March 31, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA; Miami Marlins center fielder Emilio Bonifacio (1) gets a base hit during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Getting to Know the Reds Opening Day Opponent: Miami Marlins


May 8, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Cueto delivers a pitch in the 1st inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. It was Cueto

Opening Day is here! Start the parade! Grab your hot dog and beverage of choice! Wear your Reds shirt and cap with pride! Root, root, root for the home team! Too much? Okay…

Today’s pitching matchup will feature Mark Buehrle squaring off against Johnny Cueto.

Buehrle will be facing the Reds for the third time in his career. He carries a record of 2-0 with an ERA of 0.60 and a WHIP of 0.733. He has not faced the Reds since 2009 when he defeated the Reds as a member of the Chicago White Sox. He hurled seven innings while shutting out the Reds en route to White Sox 4-1 victory.

The Reds will send Cueto to the mound for his first Opening Day assignment. He holds a 1-0 record against the Marlins, but is the owner of a 5.63 ERA and 1.938 WHIP. It will be his fourth appearance against the Marlins.

For the series second game, which on Saturday night with a 7:10 start, the Marlins will offer Ricky Nolasco (2-1, 5.28 ERA v. CIN) while the Reds counter with newly acquired Mat Latos (0-2, 9.26 v. MIA).

The series Sunday finale (game time is 1:10 PM) will see Carlos Zambrano (17-11, 3.28) v. Bronson Arroyo (1-3, 3.95).

These are subject to change.

In gearing up for today, I had the pleasure of doing an exchange of questions with Ehsan Kassim, Editor of MarlinManiac.com, the Miami Marlins site on the FanSided Sports Network. We asked the other a half dozen questions in regards to the team each covers.

The questions I asked of Ehsan, and their corresponding answers, will be here. To see the questions and responses I had to his six-pack of interrogations, you’ll need to check out MarlinManiac.com.

BRM: With the Marlins signing the talent in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, how do Marlins fans feel in relation to the inability to sign Albert Pujols, a sigh of relief or a feeling of dread?

MM: I cannot speak for anyone else, but I was elated that the Marlins did not sign Albert Pujols. Do not get me wrong, he is one of the best in the game, still. In fact, I am picking him as my American League MVP at this point.

The truth about the Marlins is that, like the Cincinnati Reds, we are a middle market team. We could not afford Albert Pujols and then in a few years try to extend Giancarlo Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, and Logan Morrison. It would have put our payroll near the Yankees level in order to keep a strong roster together.

That said, if the Marlins signed Pujols at the 10-year $200 million deal that we proposed, I would not be crying about the signing. I am glad that is where the Marlins capped out. The money the Angels gave him is ridiculous.

April 2, 2012; Miami FL, USA; Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen (13) before a spring training game against the New York Yankees at Marlins Park. (Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)

BRM: No question that Ozzie Guillen can energize a fan base, and, at times, the local media. From his days in Chicago ,it’s not beyond him to go off on a profanity laced tirade and also possess the ability to call out his players. How will this go over in Miami?

MM: I do not see it as a major issue. There is a reason Mark Buehrle followed Ozzie to South Beach. There is a reason Aaron Rowand tried to catch on with the Marlins. Logan Morrison is connecting better with Ozzie then he did with Jack McKeon. Hanley Ramirez is happy, Carlos Zambrano has not killed any innocent water coolers yet.

Yes, there will be problems throughout the season. There is for every MLB team. As long as the players go out and play hard, I do not think there will be many problems in Miami for the long run.

BRM: The one aspect for the upcoming season that seems to have all the national media-types in agreement is the heealth of Josh Johnson. If Johnson’s health should fail him again this season, is Buehrle or another pitcher capable of picking up the pieces?

I do not believe so . Unless the team goes out and signs Roy Oswalt or makes a trade for a starter, in the event of Johnson going down, the team is in deep trouble. Josh Johnson is an elite level pitcher, when healthy.

The second best pitcher for the Marlins is Anibal Sanchez. He by no means is a pushover. He has been in the top 20 in both WAR and FIP for starting pitching the last two seasons. I see him having a big 2012, heading into free agency.

Mark Buehlre is a decent pitcher, but he is unspectacular. He is as consistent as consistent gets. I do not see him as a top tier pitcher though. No matter if JJ is in the rotation or not, he is going to be the same exact pitcher.

I do not trust the rest of the staff. Nolasco is the biggest enigma in all of sports. You never know what you will get from him start-to-start. One night he looks like an ace, the next he looks like Victor Zambrano.

Lastly, I have no idea what to expect from Carlos Zambrano. His velocity has looked better this spring, but his command has been a major issue the past 4 starts of the spring. Big Z has walked 17 hitters in his last 21 innings. That is a major concern.

BRM: Hanley Ramirez had said he has no issue playing third. Then, he did. What’s the current temperature on this?

MM: Fact: Ramirez never openly said he would move to third during the off-season. Fact: Ramirez never publically said that he would not move to third.

The main problem with Ramirez and how he handled the off-season is that he let the rumors that he was unhappy keep going. He never tried to stop them. But he never said he would not move. That was the media trying to create something that was not there, like usual.

Right now, Ramirez is extremely happy it seems. He says Jose Reyes is his cup of coffee in the morning. Ramirez has looked pretty darn good at third base so far. But we have to wait and see how he reacts after making an error or having a bad game.

BRM: Outsiders feel there are two weaknesses in the Marlins starting eight: catcher and center field. Thoughts on this perception?

MM: They are 100% correct. Emilio Bonifacio (right) had a fluky 2011 in my opinion and he will be the Marlins starting center fielder. His BABIP is likely to regress to his career avearge, and that will drag down the rest of his stats. I see him as a replacement level player. In my opinion, the Marlins will make a move at the deadline for a center fielder.

As for catcher, John Buck is nothing special. The Marlins overpaid him last off-season. But I expect him to be better then he was last season. Even if Buck struggles, I doubt the Marlins make a move for a catcher. So Buck will be behind the plate all season.

BRM: Are the Marlins legitimate contenders or merely pretenders…and why?

MM: The Marlins are legitimate contenders. After crunching my projection numbers, I have the Marlins at 88 wins. That should be close for a wild card spot. A few lucky breaks and the Marlins could crack 90 wins. The Philadelphia Phillies are struggling with injuries, and are no longer a lock to run away with the division. In my opinion, the Marlins are currently the second best team in the NL East and one of the top teams in the NL.

I do think the Marlins will see an improvement on their 2011. They could offer a push to win the division and they seem to be a sexy pick to make the postseason as a wild card at the least.

Here’s something that may amaze you. Remember the scene when the Reds visited the Marlins and there was no crowd (or so it seemed). The Marlins attendance of 2011 versus that of 2010 was only down a total of 14,664. Moving to the site of the old Orange Bowl should be only one reason the Marlins will draw better this season. That’s the positive spin. The negative is that they were last in the NL in attendance and 29th overall. Only the Oakland A’s drew less.

My fear is that if this team should win it all this year, we will see the all-too-familiar scene of doling out the parts. Or any year for that matter. Remember, the Marlins brass has not been a fan of giving players a “no-trade clause” in any deal and that is one aspect of potentially keeping a team together.

For the fans of the Marlins, I hope that is not the case this time around. Well, I hope this team is not dismantled…or wins it all.

Reds fans know who will.

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Tags: Albert Pujols Baseball Cincinnati Reds Hanley Ramirez Johnny Cueto Josh Johnson Miami Marlins MLB Ozzie Guillen