The New York Mets open up the 2011 Major League Baseball season tonight against the Florida Marlins, in Miami, Fla. in the final season opener at Sun Life Stadium. Former Marlins third basemen Mike Lowell will throw out the first pitch in what's expected to be great weather for a ball game -- 80 degrees and clear skies.
Mike Pelfrey gets the Opening Day assignment, and he'll be opposed by two-time All-Star, Josh Johnson (7:10 p.m. EST, SNY). Pelfrey is 1-6 in 12 career starts against the Marlins, with a 5.32 ERA and 1.64 WHIP.
Tonight's opener concludes an eventful offseason for the Mets, despite them not being too active on the free agent market this winter. The organization inked a new coach, general manager and front office staff, then went out and cheaply filled roster holes, while also dealing with a financial mess. The financial woes won't disappear, but at least on-field action will shift our focus to actual baseball.
When it comes to baseball, though, New York just can't seem to shake the injury bug. Carlos Beltran had a rather expedited recovery from his knee surgery over the past few weeks to be ready for tonight (and be ready for his regular season debut in right field), but Jason Bay was placed on the disabled list with an oblique injury. Though the injury doesn't appear too serious, these types of injuries tend to recur if they're not fully healed and the Mets will certainly be cautious with him. The Mets promoted Lucas Duda from Triple-A, but Willie Harris will man the ship in left field tonight against the Marlins' tough righty. Harris has batted .267 with a .500 OBP in 22 at-bats against Johnson and will slide into the second spot in the lineup.
Here's the Opening Day lineup/batting order for the Mets: Jose Reyes (SS), Willie Harris (LF), David Wright (3B), Carlos Beltran (RF), Angel Pagan (CF), Ike Davis (1B), Brad Emaus (2B), Josh Thole (C)
Many prognosticators expect the Mets to finish from third to fifth place in the standings this year -- with the Phillies or Braves on top -- and the Marlins should be the Mets' main competitors for those positions if the "experts" are correct. Florida has a plethora of talented young players -- Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Gabby Sanchez and Chris Coghlan -- but may ultimately not have the full complement of pieces to make a deep run.
Obviously, the Mets will do as well this season as their health dictates. If Bay can come back healthy (and return to form), and Beltran, Jose Reyes, Chris Young and Chris Capuano limit their trips to the DL, this team has a chance to be above average. The rotation may not be top-flight, but in the National League, it may be adequate enough to get by.