It will feel like Opening Day all over again for Sandy Alcantara on Sunday afternoon.
The Marlins anticipate reinstating Alcantara from the injured list for the series finale against the Rays, who will send 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to the mound at Marlins Park.
Alcantara’s lone start was on Opening Day at Philadelphia, where he gave up two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings in a win over the Phillies. Alcantara was one of 18 Marlins to test positive for COVID-19.
“I’m going to feel the same as I did my first game,” Alcantara said on a Zoom call on Saturday. “When I was sick, I was waiting for this. I was working really hard to be back with my teammates, and I can’t wait to be back outside tomorrow.”
Despite being shorthanded, the Marlins have been in contention in the National League East and the Wild Card race.
“We’ve been fighting a lot,” Alcantara said. “Nobody knows what will happen. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year. We’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got amazing teammates right now.”
“They’ve been doing a great job,” Alcantara said. “I’ve been watching Sixto and Rogers, they’ve been doing a great job. Those guys are amazing pitchers right now. They’re going to be very good pitchers with the Marlins for a long time.”
Seven more transactions
Make it 111 total roster moves the Marlins have made this season, with 112 expected on Sunday when Alcantara is reinstated.
Dugger, Vesia and Wallach were all part of the Opening Day roster, and more players who tested positive for COVID-19 are getting closer to returning.
Despite the roster upheaval, the Marlins are in the thick of the postseason race.
“It’s been difficult,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of dealing with so much turnover. “You’ve seen guys in the locker room that you’ve never seen before. Some guys you’ve never even heard about before. That’s been a little bit different.”
Mattingly and his staff have taken the attitude that this is an unprecedented season with so much uncertainty.
“It’s back to what our theme was going into the summer,” Mattingly said. “It was, ‘Hey, it’s going to be different. Just know it is coming.’ We don’t know what it is, but we know it’s coming. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be weird. It’s going to be uncomfortable.
“We tried to stay with that [mentality] and get past it. We’re in a pennant race. Take it one game at a time and don’t worry about all the other stuff.”
Aguilar and Cervelli updates
First baseman Jesús Aguilar is still dealing with some back stiffness, and he was not in the lineup for the second straight game on Saturday. The 30-year-old last played on Wednesday at the Mets.
“Agui is still a little stiff, and we’re still working on him, so he will not be out there,” Mattingly said.
Catcher Francisco Cervelli, on the seven-day concussion list since Aug. 23, was feeling better on Saturday, but his status remains more in question.
“Cervy, on the reports, was not great to that point,” Mattingly said. “He’s still sluggish, tired and low energy.”
On the encouraging side, Cervelli told a team employee on Saturday that he is feeling much better. So perhaps the veteran catcher, who has dealt with concussions in each of the past four seasons, is seeing a breakthrough on the medical front.
“It sounds like today was a great day for him and he was upbeat, feeling good,” Mattingly said. “We’re hoping that trend continues.”