Decision time approaching for Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. — Opening Night is now a week away, and time is running short for players on the bubble.

The Marlins have some tough decisions to make, but they are mostly for reserve roles and one or two spots in the bullpen. Otherwise, the 25-man roster is getting closer to being set.

One of the most watched battles in camp has been the right-handed hitting bench spot. Non-roster invitees Aaron Rowand and Austin Kearns are the two choices. Rowand has an impressive big league track record, but Kearns is having the better Spring Training.

Based on numbers, the edge goes to Kearns.

But working in Rowand’s favor is he can play all three outfield spots, while Kearns is more of a corner option.

The left-handed hitting outfielders being considered are Chris Coghlan and Bryan Petersen. Coghlan can play left and center, but he isn’t an ideal option to play in right field. Petersen can play all three outfield spots. So it would come down to who is a better option at the plate. Coghlan could have the edge there.

Another factor is the health of Logan Morrison.

The starting left fielder has been dealing with a sore right knee for most of Spring Training, and he is playing in Minor League games. Morrison is set to be a designated hitter in a Minor League game on Wednesday. If that goes well, he could be back in the outfield on Thursday.

It seems Friday or Saturday would be the earliest Morrison would test the knee in a Grapefruit League game.

If Morrison needs more time to get ready, he could be placed on the disabled list, retroactive to March 26, and be eligible to be reinstated as early as April 10.

Should that be the case, Coghlan and Petersen could both make the Opening Day roster.

The backup infield job is between Donnie Murphy, Donovan Solano and Nick Green.

Murphy is on the 40-man and he has experience with the Marlins. While Solano has been the surprise of camp, most likely he will open at Triple-A and play every day.

The rotation is pretty much set with Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano lined up the first four games. Anibal Sanchez will be the fifth starter, but the question is when exactly he will go. He would be lined up for April 9, but because of a couple of early off days, the team could go with a four-man rotation until April 15.

If the club keeps Sanchez flexible, it could mix and match the rotation after a week or so, and give any of the top four another day or two of rest.

Either way, Sanchez opens with the big league club.

Heath Bell, Edward Mujica, Ryan Webb, Steve Cishek, Randy Choate and Mike Dunn are pretty much locks in the bullpen. Jose Ceda has looked in camp and is another right-handed option.

Left-hander Wade LeBlanc has enjoyed a terrific camp. He is a long relief option, should the team decide it needs a true long reliever. LeBlanc has an option and the club may opt to let him go to Triple-A New Orleans and pitch regularly out of the rotation. If for some reason the Marlins have a rotation opening, LeBlanc is likely to get the call first.

Whichever direction the team is leaning, the decision makers have a week to figure things out.

Joe Frisaro

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