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Saves that have slipped away

NEW YORK — When you are going through a collective slump like the Marlins are, there is plenty of blame to spread around. The offense has struggled to score. The rotation has been hobbled with three Opening Day starters on the disabled list.

Then, there is the bullpen. Granted, it has been overused. But it also has let a number of late-leads slip away. The most recent missed chance came on Wednesday, when the Pirates rallied with two outs and no one on in the seventh inning to score five runs. Miami’s two-run lead was erased in a 5-2 loss at PNC Park.

With each loss comes more scrutiny.

Again, we can dissect all parts of the club. We can question (and many are) if Dan Jennings is the right choice to manage. Well the bottom line is simple, it doesn’t matter who is calling the shots if late-inning leads aren’t preserved.

To stay on point with the bullpen, these are games in the late innings where Miami had a lead, only to either lose or have to rally.

In the last two road trips alone, four blown saves resulted in four losses. Three came during their 10-game swing, with one at Washington, one at San Francisco and the final one at the Dodgers. Say Miami wins three or all four of those? Suddenly a 18-30 record is either 21-27 or 22-26 mark. Either way, that’s much more manageable when you’re striving to get to .500 by the All-Star Break.

For the season, the Marlins have an MLB-low five saves — Steve Cishek (three) and A.J. Ramos (two).

The Marlins are 5-for-14 in save opportunities. Their save percentage of 35.7 is the lowest in the Majors. Their nine blown saves are second only to the D-backs’ 10.

Cishek, who converted three of seven chances, still has the most blown saves in the Majors.

I noted recently that if Miami is to get back into the mix, pitching will have to lead the way. The starters must go deep into games. But clearly, when there are late-leads, the bullpen must do its part to lock down potential wins.

Joe Frisaro

Time now for young arms to shine

MIAMI — If the Marlins are going to turn things around, they’ll be counting heavily on some of their young pitching prospects. Injuries have placed them in this tough predicament.

After Friday’s 8-5 loss to the Orioles, Miami placed Henderson Alvarez (right shoulder inflammation) and Mat Latos (left knee inflammation) on the disabled list. So the club will be without the starters who were Nos. 1 and 2 in its rotation when the season opened.

The ailing rotation also has Jarred Cosart (vertigo) on the DL, so they are down three from the group that opened the year.

For immediate help, the Marlins are bringing up two relievers from Triple-A New Orleans — Andre Rienzo and Vin Mazzaro, who will have his contract selected. Rienzo offers flexibility because he can start.

The team won’t need another starter until Tuesday. It’s expected to be either prospect Justin Nicolino or Jose Urena. Both are at New Orleans. Kendry Flores at Double-A Jacksonville is also knocking on the door, being ready for a promotion to the big leagues.

Alvarez’s injury will be one to watch. Jon Heyman of reported Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial ucl tear in his elbow. I’ve confirmed that, and heard the Marlins were aware of his medical situation when they made their 12-player trade with the Blue Jays after the 2012 season. Miami was comfortable with Alvarez’s medical
report, just as Toronto knew Josh Johnson had arm issues. So each team was willing to accept the potential risks.

Latos going on the DL was not unexpected. He admitted a few weeks ago in San Francisco that he had his left knee drained in Spring Training, which explains some of his April struggles.

Clearly, Latos was laboring. The fact Latos and Alvarez struggled to get through six innings put added stress on an already shaky bullpen.

As big of a hole as the Marlins placed themselves in, the objective is to get close to .500 by the All-Star Break. If they can do that, they will have Jose Fernandez back, and they could still make a playoff push.

In order to get there, prospects like Nicolino, Urena and perhaps Flores could play a major role.

It’s a tall task. Maybe an unrealistic one. But they are healthy, and right now, appear to give the Marlins their best chances to win.

Joe Frisaro

Industry watching Marlins closely

MIAMI — Who knows how this all will play out in Miami, but one thing is certain — the industry is closely monitoring what is going on with the Marlins. They’re waiting and seeing how Dan Jennings’ transition from general manager to Marlins manager works.

If it is a hit, it could be a game-changer in the industry. This move directly connects the front office to the clubhouse. In Mike Redmond, the players and coaching staff had a buffer from the top.

Now, the man filling out the lineup card is on the same page as those executives in the suites.

If this doesn’t work, the critics will have a field day.

From what I’ve gathered, Jennings has no shortage of supporters. A number of scouts are pulling for him, and believe if anyone can pull this off, it’s DJ.

