Marlins mindful of options

JUPITER, Fla. — Brad Hand on Saturday night gained some notoriety as well as enhanced his chances of making the Marlins’ Opening Day roster.

The left-hander went five innings on Saturday night in Miami’s combined no-hitter against the Yankees in Panama.

Hand is in the mix for either a rotation shot or he could make the club as a long reliever. Each outing is crucial for Hand and the Marlins, who are in the evaluation process.

There is some urgency in deciding what to do with Hand because the 23-year-old is out of options. So his status is simple, he either is on the Opening Day roster or he will likely be traded.

Hand is in a similar situation to Jacob Turner, a frontrunner for the fourth spot. Turner, 22, also is out of options.

The fact that both of these players were rushed to the big leagues at an early age is catching up to the organization.

There tends to be excitement when a talented young arm is moving up through the system. Teams like to see if they are the answer and can produce at the highest level.

It worked last year with Jose Fernandez, who made his MLB debut at age 20 last April. He turned 21 in July, and went on to be the National League Rookie of the Year.

Neither Hand nor Turner had the instant big league success that Fernandez enjoyed. So they had years where they were called up and optioned back down to the Minor Leagues.

Now, at still young ages, Hand and Turner are at a crossroads with the Marlins.

This is where the business side of the sport comes into play, and an example of the risks a club takes when bringing up their young prospects before they are entirely ready.

This also is a reason why Andrew Heaney is expected to open the sesaon at Double-A Jacksonville.

Heaney, ranked by MLB.com as the top lefty pitching prospect in the game, arguably is one of the most talented starters in camp.

That said, the Marlins have the benefit right now of pitching depth. So there is no reason to open the year with Heaney in the rotation.

Yes, there is plenty to be excited about with Heaney. And yes, he may be ready right now to get big league hitters out. But say, he isn’t. Then what? If someone like Heaney struggled in April, chances are he would be optioned to the Minors. Then, one of his option years would be used up prematurely.

For every Fernandez success story, there are stories of Turner and Hand, two talented pitchers with upside.

At least now, the Marlins have the type of pitching depth to allow some of their young pitchers to further develop, without risking burning an option year.

Joe Frisaro

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