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Furcal to test leg in Minors game

JUPITER, Fla. — Step one in judging if Rafael Furcal will be ready for Opening Day starts Monday morning.

The veteran second baseman is being used as the designated hitter in a Minor League game at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

Manager Mike Redmond said the team is looking to see how Furcal moves around before determining if he will be ready for the March 31 opener against the Rockies at Marlins Park.

Opening Day is a week away, and the second base situation is unclear.

There is a quiet optimism that Furcal will be in the lineup for Game One.

Also on Monday, Derek Dietrich will play the field in a Minors game. The 24-year-old broke his nose last Thursday, and he is playing with a protective mask, which he will only wear in the field.

Greg Dobbs (left quad) is playing first base in the Minors game.

Marcell Ozuna (left leg cramp) is feeling better, and is doing some baseball activities on Monday. Chances are Ozuna will be in action on Tuesday.

Giancarlo Stanton is in the starting lineup on Monday, a day after he was pegged on the meaty part of his right forearm by a Joe Nathan fastball against the Tigers in Lakeland. Stanton is fine.

Rotation

Jose Fernandez (Tuesday), Nathan Eovaldi (Wednesday), Brad Hand (Thursday), Jacob Turner (Friday) and Tom Koehler (Saturday).

Hand will start against the Cardinals with Miami as the visiting team in Jupiter. The same day, in Jupiter, Henderson Alvarez will pitch in a Minor League game.

LINEUP vs. Nationals

1) Marisnick LF
2) Yelich CF
3) Stanton RF
4) Jones 1B
5) Saltalamacchia C
6) Bakers 2B
7) McGehee 3B
8) Hechavarria SS
9) Koehler P

Roster move

Catcher Kyle Skipworth was reassigned to Minor League camp.

Joe Frisaro

Fifth starter competition remains heated battle

JUPITER, Fla. — Not much clarity was offered to the Marlins’ fifth starter competition on Saturday afternoon.

Brad Hand, so effective all Spring Training, had his roughest outing. The Mets tagged the left-hander for five runs in four innings, and he gave up home runs to Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores. He also walked three, with two scoring on homers.

While the bottom line was disappointing for Hand, the pure stuff remains promising. Because when he throws strikes, he has potentially dominating stuff.

So, even though the performance wasn’t what Hand was looking for, the outcome didn’t diminish what the Marlins think of the 23-year-old. He still is expected to make the Opening Day roster, but in what capacity? He will either be the fifth starter, or make it as a long reliever.

What Saturday did was remind what Hand is capable of, positively and negatively. The minus is the mechanics were off, causing him to create little to no deception. Sometimes he leans back too much, and falls off to the side of the mound, causing him to misfire. The upside is the 91-94 mph he was regularly throwing. If he can repeat his delivery, the upside is tremendous, and he would give the rotation a lefty alternative.

The Marlins also are testing their players now by allowing the competition to play out.

“It’s totally different now, the last seven or eight days left in the [spring] season,” manager Mike Redmond said. “Teams are throwing their A-lineups out there. So you really get a feel for where guys are at. Now, you’ve got your best competition. It’s good to see how guys match up now against true big league hitters. That’s why sometimes you can evaluate the best the last eight or nine days of Spring Training.”

The Marlins are evaluating whether to go with Hand, Tom Koehler or Kevin Slowey for the fifth spot.

Hand is out of options, and he either makes the club or risks being traded, which is unlikely.

Koehler has been so promising, seemingly getting better every start. It’s not just Spring Training. The right-hander’s success dates back to last year.

Koehler does have options. He also can pitch in relief, and probably is better suited in that role than Hand. However, it is hard not to reward what Koehler has done this spring. At this point, Koehler remains the frontrunner to start.

The right-hander also is starting on Monday against the Nationals in Jupiter. If he keeps up his impressive showings, he could cement the fifth spot by how he performs against the team many believe will win the National League East.

Slowey, a non-roster invitee, has an uphill climb.

Working in his favor though is his big league track record.

Joe Frisaro

Cut-down day quickly approaching

JUPITER, Fla. — In an ideal situation, any team would like to have its 25-man roster locked down with at least a couple of games remaining in Spring Training.

