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

Marlins options at second base

JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins remain hopeful Rafael Furcal will be just fine, and ready for Opening Day on March 31.

In the next few days we will know whether that is wishful thinking.

Furcal aggravated his left hamstring in the third inning of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium.

The 36-year-old was lifted for a pinch-runner five days after he intially strained the hamstring.

Saturday was his first time in the lineup since Monday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie.

So what’s next?

Furcal was not scheduled to travel to Fort Myers on Sunday to take on the Twins. So Monday would be the earliest he could return, but that appears highly unlikely.

He needed five days of treatment to get back on the field on Saturday. If he needs to miss five more days, then he will have just over a week to get ready for the opener.

If Furcal does open the season on the disabled list, there is a chance he wouldn’t have to miss much time.

The Marlins could place the veteran on the DL, retroactive to March 21. That’s the earliest retro date available. In that is the course the club takes, Furcal could be reinstated 15 days later, which would be April 5, the team’s sixth game.

As long as Furcal is out, the Marlins will have intense competition at second base for the rest of camp. Derek Dietrich, who is having a solid Spring Training, could have an inside edge.

Donovan Solano, who played regularly there the past two years, is another option.

Ed Lucas is competing for a utility spot, but he is missing a few days now due to a strained left hamstring.

Along with playing second base, Furcal also is the projected leadoff hitter. Who bats first would be another question. The answer could depend on who replaces Furcal.

If it is Solano, chances are he would lead off. Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton would follow.

If Dietrich is the choice, Yelich likely would lead off, with Dietrich batting second, and Stanton third.

More answers should be known in the upcoming few days.

Joe Frisaro

Fallback option in center field

JUPITER, Fla. — Center field has become a position to closely watch over the final two weeks of Marlins’ camp.

Entering Spring Training, Marcell Ozuna was considered the frontrunner. But the 23-year-old, who missed the second half of last year due to a left thumb injury, has had some rough moments at the plate and in the field.

If Ozuna doesn’t claim the position, the fallback plan could be Christian Yelich.

Yelich can cover ground, and has played center in the Minor Leagues. His arm isn’t ideal for the position, but he could handle the job, if necessary.

Yelich has been the projected left fielder, but on Saturday night against the Yankees in Panama, he was in the lineup in center field. There would be a question of Yelich’s arm strength in center, but he has shown improvement.

Jake Marisnick is another center field candidate. Marisnick has been having a solid spring, but he is working on shortening his swing. He may be better served opening at Triple-A New Orleans to get additional at-bats. And if Ozuna isn’t the starting center fielder, then he too, could be heading to New Orleans.

Ozuna started in center field on Saturday afternoon against the Nationals. But on Friday night, Ozuna was in left field.

If Yelich ends up being in center field on Opening Day, that clears the way for Reed Johnson (non-roster invitee) to make the team and play left field. Brian Bogusevic, a left-handed hitter, could platoon. And Jeff Baker is another option as a corner outfielder.

The Marlins are seeking versatility from their players. And the club has repeatedly said it will carry the best 25.

Joe Frisaro

Strasburg vs. Fernandez

JUPITER, Fla. — It may be an ordinary mid-Spring Training game on Saturday afternoon, but the pitching matchup is one of the best thus far in the Grapefruit League season.

Jose Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg are set to start at 1:05 p.m. ET at Roger Dean Stadium.

The Marlins have already announced Fernandez will start on Opening Night on March 31 against the Rockies. Washington opens the same day at the Mets.

The Nationals have yet to name their Opening Day starter, but Strasburg is believed to be the likely choice.

“These are two of the bright, young pitching stars in the game,” Marlins bench coach Rob Leary said. “That being said, it’s a Spring Training game, and guys are getting ready for the season. From our perspective, it’s good to see. We’re going to face a really good one, but we’re sending a really good one out there ourselves.”

Fernandez is scheduled to throw about 60 pitches, compared to roughly 50 for Strasburg.

