The Marlins seem to be closing in on who might make the final roster spots within the week. The rotation should be set by Sunday with a good idea whose staying and whose going. Speaking of the rotation, another key move was made to show the competition is winding down by sending Andrew Miller to AAA New Orleans. The lefty is retooling his delivery again and didn’t have the best outings this spring, so with an option left on his contract the Marlins are using it to promote someone that’s ready. Miller is 1-1 with 8 walks and 2 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings Grapefruit League games, which shows he has control issues.
Given their experience and tenure with the team I’m going to assume Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad get the 3rd & 4th spots in the rotation, respectively. That leaves one spot left with 3 different options including a reborn Padre (Clay Hensley), a Dutchman (Rick VandenHurk), and a former Oriole (Hayden Penn). My money is on Clay Hensley grabbing that 5th spot, having an excellent spring with his 0.00 ERA, what more can you ask for? VandenHurk might benefit from starting out in the bullpen as a long relief/spot starter, which has seemed to help Burke Badenhop (also sporting 0.00 ERA) find his niche. As for Hayden Penn, I can only hope the Marlins release him and not send him down.
The Marlins did make a release of some kind though, cutting ties with Mike MacDougal who was vying for the closer spot on a minor league deal. Leo Nunez will stay in the closer role for Florida and MacDougal has already signed back with the Nationals where he made 20 saves last season. The Marlins also sent down pitchers Chris Leroux and Hunter Jones (from the Hermida trade), as well as outfielder Scott Cousins and catcher Brett Hayes.
The biggest name to be sent down in recent days is Marlins’ top prospect Mike Stanton, who will start the season off in AA Jacksonville. Stanton has pleaded his case to make the team with 3 HR, 8 RBI, and 3 doubles during his eye-opening spring, yet they can’t rush the 20 year old. The Super Two rule is being closely watched now with top prospects getting to the show too soon, so the earliest you could see him is after June 1. If injuries presume in the outfield with Cody Ross and now Brett Carroll with a strained left oblique, you could see Bryan Peterson get some playing time in April before Stanton. Peterson has 1 HR, 5 RBI, with 11 hits so far this spring.
Anyone think the Marlins are gonna make some last minute moves within the final days like Ronny Paulino or Ross Gload of yester-year?
Remember going to card shows and each person’s station had larger packs of cards wrapped in paper bags? They usually contained a bunch of cards with mediocre players or the vendor already had 4 copies of it. You would also get a chance for insert cards once in a while, but most likely got to pick out 5 more grab bags than receiving any card with significant value. The Marlins are selecting those grab bag-esque players, hoping for a raise in value over the next year. Most of the players aren’t the most recognizable names, yet some carry a reputation that needs rebuilding or even a foundation.
The Marlins lineup is only looking for a few pieces to fill up their returning cast. These low-risk/high reward players are a perfect fit to sprinkle in some bullpen help as well as bats off the bench. Players like Derrick Turnbow, Seth McClung, Jose Veras already have big league experience with speculation of improving the team along with themselves in a new environment. Kiko Calero was last year’s example of bullpen help resurrecting a career and adding value with his 1.95 ERA in 67 games (1 HR allowed). As expected, he jumped back onto the market for more dollars and had to be replaced.
Another puzzle piece that needs to be added before Opening Day will be a left-handed pinch hitter that can take over in the late innings. Wes Helms secures the right-handed bench role and still works 3B/1B very well. Ross Gload was last year’s lefty who could play 1B/OF and led the league in pinch hits with 36, although he signed with Philly this off-season after the Marlins declined his $2.6 million offer. Russell Branyan was a name popping up recently that sounded intriguing with his 31 HR in 2009, but ultimately was diminished without an offer being made.
So who would be a good option for a veteran lefty off the bench? A lot of names are disappearing by the day as were days away from pitchers and catchers reporting. Names like Adam Kennedy, Chad Tracy, Frank Catalanotto are gone; Jim Edmonds came back after a year so how about Geoff Jenkins or Cliff Floyd? The list is small on players who won’t cost much, but as it gets closer to Spring Training the prices will come down if they are desperate for a job somewhere.
Try this name on for size, Hank Blalock. He’s a 2 time All-Star that has yet to find a team willing to take a chance on a 1B/3B/DH averaging 27 HR/95 RBI a season and is only 28 years old. His batting avg dropped in 2009 to .234 but raised all other stats after 2 down years in Texas. The National League may be a good move for him, as he’s already used to the heat and needs to find a job. Who else could the Marlins pull out of the grab bag to fill this bench role?