The Marlins finalized their Opening Day lineup Monday in a way they think will firm up the middle of their batting order behind star slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
Manager Don Mattingly announced the team’s starting lineup for its season opener Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers, and it has veteran right-handed hitter third baseman Martin Prado batting fifth behind Stanton with lefty Justin Bour in the sixth spot.
Christian Yelich, a lefty, will bat third. Lefty and reigning National League batting champ Dee Gordon is leading off with a righty Marcell Ozuna hitting second.
The Marlins were testing lineups with Prado and Bour alternating in the fifth and sixth spots during spring training but felt splitting up the lefties better at the top of the lineup would create better matchups.
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If the Marlins hit Bour fifth, a team could bring in a lefty to face Yelich then pitch around Stanton to get to Bour, who hit .270 with all 23 of his home runs and 64 RBI last season against right-handed pitching in 341 at-bats but only .221 with nine RBI in 68 at-bats against lefties.
“I think we really settled on that the last few days because we wanted to separate Yelich and Bour,” Mattingly said. “That way with the two righties in the middle we’re in a spot where it forces teams, if they are going to bring in a lefty to face Stanton, to make a change quickly against [Prado].”
In terms of personnel, the Marlins’ starting lineup did not change from the end of last season.
But throughout the spring there has been optimism among the team that it will perform better and produce more runs than it did a season ago when it drove in the second-fewest in baseball (613).
“There are no holes there,” Bour said. “It’s a good lineup up and down and a group that plays well together.”
For Bour and J.T. Realmuto, who will hit seventh, it will be their first Opening Days on major-league rosters and as starters.
Realmuto joined the team April 13 last season after Jeff Mathis broke his hand and became the starter after the team demoted Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He proceeded to break the club record for triples in a season by a catcher with seven and hit .333 in September.
Bour played his first game last season on April 25 and eventually won the starting job at first after a poor start by Michael Morse, whom the Marlins eventually traded to the Dodgers along with Mat Latos.
“There’s a lot of positive things to look forward to going into Opening Day with the guys we have here,” Bour said. “I came into last spring with the mindset of getting myself ready to be the starting first baseman even if that wasn’t in the cards. So nothing’s really changed for me, but there’s that excitement of that first Opening Day that I’m ready for.”
NOT RUSHING DUNN
Mattingly said the Marlins plan to ease Mike Dunn back into his bullpen role once he comes off the disabled list.
Dunn was placed on the DL for the first time in his career on Sunday with a left forearm strain that began acting up during a pitching session on March 24 in Jupiter.
“We just want to make sure he’s good before we get him started again,” Mattingly said. “To put it in perspective if we were in a September pennant race right now, he’d be pitching. But we’re in April and we haven’t played a game yet and we have DL days on the books already before we even start so there’s no reason to push him too fast right now.”
Dunn, who has appeared in 354 games since being acquired by the Marlins in 2010, had an MRI that came back negative and would be eligible to return during the team’s first road series in Washington.
“I know he’s eligible to come back the third game in DC but I’m not sure we’re counting on that,” Mattingly said. “We have to make sure he’s able to get out there, pitch and recover. I don’t see it as being anything long term.”
The Marlins will open the season with lefties Craig Breslow and Chris Narveson and righty Dustin McGowan among their middle relievers.
“This gives other guys opportunities,” Mattingly said. “Mike [Dunn] is one of the guys on the back end that we count on. Until he gets back, somebody else needs to step forward and we trust our guys to do the job.”
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen vs. Tigers RHP Justin Verlander, 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez vs. Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez, 4:55 p.m., Marlins Park.
Marlins starting lineup
1. Dee Gordon 2b
2. Marcell Ozuna cf
3. Christian Yelich lf
4. Giancarlo Stanton rf
5. Martin Prado 3b
6. Justin Bour 1b
7. J.T. Realmuto c
8. Adeiny Hechavarria ss
9. Wei-Yin Chen p