Move over “opportunity.” There’s a new favorite word starting to creep into the daily discussion at Marlins camp: “uncertainty.”
With the April 1 season opener now less than three weeks away, no fewer than eight spots on the 25-man roster remain up for grabs due either to a lack of a sure thing at a position or one injury or another.
“There’s definitely some questions,” manager Mike Redmond said. “But I’m not worried yet. I’m just not.”
Put it this way: This is nothing like the spring of 2003 for the Marlins when their only position battle was for a fourth outfielder, awarded to Gerald Williams.
Even discounting an assortment of injuries to third baseman Placido Polanco (oblique), center fielder Justin Ruggiano (back), Greg Dobbs (calf) and first baseman Logan Morrison (knee), question marks abound for the Marlins.
“I think we’re hoping and anticipating that all those guys are going to be fine,” Redmond said of Polanco, Ruggiano and Dobbs. “We’re planning on all those guys being healthy by the start of the season. If not, that’s a bridge we’ll have to cross when that time comes.”
Among the remaining questions:
Who’s the utility infielder? There are no fewer than four candidates for that open spot: Chone Figgins, Matt Downs, Nick Green and Kevin Kouzmanoff. Because Kouzmanoff is a corner infielder, one of the other three should land on the roster. Kouzmanoff is insurance at third if Polanco or Dobbs — or both — aren’t ready.
“Sitting here now, would I love to have somebody step out in front of that utility position role? Of course,” Redmond said. “Nobody’s really stepped out in front of that. So that’s one of those battles that might come down to the last couple days of spring.”
Who’s the backup catcher?
With Jeff Mathis out with a broken collarbone, the Marlins are taking a long look at Kyle Skipworth. But they’re also on the lookout for any veteran out-of-option catchers belonging to other teams who become available within the next two weeks.
Who’s the center fielder?
Once you get past Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Pierre in the corners, it’s one big crapshoot. Ruggiano missed significant time with a bad back and doesn’t have a hit. Chris Coghlan has outperformed Gorkys Hernandez, but Hernandez (and Ruggiano) is out of minor-league options while Coghlan has one remaining, which could factor into the decision.
Who’s the first baseman?
With Morrison likely out until mid-April at the earliest, Casey Kotchman (.435) looks like the safe bet to start.
“I know we’re probably in more of a unique situation than a lot of teams are in the fact we have so many question marks,” Redmond said.
Nolasco hit hard
Ricky Nolasco combined on a spring training no-hitter once in which he started and pitched most of the innings.
On Tuesday, he didn’t come anywhere close to that.
Nolasco gave up four home runs in a dismal outing against the Houston Astros.
“Batting practice is over,” Nolasco said after giving up seven earned runs in three innings in what marked his third start of the spring. “I just couldn’t command the ball. It was all over the place. It felt real weird, but the arm felt pretty good.”
Nolasco gave up home runs on back-to-back pitches in the first to Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace, a two-run homer in the second to former Marlin Matt Dominguez and a solo shot in the third to Juan Castro.
“It was a good way to know what not to feel,” said Nolasco, who will be the Marlins’ Opening Day starter. “If I ever feel that way again, I can make the adjustment.”
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