The Marlins are no different. But the reality is, the roster right now remains fluid, but in the next few days, more cuts are expected. The team is at 39 with 14 more moves upcoming.

“I wouldn’t say a target date, yet,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We started the discussions over the last few days. I think any manager would probably say you want to have your guys as soon as you can to get playing together.”

There are a number of spots still up for grabs, and input is coming from the manager, the coaching staff, along with the front office.

“We talked about having a lot of tough decisions, a lot of competition,” Redmond said. “We’ve definitely had that. The tough decisions, they’re coming. We all talked about that being a good thing for us.”

Lineup vs Mets

1) Yelich CF
2) Hechavarria SS
3) Stanton RF
4) Jones 1B
5) Saltalamacchia C
6) McGehee 3B
7) Bogusevic LF
8) Nola 2B
9) Hand

Lineup at Nationals

1) Marisnick LF
2) Solano 2B
3) Baker 1B
4) Ozuna CF
5) Johnson RF
6) Wigginton 3B
7) Mathis C
8) Diaz SS
9) Alvarez P

Injuries

Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) will test his leg by running the bases.

Derek Dietrich (broken nose) has been fitted for a clear, protective mask that he will wear in the field. Dietrich says he is feeling much better. There is a good chance he could be in the lineup on Monday.

Greg Dobbs (left quad) is getting at-bats in a Minor League game on Sunday.

Ed Lucas (left hamstring) is getting a day to rest on Saturday. He is expected to start at first base on Sunday at Lakeland against the Tigers.

Salty honored

Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Sunday night will be honored as the 2013 Professional Athlete of the Year for Palm Beach County by the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame. The catcher is expected to be in attendance.

Joe Frisaro

Yelich recognizes World Down Syndrome Day

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Christian Yelich made a fashion statement and supported a good cause during batting practice on Friday at Osceola County Stadium.

Christian Yelich displays some silly socks.

Christian Yelich displays some silly socks.

In honor of Word Down Syndrome Day #WDSD, Yelich wore some colorful socks.

To raise public awareness, Yelich was among the Marlins to participate in “Wear Crazy Socks” on Friday.

MLB has approved players wearing the multi-patterned “crazy” socks.

Donovan Solano also wore the crazy socks, but they were covered by his pants.

Yelich took part in batting practice going with the high socks look.

The Marlins are facing the Astros on Friday.

Nathan Eovaldi got the start for Miami. Scott Feldman got the nod for Houston.

LINEUP

1) Yelich CF
2) Marisnick LF
3) Jones 1B
4) Saltalamacchia C
5) Baker 3B
6) Solano SS
7) Bogusevic RF
8) Nola 2B
9) Eovaldi P

Injuries

Derek Dietrich (broken nose) is being fitted for a protective mask that he is expected to wear in the field when he is ready to return to action. He won’t wear the mask while he bats.

Ed Lucas (left hamstring) will get Saturday off, and the plan is to start him at first base on Sunday against the Tigers at Lakeland.

Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) continues to do limited baseball activities. In the next few days he is expected to increase his activities.

Greg Dobbs (left quad) is getting close to returning. The Marlins are confident he will be ready for Opening Day.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins not interested in dealing pitching

JUPITER, Fla. — Teams are calling the Marlins regarding their surplus pitching, and the responses they are getting are: “Not interested.”

It’s taken a few years of shrewd drafting, and some trades, to position the organization with an abundance of talented arms at the big league and Minor League levels.

If possible, the club would like to keep every single arm that is under club control.

There has been speculation and reports that Jacob Turner could be available. It’s logical because the 22-year-old is out of options, so something has to budge. He has to be considered one of their top five starters, or risk being moved. But the Marlins are not out of patience with Turner, so they firmly expect him to be No. 4 in their rotation.

Brad Hand also is out of options. But the 23-year-old lefty also isn’t being shopped. And the club certainly isn’t ready to just give him away.

It is no secret the Marlins could use impact hitters. Perhaps in time, they will budge and agree to discuss trading some pitching.

For now, Hand and Tom Koehler are competing for the fifth spot.

