VIERA, Fla. -- It was the top of the second inning. The lights at Space Coast Stadium still hadn't taken hold against the balmy early evening sky. And then the public address announcer said the words that Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen has been waiting to hear.
For Miami, right-fielder, No. 27, Giancarlo Stanton ...
Which was followed a few moments later by:
Next up for the Marlins will be No. 5, left-fielder Logan Morrison ...
Indeed, Friday was special, as Stanton (left knee) and Morrison (right knee) were making their Grapefruit League returns after long hiatuses. "It's about time," the manager joked before a 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals.
Stanton walked once in three plate appearances and went first to third when Morrison followed with a single to right. Morrison slid into second trying to break up a double play without a problem.
"They looked good. They ran very well, and that's what I cared most about," Guillen said. "[Saturday] is another challenge. They've got to play [a day game], and we hope they're good enough to go out there and perform."
Both outfielders were cautiously optimistic afterward.
"I haven't been able to run full speed, but in this game it felt really good," Stanton said. "Whether it's just one of those days, because it's a night game, whatever, we'll see how it goes. It was good to finally be with the guys and feel good on the field for once, and be where we'll be in the season."
Added Morrison: "The swelling's definitely not there [like it was before]. I'm not going to say we're in the clear or out of the woods yet. But I played six innings and it wasn't achy like it was. That's good. I don't know if it's a good day or it's just getting that much better. I guess we'll find out."
The fact that both were cleared to play is a clear signal how confident the Marlins are that they are ready. If either has to go on the disabled list now, the move can only be retroactive to the last time they played in a Major League game. If they had continued to play in Minor League games, the countdown would have started on March 26, meaning they would have been eligible to be activated April 10.
"Obviously, we're going to monitor them and be careful how we use them during the season," Guillen said. "The only reason they're here is because we feel like they were ready to go with no setbacks. Hopefully they'll eventually be past the painful days and soreness. But we have to monitor them very well.
"We've got a couple guys who can replace them for one day or two. But I hope we don't have to replace them 15, 20 days a month. We have to be aware of that. And they have to be aware that they have to talk to us about any pain or soreness. Then we can help them."
Morrison, 24, batted .247 with 23 homers and 72 RBIs last season, and is expected to play a key role for Miami this season.
Stanton, though, is one of a handful of players to hit 50 home runs before his 22nd birthday. Seven of them are in the Hall of Fame, and Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez are also on the list. Others, however, never fulfilled their early potential.
Marlins hitting coach Eduardo Perez has no doubt that Stanton, who hit .262 with 34 homers and 87 RBIs in his first full season in the big leagues, will only continue to improve.
"Watching his work ethic, you know he's going to get better," Perez said. "He's a man that's never going to be satisfied. That passion and hunger in players, you don't see it a lot.
"He's not satisfied if he goes 2-for-4 with a home run. No. He focuses on, 'What did I do wrong in the 0-for-2.' You see the focus in the cage. You see the desire in the clubhouse. And when you see that, you know that you yourself cannot sit back and say, 'Oh my goodness, what's he going to be?' Because you know that he can be whatever he wants to really be."
Perez said some players fizzle after a hot start because they've already reached the limit of their abilities, and no matter how hard they work, they're not going to get better. Others have more potential but become satisfied with the level they're at because they can be comfortable, play and make a lot of money that way.
"Then there are those who are in the class of Giancarlo. And that's the class, I can tell you that for his entire career he's not going to be satisfied. He's going to be hungry," Perez said. "He's got all the tools and then some. And he still has the data base and the storage room to make that better. And he wants to make that better. That's why the numbers aren't going to be good. They're going to be great. He's learning like a sponge and it's awesome."
Just having Stanton and Morrison back Friday night seemed pretty awesome for the Marlins.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.