Ed Lucas spent 10 years in the minors trying to land an Opening Day roster spot. He finally did Thursday morning when the Marlins opted to keep him over Donovan Solano to be their utility man.
It’s strange how life works out sometimes.
Hours after Solano left the Marlins clubhouse for Triple A New Orleans with his head down, Lucas, 31, was struck in the hand by a pitch from Cardinals reliever Scott McGregor in the eighth inning of a meaningless Grapefruit League game.
Now, Lucas is headed to the disabled list with a non-displaced fracture in his left hand, and Solano, who started 92 games for the Marlins at second base in 2013, will be called back up on Friday.
Before Lucas’ injury, the Marlins had all but set their 25-man Opening Day roster Thursday morning. They cut seven players and manager Mike Redmond made it known the team planned start the season with second baseman Rafael Furcal (strained left hamstring) on the disabled list.
Derek Dietrich and utility man Jeff Baker are in the running for the starting nod Monday night at second base against the visiting Rockies. The Marlins want to make sure Furcal, who hasn’t played since March 15 and is eligible to come off the disabled list April 6, is ready for the long haul.
“We know this guy is a gamer and a warrior and he wants to be out there,” Redmond said of the 36-year-old Furcal, on whom the Marlins spent $3.5 million to be their leadoff hitter. “At the same time too ... get him healthy and 100 percent so he can play five or six days in a row and not just one or two. That’s the important thing for him.”
The only other move left for the Marlins to officially announce sometime before Monday: that Marcell Ozuna, who struggled at the plate this spring (he bumped his average up to .186 with two hits Thursday), has won his position battle with top prospect Jake Marisnick and Brian Bogusevic.
The team reassigned Marisnick to Triple A New Orleans on Thursday and plans on cutting Bogusevic, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the Justin Ruggiano trade. The team is hoping Bogusevic, who hit just .174 this spring, will accept a minor-league assignment if and when he clears waivers.
Marisnick, who still has options, had no choice but to accept his reassignment despite hitting .432 with five doubles and four stolen bases this spring.
Despite Marisnick’s better numbers, Redmond said the Marlins needed to look beyond that, and take into account the impact Ozuna made last year with energy, power and run producing.
“There’s no doubt [Ozuna] hasn’t had a great spring,” Redmond said. “So that made the decision even tougher. We just felt like Jake needed to go down [to the minors] and continue to play. There’s no doubt that this guy is the center fielder of the future for us. Jake has got a lot of weapons. He can do a lot. We just felt he needed to go down there and continue to get some more at-bats. So that day when he comes up, it’s for good and he’s out there every single day. That’s it.”
Redmond also announced that Tom Koehler would begin the season in the starting rotation, with Brad Hand headed to the bullpen.
The bullpen is rounded out by closer Steve Cishek, setup man A.J. Ramos, long reliever Kevin Slowey, right-hander Carlos Marmol and left-handers Mike Dunn and Dan Jennings.
The bench is also set and will feature left-handed pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs, catcher Jeff Mathis, outfielder Reed Johnson and now Solano.
Other than Solano, starting right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, six of the nine players Mike Redmond wrote down on his 2013 Opening Day lineup card are not going to be around.
In fact, three 2013 Opening Day starters — Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre and Casey Kotchman — are out of baseball altogether. And of the 25 players who broke camp with Redmond last spring, only nine will still be with the team come Monday night.
“He’s a guy who we would love to be able to keep in the system and kind of pitch and get himself back into good throwing condition and get some innings with him,” Redmond said. “This guy has got an amazing arm. He’s throwing 100 miles per hour.
“It’s just the things we talked about — having command. He just hasn’t pitched that much for us. The role we see him in, having so many young pitchers, we need guys down there that can throw multiple innings. We just don’t feel right now he’s able to do that. But I hope we’re able to keep him in the system and build him up. You never know.”
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