MIAMI — Perched atop the Marlins' provocative home-run sculpture is a blue marlin, poised for splashdown whenever the home team hits one out.
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 Cardinals. After a significant roster upgrade, the Marlins predict they'll contend for the NL East title — and more.
"We expect to win," new shortstop Jose Reyes said. "The kind of club we have, we're going to compete, no doubt."
When Josh Johnson throws the first pitch in the new ballpark, the Marlins will begin trying to supplant St. Louis, which mounted an improbable late charge to the World Series title.
The Cardinals also 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 St. Louis is always eager for a season to start.
"There's a buzz in every home opener," rookie manager Mike Matheny said. "The buzz in our place is ridiculous."
AILING BOSOX: Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey will have surgery on his right thumb and could miss a significant portion of the season. Right-hander Josh Beckett also had a second opinion on a right thumb injury, but manager Bobby Valentine said he is expected to be okay.
UBALDO APPEALS: Indians right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez is appealing his five-game suspension for throwing at Rockies shortstop and former teammate Troy Tulowitzki on Sunday.
NO DAMAGE: Workers at Rangers Ballpark took shelter in hallways when a storm front passed through that included tornadoes in other parts of the region. There was no structural damage reported at the ballpark.
A'S: First baseman Daric Barton went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right shoulder.
BRAVES: Right-handed reliever Chad Durbin signed a one-year contract.
METS: New closer Frank Francisco felt good after a throwing session and was cleared for opening day. The right-hander had a cortisone shot in his left knee.
NATIONALS: Left-hander John Lannan was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, making left-hander Ross Detwiler the No. 5 starter.
REDS: Manager Dusty Baker confirmed that left-hander Sean Marshall will start the season as closer. Projected closer Ryan Madson is out for the season with an elbow injury. … Right-hander Alfredo Simon was claimed off waivers from the Orioles.
TIGERS: Infielder Brandon Inge went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin.
TWINS: Right-hander Jason Marquis returned from a two-week leave to tend to his seriously injured daughter. Reese, 7, had a bicycle accident in New York and was under sedation for nine days with internal bleeding. Marquis said she is likely to fully recover.