From a performance standpoint, Koehler has made a strong case to win the job. But Hand also has impressed. Whoever isn’t the fifth starter will move to the bullpen in a long-relief role.

It’s hard to say right now which direction the club will go.

Koehler is probably the better suited of the two to pitch out of the ‘pen. Still, it is hard to argue that he isn’t deserving of the fifth spot either.

As the team has repeatedly said, it will be a tough decision.

An easy decision at this point is to say no to teams in the market for pitching.

Joe Frisaro

Dietrich fractures nose on bad-hop grounder

JUPITER, Fla. — Marlins second baseman Derek Dietrich sustained a non-displaced fracture to the top of his nose in Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

Derek Dietrich suffers small, non-displaced fracture to top of his nose.

Derek Dietrich suffers small, non-displaced fracture to top of his nose.

The injury occurred in the fifth inning when Jon Jay’s bad-hop single redirected and clipped Dietrich on the top of the nose. The 24-year-old was taken to the hospital for X-rays, which revealed a non-displaced fracture.

The Marlins are listing the left-handed hitting infielder as day-to-day. The team also will explore a protect guard for Dietrich to wear.

“It’s a broken nose, but it’s non-displaced, so no surgery or anything like that,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “It will heal naturally. We’ll look for something protective for him to wear.”

Dietrich is trying to make the team, and he’s enjoying a strong Spring Training, batting .361.

With Rafael Furcal recovering from a strained left hamstring, Dietrich has been in position to win a starting spot at second. How much time he misses will determine whether it hurts his chances of breaking camp with the club or starting off in Triple-A New Orleans.

Donovan Solano is another candidate to play second base.

“I do have a small fracture on the top of the nose, but it’s nothing serious,” Dietrich said. “I’m going to ice it. We’re taking it day-to-day. It’s not serious. I think I can get back in there pretty soon.”

Dietrich wasn’t wearing sunglasses, which as it turned out, was a good thing. A small cut didn’t require stitches.

“The doctor said it would have been worse if I had them on,” Dietrich said. “A lot of times, that could cut around the eye. Obviously, I have a cut. There were on the top of the hat. They flew off. I got lucky. Right now, I feel. We’ll see where I am at tomorrow.”

Joe Frisaro

Hand gets start Saturday vs. Mets

JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins are shaking things up a bit with their split-squad day on Saturday.

Brad Hand will get the start on Saturday against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium, and Henderson Alvarez will start at the Nationals in Viera.

Initially, Alvarez was scheduled to start in Jupiter, and Kevin Slowey was lined up to pitch at Viera.

Hand threw one inning of relief on Wednesday in a Minor League game, but he is being looked at in either the fifth starter or long relief role.

Tom Koehler also is competing for the fifth spot. Koehler threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings in a Minor League game on Wednesday.

The Marlins face the Cardinals on Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium. Jose Fernandez is getting the start.

LINEUP

1) Yelich CF
2) Dietrich 2B
3) Stanton RF
4) Jones 1B
5) Saltalamacchia C
6) Ozuna LF
7) McGehee 3B
8) Hechavarria SS
9) Fernandez P

INJURY

Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) continues to move along slowly, and it is questionable if he will be ready for Opening Day. Before getting into a game, Furcal will go through a running progression. When he is ready to return, he likely will play in Minor League games, because that way if he opens the season on the DL, he can be placed retro-active to March 21. In that scenario, the earliest he could be activated is April 5.

Ed Lucas (left hamstring) is scheduled to DH in a Minor League game at Port St. Lucie on Thursday. He hopes to be on the field in a couple of days.

Greg Dobbs (left quadriceps) is doing some baseball activities, but there is not set return day.

Joe Frisaro

Possible Opening Day batting order

JUPITER, Fla. — It’s 13 days and counting until the Marlins open on March 31 against the Rockies at Marlins Park.

Here’s what we know about the projected starting lineup: Rafael Furcal is nursing a left hamstring strain and Marcell Ozuna has had his struggles. So that leaves questions at second base and center field.

There is still time for Furcal to get healthy and be ready, and it’s too early to count Ozuna out of the Opening Day lineup.

