And then there was one.
On what was a busy morning, the Marlins all but finalized their Opening Day roster Tuesday, firming up 24 of their 25 roster spots with only a bullpen vacancy still up for grabs.
That decision could come soon depending on the outcome of an MRI on reliever Aaron Crow, who is dealing with a sore right elbow. If he starts the season on the disabled list, the job will go to Sam Dyson.
Otherwise, all other roster spots have been settled.
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The Marlins informed Donovan Solano and Don Kelly that they had won jobs while delivering the news to Jordany Valdespin and Reid Brignac that their bids to secure bench spots had fallen short.
“It was a tough couple of days,” said manager Mike Redmond who, one by one, summoned players to his office to break the news — both good and bad. “We all knew it would be tough trying to figure out these last couple of bench spots.”
Valdespin had one of the best springs of any player in camp, hitting .378 with four triples, and Brignac also played solidly, hitting .289.
But those numbers failed to land them roster spots. Instead, the Marlins opted for Solano and Kelly, both of whom provide versatility in their ability to play numerous positions.
Kelly, in fact, is the only active player in the majors who has played all nine positions. Solano has played second base, third base, shortstop and left field.
“This is a guy that gives us flexibility to give Dee Gordon a day off at second base, Martin Prado at third, and he can play short,” Redmond said of Solano. “He’s exactly what we talk about as far as versatility.”
Valdespin has a minor-league contract and will remain in the Marlins’ organization. But Brignac, a nonroster invitee, has an out clause in his contract that allows him to explore free agency. CBSsports.com reported that Brignac had exercised that clause and is checking with other teams in search of a big-league job.
If he is unable to locate one, the Marlins would like for Brignac — and others with similar “out” clauses —- to remain with them in the minors.
“I think with all the guys that had outs, we’d love to keep them all,” Redmond said. “We feel they add a lot more depth to our organization.”
In addition to Brignac, outfielders Tyler Colvin and Cole Gillespie were reassigned to minor-league camp. Veteran reliever Nick Masset was released.
Kelly and Solano were relieved with Tuesday’s decisions.
“A lot of guys had a shot, and a lot of guys played well, too,” Kelly said. “It was crazy coming down at the end. Spring training gets nuts like that. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. It’s not an easy day for anybody involved.”
From a balance-sheet standpoint, the Marlins will open the season with an on-field payroll of $83,571,500. But the total is partially offset by the $12.5 million the Marlins received from the Dodgers in acquiring Gordon and Dan Haren.
Actual payroll will be about $71 million, in other words.
Henderson Alvarez had his final tuneup before his Opening Day start, and Ichiro Suzuki came off the bench to drive in the go-ahead run on a two-out single in the ninth as the Marlins defeated the Cardinals 3-2.
Alvarez allowed a run on six hits in six innings. He is set to start Monday’s opener at Marlins Park against Atlanta.
“I’m just happy that today went well, and I’m happy that everything is going well leading up to Opening Day,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez was informed Sunday he would receive the start in the season opener. It’s his first Opening Day assignment, though he said he started Toronto’s home opener in 2012.
“I was nervous seeing a packed house like that,” Alvarez said. “It kind of overwhelms you with emotion, and I’m expecting a similar situation in Miami, with a packed house. I expect some nerves. But it’s always been one of my goals to be an Opening Day starter in the big leagues, and I’m happy I finally achieved it.”