The Marlins are planning on setting their starting five-man rotation soon, and when they do Jarred Cosart and Jose Fernandez will be rejoining it “in a permanent way,” manager Dan Jennings said Thursday.
But before anything is finalized, rookies Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena will get at least one more good look in the big leagues. Jennings revealed Thursday that Urena — and not veteran David Phelps — will be making Sunday’s start against the Dodgers.
Urena tossed five innings and received a no-decision in Tuesday’s loss to the Cardinals, but he has gone at least six innings in four of his past five starts and has posted a 2.66 ERA over that stretch.
Nicolino, who tossed seven scoreless innings in his debut last Saturday in Cincinnati, will take the mound in the series opener Friday.
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Could one rookie — or possibly both — stay in the rotation moving forward? It certainly appears there’s a chance.
Saturday starter Tom Koehler was already sent to the bullpen once this season, and the Marlins are well aware of Koehler’s struggles the second time through an opposing lineup. So they could opt to send Koehler to the bullpen and keep either Urena or Nicolino in the rotation.
Then, if Mat Latos or Dan Haren are traded (both have expiring contracts at the end of this season) it could open up another spot for a young arm to continue to develop on a team that clearly faces long odds of reaching the playoffs.
“It would be huge,” Jennings responded when asked if he would like to have a left-hander in the rotation. “I think some of the teams you see — especially these teams like the Cardinals with [Jason] Heyward and [Kolton] Wong [who homered Wednesday night] — if you’ve got that lefty starter, it can certainly neutralize a lot of things.”
Nicolino said he was nervous before his start in Cincinnati, but the butterflies quickly faded. He’s expecting to feel the same way in his first start at Marlins Park on Friday.
“It’s the same game,” said Nicolino, who is 42-17 with a 2.67 ERA over five seasons and 102 starts in the minors. “After I got the first pitch out of the way [Saturday], that’s what it seemed like — the same game, just with a lot more fans.”
ALMOST READY TO GO
The next time Fernandez returns to Marlins Park, he will be preparing for his first big-league start of 2015 against the Giants on July 2. Fernandez is set to fly to Double A Jacksonville on Friday afternoon, where he will make his final rehab start following Tommy John surgery.
For Fernandez, who never pitched above Single A Jupiter when he was in the minors, it will be his first trip to Jacksonville.
“Obviously, it’s my last [rehab start], but it feels like it’s just another start, another step,” he said Thursday. “I’m just looking forward to getting out of it healthy, hopefully get to 95 pitches or higher. I thought I was going to be a little more like, ‘I can’t wait!’ I guess because I probably haven’t realized yet that I’m that close [to returning to the big leagues, I haven’t felt that way].”
Three Marlins minor-leaguers — including recent second-round pick Brett Lilek — combined to toss a perfect game Wednesday for the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League. It’s only the third perfect game in league history, according to Marty Scott, the Marlins’ vice president of player development, who was there and watched the game.
Lilek struck out the side in the eighth inning after starter Gabriel Castellanos (7-21, 5.15 ERA in career prior to Wednesday) whiffed 12 over the first seven innings in the 1-0 victory over the Mahoning Valley Scrapers. Closer Steven Farnsworth pitched the ninth to pick up the save.
The win improved the Muckdogs, who play a short season of rookie ball, to 1-5. They gave up a combined 66 runs in losing their first five games, Scott said.
▪ Friday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Brett Anderson (3-4, 3.29), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (5-4, 3.76) vs. Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 3.33), 4:10 p.m., Marlins Park.