Tuesday marked the first time since the American League began in 1901 that the reigning batting champions in both it and the National League squared off in their respective season-openers.
Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, who was presented with the trophies for his stellar 2015 season before the game, matched up against former Marlins slugger Miguel Cabrera, who won the AL batting crown with a .338 average.
Such an occurrence became possible after Major League Baseball allowed for year-long interleague play starting in 2013.
Cabrera, who began his career with the Marlins and was a rookie on the club’s 2003 World Series championship team, won the Triple Crown in 2012.
Gordon, who became the first National League player since Jackie Robinson in 1949 to lead the NL in batting average (.333) and stolen bases (58), was presented with his trophies before the game.
Gordon also won his first Gold Glove at second base, led the majors in hits (205), was voted into the All-Star game and earned a Silver Slugger Award.
The Marlins gave Gordon a five-year, $50 million contract extension this offseason.
Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill grew up in Cincinnati and said he always treats Opening Day as if it’s a national holiday.
Hill expressed optimism for the upcoming season and thinks the team, directed by the coaching staff it assembled in the offseason, can compete for a winning season, which would be its first since 2009 — the longest current drought for any Major League team.
“We really believe in this roster and the group of players in this clubhouse,” Hill said. “When you talk about going as far as you can, it will be the little things. It’s not that we didn’t stress that before, but it’s something important to Don and his coaching staff and we emphasized that throughout the spring.”
DUNN PAIN FREE
Mike Dunn said the pain is already gone from his throwing arm.
But the left-handed reliever said he probably won’t be ready to pitch again until after the Marlins return home from their upcoming road trip.
Dunn was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career with a left forearm strain. He said the injury resulted from throwing changeups — a pitch that is not part of his normal arsenal during spring training.
Though the Marlins made the DL move retroactive to March 25, which would allow Dunn to return as early as the Mets series in New York next week, he said he likely won’t be available until shortly after that, just to be safe.
“I’m really shooting when they get back from the road trip,” he said.
Opening Day was a first-time experience for four Marlins: catcher J.T. Realmuto, first baseman Justin Bour, pitcher Adam Conley and utility infielder Miguel Rojas.
Rojas was with the Dodgers when they opened their season in Australia in 2014. But Rojas was not a member of their 25-man roster, making that trip only as injury insurance.
“It was a great experience,” Rojas said Tuesday. “But today is something different. I get to wear my spikes and I can maybe help this team win. I’m going to have the opportunity to play in the game.”
There are only three original members of the Marlins organization still with the franchise. One of them, visiting clubhouse manager Rock Hughes, said he never gets tired of Opening Day. He was at the first one for the Marlins in 1993.
“I love it,” Hughes said. “They get better every time. I get more excited.”
Jeh Johnson, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, threw the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday.
Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (6-1, 2.92 ERA in 2015) vs. Detroit Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez (10-10, 4.99 ERA in 2015), 4:55 p.m., Marlins Park.
Thursday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (4-1, 3.76 ERA in 2015) at Washington Nationals (TBA), 4:05 p.m., Nationals Park.