ESPN to televise Marlins’ opener

JUPITER, Fla. — We’re down to two weeks until Opening Night, when the Marlins will face the Cardinals at Marlins Park.

ESPN will nationally televise the game.

Josh Johnson is set to start for the Marlins. And the Cardinals announced on Wednesday that Kyle Lohse will pitch in the opener because of Chris Carpenter’s neck/right shoulder injury.

The April 4 opener will be a Wednesday night version of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, which will handle the telecast. Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Terry Francona will broadcast the one-game series.

The game will provide national attention to the grand opening of the Marlins new retractable-roof ballpark.

On Wednesday, ESPN held a conference call to address the upcoming season.

A question was asked if the Marlins have a chance to dethrone the Phillies in the National League East.

Here’s what the analysts had to say:

OREL HERSHISER:  I love the acquisitions of the Marlins.  Spent a lot of money and brought in a lot of talent.  And I think the first issue will be melding these guys together and creating some chemistry.  So they’re all pulling on one end of the rope.

I think the Phillies are definitely vulnerable with the injuries with Utley’s knee and with Howard’s Achilles and now the infection.  It would be really important for the Marlins to get off to a fast start, I think, because then Philadelphia has a pretty easy schedule early on the first month or two, but they’ll have a very weak roster as far as when they have a chance to be at full strength.

And they’re always going to be in it as pitchers they have, but the Marlins can pitch right with them, and they’ve got a lot of exciting players and Hanley Ramirez looks poised to have a huge year, even an MVP type year.

And I think it’s going to be a very tight race.  And I think the Phillies might end up more like the Giants where they just outpitch and don’t score much.  Their bullpen will be a key.  And I think the Marlins have a chance to have a very good all‑around team.

TERRY FRANCONA:  From my side of it, I think the NL East has become intriguing, and Orel and I talked so much about it the last couple of days, along with Dan, that we probably share a lot of the same sentiments.  It was really neat this winter to see the Marlins become really relevant during the winter meetings.

And that doesn’t ensure you’re going to win the division, but they made a lot of interesting acquisitions, and they became a player.

And like Orel said, Philadelphia is a little bit beat up.  Now they have tremendous pitching.  That’s not going away anytime soon.  Atlanta basically has the same team that had one of the best records in baseball until August 25th, and the Nationals are really trying to be relevant in that division also.

So it’s going to be interesting.  I tell you what; it’s going to be a lot more competitive than it’s been in the past with those four teams I just said.

Joe Frisaro

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