It’s here. There is nothing left to do but play the game. For the baseball fan, this is the moment they have been waiting for. For the Miami Marlins’ players, the games now mean something.
Welcome to the start of the MLB season. Miami opens on the road against the Washington Nationals. A new season means new hope and a chance to make the postseason. There are plenty of new faces on the pitching staff as the lineup remains the same, minus a few injuries. When Edinson Volquez takes the mound, it means the new look pitching staff will be the center of attention. Can the rotation and bullpen, 13 players in all, improve on a season that fell short of expectations?
And to add to that question, can the hitters in this lineup produce more runs and hit for a better average?
Here are three things to look for in the Marlins’ season opener against the Nationals.
Volquez on the Bump
I’m curious how Edinson Volquez looks in a game that matters. So much was made by manager Don Mattingly about Volquez’s experience. The former Kansas City Royals’ pitcher was in this situation last year in the American League. He will be called upon to lead this staff.
If Volquez is dominant in his first start in a Marlin’s uniform, he immediately becomes the undeniable leader of the pack – something this team needs without a true No. 1 starter.
The Marlins must also hope Dan Straily proves to be a valuable veteran presence in the rotation as well.
More Hitters on Base
The one thing Miami did not do as well as it would have liked last season was draw walks and move base runners over. It seemed everyone was waiting on the long ball to bring runs in.
That has to change.
Mattingly said at the end of last season he wanted his players to work on getting on base more. Hitters have to be patient in the count and when they get on base, other hitters have to move them around. The return of Dee Gordon for a full season helps make that happen.
Also, look for Gordon to attempt more steals in hopes of taking more chances this season.
Finding His Groove
The first half of the 2016 season was as dismal a start as Giancarlo Stanton could have predicted. Now, injury-free, the power hitter must come out of the gate strong.
Stanton and Christian Yelich had solid performances in the World Baseball Classic. The organization hopes it means a fast start in the middle of the Marlins’ lineup. Miami is blessed to have two MVP candidates to lean on. A fast start by both could have Miami in the thick of the playoff race early and for an extended period of the season.