FORT MYERS -- As many as four roster spots — three bench jobs and a bullpen role — remain unsettled as the Marlins prepare to break camp and embark on the season.
“It’s going down to the last day to make those decisions,” manager Mike Redmond said.
Don’t rule out any last-minute trades, either.
The Marlins have pulled off a handful of end-of-spring deals in recent years in order to fill needs and unload players who were out of minor-league options.
In 2009, they acquired a lefty bat for their bench in Ross Gload and dealt infielder Robert Andino in separate trades five days before the start of the season. One year later, in need of a southpaw for their rotation, the Marlins obtained Nate Robertson in a trade with the Tigers less than a week before Opening Day.
The Marlins could look to secure another lefty reliever. Mike Dunn is the team’s sole lefty in the bullpen at the moment. And since Gorkys Hernandez can no longer be sent to the minors without clearing waivers, the Marlins could try to trade him.
Hernandez was lifted after one at-bat Wednesday, fueling speculation that a trade could be in the works.
“Surprised? Yeah,” Hernandez said. “I’m surprised like you guys.”
Asked whether he thought something could be in the works, Hernandez replied “maybe.”
The front office was expected to meet Wednesday night with the coaching staff to firm up the final roster. Redmond said at least a couple of decisions could be announced Thursday, including the utility infielder and extra outfielder.
Wilson Valdez would appear to hold the edge over Chris Valaika for the utility infield spot given his edge in big-league experience. And Chris Coghlan might win out over Hernandez as a reserve outfielder.
“I think he’s been great,” Redmond said of Coghlan, who has enjoyed a strong spring. “He’s one of the guys, when we’ve talked about making the most of an opportunity, he’s done that.”
Coghlan said he is pleased with his performance but understands the decision rests in the hands of the front office. Coghlan, the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, has been unable to fulfill his initial promise in subsequent seasons.
“I think everybody can read between the lines where things were headed, when you talk about two years of disappointment,” Coghlan said. “Two seasons in a row you’re there Opening Day, and then you get sent down and don’t get called up in September? That’s pretty much self-explanatory, right in your face. They can speak for themselves, but from the writing I saw, you can either put up or they’ll put you in Triple A again, or they’ll send you out.”
Redmond also expressed uncertainty about two other players: young catcher Kyle Skipworth and pitcher John Maine. The manager said having a catching tandem of Rob Brantly and Skipworth concerns him because of their inexperience. Brantly has only 100 major league at-bats, and Skipworth has never played above Double A.
“To have two young guys like that is not an ideal situation,” Redmond said. “I feel comfortable with ‘Skippy,’ but at the same time, I’m nervous having two young guys back there.”
The Marlins recently signed veteran backup Koyie Hill, who singled in two plate appearances Wednesday. But Hill is not on the team’s 40-man roster and room would have to be created for him. Hill was without a job and sitting at home in Wichita, Kan., when the Marlins phoned him a week ago.
“I’m here to compete for a spot,” said Hill, a career .210 hitter who caught in 290 games over eight seasons with the Diamondbacks and Cubs. “The point at this level is to win ballgames, and I feel I offer a lot in that regard as far as helping young pitchers, bullpens, young catchers.”
Redmond also refused to confirm Maine making the team. Maine could serve as the Marlins’ long reliever if he sticks with the club. Maine worked 3 2/3 innings of relief Wednesday, holding Boston without a run despite walking five and giving up two hits.
“We’re still deciding on Maine, trying to decide what we’re going to do there,” Redmond said. “It’s something we’re trying to figure out.”
Down memory lane
Only two members of the 1998 Marlins remain active in the majors, and one of those, Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster, chatted briefly with Redmond in Fort Myers on Wednesday. Dempster and Redmond made their big-league debuts eight days apart in May, 1998. That team lost a franchise-record 108 games.
“There were some days where we just got our brains beat in,” Redmond said. “I remember we used to always say, ‘One day we’re going to sit back and laugh and we’ll all be better for it.’”
• Minor-league outfielder Daniel Pertusati drove in four runs Wednesday as the Marlins defeated the Red Sox, 5-1.
• Thursday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino at St. Louis Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn (18-7, 3.78), 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
• Friday: No game
• Saturday: Marlins LHP Wade LeBlanc (2-5, 3.67) at New Orleans Zephyrs (TBA), 2 p.m., New Orleans.