MIAMI -- Franklin Morales on Dec. 18 told his wife, Isabel, that he had been traded from the Red Sox to the Rockies. To a Denver native who met Morales when he was breaking in with the Rockies, the news sounded too good.
"She didn't believe me," Morales said, smiling. "She went right to the Internet to check it out. When she saw it, she started to cry."
Morales made it an even happier occasion by winning a job in the Rockies' starting rotation. He will begin his second tour with the Rockies on Thursday during an afternoon game against the Marlins -- the finale of the four-game season-opening series.
Having broken in as a starter in 2007, when he pitched at the end of a season that saw the club qualify for its only World Series, Morales pitched himself into the bullpen by 2009. He was serviceable there with the Rockies and the Red Sox, who acquired him for cash in 2011, but always wanted to work his way back to starting.
The Red Sox gave Morales a chance to win a rotation job last year, but he sustained a left pectoral muscle injury and a lower back injury and spent most of the year in the bullpen. He won his only start, going five innings and holding the Phillies to four hits and two runs on May 30.
Little did he know he would be going home again to return to what he believes is his place, as a starter.
"It's a new team, but the guys here, the front office, they knew me when I was young, and they saw me a lot and wanted me to come back," Morales said. "I feel like this is my family. My wife, she's from Denver, and I feel very special, very comfortable.
"The last couple of years, I knew I had more pitches and was more confident. I knew something was going to change. I had the opportunity last spring with Boston, but I got hurt. But I got traded here, again to compete, and I did it. I'm ready for the season now."
A few games is a small sample size, but the Marlins are already seeing results from their offseason acquisitions. Third baseman Casey McGehee in particular has already delivered several key hits and driven in some big runs.
The Marlins in 2013 finished last in the Majors in runs scored, batting average and home runs. In the offseason, the front office prioritized bringing in some hitters.
"Last year, it was no secret," manager Mike Redmond said. "We had a lot of trouble in close games.
"That was the whole goal of the offseason, to improve our offense, and bringing in the guys that we did for that reason. We were so close in games. If we could only add another run, no matter how we could do it. Baserunning. Getting a few more big hits. Getting guys on base. Whatever it takes to get a few more runs."
Veterans like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, McGehee, Garrett Jones and Jeff Baker have improved the experience level in the clubhouse and have helped change the culture. The same is true with Rafael Furcal, but the veteran is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
Additional run support is going to be essential, especially because Miami feels it has so many talented young starters.
Jacob Turner, the 22-year-old acquired in 2012 from Detroit, is getting his first start of the season in the series finale with Colorado.
Turner is making his third career start against the Rockies, and he seeks his first win; the right-hander so far is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA.
"We still feel the strength of our team is the pitching and defense," Redmond said. "We're going to need to be solid in both of those areas. Hopefully, we can get on the other end of those one-run losses with more offense and continue to do the things we have to do to win."
Rockies: Morneau starts well with new team
Justin Morneau, a free-agent signee who has spent most of his career with the Twins but finished last season with the Pirates, singled in a first-inning run while going 1-for-5 on Wednesday. He is 5-for-13 (.385).
"Everything is as advertised," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He gives you a professional at-bat. He's such a great leader. He has such great perspective in this game. He's great for his teammates. A great resource. I am really impressed with this guy. I believe he's going to have a nice year."
Morneau worked on his timing and did not crush balls in Spring Training. Weiss, aware that Morneau's power has come in bunches, expresses no worries about Morneau's ability to drive balls.
"He still has power," Weiss said. "The power is going to show up. I think he hit nine [homers] in August late in the season. I am not worried about that. He's a professional hitter."
Marlins: Stanton heating up early
In many ways, as Giancarlo Stanton goes, so go the Marlins. The 24-year-old slugger is off to a fast start. In three games, he was 4-for-12 (.333) with a double, home run and six RBIs.
Stanton nearly delivered a three-run, walk-off homer in the ninth inning on Wednesday night off LaTroy Hawkins. However, the long drive to left swirled foul.
"My first reaction was, I faced Colorado last time, and I had a ball like that that barely swiped the pole," Stanton said. "This one just missed."
Getting Stanton going early could be a sign of good things to come for Miami.
In Stanton's first four full seasons, Wednesday's home run was the earliest of his career. Last year, he went without a blast until April 27, and he added two more on April 28.
In 2012, Stanton's first home run came on April 29. And in 2011, he connected for the first time on April 21.
• Rockies All-Star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez left Wednesday night's game in the sixth because of dizziness that he attributed to dehydration; he said he felt fine after eating and drinking and should be able to play Thursday.
• Stanton, after his two-run homer on Wednesday night, has 11 homers and 29 RBIs in his career against the Rockies
• The Rockies' Michael Cuddyer, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Wednesday night, has hit .406 (13-for-32) in nine career games at Marlins Park.