With all apologies to the Athletics and Mariners, baseball is now really back, thanks to a game being played in this hemisphere, at an hour we could all see it and on actual television. The Cardinals beat the Marlins 4-1.
Our hemisphere, yes, but it often felt like a different universe. One in which lime green is an acceptable color for an outfield wall. Where players came in accompanied by Brazilian dancers. One in which Kyle Lohse of all people not only gets an Opening Night start, but handcuffs the new-look Marlins, not allowing a hit until the seventh inning. He ended the night tossing seven and a third innings of two-hit ball, with the Marlins only scoring when Fernando Salas allowed an inherited runner to score on a John Buck double.
As for the Cardinals, they struck early, two scoring on a David Freese single in the first, a third on a Rafael Furcal single in the second and an insurance run on a fielder’s choice in the eighth.
But the results of the game are less important and created less of an impression than this ballpark did. It’s loud in color, but thanks to the near no-no, it wasn’t too loud in voice. That outfield seems really, really big to me. Poor John Jay and Emilio Bonafacio seemed like they were running for miles at times.
Maybe the most important thing is that the home run sculpture/monstrosity didn’t go off, and thank goodness for that. The 7pm start meant that a lot of children could have been watching. Hopefully their parents covered their eyes when Muhammad Ali came out to “throw out” the first pitch. That was painful to watch given his condition and, with all respect to The Champ, I wonder who thought that was the best idea for Opening Night.
Anyway, baseball’s back folks. And today was the last day until the All-Star break when only one game is being played. Hallelujah.
The Marlins are intent on adding one of the three best relievers available on the free agent market, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Those three, of course, are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon.
As Ashley noted earlier, Melancon is reportedly fielding multiple four-year offers in excess of $60 million. The price tags for Chapman and Jansen are likely to match or exceed that. The Marlins haven’t typically been eager to whip out the checkbook for free agents but with the bullpen being the name of the game in baseball these days, GM Michael Hill may feel the need to match his rivals.
The Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers are the teams most often linked to the “big-three” group of relievers, so it won’t be easy for the Marlins.
A.J. Ramos handled the closer’s role for the Marlins this past season and did an admirable job, saving 40 games with a 2.81 ERA and a 73/35 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. There’s no doubt, though, that Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon would represent a significant upgrade in the ninth inning.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds manager Bryan Price is likely going to use a trio of pitchers in the closer’s role: Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani, and Michael Lorenzen. At RedsFest on Saturday, Price said:
I’d say right now that we have a series of guys that I’m comfortable with in the ninth inning and that would include (Raisel) Iglesias, (Tony) Cingrani and (Michael Lorenzen). Should we stay with this format – which I intend to do – all three of those guys and maybe more could have opportunities in save situations. At this point in time, there’s no defined closer. There are multiple options and I’d like to stick with the philosophy that we’re going to have our multi-inning guys, so we’re going to need multi-closers.
This seems to be part of the new bullpen zeitgeist in which managers are shying away from strictly-defined roles for their relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason success using Andrew Miller likely had some degree of influence on Price’s willingness to go with a three-headed giant.
Iglesias started the 2016 season in the Reds’ rotation but missed two months with an injury, then moved to the bullpen in late June. Price put him in the closer’s role down the stretch in September. The right-hander overall finished the season with a 2.53 ERA and an 83/26 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Cingrani battled control issues in his 63 innings of work this past season, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a 49/37 K/BB ratio. He’s left-handed, though, and gives Price some matchup flexibility in the late innings.
Lorenzen impressed in his first full season as a reliever, ending the year with a 2.88 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. The right-hander uses a fastball that sits around 96 MPH on average along with a cutter and slider.