Foremost for Jennings is winning the trust of his players. Right now, two key players are open to giving him a chance — Giancarlo Stanton and Ichiro Suzuki. Having the support of those two is essential.

Jennings’ people skills are unmatched in baseball. Don’t sell him short on connecting with the players and getting them to buy into what he is saying.

Fish bites

* In the weeks leading up to Redmond being let go, it became clear he wasn’t on the same page with the front office in terms of roster decisions. This ended up becoming a factor. One example is Redmond ideally wanted Henderson Alvarez to have at least one more rehab assignment start, while Jennings was in agreement with the Opening Day starter taking the mound on Sunday.

* The decision to replace Redmond was already decided before Sunday’s game with the Braves. A team meeting notification was on the message board in the clubhouse, so the players knew something was happening. They just didn’t know what.

* Redmond indeed almost was dismissed after the Marlins were swept by the Mets at Citi Field in early April. One of the voices to stop it from happening was the general manager — Dan Jennings.

* The Marlins are in the market for an advance scout. Mike Goff was handling the role, but he is now the bench coach. Goff is a key figure in if this works out for Jennings, because he is an experienced coach. He was Seattle’s bench coach in 2007. Goff also has been a close friend of Jennings for more than 30 years.

* It’s also important to note, if Jennings doesn’t feel this is working, he is expected to go back to being the full-time general manager. That wouldn’t be until after the season.

Joe Frisaro

Finding ways to collect saves

LOS ANGELES — What a relief for the Marlins. A.J. Ramos chalked up big league career save No. 1 on Wednesday, breezing through a perfect ninth inning in Miami’s 5-4 comeback victory over Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.

Not only was Ramos undaunted by the task of his first save chance, the right-hander showed signs of dominance, striking out two before ending it on Andre Ethier’s routine fly ball to right. The moment was extra special for Ramos because his parents, who live in Texas, were at the ballpark.

Now, one save doesn’t make a closer. But the Marlins are in dire need to fix their late-inning struggles. All things considered, a 4-6 road trip, wasn’t that bad, especially against that level of opposition — the Nationals, Giants (four games) and Dodgers.

Before leaving Miami, you’d pretty much would have taken 5-5. And 4-6 didn’t knock them too far off course. But what could have been was one of the best road trips in years. The sticky point is the three blown saves. If all three were converted, then you’re looking at a 7-3 swing.

So who will close? The Marlins can say they will go by matchups, but based on what we saw in L.A., Ramos is deserving of getting a look. All three batters he retired batted lefty.

The struggles of the ‘pen are well known. Miami weighed all options, and had discussions with free agent Rafael Soriano. But after seeing Soriano throw, the team felt the veteran isn’t an upgrade over what they already have. Also, because Soriano has remained on the market, and didn’t have the benefit of Spring Training, it would take him at least a couple of weeks to be in position to help.

The Marlins are scrambling to get over .500 as quickly as possible. They’re 16-19 heading into Friday’s series opener against the Braves at Marlins Park.

It’s appearing more likely that Miami’s best chances of solidifying its ‘pen is working with the options already in the organization.

Jarred Cosart’s tight hamstring could also play into the equation. Cosart will be evaluated Thursday, and if he has to miss a start or go on the disabled list, chances are the Marlins will reinstate Henderson Alvarez to pitch this weekend.

The team has been weighing whether to give Alvarez one more rehab assignment start, at Double-A Jacksonville, or activate him for Sunday. Cosart’s injury may make that decision for the club.

From the sounds of things, the team wants to fix the ‘pen as quickly as possible. David Phelps opened the season in the bullpen, but stepped into the rotation after Alvarez went on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Phelps could go back to the ‘pen, offering late-innings depth. Or, Tom Koehler could swing from rotation to ‘pen. There is a feeling Koehler could handle any role — start, long relief, setup or even close.

If Miami wants both Koehler and Phelps in the ‘pen, lefty prospect Justin Nicolino is impressing at Triple-A. He could come up to join the rotation.

It is doubtful Koehler, if moved out of rotation, would immediately close. But he is capable of being the eighth inning option.

And let’s not completely rule out Steve Cishek. He’s working now to get right. And in a month or so, he may fix his mechanics, and regain that difficult-to-hit downward movement. If that happens, and Ramos runs with the closer job, Miami could be in a good spot. Then, they’d have two closer options.

History has shown many playoff teams have more than one candidate who can close. It would be ideal for Miami if Ramos and Cishek become that tandem.

