Giancarlo Stanton returned to the team on Sunday for the first time since his departure for the World Baseball Classic. Stanton batted third in an order that Joe Frisaro reported is likely to be the Marlins’ Opening Day lineup. Ricky Nolasco toed the rubber for the Fish as they took on the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. The lineup appeared as follows:
1) Juan Pierre, LF
2) Placido Polanco, 3B
3) Giancarlo Stanton, RF
4) Rob Brantly, C
5) Justin Ruggiano, CF
6) Donovan Solano, 2B
7) Casey Kotchman, 1B
8) Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
9) Ricky Nolasco, P
Nolasco threw six strong against St. Louis, who donned vibrant, green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys. He struck out five and walked no one while allowing six hits, but not a run. Doug Mathis, Steve Cishek, who was also returning from the World Baseball Classic, and Mitch Talbot each pitched one inning, finishing off the shutout for the Marlins.
One of the major questions this spring was who would protect Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. It appears that manager Mike Redmond has settled on Rob Brantly, for now. The catcher went 3-for-4 in Sunday’s game. All of his hits were an RBI singles.
Casey Kotchman, who appears to have won the Opening Day first base job, went 2-for-3 in the game, and is hitting .469 for the spring. Kevin Kouzmanoff relieved Kotchman later in the game. Kouzmanoff plays both corner infield spots, and is likely to make the club as a backup infielder.
Chris Coghlan has had a superb spring, filling in for an injured Justin Ruggiano in center field. Coghlan is 14-for-44 with five extra base hits so far. Ruggiano has only played in five games thus far, but the Marlins may be counting on him to duplicate the success he had last year. Nevertheless, Coghlan will certainly make the team as a fourth outfielder.
Power wise, Christian Yelich has been the most productive Marlin so far, but the management wants him to be seasoned before he makes the jump to the majors. Joe Frisaro reported that unless Yelich is named the starting center fielder, he will start the year in the minors, likely Double-A Jacksonville, in order to get experience. Yelich, who is hitting .359 with 4 homers this spring, has never played above class-A in his professional career.
Manager Mike Redmond named Ricky Nolasco the Opening Day starter. Nolasco was the only household name who remained in Miami’s rotation after the November firesale.
The Marlins open on April 1st in D.C. against the defending National League East Champion Washington Nationals.