The Marlins are counting on Edinson Volquez’s big-game experience to help get the season off to a good start.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly announced Friday that the veteran Volquez will start on Opening Day on April 3 in Washington.
“We feel he’s the right guy,” Mattingly said. “He pitches with big intensity, and with an Opening Day crowd, we felt like he was the right guy.”
Mattingly said Dan Straily and Tom Koehler will start the following two games against the Nationals, and Wei-Yin Chen will open the fourth game in New York against the Mets.
Mattingly did not name a fifth starter.
Adam Conley, who has struggled in the spring with an 0-3 record and 9.35 ERA, figures to be the front-runner to land the spot, but Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena could also be looked at as options.
Volquez, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal in the offseason, will head a rotation left without its ace last September following the tragic death of Jose Fernandez.
“I got lucky,” Volquez said. “The new guy on the new team, so it’s a great opportunity. It’s nothing new for me, so I will do my best.”
Volquez, 33, will start on Opening Day for the fifth time in his career and for his fourth different team. Last year, Volquez started on Opening Day for the Royals against the Mets in a rematch of the previous season’s World Series.
“The way I pitch I see big games as another game; I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself,” Volquez said. “I keep calm and just do what I know how to do.”
Volquez went 10-11 with a 5.37 ERA, which was over two points higher than his average the previous two seasons with the Royals (3.55 in 2015) and Pirates (3.04 in 2014).
Volquez, who pitched for the Royals during their World Series championship run in 2015, has thrown 389 2/3 innings over the past two seasons.
Volquez has one All-Star appearance in his career in 2008 with the Reds and is 89-79 for his career with a 4.44 ERA in 252 career starts. He and Chen are the only projected Marlins starters who have started on Opening Day before.
“Opening Days are a little different than regular games as the season gets going because there’s a lot of fanfare and announcing teams and a lot goes on,” Mattingly said. “Volquez has handled that before, so I think it’s good that he’s that guy.”
Volquez looked strong pitching recently for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Volquez started two games and had a 1.13 ERA in eight innings.
Mattingly said Volquez’s earlier-than-expected return from the WBC lined him up perfectly for Opening Day.
“That was one of the reasons they gave me this opportunity,” Volquez said. “The way I was pitching in the WBC it shows I was a little bit ahead, pitching in front of 40,000 people. It’s still early, but the way I pitched I think I opened a lot of eyes.”
Volquez, Straily and Koehler would give the Marlins three right-handed pitchers in succession to open the season against the Nationals. Chen, a lefty who started last year for the Marlins on Opening Day, would be followed by another left-hander if Conley retains the spot.
After Fernandez, Conley put up the next-best numbers of any Marlins’ starter last season, going 8-6 with a 3.85 ERA.
“It could have really been a number of guys,” Mattingly said. “At first we were talking about pushing [Volquez] back depending on how long the WBC went. When he got back we knew we could get it lined up and get him his work and get him feeling comfortable.”
The Marlins trimmed the spring training roster a little more Friday by reassigning right-handed pitchers Scott Copeland, Stephen Fife and Javy Guerra as well as left-handed pitcher Kelvin Marte to minor-league camp.
▪ Saturday: Marlins LHP Nicolino vs. Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
▪ Sunday: Marlins LHP Chen vs. Cardinals RHP Mike Leake, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
▪ Monday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler vs. Mets TBA, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.