Brad Hand was scheduled to pitch in Jarred Cosart’s spot Friday night against the Astros, but Mother Nature had other plans.
For the second day in a row, rain put a damper on a night of spring training for the Marlins — this time washing out all the action for the regulars who got only three innings of work Thursday against the Cardinals before storms set in.
“When you lose a day like this, you get everybody backed up,” said manager Mike Redmond, who on Thursday had Henderson Alvarez pitch the last three innings of his scheduled start inside a batting cage in Jupiter to make sure he got 90 pitches’ worth of work in.
“It’s not perfect, especially this time of spring,” Redmond said of having the rain throw a wrench into the Marlins’ pitching plans. “You want to get guys going and lined up.”
The Marlins still have not announced how they will line their starting rotation up, but it won’t be long before we find out. Opening Day against the Braves on April 6 is less than 10 days away and Hand, once thought to be trade bait if not a long reliever at best, could find himself in the rotation.
Cosart, under investigation by Major League Baseball since Wednesday for an alleged gambling connection, has a blister on his middle finger. If the blister doesn’t stall the beginning of Cosart’s season, the investigation possibly could.
Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said Friday the team was likely going to give Cosart, who played catch on Thursday, a few more days of rest as precaution. Redmond said the plan is for Cosart to try to throw a bullpen Sunday, but it all depends on how he feels.
Hand, meanwhile, will likely throw on a back field Saturday in Jupiter, Redmond said, to get his innings in.
“He’s thrown the ball really well,” Hernandez said of Hand, who is 5-18 with a 4.42 ERA in his career. “He’s thrown strikes for the most part pretty consistently. He’s a little more of a confident guy than he was a year ago today. I think a year ago he was wondering if he can pitch in the big leagues, and now I think he thinks he can, and pitch pretty well, also.”
Last year the Marlins went through a franchise-record 13 different starting pitchers after ace Jose Fernandez was lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery at the beginning of May. Hernandez said Fernandez has about another month’s worth of bullpens before he starts facing hitters in a rehab assignment.
In the meantime, the Marlins will likely head into the season with as many as seven pitchers who can all start: Alvarez, Cosart, Tom Koehler, veteran newcomers Mat Latos (Saturday’s scheduled starter against the Astros) and Dan Haren, Hand and David Phelps, who leads the Grapefruit League in ERA (0.56).
Hernandez said Latos, coming off left knee and right elbow surgery, and Alvarez, who tweaked his knee diving for a ball this spring, have been battling through “nicks, which was hurting their work, preparation.” But he says both are starting to get healthy now. Either way, he’s happy the Marlins will be carrying seven capable starters with them into the season.
“Phelps has a track record of doing it with the Yankees,” Hernandez said of being a starter and both a reliever. “That luxury is nice to have.
“Brad still has to conquer that if that’s the way we’re going to go. But I think he’s more prepared to handle that than he ever was before.”
Hernandez said the key to the Marlins’ success this season will be seeing Alvarez, Cosart and Koehler continue to track in the right direction.
Alvarez, an All-Star for the first time in his career last season, progressed the most, Hernandez said, because he threw the changeup in big spots, something he didn’t do much of his first year with the Marlins.
“His approach and all those type of things were better than the year before. He took care of himself better, conditioning-wise — not that he didn’t work hard, but just taking care of his arm a little bit better,” Hernandez said.
“Tom was steady if not spectacular. Most times Tommy goes out to pitch we have a chance, and I think he can build on that some. He was also questioning whether he could do it, too. He had some good experience in ’13 and had some good days, bad days and last year a little bit more positive reinforcement.
“Cosart, we got him here and he threw well his first time around the league. We have to first of all get his finger right, in shape and ready to go to start the year. But he’s talented, very talented.”