By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — For fans who seek an amusingly theatrical start to the season, Miami Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez will deliver.
When preparing to throw his first pitch in a game, Alvarez assumes an exaggerated crouch that makes him look like Snoopy’s imitation of a vulture. The ritual will be part of opening day for the first time Monday when the Marlins play the Atlanta Braves.
“This offseason I took my kids to the batting cages,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “And my oldest son, Ryan, started out with that big motion. I was like whoa, wait a minute, there’s only one guy that can do that.”
All-Star Julio Teheran will be the Braves’ opening-day starter for the second year in a row. And if they’re ahead in the ninth inning, well, All-Star Craig Kimbrel won’t close it out after Atlanta traded him to San Diego on Sunday.
Alvarez had a breakthrough season in 2014, when he went 12-7 with a 2.65 ERA. But he was a default choice of sorts for opening day because Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who started the 2014 opener, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Alvarez figures the experience will be similar to his start with the Toronto Blue Jays for their home opener in 2012.
“Seeing a packed house like that it kind of overwhelmed you with emotion,” Alvarez said through a translator. “I’m expecting kind of a similar situation in Miami with a packed house. I’ll expect some nerves but I’ll be fine.”
Sellouts are a rarity at Marlins Park, but interest in the home team is on the upswing following a busy offseason, which included signing slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a record $325 million, 13-year contract.
Stanton has hit 154 home runs in five years with the Marlins, but he has yet to play on a winning team.
“This guy just wants to win,” closer Steve Cishek said. “He doesn’t care about the money. He’s just sick of losing. We all have a little chip on our shoulder. We want to get after it.”
Two years ago, in Redmond’s first year as manager, the Marlins lost 100 games. Stanton’s deal was the start of a winter spending spree by normally thrifty owner Jeffrey Loria that has transformed the franchise.
The Marlins added starters Mat Latos and Dan Haren, upgraded the infield with the additions of Dee Gordon, Michael Morse and Martin Prado, and signed Gold Glove left fielder Christian Yelich to a long-term contract.
Those deals have the Marlins believing they can make a run at their first playoff berth since 2003, starting Monday.
“There’s a ton of excitement around this ballclub,” Redmond said. “I hear fans and people all the time say how excited they are. That’s great. That’s what we want. I know our players feel that. We’ve come a long way in a couple years.”
The Braves seem to be heading the other direction, and they’re in a rebuilding mode after a late-season collapse that cost them a 2014 playoff berth. Their latest move came Sunday, when they traded Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton to San Diego for outfielders Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, plus two minor leaguers and a draft pick.
Teheran, who went 14-13 last year with a 2.89 ERA, is part of a promising young rotation. But the Braves are likely to have trouble scoring after parting with Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis during the offseason.
The Marlins were recently awarded the 2017 All-Star Game, and to celebrate, six former Marlins All-Stars will take part in the first-pitch ceremony — Carl Pavano, Charles Johnson, Mike Lowell, Alex Gonzalez, Luis Castillo and Jeff Conine.
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