Saturday also marks the return to the lineup for Marlins second baseman Rafael Furcal, who sustained a mild left hamstring strain on Monday.

The Marlins have half of their start in Jupiter, and the other half in Panama for their two-game set against the Yankees.

Miami is starting Brad Hand in Panama.

Injury update:

Ed Lucas, who strained his left hamstring on Thursday, is progressing nicely. Lucas was in uniform for stretch on Saturday morning. He is still taking it day to day, and being cautious.

Marlins vs. Nationals

1) Furcal 2B
2) Solano SS
3) Saltalamacchia C
4) McGehee DH
5) Ozuna CF
6) Bogusevic RF
7) Johnson LF
8) Wigginton 1B
9) Rodriguez 3B

vs. Yankees

1) Marisnick LF
2) Yelich CF
3) Stanton RF
4) Jones 1B
5) Mathis C
6) Dietrich 2B
7) Hechavarria SS
8) Moran 3B
9) Barnes DH

Joe Frisaro

Lucas hopeful to return in a few days

JUPITER, Fla. — Ed Lucas appears to have avoided a serious hamstring issue, but the utility infielder still is expected to sit out at least the next few days at Marlins camp.

Lucas strained his left hamstring in the fourth inning on Thursday while running the bases. He felt something catch just before reaching third base in Miami’s 4-2 win over the Tigers in Lakeland.

On Friday, Lucas was receiving treatment, and he was encouraged that he likely isn’t seriously hurt. Still, there is disappointment, because he is competing for a roster spot, and the setback caused him to not attend the Marlins’ two-game exhibition against the Yankees this weekend in Panama.

“It’s not the time I need to be missing any games right now,” Lucas said. “It’s a little disappointing in that sense. But I look at the bright side. It’s not too serious. Not a big deal. I’ll be able to bounce back real quick.”

Lucas is enjoying a solid spring, batting .318 (7-for-22) with a triple, home run and four RBIs.

Lucas and Donovan Solano are frontrunners for a utility infield spot.

Derek Dietrich filled in for Lucas at second base on Thursday.

The circumstances surrounding Thursday’s game were conducive to hamstring pulls. The temperatures were the coldest of any Marlins’ game this spring, and the team made a close to three-hour bus ride.

“It’s one of those Spring Training situations where you get off the bus, and then it was a little colder. Who knows?,” Lucas said.

Baker back

Jeff Baker, who strained his left quadriceps on Monday, was back in the starting lineup on Friday night. Baker suffered his setback at Port St. Lucie against the Mets. Baker was at first base on Friday.

Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) is targeting a return on Saturday.

Lineup vs. Mets

1) Solano SS
2) Brantly C
3) Baker 1B
4) Saltalamacchia DH
5) McGehee 3B
6) Ozuna LF
7) Johnson RF
8) Bogusevic CF
9) Harbin 2B

Tom Koehler is starting vs. Zack Wheeler

Taylor Harbin is filling in at second base from Minor League camp.

Joe Frisaro

Regular lineup on hand at Lakeland

LAKELAND — It’s 18 days and counting until Opening Day for the Marlins.

With Spring Training rapidly progressing, manager Mike Redmond is aiming to give his projected regulars more work. Aside from Rafael Furcal, who is nursing a sore left hamstring, the projected first game lineup was at the Tigers on Thursday.

“Once we hit the 10th of the month, I wanted to start these guys playing together,” Redmond said. “I think that’s important to get these guys playing as much as we can. You build that camaraderie, and get used to who you’re going to be hitting, either in front of behind. I think that is important. Plus, we’re trying to ramp these guys up, and get them more at-bats.”

The Marlins are cramming in some work because on Friday night, half the squad will be heading to Panama to play exhibition games against the Yankees on Saturday and Sunday.

The other half of the team will remain in Florida. Miami has a game on Saturday against the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium, and on Sunday, they travel to Fort Myers to face the Twins.

