Brad Hand could be in line for a spot in the Miami Marlins’ rotation

03/17/2014 12:01 AM

07/31/2014 5:15 PM

It was more than 2,000 miles from their training digs in Jupiter where the Marlins made their biggest splash of the spring late Saturday. And it only took a day for their opponents to return the favor.

One day after the Marlins no-hit the New York Yankees in Panama thanks to a pitching quartet led by Brad Hand, they nearly became no-hit victims themselves.

C.C. Sabathia delivered five hitless innings and Yankees pitchers combined on a 1-hitter in a 7-0 victory Sunday over the Marlins. The Marlins' only hit was Giancarlo Stanton's leadoff single in the seventh.

Beyond the quirky nature of it all — on a weekend when the Yankees and countrymen saluted retired closer Mariano Rivera — the Marlins’ performance Saturday could have lasting implications as it pertains to their starting rotation and bullpen.

Hand not only put himself on the front burner for an Opening Day roster spot by supplying the first five of the hitless innings, but bolstered his bid for the starting rotation.

His spring numbers are nearly identical to those belonging to Tom Koehler, his chief challenger to become the Marlins’ fifth starter. Each has thrown a total of 12 innings. Each has given up only one earned run for identical ERA’s of 0.75.

Hand has struck out 15 batters to Koehler’s 12.

Koehler has allowed seven hits to Hands’ nine.

But with Opening Day looming exactly two weeks from Monday, there is a strong chance there will be no loser in the competition. Whichever pitcher fails to crack the rotation could very likely land a spot as the Marlins’ long reliever.

The decision could hinge on the fact Hand is a left-hander and would give the rotation its first southpaw since Mark Buehrle in 2012.

If Hand is assigned to the bullpen, however, it would not preclude the Marlins from opening the season with three left-handed relievers, according to pitching coach Chuck Hernandez.

“It could very possibly be four righties and three lefties,” Hernandez said, with Mike Dunn and — more than likely — Dan Jennings serving as the two late-inning lefties.

In addition to Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos and Carlos Marmol, the top candidates for the remaining right-handed relief spot is shaping up as a battle among Arquimedes Caminero, Henry Rodriguez and Carter Capps. After Hand, Cishek, Ramos and Caminero delivered the remaining four no-hit innings in the Marlins’ 5-0 win over the Yankees.

“The ideal scenario is we have some really tough decisions to make,” Hernandez said. “It’s a good problem.”

Hernandez noted that Koehler and starter Jacob Turner are “miles ahead” of where they were last spring when both struggled.

He has also has been impressed with the arsenal of pitching prospects in the minors.

“I really like the depth of what I’ve seen,” Hernandez said. “In all my years as a pitching coach, I don’t know that I’ve had this deep a list of guys that make me go ‘Wow, they’ve got a shot.’”

• The no-hitter was not the first thrown by Marlins pitchers in a spring training game. They also no-hit the Tigers in 2009, with Ricky Nolasco providing 7 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball.
• First baseman Garrett Jones made a diving stop to preserve the no-no.
• Kevin Slowey, who is trying to win a job as a non-roster player for the second straight year, gave up two runs over five innings in Sunday’s start against Minnesota in a 4-2 Twins win.

Ricky Nolasco, the all-time winningest pitcher for the Marlins, gave up a pair of runs on seven hits over five innings against his former team.

Furcal ailing

If second baseman Rafael Furcal (hamstring) is not healthy for Opening Day, the Marlins will likely pick from either Derek Dietrich or Donovan Solano for the position.

Both are having productive springs offensively.

Furcal, who missed several games with a hamstring injury, left Saturday’s game in the third inning due to tightness in the muscle. While the Marlins don’t believe Furcal will miss significant time, he’ll likely take more time allowing it to heal than he did before.

Furcal has had only 18 at bats, well short of the 60 to 75 at bats most hitters typically receive during spring training, and did not play at all last season after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery.

Meanwhile, backup infielder Ed Lucas (hamstring) could resume baseball activities in the coming few days, according to bench coach Rob Leary.

Coming up

•  Monday: Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez vs. New York Mets LHP John Lannan, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
•  Tuesday: Marlins RHP Jacob Turner vs. Houston Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.

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