Marlins, Cardinals open season with new looks

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MIAMI — Perched atop the Miami Marlins’ multicolored, provocative home-run sculpture is a blue marlin, poised for splashdown whenever the home team hits one out.

Fans at the new Marlins Park watch a spring training game. The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals open their seasons at the park tonight.  WILFREDO LEE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
WILFREDO LEE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Fans at the new Marlins Park watch a spring training game. The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals open their seasons at the park tonight.

Call the artwork what you will — gaudy, goofy, grotesque, great — but there’s no denying it’s new. For the Marlins, that’s what this season is all about.

Long overlooked and underfunded, they’ve become a big-spending, attention-grabbing team as they open the season at home tonight against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.

The pop-art sculpture, futuristic ballpark, brisk ticket sales, team name, uniforms, celebrity manager, All-Star shortstop, All-Star left-hander, All-Star closer and starry-eyed optimism: all new.

With the roster significantly upgraded, the Marlins predict they’ll contend for the NL East title — and more.

“We expect to win,” new shortstop Jose Reyes says. “The kind of club we have, we’re going to compete, no doubt.”

Like the Marlins, the 2012 Cardinals have a new look. Slugger Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa are gone and postseason star Chris Carpenter is hurt, so Kyle Lohse will start the opener. But right-hander Adam Wainwright is back from elbow surgery, and the addition of outfielder Carlos Beltran is cause for encouragement.

Plus, only one team has a chance to repeat as the World Series champion, and baseball-crazy St. Louis is always eager for a season to start.

“There’s a buzz in every home opener,” rookie manager Mike Matheny says. “The buzz in our place is ridiculous.”

While the Cardinals will wait until April 13 to play a home game, outfielder Jon Jay is especially excited about the road opener. The Miami native attended Marlins games as a youngster when they played in the Dolphins’ stadium, so he can appreciate the new ballpark.

“To be able to play the first game there, it’s something I am going to remember forever,” he said.

TONIGHT’S GAME

WHO: St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins

WHERE: Marlins Park in Miami

TIME: 7 p.m. ESPN

STARTERS: Kyle Lohse (Cardinals) vs. Josh Johnson (Marlins)

➤ Chipper feels good after BP/11B

➤ Strasburg ready for opener/11B


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