“The guys going to Panama will be playing both games, and the games staying back will do the same thing as well,” Redmond said. “It’s important for us the next three of four days to get a bunch more at-bats, especially with as many guys as we have in camp.

“We’re getting to the point where the guys who are going to break camp with us, we want to make sure those guys are getting as many at-bats as they possibly can.”

Jacob Turner will start for the Marlins against the Tigers, the team that he broke in with.

Thursday lineup

1) Jake Marisnick DH
2) Christian Yelich LF
3) Giancarlo Stanton RF
4) Garrett Jones 1B
5) Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
6) Casey McGehee 3B
7) Marcell Ozuna CF
8) Ed Lucas 2B
9) Adeiny Hechavarria SS

Extra batting practice

Although the Marlins were playing at Lakeland on Thursday, a number of players were back in Jupiter getting extra at-bats in Minor League scrimmages. Reed Johnson, Brian Bogusevice, Donovan Solano and Greg Dobbs, were getting at-bats in the Triple-A game on the back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

Injury update

Jeff Baker (left quad) could be back in Grapefruit League action on Friday night against the Mets. And Rafael Furcal (left hamstring) could return as early as Saturday. Furcal on Thursday morning was being evaluated. If cleared, Saturday is the earliest he is expected back.

Instant replay day

Thursday is the first of two Spring Training games where the Marlins will be able to use instant replay to challenge a call. The TV feed will not resemble the regular season in any way because team representatives will be watching the game on a laptop outside of a TV truck. Video coaching coordinator Cullen McRae and Major League administrative coach Pat Shine will be monitoring the TV screens. They will communicate with bench coach Rob Leary.

Joe Frisaro

Expanded replay has Marlins expanding staff

JUPITER, Fla. — The Marlins have added an extra coach to assist on the field, but mainly focus on expanded instant replay.

Pat Shine has been hired as Miami’s Major League administrative coach. During games, he will be in the video room with Cullen McRae, the club’s video coaching coordinator.

Technically, Shine will be the seventh coach on the staff. He will be in uniform pregame, assisting with batting practice.

Shine also will help out in the cages with hitting coach Frank Menechino.

But the biggest part of his job will be monitoring plays that could be challenged by instant replay.

Shine will be in communication with bench coach Rob Leary, relaying questionable plays.

The Marlins first Grapefruit League game with instant replay will be on Thursday against the Tigers in Lakeland. Shine will be on the trip.

Joe Frisaro

First wave of cuts at Marlins camp

JUPITER, Fla. — The first wave of cuts took place on Wednesday morning at Marlins camp. In all, 11 players were sent down.

The list includes a number of players who are expected to open at Double-A Jacksonville players, including Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, and Jose Urena.

Michael Brady and Kyle Jensen were optioned to New Orleans. Angel Sanchez, Urena, Brent Keys, Grant Dayton and J.T. Realmuto were optioned to Jacksonville.

DeSclafani, Nicolino, Jesus Sanchez, Colby Suggs and Avery Romero were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Joe Frisaro

Stanton super-sizes HR over two fences

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — It’s not every day a player clears two outfield fences with one swing. But Giancarlo Stanton isn’t your typical slugger.

Giancarlo Stanton's HR on Monday cleared two fences. Ball landed on back field.

Giancarlo Stanton’s HR on Monday cleared two fences. Ball landed on back field.

Stanton supersized his two-run homer on Monday afternoon in Miami’s 11-1 win over the Mets at Tradition Field. His blast to left cleared not only the main field wall, but the ball landed in the outfield of Field 7 at the complex.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder has always tended to hit home runs in bunches. Now, in two straight games, he has connected. On Sunday, in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers, he smacked a homer off the Marlins’ building behind the wall at Roger Dean Stadium.

Stanton has enjoyed a strong spring, batting .364 after going 1-for-3 with a walk on Monday.

Stanton’s approach is to blister more line drives, because a year ago, he tended to pop up in a season where not much went right.

