Gentlemen Start Your Engines

After all the trades, free agent headlines, minor league promotions and baseball stadium debates, we’re finally at the eve of what its all about….Opening Day.

The Marlins can climb above .500 all time on opening day with a win against the Washington Nationals Monday, currently sitting at 8-8 all-time. Coach Fredi Gonzalez has announced his batting order for tomorrow’s 4:05 start and might look something like this:

Lineup:
3B Emilio Bonifacio
C John Baker
SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Jorge Cantu
2B Dan Uggla
LF Jeremy Hermida
RF Cody Ross
CF Cameron Maybin
P Ricky Nolasco


What to watch:
Most of the success this season is riding on how Nolasco’s right elbow holds up. Entering his fourth season, Nolasco picked up a slider last year and resulted in a 15 win breakthrough season with 186 strikeouts. A big feat for a pitcher who missed his sophomore season due to right elbow inflammation.  His 2006 rookie campaign went over unassuming with an 11-11 record and a mediocre 4.86 ERA. So there isn’t much to predict for the ’09 season based on his past, but Nolasco thinks he can emerge as a household name.  Nolasco is ready to emerge as a top pitcher in ’09

Second is how Maybin handles centerfield and Bonifiacio at third fare. We’ve heard a lot this spring about how Maybin’s name could be a frontrunner for NL Rookie of Year. I say just prove you can play everyday Cam. The hot corner could be a weakness this season and we’ll see right off the gate as the Nats were fourth among NL teams this spring with nearly one and a half more ground outs. Also watch how Bonifiacio will handle the lead off spot…but just against rightys. “Since Bonifacio’s career average hitting right-handed is markedly worse, Gonzalez did not rule out having Cameron Maybin lead off against left-handers.”

Other defensive moves to keep an eye on is Hermida at left and Cantu at first. Cantu has handled first base before and shouldn’t be much of a concern but Hermida has looked foreign at times in left.

Other notes I have; we’ll see how many innings Nolasco goes and who takes the mound after his depature.“If you get great starting pitching and the back-end guys don’t do the job, it’s disheartening. That’s our biggest question mark right now. There’s no getting around it.”

Matt Lindstrom will be ready to pitch tomorrow if it’s a save situation On March 15, while pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, he exited a game against The Netherlands due to a right rotator cuff strain.

My guess is Leo Nunez (acquired for Mike Jacobs) will see some action tomorrow.

The Nats will send a young 24-year old to the mound in John Lannan. He had a 3.91 ERA in 31 starts before finishing with a 9-15 record. He typically keeps the ball down and was cruising for a strong spring before getting rocked in his last outing. Lannan let up seven runs in a 90-pitch outing through 4 2/3  innings Manny Acta said, “He found it very strange that John couldn’t throw any of his pitches for strikes, not even that sinker that he usually can go back to when he is struggling with the changeup and breaking ball. I told Bard that he usually has a day like that once every two months.”

So what’s everybody’s plan for opening day? How many are going and where are you sitting? If you’re not able to go how do you plan on following the action? MLB.com makes it easier than every to watch ball games online.

Any favorite Opening Day memories? Playing in South Florida has blessed us with 12 home starts to the seson. (One year we traveled up to old Olympic Stadium in Montreal to start the season). Good call on that one right?

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