The Marlins never foresawthe disaster this season has become.
In December, after wrapping up a brisk offseason of trades and free agent signings designed to gussy up the roster, they admired their handiwork and contemplated a rosy summer ahead.
“On paper, we were in first place — or real close to it — right now, in August,” manager Dan Jennings said of the thinking then, not just inside the front office, but throughout baseball.
But with 50 games to go in an unimaginably dreadful season, the Marlins are nowhere near the top of the standings. They sit in last place with the worst record in the majors, on pace to lose 99 games.
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Sitting inside the dugout Sunday and staring out at Turner Field in Atlanta, Jennings was asked how he was holding up amid the nightmare season.
Jennings thought for a brief moment before replying: “Thank God there’s no Prohibition in baseball.”
It’s a season that’s driving Marlins people to drink.
When the Marlins open an irrelevant two-game series Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox, who are wallowing in their own disappointment, they plan to send out two rookie pitchers — Justin Nicolino and Adam Conley — who have three career starts on their big-league résumés.
That wasn’t the picture the Marlins envisioned in December.
After obtaining Mat Latos and Dan Haren in trades, the late-summer rotation the Marlins had in mind seemed strong one through five, one rounded out by Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez and Jarred Cosart.
But that rotation has been wiped out via injuries and trades.
“All five of those guys are gone,” Jennings said.
Fernandez, Alvarez and Cosart are on the disabled list. Latos and Haren were traded when the Marlins threw in the towel at the July 31 deadline.
What remains is a rotation that, as of this moment, consists of Tom Koehler, David Phelps, Brad Hand, Nicolino and Conley.
They’re not the only injured Marlins.
Giancarlo Stanton has spent the past six weeks on the disabled list, recovering from a broken bone in his wrist, with no firm date on his return. Carter Capps, the team’s hard-throwing setup reliever, is also on the DL.
Along the way, nearly every player on the roster has spent time on the DL at one time or another , from Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Christian Yelich among hitters, to Bryan Morris and the aforementioned starters among pitchers.
“It’s part of baseball you hope to avoid,” Jennings said of the mountain of injuries. “You know [injuries] are coming to some degree. You hope there’s not this many.”
But Jennings isn’t pinning all the Marlins’ failure on injuries.
“There’s enough blame to go around here,” said Jennings, who helped shape the roster over the winter when he was serving as general manager, before moving to the dugout to replace Mike Redmond in May. “There’s been so many things that these guys have had to endure this year, injuries being a part of it, underperforming before a part of it. They’ve endured a managerial change. Is there something that you can directly point to? No.”
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino (1-1, 4.09) vs. Boston Red Sox RHP Steven Wright (5-4, 4.12), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (1-0, 4.05) vs. Boston Red Sox LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (6-4, 4.17), 4:10 p.m., Marlins Park.