Any examination of the Tampa Bay Rays has to start with the brain trust of Andrew Friedman, Joe Maddon and the manner in which they manage payroll, expe—

 

Chad:  Uh, Richard, you’re supposed to be previewing that OTHER Florida team.

[awkward silence]

Me:  Oh.

[sigh]

 

Any examination of the Tampa Bay Rays Miami Marlins has to begin with their owner, Jeffrey Loria, who makes Mike Brown look like Lamar Hunt. Loria’s idea of a sound baseball investment is paying $2.5M for a hideous metal home run sculpture in left field—a bigger cash outlay than the sum total of 22 of the 25 players on his current roster.

Loria perpetrated a beautiful scam, sticking taxpayers with a $634M white elephant of a stadium and a tax burden of $2.4B, built on the condition that he field a competitive team. He then proceeded to sign players to back loaded contracts, which he quickly unloaded after only one season—risking little of his own money. Adiós Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. Hola Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick and Adeiny Hechavarria. Gone, too, is Fidel Castro’s PR man, Ozzie Guillen, who fit right in with the carnival atmosphere in Fishland.

If nothing else, the Jeffrey Loria Story should make Reds fans very, very thankful for one Bob “Big Wallet” Castellini.

And so ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, your 2013 Miami Marlins:

Juan Pierre LF
Donovan Solano 2B
Placido Polanco 3B
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Justin Ruggiano CF
Greg Dobbs 1B
Rob Brantly C
Adeiny Hechavarria SS

To add insult to injury for the six remaining Marlin fans likely to fork over their hard-earned cash to visit the new ballpark, add—well, yes— injury. Stanton has missed nearly a week with a sore shoulder. First baseman Logan Morrison is on the 60-day DL following knee surgery. His replacement, Casey Kotchman, was placed on the 15-day DL on April 6th. Hechavarria has a sore elbow and is day-to-day.

All of this has necessitated that bench players Austin Kearns, Chris Coghlan, Greg Dobbs, Miguel Olivo and Chris Valaika (yes, that Chris Valaika) step into the starting lineup. Valiaka beat out old Reds fan favorite Wilson Valdez for one of the last remaining spots coming out of Spring Training.

Rotation
Ricky Nolasco
Nathan Eovaldi   Jose Fernandez
Kevin Slowey
Wade LeBlanc
Henderson Alvarez   Alex Sanabia

Bullpen
John Maine (long)
Mike Dunn
A.J. Ramos
Jon Rauch
Chad Qualls
Ryan Webb
Steve Cishek (closer)

Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi—both starters—were recently placed on the 15-day DL. Jose Fernandez, who has made a mere two starts, has allowed one run on five hits in 11 innings, registering 13 Ks. Fernandez, like Aroldis Chapman, defected from Cuba. Who wouldn’t love to listen in on that conversation when they meet?

Key to the Series
The Reds should have a significant advantage on the mound as this Marlins team has virtually no power to speak of. Miami’s only true slugger, Stanton, has been an early disappointment. Perhaps he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress at the loss of almost every important teammate from last year. Whatever the cause, Giancarlo has yet to homer this year and the team collectively has hit only 3 HRs, slugging .273—dead last in Baseball. If you are a Reds pitcher, you challenge Marlin hitters with little fear they will do much with any mistakes that drift over the plate. This will be a perfect storm of circumstance for the 2013 debut of Tony Cingrani, who relies almost exclusively on his fastball. It’s hard to believe this Marlins club will be able to go yard with any mistake pitches the youngster up from Louisville might make. In fact, generating any offense is a chore for this team. Miami has already failed to score 2 runs in a game nine times this season.

Are You Kidding Me?
It’s been 180 games since a lefthander (Dontrelle Willis, Sept. 29, 2011) started for the Reds. Cingrani ends that streak today.

The Reds will miss Ricky Nolasco, who pitched last night.

Probable Starters
Thurs.: Fernandez, RHP (0-0, 0.82 ERA) v. Cingrani (7:10pm)
Fri.: Slowey, RHP (0-2, 2.04 ERA ) v. Latos (7:10pm)
Sat: LeBlanc, LHP (0-3, 6.75 ERA) v. Arroyo (1:10pm)
Sun: Sanabia, RHP (2-1, 4.24 ERA) v. Bailey (1:10pm)

Manager Mike Redmond has his work cut out for him this season.