Joe Frisaro

Closer options include perhaps Soriano

LOS ANGELES — First, let’s address the news. The Marlins have indeed expressed interest in Rafael Soriano, the 35-year-old with 207 games. There has been some dialogue between the team and agent Scott Boras.

The signing price likely won’t come cheap, and whether a deal gets done will depend on if Miami believes Soriano is the right closer option for the price. A year ago with Washington, the right-hander saved 32 of 39 chances.

But Soriano isn’t the only alternative as the Marlins frantically try to figure out what to do about locking down the final outs of games.

Steve Cishek has been among the most reliable players on the team over the past few seasons. Homegrown, the side-arm throwing right-hander converted 39 of 43 in 2014. He had a WHIP of 1.21 and struck out 84, while walking 21, in 65 1/3 innings.

Cishek definitely earned his long leash. He’s saved 94 of 108 in his impressive career.

That’s why it was absolutely the right call to send Cishek out in the ninth inning on Monday, the day after the right-hander blew a chance at San Francisco. Manager Mike Redmond showed faith in his veteran. Once again, the end result was another painful finish. Scott Van Slyke blasted a walk-off, three-run homer, lifting the Dodgers to a 5-3 victory.

Miami, now 3-5 on the road trip, has seen three late leads disappear on what could have been a remarkable 10-game road swing through Washington, San Francisco and now Los Angeles.

In the first game of the trip at Nationals Park, it was Bryan Morris who couldn’t protect a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning. Washington responded for four runs in the inning, and won 6-4.

On Sunday, Cishek walked Nori Aoki with the bases loaded, forcing in the tying run in the ninth inning. Matt Duffy’s walk-off single gave the Giants a 3-2 win. Cishek is now 1-3 with a 10.32 ERA and 2.02 WHIP with 13 strikeouts and eight walks.

To get him right, he is expected to be used in earlier innings.

Redmond said after Monday’s loss he doesn’t know what the team will do. For now, mixing and matching appears the way they’ll go. The problem is, the candidates, A.J. Ramos, Morris and lefty Mike Dunn, have combined for four saves, all by Dunn.

Ramos is the most likely candidate to throw the inning. But the right-hander has never had a save. Ramos does have a 1.06 ERA and 0.82 WHIP this season. Morris, also with no career saves, has struggled with a 4.60 ERA. And Dunn, too, has been up and down this year — 4.26 ERA.

What else can Miami do? A trade is possible. In Spring Training, the Marlins were in the mix to sign Francisco Rodriguez, who ended up going back to the Brewers. K-Rod is 7-for-7 with a 1.38 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP. Perhaps Miami could work out a trade for the veteran.

Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies is 6-for-6 in save chances, and has 331 career saves.

At what cost of prospects are the Marlins willing to go? The front office is likely asking themselves that same question.

What else could they do? Be creative with what they have. Tom Koehler, who threw six strong innings on Monday, has experience in the bullpen. His fastball is in the 95 mph range. Henderson Alvarez is close to coming off the disabled list, and Koehler could be sliding into the ‘pen. Could he get a shot to close? Maybe.

If the club is leaning, and I don’t know for sure if they are, on giving Koehler a more immediate shot, lefty prospect Justin Nicolino could get called up from Triple-A New Orleans to join the rotation. That could slide Koehler into the mix in five day. Again, that is all speculation with internal options.

For now, all options are on the table.

Joe Frisaro

Stanton day off, Yeli hitting fifth

SAN FRANCISCO — Giancarlo Stanton, mired in a 4-for-25 road trip, was given a breather on Sunday in the Marlins’ series finale with the Giants at AT&T Park.

Stanton has one homer, five RBIs and struck out 11 times in the first six games of the road trip, which started at Washington and moved to San Francisco.

It’s the first time since May 18, 2014 (also at San Francisco) that Stanton was not starting when he was healthy. He did miss the final few weeks of 2014 after being struck in the face by a pitch at Milwaukee on Sept. 11.

Actually, manager Mike Redmond talked with Stanton a few days ago about possibly taking Sunday off. The Marlins are in the midst of a 10-game, three-city trip. They open a three-game set at the Dodgers on Monday.

“I talked with G four or five days ago, just planted the seed,” Redmond said. “Looking at the schedule, this looked like it would be a good day. Not thinking otherwise.”

Stanton is available to pinch-hit, and play, if necessary. In 31 games, he’s batting .248 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs.

The road trip has been a struggle.

