligible to become a free agent after the World Series.

Pierre is a Miami fan favorite, and is atop several franchise record lists. He set the Marlins record for stolen bases with 63 in '03, and he batted .326, a personal best, in 2004.

To begin the year, Pierre was Miami's leadoff hitter and starting left fielder. With the anticipated arrival of the organization's top prospects, most of which are outfielders, Pierre's role became limited. He was used as a pinch hitter or runner, and was given several spot starts, one of which came on the last day of the season.

Despite seeing a decrease in playing time, Pierre had a remarkable season. He became the 18th major league baseball player to reach 600 stolen bases, and he passed Joe DiMaggio on MLB's all-time hits list.

With a plethora of outfielders, Miami may not consider bringing Pierre back in 2014. But if nobody calls, it would be interesting to see if the Marlins would find a coaching position for Pierre, who is thankful for all of the opportunities the Marlins have given him.

"It all depends which direction they want to go," Pierre said. "I'd definitely be up to talking to them. But the direction they are going in, and how sparingly I did play, I don't know. I know they were trying out guys in the second half. If they do want to talk, I'd be willing to talk. If not, they gave me a chance to come back here. I got a big league job here. I didn't play well this year, but I played hard. I did what I normally do. I just didn't have the successes that I normally had."

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