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Notes: Who gets the Opening Day nod?

Berti ready to move around diamond; Villar to see more action in infield
@JoeFrisaro
July 6, 2020

MIAMI -- The release of the MLB schedule on Monday night cleared up where and when the Marlins play in 2020, but who will pitch on Opening Day remains unannounced. Manager Don Mattingly said Monday that the organization has a pretty good idea who will take the ball in Game

MIAMI -- The release of the MLB schedule on Monday night cleared up where and when the Marlins play in 2020, but who will pitch on Opening Day remains unannounced.

Manager Don Mattingly said Monday that the organization has a pretty good idea who will take the ball in Game 1. But until that pitcher and the rest of the rotation are informed, the Marlins will not make their decision public.

The expected choice is right-hander Sandy Alcantara, the hard-throwing 24-year-old who was an All-Star in 2019. He finished the year 6-14 with a 3.88 ERA in 32 starts.

Few question marks left for Marlins' roster

José Ureña, the club’s Opening Day starter in 2018 and '19, had a strong Spring Training before MLB shut down on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. If not Alcantara, Ureña is a possibility.

“You guys have been pretty good guessers at it,” Mattingly said of media speculation. “But the one thing I’ve always talked with you guys about is we haven’t really announced it. We have nothing to hold back other than making sure that everybody knows and making sure we’ve talked with everybody.

“I don’t want them to get sideswiped with a guess out of the blue when they haven’t heard anything from me. I guess we do [know who will start the opener], but I don’t have a name for you today.”

Alcantara paced the club with 197 1/3 innings in 2019, and he was tracking towards an Opening Day start before Spring Training was halted.

The right-hander also was the first starter to face hitters in live batting practice during Summer Camp on Saturday at Marlins Park.

As for the rest of the expected rotation, left-hander Caleb Smith also faced hitters on Saturday. On Sunday, Ureña and right-hander Pablo López followed suit.

The projected fifth starter is Jordan Yamamoto, but there are a couple of other right-handers who are candidates to start or pitch in long relief. Elieser Hernandez, Robert Dugger and Nick Neidert, Miami's No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline, could fill that role.

“We’ve talked a lot about a regular five-man rotation,” Mattingly said. “There hasn’t been any talk about going sixth, and there has been a little bit of talk about the piggyback thing.”

One thought is whoever is the fifth starter may be backed up by another starting-caliber hurler used for several innings in relief.

“Do you take one of the starters and put him in the 'pen?” Mattingly wondered. “Those are decisions we’ll have to make.

“There has been some discussion about that part of it. But I think we probably will try to settle on five and feel good about that and know that we have depth moving forward with the other guys.”

Versatile Berti
Jon Berti is ready for any role. The 30-year-old super-utility player projects to play five or six times a week. It’s just a matter of where.

He could be in center field or the middle of Miami’s infield. As a utility player, Berti is being put under a crash course of preparedness.

“We have three weeks [to Opening Day],” Berti said. “Kind of every other day, pick an infield spot for one day, and the next day pick an outfield spot. Just work on that for the time being until we’re comfortable with where our legs are at.”

Villar’s expanded role
The plans to utilize Jonathan Villar mostly in center field have changed since Spring Training. Back in March, it looked like the 29-year-old switch-hitter would play primarily in the outfield.

But now with the season shortened to 60 games and Villar not fully developed to play the outfield on a regular basis, the Marlins intend to use him in the infield more.

“We do see him a little more infield now,” Mattingly said. “With the DH, he can go a little bit back and forth -- with center field, second base, shortstop and DH -- to be able to keep him fresh.”

Villar still projects to lead off.

Marlins COVID-19 tested again
In light of a few MLB teams having issues getting results of COVID-19 tests, all Marlins players and staff were tested again on Monday.

It was the second group testing by the club in less than a week. The Marlins underwent their intake screening process last week, before they opened workouts on Friday.

“We had everyone tested today, because of some of the issues [with other teams],” Mattingly said. “We made sure everyone got tested today.”

The Nationals and Astros were among the clubs who didn’t work out on Monday because they haven't receive testing results.

“We’re going to make sure if our guys are uncomfortable with working out and need to wait on that test result back before they walk in the door. We’re going to be fine with that,” Mattingly said. “We’re going to be flexible. But to this point, I think our guys have felt pretty comfortable with what we’re doing.

“Obviously, when you see what’s going on, your guys get talking about it and thinking about it. We’ll make sure that we’re ready to address it.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.