JUPITER, Fla. — As they say, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
The same logic applied to teams hoping to seriously contend can also be used in the composition of the Marlins’ Opening Day roster.
It’s not about the players who have endured nearly six weeks of camp. Those who were part of the initial 74 on the roster, who have been at the Roger Dean Stadium since mid-February.
We’re talking mainly about the non-roster invitees who were part of the large group waking up early each day. Those trying to impress and get in shape by taking extra batting practice, or fielding more grounders or pop ups. Or the pitchers refining their deliveries each day, two hours before practice officially began.
Life in the big leagues carries no guarantees. That is certainly true in Marlins’ camp.
A week before the season gets underway, there is a strong possibility that at least one player, or two, or perhaps three, could make the club who isn’t even here yet.
Each day could bring in another potential fit to the roster. In the meantime, Marlins’ fans are best advised to check out the daily transactions to see which players become available.
Wilson Valdez is a prime example. The veteran utility infielder, who was in Arizona all spring with the Giants, was released on Friday. Within 24 hours, he was taking batting practice at Roger Dean Stadium as a non-roster invitee of the Marlins.
Don’t be surprised if Valdez is considered a lock to be with the Marlins on Opening Day. In fact, it would be startling if he isn’t on the team.
The Marlins have a few non-roster invitees to keep an eye on. Reliever Chad Qualls, first baseman/outfielder Austin Kearns and first base/third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff are all on the bubble. Decisions on all three are expected by Wednesday, at the latest, because of clauses in their contracts.
The Marlins are looking for a right-handed bat off the bench. Kearns and Kouzmanoff are in the mix for that spot. But chances are the player who eventually fill the role isn’t in camp right now.
You can make the same assumption about a bullpen spot. Miami has already been searching the market for potential, low-cost options.
For the Marlins, some needed depth may be late arrivals to camp.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — Nine days before the Marlins open at Washington, the team is giving at least one veteran a quick look.
Wilson Valdez, 34, signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Saturday. The veteran utility player was released on Friday by the Giants, where he batted .194 in 36 Spring Training at-bats.
The Marlins are in the process of finalizing their roster, and they are weighing their utility infield options.
Valdez joins the mix with Nick Green, Chris Valaika and Matt Downs.
This will be Valdez’s second stint in the Marlins’ organization. As a prospect in 2004, he was traded to the White Sox for reliever Billy Koch.
Valdez has spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues. He spent 2010-11 with the Phillies, and last year he appeared in 77 games with the Reds.
Valdez is a career .236 hitter in 439 big league games.
The Marlins are seeking as much depth as possible in the infield. Currently, second baseman Donovan Solano is resting a sore back. Third baseman Placido Polanco missed time this spring with a strained right oblique.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — A battle of projected No. 2 starters will take place on Saturday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium.
The Marlins are sending Nathan Eovaldi to the mound against the Cardinals, who are going with Lance Lynn.
The hard-throwing Eovaldi has enjoyed a strong Spring Training, and he is lined up to face the Nationals in Miami’s second game of the regular season.
Miami is the home team for the 1:05 p.m. ET contest.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — Christian Yelich knew the day was coming. It happened on Friday, as the 21-year-old was reassigned to Minor League camp.
Yelich will open the season at Double-A Jacksonville.
Along with Yelich, the Marlins also reassigned right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo and catcher Jake Jefferies to Minor League camp. Right-hander Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.
The left-handed hitting outfielder was one of the standout stories in Marlins camp. He batted .364 with three doubles, one triple, five homers and 14 RBIs.
The Marlins anticipate having a very strong Double-A team. The outfield will have Yelich in left field, Jake Marisnick in center and Marcell Ozuna in right. However, Marisnick is recovering from a broken left hand, and he will not be ready. And a couple of days ago, Ozuna suffered a broken bone in his hand, and he will be out a month.
Yelich, ranked 13th on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect List, has not played about Class A ball. What’s he’s done in his Minor League career has been impressive, he’s a career .322 hitter.
Chances are, if he performs at a high level in Double-A, he could be called up sometime in June.
“You come in here with realistic expectations,” Yelich said. “I came in here, not expecting to make the team, but with the idea of, ‘Go have fun, make a good impression and just enjoy the time you’re up here.’ ”
Yelich now gets a chance to get more Minor League seasoning, and at-bats. He has 909 career Minor League at-bats. By comparison, Mike Trout had 1,117 Minor League at-bats before becoming a fixture in the Angels’ outfield.
– Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — Chone Figgins’ hopes of hooking on with the Marlins have ended.
After the Marlins’ 7-5 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday, the team released Figgins, reducing their number of players in camp to 42.
