The Miami Marlins enter spring training with little question about who will be on their opening day roster. One of the questions surrounding the team is their 5th starter rotation role and potentially carrying a second left-handed pitcher.
The team may have a special way to make that both of those competitions irrelevant. According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins are considering entering the season carrying 13 relievers, instead of the normal 12 teams carry.
"* Don’t be surprised if the Marlins open the season with eight relievers and 13 pitchers, compared to 12 position players. Ideally, the club would like to carry 12 pitchers and 13 position players. But the club hasn’t ruled out 13 pitchers.Why? Brad Hand is out of options and Andrew McKirahan is a Rule 5 pick. The two lefties will be given every chance to make the club. If necessary, Miami may keep them both. If Hand doesn’t win a rotation spot, he could be used in the ‘pen. Yes, Miami might actually carry three lefty relievers, Mike Dunn, Hand and McKirahan.Right now it is also speculatives. Still a long way to go in camp."
If the Marlins do decide to go with a 13 pitcher roster, that will leave them one man short on the bench, which could hurt them if they were to suffer any nagging injury of any sort to one of their regulars.
Catcher Jeff Mathis, utility infielder Jeff Baker, and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki would be the three locks for the Marlins bench, regardless of how many batters the team carries. Donovan Solano, Reed Johnson, Justin Bour, and Derek Dietrich could be among the candidates for the final one or two spots.
Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Brian Morris, Aaron Crow, A.J. Ramos, and two of Tom Koehler, Brad Hand, and David Phelps seem to be locks to crack the bullpen. If the team carries 12 pitchers, that would leave no spots for either Sam Dyson, Carter Capps or Rule 5 pick McKirahan.
Hand and McKirahan are both talented left handers that would be at the risk of being lost by the organization if they didn’t make the team out of spring. Hand is out of options and with McKirahan being a Rule 5 guy, he’d have to be returned to the Chicago Cubs if he didn’t stick on the Marlins 25-man roster all season long.
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Of course, during spring training an injury making the Marlins decision is not out of question either. As we saw two springs ago, Jose Fernandez made the club when Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi went down with shoulder injuries.
The Marlins are in excellent shape regarding their bullpen, which made their interest in Francisco Rodriguez questionable and unnecessary. The team is likely to send a couple of arms (Dyson and Capps) to the minors, despite them being viable bullpen arms.
Nick Massett, the former Red reliever, is also in camp with an outside chance of cracking the bullpen.
Being in a position to carry 13-pitchers on their opening day roster speaks to the strength that should be the Marlins bullpen in 2015.