Preseason NL East favorites look to get on track
First pitch: 1:05 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network
Radio: 1210 WPHT, 94 WIP
Pitching Probables: Cole Hamels (Season debut) vs. Anibal Sanchez (Season debut)
The Philadelphia Phillies and new-look Miami Marlins are supposed to be the strongest contenders in the National League East in 2012, but each got off to a slow start in the opening week of the regular season.
Cole Hamels, entering a contract year, will step on the mound at Citizens Bank Park for the 90th time in his career. Fans will be expected to offer a strong show of support, in hopes of helping to play a part in convincing Hamels to stay in Philadelphia for the next few years rather than accept an enticing offer from another club. Hamels will also try to even his career record against the Marlins, entering the Phillies home opener with a career 6-7 record with 3.44 ERA against the Fish. The Phillies altered their preferred starting rotation in order to ensure Hamels would make his debut at home by moving Vance Worley in to the third spot behind Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Whether it was a move to allow one of the team's top pitchers have the honor of pitching the home opener or a ploy to use in contract negotiations in some fashion remains to be seen, but having Hamels open Citizens Bank Park for the regular season just seems right.
“I think it’s always an honor to be in a position to do leading off the season, especially if it’s at home,” Hamels said when he learned he would get this start. “I’ve always wanted to.”
Hamels will be looking to set a different tone for the team, after dropping two of three games on the road in Pittsburgh to open the season. The Phillies were the victims of two walk-off decisions across the state, showing that the Phillies have concerns with relief pitching and offensive woes that many expected to see while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are out of commission.
While the Phillies were off to a sluggish start in Pittsburgh, the re-branded Miami Marlins were struggling in Cincinnati after a prime time home opener in Miami ended in a defeat to st. Louis. The Marlins made a number of changes in the off-seaosn with their roster, in hopes to build a winning team that will fill the brand new Marlins Park. In addition to bringing in new names like manager Ozzie Guillen, pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano and shortstop Jose Reyes, the Marlins also welcomed back ace pitcher Josh Johnson, who will pitch in this series in Philadelphia later this week. But on Monday it will be Anibal Sanchez, who has a lowly 3-8 career record and 5.09 ERA in 16 starts against the Phillies. Sanchez has a career 20-24 record with a 4.11 ERA on the road, including a 1-6 mark in Citizens Bank Park (6.58 ERA).
One of the biggest moves the Marlins made in the off season was sign shortstop Jose Reyes, the former Mets shortstop. Reyes is no stranger to the Phillies, of course. He owns a career .333 batting average against Hamels. He also has a .414 batting average against Roy Halladay, who will pitch later in the series. If Reyes gets on base, he can cause some problems, as always. Another player to watch out for is Emilio Bonifacio, who leads the team early on in batting average (.333) and stolen bases (3). Omar Infante has the team's only home run so far.