It’s a time of optimism for the Miami Marlins.
It’s Opening day of Grapefruit League Spring Training for most teams. This time of year, who wins and who loses is the least important part of the game. This is all about the “training” part of Spring Training. Hope springs eternal for all 30 teams. This is the time of year when anything is possible, and 29 of the teams kid themselves into thinking that “This IS next year.” The Miami Marlins are no exception.
The Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays kicked things off yesterday with 5,609 on hand at Charlotte Sports Park. The clubs combined to use 18 pitchers. The Rays and the Phils also used 18 position players each in the contest. The Phillies won the game, 3-2. If you really want to know more about that one, check out That Ball’s Outta Here or Rays Colored Glasses. For those of you wondering, J.T. Realmuto did not play.
At 1:05 P.M. EST, the Miami Marlins will “host” the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. I put host in “air-quotes” to illustrate that both the Marlins and Cards have their home games in the spring at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Sandy Alcantara will get the start, and will complete either three innings or one full turn through the batting order. In either case, do not look for him to work past the third inning.
Alcantara was solid last season in a small sample size for the Miami Marlins. His 107 ERA+ was the only such mark over 100 on the team this year (Nick Wittgren racked up a 125 in the metric). Alcantara allowed only 25 hits in 34 innings of work, but clearly needs to work on his control at baseball’s top level, with 23 walks issued in that same time. The starter struck out 30 and finished with a 3.44 ERA.
Like the Phillies/Rays tilt, look for both the Marlins and the Cardinals to exhaust their bench of position players. The Miami Marlins have 66 players in camp, and would like to use all of them. If not every day, then at least enough to get a good idea as to who should start on Opening Day. The Cardinals have 64 with them. Most interestingly on the St. Louis roster is that there is only one catcher on the 40-man roster, Yadier Molina, and eight-non-roster invitees.
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Opposing the Miami Marlins in today’s game, at least for the first hour, will be starter Miles Mikolas. Now 30-years-old, Mikolas came out of nowhere to notch an 18-4 record. Mikolas hadn’t appeared in major league baseball since 2014 prior to that.
It’s important to realize that although these games don’t “mean” anything, they do mean a lot to the players trying to make the Opening Day roster. For those already “guaranteed” a spot, it’s all about preparation. As Clark Spencer at the Miami Herald quoted:
"“Spring is about preparing,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “Although you want your guys to do everything right, you’re still not preparing for a game the way you would during the regular season.”"
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