Figgins, 35, signed as a non-roster invitee on Feb. 8. As part of his deal, he had an opt-out date of March 6.
“It’s all good,” Figgins said. “I showed them I could still play.”
Figgins added that he doesn’t know what his next option is.
The switch-hitting utility player was competing for a backup spot. In Grapefruit League play, Figgins batted .308 (8-for-26).
Figgins broke in with the Angels in 2002, and in 2007, he batted .330.
Releasing Figgins enhances Nick Green’s chances of making the team as a non-roster invitee. Chris Valaika and Matt Downs are other utility options.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — Donovan Solano, who is having a terrific Spring Training, was scratched from the Marlins’ lineup on Wednesday due to a stiff lower back.
Miami’s second baseman tweaked something while working out in the weight room in the morning, and he was replaced by Chris Valaika against the Nationals.
The Marlins don’t have much depth, and Solano is a key player. The team is off on Thursday, which will allow him two full days of rest.
Solano is batting .409 in Grapefruit League play.
Also on Wednesday, manager Mike Redmond said right-hander Jacob Turner is competing for a rotation spot. The 21-year-old, who has had an up and down Spring Training, will next pitch on Sunday against the Astros.
There is a chance Turner can open the season in the Minor Leagues. Right now, three rotation spots are set, with Ricky Nolasco as the ace. Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez are also in the rotation, although their respective spots haven’t been set yet.
* Wade LeBlanc is a likely choice to be the fourth starter. Turner, Kevin Slowey and John Maine are in the mix for rotation spots.
* On Wednesday morning, the Marlins re-assigned Doug Mathis, Mitch Talbot, Ed Lucas and J.T. Realmuto to Minor League camp.
* To get more at-bats, Justin Ruggiano is playing seven innings in the field and hitting in a Minor League game on Wednesday. Austin Kearns and Casey Kotchman also were in the Minor League game to bat only.
* Lineup Wednesday: Juan Pierre, LF; Placido Polanco, 3B; Giancarlo Stanton, RF; Greg Dobbs, 1B; Chris Valaika, 2B; Rob Brantly, C; Chris Coghlan, CF; Adeiny Hechavarria, SS; Wade LeBlanc, P.
— Joe Frisaro
JuPITER, Fla. — Another candidate for a backup outfield spot has been sent out of Marlins’ camp.
On Tuesday morning, the Marlins re-assigned Bryan Petersen to Minor League camp. The 26-year-old will open the season at Triple-A New Orleans.
Petersen was in camp as a non-roster invitee.
In limited playing time, Petersen was 1 for 16 in Grapefruit League games. Petersen did have a walk-off triple to beat Team Venezuela on March 5.
The Marlins are narrowing down their list of outfield candidates.
The toughest competition is in center field, where Justin Ruggiano, Chris Coghlan and Gorkys Hernandez are in the mix. The team is expected to keep two of the three.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins face the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Roger Dean Stadium.
Jacob Turner will take the mound for Miami. Shelby Miller gets the start for St. Louis.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins freed up a spot on their 40-man roster on Sunday by returning Rule 5 Draft pick Braulio Lara to Tampa Bay.
As a Rule 5 claim, Lara had to make the 25-man, Opening Day roster, or sent back to Tampa Bay. The Marlins felt the hard-throwing lefty reliever didn’t fit into their plans, so he now will rejoin his original team.
Lara appeared in four Grapefruit League games, and he threw four innings, giving up two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
While Lara throws in the upper 90s, there was a concern about him consistently throwing strikes.
The Marlins selected Lara in December’s Rule 5 Draft. The cost of taking a Rule 5 pick is $50,000. By returning him back to Tampa Bay, Miami receives $25,000 back.
So Lara was actually a $25,000 experiment to see if he could be a lefty in the bullpen.
Miami’s 40-man roster is now at 39.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — The lineup manager Mike Redmond has drawn up for Sunday is worth paying close attention to, because it may just be the exact one the Marlins use against the Nationals on Opening Day.
Miami faces the Cardinals on Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium.
Sunday is the first time slugger Giancarlo Stanton is back playing for the Marlins after he spent the previous few weeks with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Already, Redmond has announced Ricky Nolasco will be the Opening Day starter on April 1 at Washington. Nolasco is throwing on Sunday against St. Louis.
Sunday’s lineup is: Juan Pierre (LF), Placido Polanco (3B), Stanton (RF), Rob Brantly (C), Justin Ruggiano (CF), Donovan Solano (2B), Casey Kotchman (1B), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS) and Nolasco (P).
This is the first time all spring this set of regulars has been together. Early in camp, Ruggiano missed time with a back strain. Recently, Polanco was out with a sore right oblique.
— Joe Frisaro