JUPITER, Fla. — Sunday afternoon’s Marlins starting lineup against the Detroit Tigers could very well be the same one come Opening Day on March 31.
Halfway through spring training, Marlins manager Mike Redmond went with his "A" team for the first time.
Rafael Furcal will bat leadoff followed by Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. Garrett Jones will hit cleanup with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Marcell Ozuna, Casey McGehee, Greg Dobbs and Adeiny Hechavarria to follow.
It’s a balanced order alternating with a pair of switch hitters, three lefties and four righties.
"I think going into spring training, I know I targeted right around this time to start ramping guys up and get them in there back-to-back days," Redmond said. "We’ve got quite a few new guys, so you want guys to get a feel for playing with each other. For me (it was) as soon as possible. Last year we had an extra week to get at-bats in there, but we don’t have that luxury."
The Marlins retooled their infield this offseason, signing Jones, Furcal and McGehee through free agency. Saltalamacchia, the backstop, is also new.
Yelich, Ozuna and Stanton have not played the outfield together in a major-league game. Yelich was called up to the big leagues when Ozuna was sent down and injured his thumb.
Just two guys — Stanton and Hechavarria — were in last year’s Opening Day starting lineup.
"We want guys to get in there and get comfortable and get going as soon as we can," Redmond said. "I think it’s important more than anything just to have guys that are going to be out there grinding throughout the year playing with each other as quick as you can. That’s why we’re doing that."
BULLPEN SPOTS HIGHLY CHALLENGED
While the lineup and rotation seem all but locked down, two bullpen spots are up for grabs with plenty of candidates.
Non-roster invitees Kevin Slowey and Henry Rodriguez as well as 40-man pitchers Brad Hand, Carter Capps and Carlos Marmol are all in the mix.
"Where are they all going to fit?" Redmond said. "Like I said, we lost (Ryan Webb) and we lost (Chad) Qualls. We need guys to step up and fill those innings. We’ve got to replace those innings. It’s going to be an interesting battle to see who can be the most consistent and earn it.
"The bottom line is these guys have to earn it. We talked about it at the beginning of spring training. There’s so many guys fighting for these spots, but we’re looking for that guy who really earns it and that we know is going to fit the best what we need."
Slowey and Hand, both vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, could make the transition to long relief.
That flexibility and versatility works in both their and the team’s favor. Redmond plans to carry 12 pitchers on the staff.
Rodriguez pitched a scoreless outing Saturday. Slowey has not allowed a run in 4 2/3 innings. Hand has given up just one run in four frames. Marmol was set to make his debut on Sunday.
"Every outing is big for guys," Redmond said. "Camp now is so short, we have so many pitchers and we’re trying to get a look at so many different guys that honestly every time they get the ball it’s important. It’s just not enough innings out there for guys to ease into it."
MARLINS IN PANAMA
Miami travels to Panama next weekend for two exhibition games against the New York Yankees.
Thirty-one players and five coaches will take part in the "Legend Series" honoring recently retired closer and Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera.
Following a Friday morning workout, the group will bus to Palm Beach International Airport for its flight. The players and coaches will attend a banquet that night and sightsee, which includes a visit to the Panama Canal, Saturday morning.
"We had plenty of guys that wanted to go," Redmond said. "I’m sure some guys were disappointed that they’re not going. More guys wanted to go and be a part of it. We tried to split it up as much as we could because we’ve got three games to cover here, too.
"At the same time we can’t just make players appear in Panama. We have to make sure we have enough guys to cover us."
Hand, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, will start Saturday night’s game. Righty Nathan Eovaldi, the second arm, will start Sunday afternoon’s matchup.
Closer Steve Cishek and righty A.J. Ramos will represent the back-end of the bullpen. Pitchers Arquimedes Caminero, Adam Conley, Sam Dyson, Bryan Evans, James Leverton, Greg Nappo, Edgar Olmos, Josh Spence, Rett Varner and Nick Wittgren will also make the trip.
Stanton and Yelich will travel. Outfielders Jake Marisnick Matt Angle and Joe Benson will do so as well.
