In a few short hours, the Miami Marlins will face the Colorado Rockies to open the 2019 MLB season for both ballclubs. The Marlins will go with Jose Urena.
It’s a solid mantra to have to open a Major League Baseball season. The Miami Marlins, fresh off a solid Grape Fruit League and Spring Training, want to outwork every team every night.
The theory is the same of all 30 MLB teams, but it is unrealistic to think the Marlins can win every game they play. It’s easier to focus on getting better and improving on th 63-98 record of a year ago. For new faces in new places and returning players, this could be the year we remember that exceeded expecations and forged a new identity of a struggling franchise in South Florida.
"“We’re going to be the team that is going to outwork every single team,” right-hander Pablo Lopez to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “We’re going to come to the ballpark every single day trying to get better any way we can. We’re going to try to take that to the field and give it everything there.”"
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Pablo Lopez and his fellow pitchers are tasked with taking the reins of the rotation that does not feature Dan Straily or Wei-Yin Chen this season. Jose Urena has the most experience of any starter in the rotation. The bullpen is better with the addition of Sergio Romo and the move of Chen to long relief.
How this all shakes down really depends on if the young arms carry the success they had in March over to the regular season.
As I look at this roster, which looks different from the one that opened the season in 2018, I cannot help but wonder how this franchise will fair in 2019 and if the organization can continue to improve daily without falling into the same holes it did last season with a lack of power in the batting order and young arms that looked good, but were failed by a stalled bullpen at times last year.
Here are a few more observations…
Can the rotation hold up? – The shock hasn’t worn off regarding Straily. The move to make Sandy Alcantara the No. 2 starter is risky because of his control issues.
Urena will have to set the tone for the starting five, pitch with power and set the table early. If Urena can continue the trend of the second half of 2018 and challenge hitters, he could win 15-17 games this season.
Alcantara must go after hitters with his fast ball. Richards must remain the balance in the middle of the rotation. What Lopez and Smith bring will be an added plus.
Where does the power come from? – It’s going to be a question unanswered until someone starts swining a stick. There are a few candidates, but I’m still a bit leery about who steps forward.
Lewis Brinson and Garret Cooper are obvious choices here. Cooper, who won the right field job in camp, is a big kid who is finding his stroke once again. Brinson had a torrid Spring, only to tail off in the power department at the end of March. This could still be a special year for the centerfielder.
I think there is a chance Brian Anderson shows more pop in the No. 2 slot in the batting order. The second-year third baseman has the build to hit line drives out of Marlins Park.
Look for him to improve on a rookie season where he finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Keeping a lead – The bullpen looks like it has been remaid over last season. Drew Steckenrider will assume the role of closer for the team, but how long he has the job remains a mystery.
The Marlins have not had a lot of success in that department the past few seasons. If “Steck” can come in and get hitters out while preserving a lead, the rest of the bullpen will find their jobs a but easier.
First, the pen must get the team to a situation where their closer can do his job.
I am not a fan of the “Opener” role the team has talked about, but I am curious how manager Don Mattingly uses it this season. Romo will be a huge part of that new wrinkle in the pitching staff. Look for Romo to do a little bit of everything to help balance a staff with his veteran leadership and dominance on the mound.