Jeff Locke will make start for Miami Marlins on Thursday

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Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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The slow trek back to the Major Leagues is finally over for Jeff Locke. On Thursday, he’ll make his debut for the Miami Marlins.

Jeff Locke landed on the Miami Marlins disabled list without ever throwing a regular season pitch. Shortly after signing with Miami, the left-hander was slowed by bicep tendinitis. He’s been working his way back ever since.

After several rehab appearances at the lower level, the team is ready to bring him into the fold. According to a report that first appeared on MLB.com, Locke can expect to be on the field on Thursday.

Locke was originally signed to pitch long-relief for the Marlins. He was considered an alternative option if one of the pitchers established in the rotation went down. With Tom Koehler and Wei-Yin Chen on the DL, he’ll be asked to slide right into the rotation.

Locke pitched very well in in his rehab starts. After making two appearances with the Jupiter Hammerheads, he was promoted to the AA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Across all four starts, he has pitched 20.1 innings and has only allowed four earned runs.

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If he is able to sustain that kind of success at the Major League level, the Miami Marlins will be thrilled.

The addition of Locke means someone will need to be sent down. Conventional thinking suggests it will be fellow left-hander Justin Nicolino. It was announced earlier this week that Nicolino would likely get the start on Tuesday against the Phillies. It appears this will be his opportunity to stake his claim on the Major League team.

The Marlins would be thrilled if he were able to do so.

Shuffling in the pen

For now, it appears that Vance Worley would slide into the bullpen. Worley is an experienced veteran who has worked out of the pen and out of the rotation in his career. He hasn’t pitched as well as the Marlins hoped as a starter, appearing to tire after a few innings of work. That won’t be a problem out of the bullpen.

Another decision looms on the horizon for the Marlins. Reliever Junichi Tazawa is progressing through his rib cartilage injury. Reports say that he is throwing with minimal discomfort, and could be starting his rehab assignment soon.

As a highly priced free-agent acquisition this offseason, Tazawa will be back in the Major Leagues as soon as possible. The Miami Marlins face a difficult decision as to who they will send down at that point. The bullpen is performing better lately, and there is no obvious answer.

Brian Ellington, a hard-throwing right hander seems likely. Ellington has pitched very well 2017. He is yet to allow an earned throw the 7.1 innings he has pitched, and has fanned nine batters. But having barely exceeded his rookie limits, he is the easiest for the Marlins to funnel through their minor league system.

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The Miami Marlins will be getting the reinforcements they so desperately need. After weeks of scrambling, it seems as though they will soon have too many players for too few spots. A good problem to have for a team trying to make up a lot of ground.

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