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Offishial news, 3/10/21: Marlins FanFest Lite; Gio begins build-up

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Marlins Park reopens its doors to fans in 10 days!

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Can’t wait until Opening Day? Good news...

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Leading Off—think of it as Marlins FanFest Lite—is only 10 days away. As announced by the team on Tuesday...

South Florida is invited back to Marlins Park on Saturday, March 20, for Leading Off, an exciting fan event ahead of the 2021 season. Leading Off will run from 3-8 p.m. and feature complimentary admission and parking. This year’s event will host a limited capacity of 2,500 guests, providing a safe and fun experience at the ballpark that includes activities for the whole family. Fans can step inside Marlins Park for the first time since 2019, and have the opportunity to claim a limited-availability on-field pass to run the bases, play catch on the field, test their arms in speed pitch, hit in batting cages, and participate in a kids’ mini home run derby.

Marlins Members can claim from a reserved allocation of event tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis, while additional fans may enter a sweepstakes through Home Run Rewards, the official rewards program of the Miami Marlins. Registration for the sweepstakes will run from March 10-15, and lucky fans will win access to claim up to four tickets to the event to bring their best teammates! Fans who are not registered in Home Run Rewards can do so for free by visiting Marlins.com/Rewards.

The event overlaps with a spring training game against the Nationals, which is why they promise “Marlins baseball interviews” but not necessarily player/coach interviews. Presumably, some of the key veterans will be excused from camp that day to be involved.

Read up on Marlins Park’s health and safety measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. If those ease your concerns, RSVP and have a fantastic time!

Build-up begins

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez threw his first live batting practice session as a Marlin on Tuesday and had his first Zoom encounter with local media members. The 35-year-old’s cutter was surprisingly effective, but both he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. were candid about seeing some signs of rust. There’s no timetable for him to appear in an organized game. The former All-Star seems destined to begin the 2021 regular season at the club’s alternate training site.

Gonzalez explained why he’s “honored” to wear a Marlins uniform, representing his hometown team and reminiscing about his friend, the late great José Fernández. He also urged fans to take every opportunity to see the Fish in person this year.

David Wilson has more on him in the Miami Herald.

Marlins/Astros game preview

Under the lights at Roger Dean for the first time this spring! Just like last Friday, Trevor Rogers and José Urquidy are probable starters for the Marlins and Astros, respectively. Nick Neidert will be the first arm out of Miami’s bullpen. Rogers’ first pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. The Marlins have 16 total Grapefruit League games remaining, half of which will have that start time.

Tune in to the radio broadcast on 940 WINZ or MLB.TV/the MLB app. As usual, the Marlins will also set up a camera in the pressbox behind home plate and sync it with the radio call.

Hector Rodriguez will provide credentialed coverage. Follow him on Twitter (@Hector_Baseball) for live updates and look out for his written recap here following the final out.

Right-hander Dylan Floro—acquired from the Dodgers last month—will throw live BP prior to the game. It’s potentially a final tune-up for his Grapefruit League debut sometime this weekend.

Walk-off links

  • There is a new branch of the Fish Stripes podcast: “Big Fish Small Pod.” Every Tuesday through Friday during the Marlins season, we’ll have early morning episodes to prepare you for the day ahead in 10 minutes or less. Daniel Rodriguez hosted Tuesday’s debut and I was on the mic for today’s.
  • Last call to register for the 12 p.m. ET Women’s History Month virtual panel featuring Marlins executives Kim Ng and Caroline O’Connor.
  • The Marlins are the first MLB team to partner with the Positive Coaching Alliance to amplify their Sports Can Battle Racism initiative.
  • Nicole Cahill is looking to fill the final few spots in her home run derby best-ball fantasy league, all for a good cause!
  • Why were the Marlins so reluctant to spend on roster upgrades this past offseason? The Athletic reports that they and other MLB revenue-sharing recipients will receive only half of their 2021 money up front with the other half to be paid out next year. Revenue sharing was suspended in 2020, but the season before that, the Marlins received approximately $70 million from it, according to the report, which led the league.
  • Listen to a new Anthony Bass interview on FanGraphs and read another one on MLB.com. In both conversations, Bass reflects on his journeyman career and describes his first impressions of the Marlins organization.
  • Sixto Sánchez is Baseball America’s third-ranked National League rookie for the 2021 season.

  • Best wishes to right-hander Joe Strzelecki. The former 34th-round draft pick and Nova Southeastern University alum was released by the Marlins on Sunday. He pitched 15 innings for the Gulf Coast League Marlins in 2018, but hasn’t appeared in an official game since undergoing rotator cuff surgery in 2019.