Jeff Locke nearing return to the Miami Marlins pitching staff

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Marlins might be getting reinforcements for their pitching staff soon. With the state of the rotation, there are a few options for Locke to supplant.

The Miami Marlins have been playing better baseball lately. Stop short of saying their west coast trip ended in a flourish, but the Marlins have been showing signs of life. After an encouraging 8-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels last night, things could be picking up.

They could be due to receive another bump with the return/debut of Jeff Locke. Locke was signed as a low-risk option in the offseason. A bout of bicep tendinitis has kept him from meeting even those tempered expectations.

Now it appears that he is ready to make his return to the big leagues with the Fish. According to a report published in the Miami-Herald, Locke could be primed to receive the call any day. Coach Don Mattingly had the following to say on Locke’s progress:

"I know he’s going to talk with development, talk about what the next step is, if they want another [rehab start] or if he’s ready to go.”"

Locke has been carving up AA hitters like they were a Thanksgiving turkey. In his last start, he went six innings without allowing an earned run. After striking out five, he was pulled after having thrown 78 pitches. He has gone longer in each game he has pitched in rehab, with his last two starts being six innings each.

It is unclear exactly when Locke would be joining the team, but he’s now made made four starts in the minor leagues without issue. That is usually enough to convince the medical staff that a player is ready to go.

Who gets the boot?

With the state of the Miami Marlins current pitching rotation, it’s a coin flip. Jose Urena has been one of the few pleasant surprises this season. Dan Straily has been pitched well in most starts. Edinson Volquez makes too much money to demote. That leaves only two options.

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Justin Nicolino and Vance Worley are the two starters on the cusp. The Marlins would love it if Nicolino were able to assert himself at the Major League level. But with Vance Worley getting the start against the Angels on Saturday, it doesn’t appear the team thinks he is ready to do that.

Worley is the more steadied veteran hand, and a strong start against Los Angeles might be enough to win the battle with Nicolino.

At only 25 years old, there is still plenty of time for Nicolino to figure it out and sustain a career in the MLB. He has shown flashes of that potential at different points already, enough to encourage the Marlins brass. With only 0.155 years of MLB service, there is no sense in rushing him yet.

Next: Series preview: Los Angeles Angels

With the way the season has gone, the Marlins are wise to go with veteran arms. Jeff Locke and Vance Worley have each logged significant time at the highest level.