“With him, sometimes he will get out of his strike zone,” Redmond said. “It happens with all hitters, not just him. Sometimes it’s good to just take a day, and let them sit back and relax. We’ve done that with a few guys.

“Give him a mental break, and get him back in there tomorrow. It’s tough to get him out of the lineup. He has the ability to hit a home run every time. But at the same time, too, we need him for the long haul. We need him fresh.”

With Stanton out, Ichiro Suzuki played right field, and batted third for the first time since May 29, 2012, when he was with the Mariners.

* Left fielder Christian Yelich on Sunday was in the fifth spot for the first time in his career. The 23-year-old had always hit either first, second or third when he’s started.

Yelich, who came off the disabled list on Friday after being out with a lower-back strain, is 9-for-53 (.170) in his first 13 games. He opened the season batting second, behind Dee Gordon.

Martin Prado has stepped up in the second spot, and Redmond wants to keep the Gordon/Prado combination together.

“I talked with him about it,” Redmond said. “He’s going to be fine. He needs to play. He needs to get at-bats. He’s been off for a couple of weeks. Hit him a little bit lower, get him going, and we’ll figure out where the best spot for him is going forward.”

The Marlins envision Yelich moving to the middle of the order as his career progresses. Hitting fifth should enable him to drive in more runs, and not be primarily a table-setter.

“That’s no big deal,” Yelich said. “I don’t care where I hit in the lineup. That doesn’t bother me.”

Yelich actually was going to hit in the fifth spot on April 20 at Philadelphia. But before the lineup was announced, he was scratched due to his strained lower back. He was placed on the disabled list.

“I have so much confidence in him as a player in any situation,” Redmond said. “He just needs to go in there, keep getting at-bats, and get himself going.”

Redmond hasn’t ruled out hitting Yelich fourth. The team is committed to batting Stanton third, otherwise, Yelich is a candidate to bat there as well.

“Yeli can hit anywhere. He can hit fourth, too,” Redmond said. “I would have no problem hitting him in the cleanup spot, or three.”

* Pregame Sunday, Yelich met former Giants slugger Barry Bonds. Bonds, a high school teammate of Marlins bench coach Rob Leary, was on the field chatting.

“I watched him growing up,” Yelich said of Bonds. “We were mostly, hanging out, talking.”

Joe Frisaro

What to make of Dee’s hot start

SAN FRANCISCO — The hits keep coming and coming for Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon. When you’re hot, you don’t seek to figure out why. You tend to simply ignore logic and ride the wave as long as you can.

Rightfully, Gordon is doing just that. The 27-year-old is having fun. He’s relaxed, motivated and energized. And by the way, he’s also riding a 12-game hitting streak, and has raised his average to a mind-boggling .437 with a .461 on-base percentage. His BABIP is a starting .491.

For those into advanced analytics, Gordon’s 2.2 WAR (according to Fangraphs) is tops in the Majors, a tick above Mike Trout (2.1). Gordon’s teammates Giancarlo Stanton and Adeiny Hechavarria each have a 1.0 WAR, ranking 33rd and 35th, respectively in the Majors.

When a player is this hot, the obvious response is this isn’t “sustainable.” Obviously, it’s not. No one is suggesting Gordon is going to be the first player since Ted Williams to bat .400. But a sustainable .491 BABIP or a .437 batting average isn’t the point here.

The only “sustainable” stat that really matters with Gordon is games played. Keeping him healthy, and as fresh as possible, is the priority. Because if the speedster is not wearing down, chances are he will be productive at the top of the order.

The point of health was magnified in Thursday’s 7-2 Miami win at San Francisco. Gordon tweaked his right leg muscle while dragging his toe across home plate in the ninth inning. Gordon was out of the lineup on Friday, as a precaution.

“The play at the plate, the slide, no slide,” general manager Dan Jennings said. “We’re making sure it doesn’t lead into something. It’s precautionary to make sure it doesn’t lead into something.”

Projected statistics and advanced numbers are indicators. They are hardly guaranteed numbers. Keep in mind, PECOTA predicted Gordon would appear in 126 games, bat .266 with a .312 on-base percentage.

Before the season started, the number the Marlins wanted to see Gordon reach was simple — be at or above a .350 on-base percentage. If he can do that, the thinking is he will score more than 100 runs. With a .326 on-base percentage with the Dodgers last year, the speedster scored 92 runs.

If Gordon tops 100 runs, it will be a very productive season.