“I need to get back to that,” Stanton said of hitting liners. “Last year was the most I’ve ever popped up to the infield or the catcher, or first base foul ball or third base foul. Now, I need to get back to, where, if I’m going to miss [a pitch], I want to miss it on the ground. On pop ups, you have no chance. Ground balls, those will separate, and get things started.”

Overall, 2013 was a rough year for the Marlins and Stanton.

“There was so much stuff going on last year,” he said.

Nineteen-hit attack: The Marlins pounded out 19 hits on Monday, and their pitching also stood out.

“I thought our approach was great,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We took our walks, especially off [Bartolo] Colon. It ended up paying off for us, too.”

Reed Johnson, vyying for a backup outfield spot, went 5-for-5 with a double.

DeSclafani stands out: Anthony DeSclafani got his first taste of a Grapefruit League game, and the right-hander made the most of it. DeSclafani, who also was part of the 2012 mega-trade with Toronto, threw two scoreless innings, striking out two. Wherever he has pitched, he has performed. He projects to be part of Double-A Jacksonville’s rotation, but he may also move to Triple-A New Orleans, and possibly could reach the big leagues this year. DeSclafani also could swing as a starter or reliever.

“The only thing I can control is just the way I throw, whether I’m starting or relieving,” he said. “Coming in relief there kind of felt like college a little bit. It brought me back to my college days. I hadn’t relieved in a while. It was fun.”

Hand works out of trouble: Brad Hand didn’t have the ideal way to start a game, but it worked out anyway. The lefty loaded the bases with no outs on Monday, and recovered to strike out three straight. The lefty gave up three hits, walked one and struck out five. His next start will be on Saturday against the Yankees in Panama.

“It’s pretty exciting, I’ve never been there, so it should be fun,” Hand said. “It doesn’t really matter who you’re facing, it’s another Major League team.”

Hand is out of options and he is competing for either a starting or relief role.

“I can’t really control anything,” Hand said. “I’m just going to go out this spring and pitch well, and see what happens.”

Injuries: Rafael Furcal (lefty hamstring strain) and Jeff Baker (left quad strain). Both were shaken up on Monday.

Joe Frisaro

Flynn to start on Tuesday at Fort Myers

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Marlins have set their travel roster for Tuesday against the Red Sox at Fort Myers.

Brian Flynn will make the start rather than Miami going back to pitching Nathan Eovaldi in back-to-back starts against the Red Sox.

Eovaldi faced Boston last Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium. An issue was made over that game because the Red Sox travel squad had just two position players with previous big league experience.

MLB guidelines call for each team to bring at least four players who are either regulars, platoon players or started the previous season.

Rob Brantly will catch Flynn.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who played for the Red Sox last year, is not making the trip. Either is Giancarlo Stanton.

Making the trip are Jeff Baker, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Casey McGehee, Donovan Solano and Brian Bogusevic.

Miami manager Mike Redmond supports MLB’s guidelines.

This is a busy travel week for the Marlins. They play on Monday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie, Tuesday at Fort Myers and Thursday at Lakeland against the Tigers.

On Saturday and Sunday, the team travels to Panama to face the Yankees in two exhibition games. There also are split squad games those days in Florida.

“All I can focus on is what we do,” Redmond said. “It’s for the fans. You try to give them a look at the players who are going to play down in Miami. That’s why you bring guys.

“If there weren’t those rules then nobody would bring anybody on a three-hour bus ride. Nobody wants to take a three-hour bus ride in Spring Training. But that’s the way it goes. It’s always been like that. I control what I can control, and that’s the guys that I bring. It’s actually worked out great for us. The guys who aren’t going to Panama, I’ve already told them they’re going to take a couple of those longer road trips because they aren’t going to Panama. They don’t have a problem with that, and it works fine for us.”

On Tuesday, Eovaldi will throw a simulated game at 11:30 a.m. ET Jeff Mathis will catch him.

Joe Frisaro

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