After a rough road trip yielded a 1-5 start for the Miami Marlins, the team is more than happy to be headed home. The Marlins start the nine-game home stand by taking on the Atlanta Braves. The new-look Marlins roster will take the field for the first time at home since their fire-sale trade with the Toronto Blue Jays in November. Attendance is going to be interesting for today’s game, as the Marlins executives believe 30,000+ will show up at the game. I will believe that when I see it.
To preview the Marlins home opening series for the 2013 season, I had an email chat with Jeff Schafer, the editor of Tomahawk Take , the Fansided Atlanta Braves site. Jeff and his staff do an excellent job of covering everything Braves related. Be sure to check out the questions I answered for Jeff on his site.
Jeff and I chatted about everything from the hot start of the Braves starting lineup to which Upton he prefers: Justin, B.J., or Kate.
Without any further ado, here is my chat with Jeff:
Ehsan Kassim: Is there a different feeling around the team with Chipper Jones gone? How is the third base situation playing out for the Braves so far?
Jeff Schafer: Absolutely, it was a sad day when Chipper officially retired but just like anything else we’ve got to move on. The feel of the team seems like a new young rejuvenated team. Every time I hear the song by Imagine Dragons “Radioactive” I think of the Braves 2013 team…It was time for a new era.
The platoon situation is a very unique scenario in baseball and to start the season the Braves have 2 spots platooning. The third base spot was no won by either Chris Johnson nor Juan Francisco and not because both didn’t preform well in spring training, it was because they both have terrific spring trainings and Fredi Gonzalez couldn’t put one or the other on the bench. So far the platoon for the third base spot hasn’t seem to cause a problem and may be pushing each other to be better. The Braves also have a platoon at the catcher position with Brian McCann on the DL. Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird are the two switching days so far, Gattis has an amazing story and has been hitting great.
Ehsan: In your opinion, do the Braves have the best outfield in baseball with Jason Heyward and the Upton’s? Who do you prefer Justin, B.J. or Kate?
Jeff: I would have to say yes the Braves have the best outfield in the game. These guys will only be getting better as time goes on and will be exciting to watch for at least 3 more seasons. It seems as though the group looks to be having fun while playing and that’s the most important aspect of preforming well in baseball. Justin Upton is off to a MVP type season but Heyward and B.J. Upton have started a little slow. Hopefully these guys pick it up and then we’ll see something special.
I prefer Kate, maybe we can acquire her before the trade deadline.
Ehsan: What do you make of the Braves pitching staff? Is the bullpen strong like last season? Are the Braves starters going to improve in 2013 and stay healthy?
Jeff: The Braves pitching staff is the question mark heading into the season, but the guys we thought may not be as strong had great opening week performances (Mahlom, Minor) and the guys who we thought were studs struggled (Medlen). I think the pitching staff will be fine and I’m excited to see the growth of Julio Teheran.
The bullpen will be a strength for the Braves again this season. Jonny Venters had a rough spring training and has been placed on the DL to start the year. He went to see Dr. Andrews about a possible Tommy John, but it looks like they are trying to avoid that and give him rest. That would be Venters second surgery, it would be tough to come back again. Craig Kimbrel is still the man and probably the best closer in the game. The Braves acquired Jordan Walden from the Angels over the winter, he Eric O’Flaherty and Louis Avilan should be solid performs this season.
You never know when the injury bug will hit, hopefully if it does it’s nothing serious and holds them out for long. There’s no way Kris Medlen can match his numbers from last year, but hopefully he will mold into the Braves ace. Minor and Teheran will continue to grow into front runner pitchers.
Ehsan: Gut feeling right now: Who wins the division, Braves or Nats?
Jeff: The Nationals will be tough to beat this season, they have a great lineup and pitching rotation. They have built a very well rounded team. I think the Braves and Nats will battle for the division till the end with the Braves winning. (Obviously). Both teams may get pretty close to winning 100 games.
Ehsan: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Marlins will face this series?
Jeff: Paul Mahlom looks to be getting the start on Monday, he will try to build off his spring training and first outing of the season where he pitched very well. He won’t throw it by many hitters but he’s been hitting his spots early on and getting hitters to chase pitches.
You’ll also see Kris Medlen. His season last year was almost unheard of but so far in 2013 he’s struggled. He’ll look to get his season back on track against the Marlins. Medlen is also a guy who won’t throw it by you but has such great control of this pitches. If his command is there, it will be hard to hit Medlen.
Mike Minor will likely be the guy you see on Wednesday to close the series. Minor has done nothing but improve each season he’s been in the majors. In my opinion, he’s one of the best young left handed pitchers in the game.
Ehsan: Make a prediction on who will win the series. Which Brave pitcher and hitter will step up for the team?
Jeff: My prediction would be anything less then a series win and possibly a sweep would be a disappointment. The Marlins seem to be rebuilding but this is the Braves season, they should handle them. Saying that, Andrelton Simmons is out with a nagging thumb injury and Freddie Freeman has now been placed on the 15-day DL. Simmons may return in this series but a timetable of his return hasn’t been determined. Even with these guys out, Braves should still take care of business in Florida.
Ehsan: How many times will the “Marlinstrosity” go off this series? (In other words, how many home runs will Giancarlo Stanton hit?)
Jeff: Stanton is a beast, he’s a threat to go yard at any at bat. He could hit a home run multiple times in this series. I’d say twice.
A big thank you to Jeff for taking his timeout to talk to us. We at Marlin Maniac wish all Braves fans the best of luck in the upcoming series. If you get a chance, please check out Tomahawk Take, it is one of the best Braves sites on the internet.