But based on what we know at this point, on this date, the Marlins have to be looking at all their options. And they are. That’s why Derek Dietrich started at second base on Tuesday in Miami’s 8-1 win over the Astros. And Jake Marisnick was in center field.

In recent days, Christian Yelich and Brian Bogusevic also have seen time in center field. Donovan Solano has seen time at shortstop and second base. We also know Ed Lucas (left hamstring) is at least a couple of days away from game action.

For speculation purposes only, here is my projected Opening Day lineup and batting order. It is based on my observations and input from a number of people. This is not what manager Mike Redmond has indicated or openly said.

If the opener was right now, here is what it very well might look like: Christian Yelich (CF), Derek Dietrich (2B), Giancarlo Stanton (RF), Garrett Jones (1B), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C), Casey McGehee (3B), Jeff Baker (LF), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS) and Jose Fernandez (P).

Why Dietrich over Solano? My thinking is Solano, who plays shortstop, is being looked at more in a utility role. Why Baker over Reed Johnson or Brian Bogusevic? He gives a little mroe offense, and allows Johnson to be the right-handed pinch-hit option.

Why no Ozuna? To get his swing right, maybe a brief Minor League stint would be helpful. Same holds true for Marisnick.

Why no Furcal? Furcal could open the season on the DL, retro to March 21, which makes him eligible to be back on April 5.

At a later date, I’ll project the rotation, bullpen and bench.

Joe Frisaro

Koehler throwing Minors game Wednesday

JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins may be off on Wednesday, but projected fifth starter Tom Koehler is scheduled to throw six innings in a Minor League game on a back field at Roger Dean Stadium.

The Marlins are keeping on his regular five-day schedule, which is why he isn’t going on Thursday when the club returns to Grapefruit League play.

Koehler has made a strong case to be the fifth starter, and the lone day off in Spring Training doesn’t appear to be sidetracking those plans.

Koehler is scheduled to throw six innings on Wednesday, and Brad Hand will throw one inning. Hand is going four days after throwing five hitless innings against the Yankees last Saturday in Panama.

Hand also has been in the mix for the fifth starter spot. But the lefty also is a candidate to relieve.

Manager Mike Redmond said on Tuesday that he looks forward to seeing who steps under pressure. Koehler, Jacob Turner, Hand and Kevin Slowey appear to be competing for three spots.

Upcoming rotation

Jose Fernandez will face the Cardinals on Thursday, and Nathan Eovaldi will start Friday at the Astros. On Saturday, there is the final split-squad day. Henderson Alvarez will start at Roger Dean Stadium against the Mets, and Slowey will start at Washington.

Injury update

Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) is hitting in the cages and doing some light baseball activities. He is still a couple of days away from being game ready.

Ed Lucas (left hamstring) could be in a game as early as Thursday.

Greg Dobbs (quad) is not expected to be out more than a few more days.

Lineup

Against the Astros on Tuesday, the Marlins are starting Jacob Turner. Dallas Keuchel is starting for Houston.

1) Marisnick CF
2) Solano SS
3) Stanton RF
4) Baker 1B
5) McGehee 3B
6) Johnson LF
7) Dietrich 2B
8) Mathis C
9) Turner

Joe Frisaro

Heaney, Brantly among second wave of cuts

JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins had a busy transaction day on Monday, sending top prospect Andrew Heaney and catcher Rob Brantly to the Minor Leagues.

In all, 17 moves were made.

Brantly, the club’s Opening Day catcher a year ago, was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.

Heaney, ranked by MLB.com as the No. 1 lefty pitcher in the game, will open the year at Double-A Jacksonville.

With Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Mathis on the big league club, it was expected that Brantly would eventually get sent down. It happened on Monday, where he can get regular game action with New Orleans.

Brantly, Sam Dyson and Brian Flynn were optioned to New Orleans.

Edgar Olmos was optioned to Jacksonville.

The other 13 players were reassigned to Minor League camp. The list includes Heaney, Nick Wittgren, Bryan Evans, James Leverton, Greg Nappo, Adam Conley, Josh Spence, Rett Varner, Austin Barnes, Danny Black, Mark Canha, Colin Moran and Joe Benson.

Joe Frisaro

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