MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After a long offseason following the second worst season in franchise history, the Miami Marlins will take the field again at Marlins Park Monday night to open what the team and fans hope will be a much better season.
On the mound for Miami will be reigning National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez. The hard-throwing right-hander will be looking to avoid a sophomore slump after a stellar performance in his rookie season in 2013.
Fernandez struck out 187 batters last year to just 58 walks. He allowed opponents to hit just .182 and had an ERA last season of just 2.19 in 28 games. His WHIP in 2013 was a microscopic 0.98 and he gave up a total of five home runs in 172.2 innings pitched.
The 21-year-old pitcher will be the youngest opening day starter in Marlins history when he takes the mound Monday night against the Colorado Rockies.
While the Marlins have little to worry about in the pitching department, the infield remains a mess for the second year in a row. The Marlins lost their projected second baseman, Rafael Furcal, to the 15-day disabled list.
That means Jeff Baker will move in at second base and Baker is also projected to be the cleanup hitter for Miami against Colorado. Baker will be joined in the infield by Adeiny Hechavarria at shotstop and a platoon of players at first and third base.
The Marlins may worry about the infield, but the other positions of strength outside of the pitching staff are in the outfield. Miami has slugger Giancarlo Stanton manning right field and he’s hoping to improve on an injury-plagued 2013 that saw his power numbers drop significantly.
Beside Stanton, Miami will throw out centerfielder Marcell Ozuna. The young centerfielder played well last year, but has struggled at the plate towards the end of his Majors run last year and struggled mightily in spring training as well.
If Ozuna struggles, the Marlins have no qualms about turning to five-tool centerfielder Jake Marisnick.
Finally in left field, Miami has Christian Yelich. The second-year player hit .288 last season with four home runs and 16 RBI’s. Yelich played in 62 games last season, striking out 66 times and earning 31 walks.
Yelich will likely bat leadoff for the Marlins on opening night against Colorado.
The Marlins’ job is to try to get the offense going against Colorado’s best pitcher, Jorge de la Rosa. The southpaw finished last season with a 16-6 record and a 3.49 ERA, which is no easy feat in the hitter friendly Coors Field in Denver.
Still, Rosa gave up a .269 average to opponents last season and had a WHIP of 1.38. So, if Miami can make contact, they have a good chance of putting up at least a few runs against Colorado.
And with Fernandez on the field, that may be all it takes. Last season, Fernandez held current Rockies’ hitters to a .163/.182/.233 batting line in 44 total plate appearances, according to MLB.com.
Finally, if you head out to Marlins Park on Opening Day, you’ll see a famous South Floridian who is now looking for a new job. Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Marlins Monday night.
First pitch is at 7:05 and the game can also be seen on ESPN2.