JUPITER -- Reed Johnson is entering his 13th season and has only played playoff baseball three times. And he is hoping that will change in 2015. Johnson is in the mix to win a bench spot this spring, and is confident the 2015 Marlins are built to win this season.
"When you start something, you want to finish it," Johnson said. "That is the mentality a lot of players have. I feel like we're in a position where we can win now. This isn't a rebuilding phase. This is a team that's built to win and built to win now."
Johnson, 38, posted a .235/.266/.348 batting line to complement a pair of home runs and 25 RBIs with the Marlins in 2014. He saw time in 113 games and was among the best pinch hitters in the National League, most notably posting 11 hits coming off of Miami's bench before the All-Star break.
Miami resigned Johnson to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training just before the start of camp. The fact that the Marlins improved by 15 wins last season was enough to convince Johnson to return.
"Some players, towards the end of their careers, start gravitating towards teams they know can win," Johnson said. "The more you play, the more you realize how precious those years are. It's tough to find a team like that, and when you see a team making strides in that direction, it really was a no-brainer for me to want to come be a part of that."
The Marlins may not opt to carry two backup outfielders, with Ichiro Suzuki expected to serve in that capacity. Miami has also considered carrying 13 pitchers, which would eliminate a spot on the bench. Johnson is comfortable pinch hitting late in games, and believes an outfield consisting of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich should be playing together daily.
"You have three outfielders out there, you don't platoon those guys," Johnson said. "They are three outfielders that will pretty much play every day and you want those guys on the field every day. When I'm looking at signing here in the offseason, [pinch hitting] is a role I'm familiar with. [Stanton, Ozuna, and Yelich] have the ability to affect games in a positive way."
Despite the fact the Marlins were active this offseason, Johnson continues to be impressed by the rest of the National League East. In his eyes, the youth and talent make the division distinct.
"All of those teams are really young and now they're growing up," Johnson said. "Those teams are going to be a lot better than they were the last couple of years as well. It's going to be a really competitive division."
While consistently being impressed by Miami's lineup and starting rotation, Johnson believes the squad's bullpen will be the difference in 2015. The Marlins added Aaron Crow in November and Andrew McKirahan in the Rule 5 draft, and non-roster invitee Nick Masset may also win a bullpen spot this spring.
"I love our pitching," Johnson said. "Our pitching staff is really good and the bullpen is great. This is probably one of the best bullpens in the league. To be able to add pieces to a bullpen that was already really really good is huge."
Ultimately, Johnson is hoping to play baseball this October, and is confident a busy offseason for the Marlins should make that a realistic goal.
"The way upper management treated this offseason, they are [having thoughts of winning] as well," Johnson said. "This is a team that's built to win. The players in the clubhouse really believe that."