In order to reach that number, Gordon foremost must stay in the lineup. Miami manager Mike Redmond took some heat for giving his second baseman his first day off last Sunday at home in the series finale against the Phillies. The Marlins had already won the first two of the series, and the timing was right to give Gordon a breather, especially with a 10-game, road trip to follow.

The Marlins ended up losing that game to the Phillies, but Gordon hasn’t slowed down since being back in the lineup first at Washington and now at San Francisco.

Gordon has game-changing speed. But he’s also slender in building, listed at 5-foot-10, 170-pounds. The dog days of summer are ahead. Playing at Marlins Park, with its retractable roof, should help keep him fresh.

But Gordon also has to play smart. In the ninth inning on Thursday night, he appeared to tweak his right ankle or leg while scoring — standing up — on a close play at the plate.

Afterwards, Gordon noted it wasn’t a smart decision, and that he should have slid.

Eventually, Gordon’s numbers will drop. But if the speedster can avoid nagging ailments, chances are he will finish with a career-best season.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins ‘pen needs more consistency

SAN FRANCISCO — The Red Sox have designated Edward Mujica for assignment, which immediately prompted some fans to ask if the Marlins should take a shot at the veteran right-hander.

Mujica previously was with the Marlins. He was popular and productive, and his teammates loved him. But that was then, and Mujica was traded in July of 2012. This is now, and there is a reason the Red Sox decided to part ways with the veteran.

Miami basically doesn’t need to bring back Mujica. The club simply needs the relievers currently on the roster to do their part. There is enough quality to get the job done.

Mujica, for instance, appeared in 13 2/3 innings with Boston, and posted a 4.61 ERA. His fastball velocity, according to Fangraphs, is 90.4 mph. With Miami in 2011, it was 91.8 mph.

The Marlins have power arms in Bryan Morris, Sam Dyson and lefty Mike Dunn. A.J. Ramos has seen his velocity increase. But collectively, the ‘pen has had its troubles.

The Marlins’ relievers have walked 33, tied for fourth most of any bullpen in the National League. They’ve been heavily used, posting 88 1/3 innings, tied for fourth most in the NL. Their collective ERA is 4.28, which is 11th in the league. And they’re 10th in batting average against, .249.

Adding Mujica probably isn’t the answer. Besides, it would create more 40-man roster issues. So rather than go after the soon-to-be former Red Sox right-hander, the Marlins mainly need those currently on the roster to perform to their expectations.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins need quality starts not new voice

Rumblings already? According to the Miami Herald, the Marlins’ slow start has raised speculation that manager Mike Redmond is on the hot seat. The paper added, if a change is made, Mets Triple-A manager Wally Backman could be a possible replacement.

After starting off 3-10, and getting swept in a four-game set at the Mets, clearly there is a sense of urgency. But is there outright panic to make a managerial change imminent? From what I’m hearing, that’s not the case.

In conversations with a number of people connected to the situation, I’ve heard everything from the Herald story is completely false to, yes, where there is smoke there is fire.

The speculation is quickly spreading, and it won’t calm down until the club starts winning.

The reality is, the Marlins don’t need a new manager, or a different voice in the clubhouse. They need some quality starts. They have five of them in 13 games, with two from Dan Haren. The rotation also took a huge blow when Henderson Alvarez went on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

Miami’s starters are 2-8 with a 5.23 ERA. Only the Brewers’ 5.78 has a higher ERA in the N.L. With the starters struggling, the bullpen has logged 47 2/3 innings, which matches the Giants for the most in the N.L.

Until the pitching sorts itself out, there will be trouble, regardless of the manager.

I can also say the Marlins were prepared and showed signs of coming together in Spring Training, but something has been off since the season started. So if there are rumblings now, it has to be based strictly on what has transpired from April 6 to this weekend.

Still, as of Saturday at New York, the sense around the squad was no one was panicking. Disappointed? Absolutely. But from a number of team officials, the mood was this would turn around. Did something changed on Sunday regarding Redmond, who knows? I don’t think so.

Also, as of today, with the team off before opening up a three-game set at Philadelphia on Tuesday, there was no sense of panic. The squad is catching its collective breath, regrouping, and getting ready as normal.

Backing things up a bit, the 1-5 homestand to open the season clearly stunned the entire organization. Some uneasiness from management filtered into the clubhouse, enough for the players to notice.

What happened in the days leading up to Opening Day on April 6 against Atlanta also became a topic of discussion internally. In the final days of Spring Training, the Marlins regulars were getting a bulk of the playing time. They were starting to click. Then they broke camp in Jupiter, Fla., on Wednesday, April 1. That day they even knocked around the Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, winning 8-0 at Roger Dean Stadium. The next day, the club was off, and on Friday they traveled to Greensboro, N.C., to face their Class A affiliate.

