On Opening Day this April 1, the Nationals will face a Miami Marlins team that is somewhat of a mystery. After shipping out nearly every starter in their lineup, no one really knows what to expect from the Fish.
After Thursday afternoon, however, we do know one thing: 31-year-old Ricky Nolasco has been tapped to start Opening Day. He will face off against Stephen Strasburg in Game 1 of the 2013 season at Nationals Park.
Nolasco started the Marlins' Opening Day game in 2009 after a solid 2008 season, but has since devolved into a liability. In 2012 he posted an ERA above 4.40 for the fourth consecutive year. And as his ERA has soared, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has diminished from 4.43 in 2008 (7th in the majors) to 2.66 last season.
After sending starters Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to Toronto, Nolasco will lead a staff that isn't quite settled. Jacob Turner, who came over from the Tigers in 2012, looks to be at the top, but behind him it gets interesting. In the running to round out the staff are prospects Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Brad Hand, and five-year veteran Wade LeBlanc.
The Marlins shaved nearly $150 million off their payroll through trades last season and the result is a team rife with prospects. They still have Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison, but the team that won just 69 games in 2012 will rely heavily on unproven talent to compete this season.
Since coming to Washington, the Nationals have posted an ugly 56-87 record against the Marlins franchise. Even last season as Miami imploded right in public view, they still split with a 9-9 mark. With a roster far superior on paper, maybe this is the year the Nationals finally get over the hump with their division foe.