Things get real — very real — for the Miami Marlins on Monday.
Not only will Mike Redmond make his big-league managerial debut, but the Marlins will also open against talented right-hander Stephen Strasburg and the defending NL East champion Washington Nationals.
Miami’s Ricky Nolasco will oppose Strasburg at Nationals Park as the Marlins begin their 21st season at 1:05 p.m. ET.
“I’m excited, I know the guys are excited. We’ve been counting down the days,” Redmond said this week. “Obviously, it’s a big challenge, but I think we’ll be ready for it. Hopefully, we’ll go out there and step up, have some fun and get this thing started.”
The Marlins made unexpected news Sunday, when they announced top overall prospect Jose Fernandez and fellow right-hander Alex Sanabia had been added to the Opening Day roster.
Fernandez and Sanabia will replace righties Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, two starters who’ll begin the season on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Fernandez, 20, is scheduled to make his major league debut Sunday at the New York Mets.
The Marlins’ first-round draft pick in 2011, Fernandez had been expected to start the season at Double-A because he hasn’t pitched above Single-A.
Miami also placed first baseman Logan Morrison (knee) on the 60-day disabled list. That means Morrison’s left-handed bat won’t return until June.
The Marlins opening day roster also includes a group of newcomers — veteran third baseman Placido Polanco, young shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and left fielder Juan Pierre, a member of the 2003 World Series champion Marlins.
At 23, power-hitting right fielder Giancarlo Stanton has become the face of the Marlins franchise.
Let’s examine what we learned about the Marlins during spring training as they prepared for the 2013 season:
Non-roster invitee Kevin Slowey hasn’t pitched in the majors since going 0-8 with the 2011 Minnesota Twins. A teammate of Redmond’s when the catcher was with the Twins from 2007 to ’09, Slowey impressed enough to win Miami’s fifth starter’s spot.
Chris Coghlan had struggled since winning the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Award. He entered camp as a long shot to earn a roster spot. The lefty-hitting outfielder, however, hit well from Day One and offers the ability to play left and center, as well as second and third in an emergency.
The organization’s No. 2 overall prospect, outfielder Christian Yelich, hit .364 and led the team in home runs (five) and RBIs (14). He’ll begin the year at Double-A, though he and the club’s top overall prospect, right-hander Jose Fernandez, could arrive in Miami this season.
The biggest disappointment was right-hander Jacob Turner, who during the off-season figured to be part of the rotation. Turner had a 9.69 ERA in four starts (13 innings). He’ll need to work on things in the minors.
Left-handers Brad Hand and Dan Jennings and right-hander Tom Koehler all hoped to earn a spot this spring. Each one failed to just get in the mix.
Center fielder Justin Ruggiano, whose emergence last year was perhaps the Marlins’ biggest positive of 2012, was sidelined part of the spring with a back injury. He struggled at the plate after returning.
Another disappointment was the fact Morrison didn’t get on the field following knee surgery.
Waiting for the call
Yelich figures to become a Marlins staple once he arrives, which could be this season. He’s considered the team’s future center fielder.
Outfielder Alfredo Silverio, acquired in December’s Rule 5 draft from the Los Angeles Dodgers, will begin the season on the disabled list. He was considered a five-tool prospect before missing all of last year after a car accident. It’ll be interesting to see if Miami holds onto him and gives him a chance.
Five things we learned
1. Manager Mike Redmond will not be in over his head: Despite managing only two years in the low minors, the personable Redmond displayed a quiet confidence throughout the spring. He seems to understand there will be challenging times guiding a rebuilding team, but he’s determined to win.
2. Giancarlo Stanton is focused: After the team’s eventful off-season, there was concern about Stanton’s mindset. No need to worry. The power hitter has looked fully committed both before and after the World Baseball Classic.
3. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria can pick it: The shortstop’s tremendous defensive reputation was right on; unfortunately, so were the questions about his hitting. Still, he’s young. Should be a top pupil of new hitting coach Tino Martinez.
4. OF Christian Yelich is not far away: He’ll begin the season at Double-A, largely because he hasn’t played above Class A Advanced. Yelich performed well beyond expectations in his first big-league camp.
5. C Rob Brantly and 2B Donovan Solano are picking up where they left off: Both Brantly and Solano were bright spots during last season’s second half, and both had solid springs. Neither player might become a star, but both could develop into solid everyday players.
Redmond ran an organized, productive camp that allowed several players to emerge. The offense will need to manufacture runs, but the pitching will determine how successful the Marlins are in 2013.
Several extremely talented prospects could mean Miami’s rebuilding project might not take very long.