The Miami Marlins (3-3), who play their home opener on Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves (1-5), are honoring the 20th anniversary of their first World Series championship team.
Three members of that 1997 team will throw out first pitches — catcher Charles Johnson, shortstop Edgar Renteria and pitcher Livan Hernandez.
As with most home openers, there will be much fanfare, including the United States Air Force Brass Quintet performing the national anthem.
It should be a good distraction to the inevitable truth: This is the first season since last September’s tragic boating accident that led to the death of three young men, including Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez.
While Fernandez had one of the best home records in the history of baseball, the Marlins have no one of his caliber left on the current staff.
Starting on Tuesday will be right-hander Dan Straily (0-1, 13.50 ERA) in his home debut as a Marlin. He is 0-1 with a 12.46 ERA in his only career start against the Braves.
Atlanta will counter with 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (0-0, 1.50 ERA), who will be making his first start at Marlins Park since Sept. 25. At that point, Colon was pitching for the New York Mets, who lost to an emotional Miami team in the first game after Fernandez’s death.
Colon was hit hard that night, allowing seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.
On Tuesday, the Braves are hoping that outfielder Matt Kemp, who has missed the past two games due to a strained left hamstring, will be able to return during this series.
Colon, meanwhile, is coming off an excellent start against the Mets in his Braves debut. Colon had a poor exhibition season, compiling an ERA of 8.16. But for a veteran such as Colon, spring training numbers are meaningless.
“The regular season is a different monster,” Colon told The Atlanta Journal Constitution through an interpreter. “Once the lights come on, it’s a totally different thing.
“When I’m at spring training, I don’t’ care if I get lit up or allow a bunch of runs. I’m working on specific things.”
Colon is 7-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 14 career starts against the Marlins.
Colon will be facing a bit of a new-look Marlins team, at least on the left side of their infield.
Miami will be missing third baseman Martin Prado, who has yet to play due to a hamstring injury, and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday due to an oblique strain.
The Marlins recalled utility infielder J.T. Riddle from Triple-A New Orleans.
“My pain wasn’t too bad,” Hechavarria said. “I thought I could play with the pain.”
The Marlins, though, took the safe route, put him on the disabled list and will start Derek Dietrich at third and Miguel Rojas at shortstop.
Riddle, a former University of Kentucky standout, is a left-handed hitter and could get some starts against righty pitchers. The 25-year-old Riddle was hitting .429 in 14 at-bats in Triple-A.