Miami Marlins: Spring Training Watch and the Eventual Lefty

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Last Sunday, the Marlin Maniac staff released their first feature in a series covering what storylines are actually worth following for fans of the Miami Marlins this 2017 spring season.

It’s a mostly decided squad for the Miami Marlins, due to a shorter bench (four) than is typical for MLB clubs, and a free-agent focus this offseason that was almost entirely about adding bullpen depth to an already deep bullpen.

But there are still stories worth studying. Sunday’s focus was on the future fifth outfielder, and that focus on future speculation will be the defining angle for this series. All baseball fans know, be your passion the oft-injured Miami Marlins or one of twenty-nine other options, that it takes far more than the twenty-five players you break camp with to finish out sports’ longest season.

Today we look more closely at that much-hyped Marlins bullpen, and who could earn the mantle of the eventual lefty.

Because that is the other story that has followed the Miami Marlins throughout the offseason. Not only are they famously going with a short bench, not only are they planning on using a deep pen to makeup for a weak starting rotation, but they might also be planning on opening the season with a bullpen bereft of a left-handed option.

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The rotation itself could feature as many as three lefties, with Adam Conley and Wei-Yin Chen certainties, and Jeff Locke a distinct possibility. The Dan Straily trade has made this whole situation a bit less likely, as the odds would suggest Straily has secured that fifth spot. But it’s no lock- pun intended- that Locke becomes that final pen addition. Yes, he’s making $3 million, but righty

Yes, he’s making $3 million, but righty flame-thrower Jose Urena will be lost if he doesn’t make the club. Locke could just be minted as the highest paid member of the New Orleans Baby Cakes if that looks to be in the best interest of the club, and he’s even on record as saying he doesn’t exactly feel comfortable coming out of the bullpen.

However, we’ve seen this before. Seemingly every time in seasons past that Mike Dunn would miss time, the Marlins would take a swing at going lefty-less, only to change course in shockingly short order. Eventually, even if there isn’t one April 3 against the Nationals, there is going to be a left-hander in the Miami Marlins bullpen. The only question is who it will be.

Locke falls more behind by the day as he continues to recover from biceps tendinitis but probably has to remain the top candidate. If not, though, fans would do well to remember a trade from last August that brought

If not, though, fans would do well to remember a trade from last August that brought Hunter Cervenka to the Marlins. Mostly disappointing a year ago, just like every other pitcher traded for during the season, he has been dialed in so far this spring with two scoreless, one-hit innings.

Two options which almost certainly won’t break camp with the club, but could appear midseason to claim that role, would be either Jarlin Garcia or Justin Nicolino. Garcia is one of the Marlins best remaining pitching prospects and should force a debut at some point in 2017.

Nicolino was once viewed as the top arm on the farm, but after a string of poor stretches with the big-league club, has seen his stock considerably diminish. He remains with the organization and could find himself in a position where he has more luck as a reliever than a starter. A look at his numbers from last year show a 1.04 ERA across 8 IP of relief work, and as a starter, his best work always came in the first inning.

Next: Marlins Spring Watch: Fifth Outfielder

Hopefully, one of these guys can carry the load of being the Miami Marlins lefty specialist. Because they will almost certainly need one at some point in 2017, and certainly cannot afford to trade away any more pieces from an embarrassingly thin farm system. So unless some reclamation magic is worked with a yet-to-be-released veteran down the line, the answer to the question of the eventual lefty is already in camp. It remains to be seen whether or not he breaks camp.