JUPITER -- Pro athletes aren’t normally known for their political activism.
But pitcher Henderson Alvarez organized a small gathering of his Marlins’ teammates before Saturday’s workouts and called for peace in his home country of Venezuela.
The group posed for a photograph while standing outside the team’s clubhouse and holding the Venezuelan flag, along with handmade signs that read “Paz,” or “Peace.”
“With the picture I’m hoping to send a message to Venezuela to have peace and to leave the violence behind,” Alvarez said through a translator. “As baseball players, our message has more of a potential to be reached.”
Alvarez, concerned about the dangers and growing unrest in Venezuela, had his wife and daughter leave the country.
“My family in Valencia is fine,” Alvarez said. “It was my daughter who was affected. She was affected by tear gas, twice. I brought her and my wife to Miami.”
Factions in Venezuela have been protesting against President Nicolas Maduro’s government, and large-scale protests were expected on Saturday in Caracas.
Alvarez and the Marlins weren’t the first Major League players to send out a photo with a peace message. The Tigers, led by Miguel Cabrera and Omar Vizquel, did the same on Friday.
It wasn’t only Venezuelans on the Marlins who posed with Alvarez in the photo. Others included Cuban-born pitcher Jose Fernandez, reliever A.J. Ramos (U.S.) and Arquimedes Caminero (Dominican Republic).
“We’re always supporting one another,” Alvarez said. “It’s not just a country thing. We always want peace and for the violence to end.”
Alvarez, who was obtained by the Marlins in their blockbuster trade with Toronto after the 2012 season, is best known for throwing a no-hitter on closing day last year.
Jose Fernandez is expected to start the Grapefruit League opener for the Marlins on Friday when they face the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Carlos Martinez is scheduled to take the mound for the Cardinals.
Manager Mike Redmond also announced that Angel Sanchez will start Wednesday’s exhibition opener against the University of Miami. Others down to pitch in the game for the Marlins: Adam Conley, Greg Nappo, Josh Spence, Grant Dayton, Rett Varner, Edgar Olmos and James Leverton.
Redmond has not yet decided who will start Thursday’s exhibition against Florida International University.
Fernandez was so excited about throwing live batting practice to Marlins hitters on Saturday he said he woke up with a knot in his stomach. At least he didn’t leave any welts on anyone’s heads like he did on the same day last year when he beaned Giancarlo Stanton in the helmet.
“Today to me was Opening Day,” Fernandez said. “I went to sleep early last night. This is not a joke. To go to sleep late and to have fun with friends, that’s for the offseason. Now I’m all about getting my work done. When I woke up today, I was excited.”
The always competitive Fernandez threw 27 pitches and was visibly angry with himself when a couple made weak contact.
“You know how I am,” he said. “I expect to make every pitch perfect.”
Stanton was not paired with Fernandez this year. Instead, he hit on a nearby fit and crushed a long home run with his first swing off Alvarez.