None of the tropical fish behind home plate at Marlins Park died during the offseason. But the Marlins lost thousands of season-ticket holders — and an untold number of fans — because of an unpopular roster purge that alienated many.
The Marlins will start to find out just how many when they play their home opener Monday night against Atlanta.
“I appreciate and I’m sorry it’s been such a tough offseason,” Marlins president David Samson said. “But I also know that people that are coming to the game [Monday] are hopefully there to cheer on the players who deserve to be cheered.”
Samson said he is unaware of any fan protests in the works for the opener, but said more than 30,000 tickets — many at discounted prices — have been sold for the game. Last year’s inaugural game at Marlins Park drew a crowd of 36,601.
The smallest crowd ever for a Marlins home opener was 23,877 at Sun Life Stadium in 2002, the year Jeffrey Loria took over ownership of the club.
Season-ticket sales have plummeted from about 12,000 last season to only 5,000 this year.
Some changes to the ballpark:• The bullpens have been switched. The Marlins bullpen will be in right field, and the visitor’s bullpen will be in left, alongside The Clevelander. Samson said Marlins coaches asked for the change so that they could see their own bullpen from the dugout.
• A different type of grass has been installed. The Marlins had problems all last season with the type of sod that was used.
• Capacity at The Clevelander has been increased to 445, up from 286.
• There will be no organist, at least initially. The Marlins held tryouts for an organist but couldn’t find one to fit the bill. Another audition will be scheduled.
Manager Mike Redmond gave Placido Polanco the day off Sunday even though the veteran third baseman is off to a nice start by hitting .286. Because of Polanco’s recent history of injuries, Redmond wants to ensure that the 37-year-old player remains healthy throughout the season.
“We need him for the long haul and had this planned out,” Redmond said. “He means a lot to this team and we need to take care of him.”
One strong indication of Polanco’s improved health came Saturday with a successful headfirst slide into home, something he said he would have not even attempted the past couple of years.
“That’s one thing that I hate, when I’m hurt and can’t go all the way,” Polanco said. “He’s [Redmond] being cautious because the past years I’ve been getting hurt.”
This and that• Jacob Turner , who lost his projected spot in the Marlins rotation because of command issues this spring, was roughed up in his first outing for Triple A New Orleans. Turner gave up five earned runs on seven hits in four innings before being lifted.
• Houston Astros owner Jim Crane would like New Orleans to become his organization’s Triple A franchise. If it happens, the Marlins would have to find a new affiliate.
Coming up• Monday: Marlins RHP Kevin Slowey (0-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. Atlanta Braves LHP Paul Maholm (1-0, 0.00), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Tuesday: Marlins LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 3.60) vs. Atlanta Braves LHP Mike Minor (1-0, 1.23), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.