Alvarez, Teheran square off in Miami

( – While Jose Fernandez is the Miami Marlins’ ace of the
present and the future, Henderson Alvarez is a more-than-solid sidekick.

Alvarez will make the first Opening Day start of his young career on Monday
afternoon when the Marlins begin a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves.

The Marlins lost Fernandez early last season due to Tommy John surgery, but
still improved by 15 victories from the previous campaign. Miami, though,
failed to finish above .500 for a fifth season in a row, but hopes its young
core and a few veteran additions can get it over the hump this season.

Brought in to help the Marlins’ playoff push was speedy shortstop Dee Gordon,
versatile veteran Martin Prado, power bat Michael Morse and starter Mat Latos.
Miami also signed outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who comes in into the season 156
hits shy of 3,000 for his MLB career.

The biggest move of the offseason for the Marlins, who have in the past been
defined by winter fire sales, was the signing of outfielder Giancarlo Stanton
to a 13-year, $325 million contract. The MVP candidate hit 37 homers and drove
in 105 runs last season, numbers that could have been higher had his season
not ended early on Sept. 11 after he was hit in the face by a fastball thrown
by Milwaukee’s Mike Fiers.

With Fernandez not due back from his injury until late June at the earliest,
the 24-year-old Alvarez gets the start today.

Alvarez set the tone for last season by throwing a no-hitter on the final day
of the 2013 campaign and followed up by going 12-7 with a 2.65 earned run
average in 30 starts. He earned an All-Star selection and enters his third
season with the Marlins.

The right-hander has struggled in six career starts versus the Braves, going
1-2 with a 5.66 ERA.

“He brings a lot to the table,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond told of
Alvarez. “He brings a flare, an excitement. It’s really a perfect fit for
Opening Day.”

The Braves counter with their own 24-year-old All-Star in Julio Teheran, who
is set to become just the sixth pitcher in team history to make consecutive
Opening Day starts. He joins Pat Jarvis, Phil Niekro, Rich Mahler, Greg Maddux
and Derek Lowe.

Teheran enters his third full season in the majors having gone 14-13 in 33
starts a season ago, but with an excellent 2.89 ERA. He is 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA
in eight career meetings with Miami, but was hammered for seven runs and four
homers in a spring training loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday.

“We have seen what he can do the past couple of years,” Braves first baseman
Freddie Freeman told his team’s official website. “We have all the confidence
in the world whenever we give Julio the ball, because we know he’s going to go
out there and battle.”

The Braves are going to have to battle after new president of baseball
operations John Hart rebuilt the roster following last season’s 79-83 finish
that came one year after the club won an NL East title.

Following an offseason of roster upheaval the Braves made it clear on the eve
of the start of the season that they are in fact in rebuild mode, as it
shipped All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr. to the
San Diego Padres in a six-player swap.

That concluded a busy offseason by Hart, who restocked the cabinet so to
speak, trading outfielder Justin Upton (San Diego), and brother of Melvin, and
power bat Evan Gattis (Houston) in separate deals that netted Atlanta seven
prospects. Outfielder Jason Heyward was also dealt, going to St. Louis in a
deal that brought back a young arm in Shelby Miller.

In addition outfielder Nick Markakis brought into the fold as a free agent.

The Marlins went 10-9 versus the Braves last season.