NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Both the Mets and the Marlins say getting the season off to a quick start might prove vital. Neither are widely picked as contenders in the NL East, after Philadelphia assembled what may be one of baseball’s best-ever starting rotations this winter and Atlanta seems primed to remain in the postseason mix.
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In the Mets’ case, it’s doubtful the regular season can get any worse than the offseason.
Ace Johan Santana likely will not pitch until midsummer because of shoulder issues. Jason Bay is hurt again, ticket sales are lagging, the team’s cash flow is in some question, and the franchise remains linked to the ongoing fallout of the Bernard Madoff scandal.
For a team desperate to find good news, here’s a piece: Carlos Beltran is expected to play in five of the season’s first seven games, maybe more if his knees allow.
Beltran didn’t appear in his fifth game last season until July 20.
“We’re in a situation where we need to build confidence on this club, that we can compete, which I do believe,” Mets manager Terry Collins said Thursday before his team worked out in Miami. “I thought we had a very, very good spring. I know these guys feel they can play with anybody. A lot of times, the wins in April can be ignored. They’re very important, as wins are in September.”
The Mets will aim to restore confidence in their fan base.
Closer Francisco Rodriguez will aim to restore it with his team.
He didn’t pitch after Aug. 14 last year after attacking his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field. Rodriguez settled the charges in December and is required to give the court updates on his anger management sessions, which have started and will resume once he can schedule a new round after the team returns to New York.
“I’m happy to once again be out there on the field,” K-Rod said. “It’s going to be a new chapter, a new season, and I’m looking forward … to pretty much help this ballclub the best that I can.”
Collins picked Mike Pelfrey to start the opener against the Marlins.
“It’s his turn,” Collins said. “It’s his time.”
LISTEN: Mike Pelfrey talks Mets’ opener with Mike Francesa
For the Marlins, it’ll be the last time, at least in terms of opening a season in the stadium built for the Miami Dolphins.
Florida will break out all the stops to celebrate the pomp of opening day: Former Marlins great Mike Lowell will appear in a pregame ceremony, saxophonist Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band will play the national anthem, and four F-16 jets will roar over the ballpark.
Meanwhile, 16 miles away, work will continue on the Marlins’ soon-to-be-home.
That the opponent is the Mets when Marlins will play their 19th – and, presumably, final – opener in the football stadium they’ve called home since 1993 is a mildly ironic twist since they’re the team that typically draws the biggest crowds to Marlins games. Marlins President David Samson said this week that he expects a crowd of about 40,000 for the opener, which may be the team’s biggest home crowd for a long time.
Their new ballpark will seat 36,000.
“I hope I can go down there and get a tour,” Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson said.
These days, the Marlins will likely give their ace – and opening day starter for the second straight season – whatever he wants.
Johnson was 11-6 with a career-low 2.30 ERA before getting shut down with back and shoulder problems last season. And in the massive ballpark Florida currently calls home, where the wall is 434 feet from home plate in its deepest point, Johnson has gone 17-6 with a 2.51 ERA since 2008.
His home ERA last season of 1.57 topped the majors. The Marlins won’t miss Sun Life Stadium, and certainly have clamored for a retractable-roof facility for the better part of their two decades of existence, but Johnson has made the most of his time in a park built for football.
“It’s the only home I’ve ever known,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what it’s like to play indoors all the time and walking into a different clubhouse. It’s definitely going to be strange. I’ve had some good memories here, some bad ones too, but the good ones outweigh the bad ones for sure.”
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