While the Nationals have seemingly been on cruise control since the beginning of Spring Training, it was an eventful camp for the Marlins that culminated in a busy few days before Opening Day.
Now, with late injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi (both on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation), Kevin Slowey gets his first start of the year a few days earlier than originally planned.
Slowey will take the mound for the Marlins on Wednesday against Washington at Nationals Park. The Nats won the first game of the series on Monday's Opening Day, 2-0, behind a valiant effort from ace Stephen Strasburg.
It'll be Slowey's second career appearance against the division-rival Nationals, but he'll have a guy in his own dugout that knows him plenty well. That's manager Mike Redmond, who coincidentally caught Slowey's Major League debut in 2007 while with the Twins. It's Redmond's first year at the helm in Miami.
"The biggest thing for us, from a leadership standpoint, is Red," Slowey said. "The way he carries himself. The way he understands one game is only worth one game. There will be days where we come out and play great. And there will be days we come out and we fall flat. That's part of the season. His ability to stay even keel is going to help us in our progression."
Slowey said the new skipper was vital during a spring camp that featured more than a few position battles and question marks that were not resolved until the final days.
"Thus far, through a fairly tumultuous camp, he was able to stay even keel, through injuries, through roster changes, guys getting released and guys coming in, he was able to be himself every single day," Slowey said. "That kind of example permeates throughout the entire clubhouse."
The Marlins could use the good mojo on Tuesday against lefty Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals' loaded lineup. Gonzalez set career highs in just about every statistical category last year, finishing third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.
Gonzalez was sharp in his final Grapefruit League outing, striking out seven while scattering one hit over four shutout innings.
"Obviously, the last game, you don't want to slack," Gonzalez said.
Nationals: What sophomore slump?
Washington superstar outfielder Bryce Harper put to rest any early talks of a sophomore slump on Monday, homering in his first two at-bats of the year.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Harper is the first reigning Rookie of the Year Award winner since Ryan Howard (who won it in 2005) to hit a home run on Opening Day the year after receiving the award. It was the third multi-homer game of Harper's career, and second against the Marlins (Aug. 29). He is also the first player in Nationals/Expos history to hit home runs in his first two at-bats of the season.
Harper joins Adam LaRoche (2006), Chad Tracy (2009) and Ryan Zimmerman (2008) as the only current Nationals players to hit a homer on Opening Day. Harper and Zimmerman are the only two to do it in a Washington uniform.
As for an encore, Harper will be facing Slowey for the first time in his career. Harper, who hit an astounding .478 with a 1.216 OPS in 25 Spring Training games, is a career .226 hitter against the Marlins.
Marlins: Lineup change for Miami
Miguel Olivo is expected to start Wednesday at catcher, and Justin Ruggiano in center field. Chris Coghlan got the start in center on Monday, with Rob Brantly behind the dish.
• Slowey will be making his first big league start since Sept. 26, 2011, when he was with the Twins. Injuries have hindered him the past two years.
In 2012, the right-hander made eight starts for Triple-A Columbus in the Indians' system. The only other start Slowey has made against Washington was June 18, 2008. He pitched six innings and collected a win.
• Marlins third baseman Placido Polanco is 4-for-13 (.308) in his career against Gonzalez, while left fielder Juan Pierre is 3-for-10 (.300). Polanco hit cleanup for the just the 10th time in his career on Monday.
• After Wilson Ramos impressed the Nationals' brass in his return from a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee, he earned the Opening Day start. But manager Davey Johnson has said he will alternate Ramos and Kurt Suzuki, with the latter expected to be behind the plate on Wednesday to catch Gonzalez. Suzuki and Gonzalez played together in Oakland before both ended up with the Nationals via trade, Gonzalez before the 2012 season and Suzuki last August.