The next day, they played at Double-A Jacksonville, facing another affiliate. In both exhibitions, the regulars exited after about two at-bats. The team had a workout in Miami on Sunday, and opened against Atlanta on April 6. There was a sense that those four days of not playing much threw off the hitters’ timing in the Atlanta series.

A week later, at Atlanta, the bats started waking up, and the club won two of three. With momentum, they headed into New York, where everything collapsed. After losing their second straight at Citi Field on Friday, Giancarlo Stanton spoke out, questioning the fire in the club. From what I heard from a number of team executives, they applauded Stanton for speaking up.

It was made clear, it’s Giancarlo’s team. If he has something to say, he can say it. There was a players-only meeting, and the group spoke among themselves. From what I’ve sensed, I am not convinced all was resolved in that meeting.

But when it came time to play on Saturday and Sunday, the pitching faltered, the Mets took big leads. That mostly was on the pitching, not for lack of effort or fire. Both days, the Marlins came back and lost by a run. The competed and showed life.

This is where it all stands. This club desperately needs Alvarez back, which could be in early to mid May. They need Jose Fernandez in a big way, too. But that won’t be until June or July. Pitching prospect Justin Nicolino, in Triple-A, isn’t quite ready. Maybe he will be after a few more starts.

Or they may end up making a trade or two to add a starter.

The team also needs its big three outfielders to be themselves. Thus far the touted trio is scuffling — Stanton (.239 BA, 2 HRs, 11 RBIs), Christian Yelich (.200 BA, 13 ks in 45 ABs) and Marcell Ozuna (.263 BA, 3 RBIs, 15 Ks in 38 ABs).

This still is a highly talented team capable of turning things around just as quickly as they’ve tumbled.

They just need some patience, and some quality starts.

Joe Frisaro

Urena getting early chance to shine

NEW YORK — Plans tend to change once the regular season starts.

Jose Urena’s path to the big leagues is another reminder. In Spring Training, the Marlins had a pretty good idea how their rotation would shape up. They had seven starters on their 40-man roster with prior big league experience. They also wanted to give their top pitching prospects more Minor League seasoning.

That’s why Urena was a relatively early cut in camp. The move was not surprising, because the organization wanted the 23-year-old to get his innings in with Triple-A New Orleans.

When the Pacific Coast League started, Urena made one start for the Zephyrs, and he impressed, giving up one run on six hits with five strikeouts in six innings. He also picked up a win.

The intention was to keep Urena in New Orleans as long as possible, recognizing he was close to being big league ready.

Ready or not, the slender 6-foot-3, 175-pounder is getting his first MLB break.

Henderson Alvarez’s shoulder injury, coupled with David Phelps being placed on the MLB paternity list on Monday, created an opening for Urena, who made his big league debut, tossing a scoreless inning of relief on Tuesday at Atlanta.

Even after his one inning, the organization was considering optioning Urena back to New Orleans once Phelps rejoins the team, which is today at New York.

But Miami redirected. Urena is staying, while Carter Capps was optioned to New Orleans after Wednesday’s 6-2 win.

Phelps, who made the Opening Day roster as a long reliever, is filling in Alvarez’s rotation role. Urena, at least for now, will slide into the long relief spot.

Phelps will start on Friday at the Mets. If he makes an early exit, Urena is a candidate to log multiple innings.

Urena and lefty Brad Hand are the two long relief options.

Still, it’s hard to believe the Marlins envision Urena in that role for an extended period. It appears if Phelps has some hiccups as a starter, Urena would move into the rotation. Or, if Phelps runs with the starting spot, a role he did with the Yankees, Urena eventually would go back to New Orleans, where he would again be groomed as a starter.

There is no question Urena, signed as an free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2008, has promise. He’s logged 638 Minor League innings, and posts a 45-37 record with a 3.58 ERA.

But he’s not a finished product. His breaking ball needs some work. And because of his arm angle, it may be a pitch he struggles with from time to time. Now, instead of ironing out his mechanics at Triple-A, he will be facing big league batters.

Does he have the stuff to get hitters out at the highest level? Absolutely. But does he have all the polish? Not necessarily.

For now, Urena is along for the ride. Miami’s rotation has yet to settle into a consistent rhythm. As long as there is uncertainty, Urena is a fallback option.

Joe Frisaro


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