Hechavarria and Jones along with infielders Ed Lucas, Colin Moran, Austin Nola, Danny Black, Mark Canha, Juan Diaz and Derek Dietrich will be going. Catchers Austin Barnes, Jeff Mathis and Kyle Skipworth round out the roster.
Redmond is taking just hitting coach Frank Menechino from his major-league staff. Joining him will be bullpen catcher Jeff Urguelles, Triple-A manager Andy Haines, former player and special assistant to the president Jeff Conine and Triple-A pitching coach Charlie Corbell.
"They can get a lot more done here," Redmond said of his staff. "You don’t have any back fields there in Panama. Guys that are staying here will be able to get a lot more baseball work in."
STANTON GOES DEEP
Marlins righty Tom Koehler and outfielder Brian Bogusevic knew Sunday afternoon would be the day slugger Giancarlo Stanton finally hit a home run based off his batting practice.
The pair, situated in left field, stared in wonderment as four balls hit off the center field batter’s eye and another off the screen.
Hours later, Stanton blasted his first dinger of the spring in the fourth inning, a solo shot off righty Rick Porcello’s first pitch. It narrowly missed Miami’s office balcony behind a light pole in left.
"It’s just a higher line drive," said Stanton, who admitted to being conservative in his recent BPs. "That’s what you want. That’s what hitting is. If you square some balls up it’s going to eventually happen."
Entering Sunday, Stanton had posted a .313 batting average (5 for 16) with two doubles and two RBI in six games. In addition to the homer, he also singled in his first at-bat and struck out swinging.
The All-Star right fielder welcomes the strong start. Last spring, he hit .359 before struggling in the World Baseball Classic. He would go on to have a down year by his standards.
"Line drives and stuff is better than ground-ball basehits and not really squaring it up," Stanton said.
Koehler, who was teammates with Stanton in Double-A Jacksonville, remembers how fans would react to balls off his bat either in games or batting practice.
"People didn’t even clap because they were in such awe about how far it went," Koehler said. "Just staring in utter silence because of the home run. I hope to see 50 of those (this year)."
MARMOL MAKES DEBUT
Marlins reliever Carlos Marmol’s spring debut proved to be eventful.
The right-hander tossed a scoreless sixth inning, but needed a strikeout of Alex Avila to escape a bases-loaded jam. He threw 31 pitches (16 strikes).
"First time out haven’t pitched in a month-and-a-half, it’s not the same as throwing bullpens," Marmol said. "I feel good. My body feels great, my mind, my confidence is there."
Marmol, whose first pitch reached 94 mph, walked Bryan Holaday to open the frame. After falling behind in the count 2-0 to Hernan Perez, he induced a flyout to right. Ian Kinsler struck out swinging before Miguel Cabrera walked and Avila struck out to end the frame.
"When you’ve got bases loaded you still have to make a good pitch, that’s a better pitch before," Marmol said. "I got out of the inning, which is good."
Last weekend, Marmol had to return to the Dominican Republic to resolve a visa issue and missed a few days.
He did participate in winter ball, riding momentum off a 2.53 ERA in 21 appearances with the Los Angeles Dodgers following a trade from the Chicago Cubs.
"I’m not too concerned about his very first outing," Redmond said. "I thought he hit on some nice fastballs and threw a couple of real nice breaking balls. That’s a good sign."
— Furcal was back in the lineup batting leadoff and playing second base. His wife gave birth to a son, Adrian, on Friday.
— Left-hander Brian Flynn will start Tuesday’s game in Fort Myers against the Boston Red Sox.
— Right-handers Jose Fernandez (Monday) and Eovaldi (Tuesday) will stay in Jupiter to pitch to hitters with Mathis. They will throw between 60-65 pitches.
— Notable players traveling to Port St. Lucie for a "B" game against the Mets include Cishek, Kevin Slowey, Moran and Colby Suggs.
— Sunday marked the first time the Marlins and Tigers faced each other since Henderson Alvarez’s no-hitter on the final game of the 2013 season.