Miami Marlins

Locke finally closing in on return to Marlins’ rotation

Marlins left-hander Jeff Locke throws a pitch during spring training back in February. Locke, 29, has been out with biceps tendinitis, but is nearing a return to the Marlins.
Marlins left-hander Jeff Locke throws a pitch during spring training back in February. Locke, 29, has been out with biceps tendinitis, but is nearing a return to the Marlins. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Jeff Locke finally looks ready to join the Marlins’ rotation.

The 29-year-old left-hander and 2013 All-Star with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who has been out with biceps tendinitis since he first took the mound in spring training in February, had his strongest minor-league rehab start yet on Thursday night.

He tossed six scoreless innings for Double A Jacksonville, scattering six hits and walking two as the Jumbo Shrimp blanked the Jackson Generals 5-0.

“He’s absolutely close,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Sounds like he was really good [Thursday night]. I talked to Mike Hill [on Friday]. It sounds like it went really well. I know he’s going to talk with development, talk about what the next step is, if they want another [rehab start] or if he’s ready to go.”

Locke, who is 1-0 with a 1.77 ERA in four rehab starts between Jacksonville and Single A Jupiter, believes he’s ready to go. He threw 95 pitches total on Thursday night. Locke threw 78 in the game, 53 for strikes. Then he went to the bullpen and completed his final inning of work to get his pitch count up.

“We’re right on the right track,” Locke said in Jacksonville after the game on Thursday. “In my opinion, I’m ready to go. If this is the last one, I’m good to go. If there’s another one, we’ll see. But I’m ready to go, man. This is a bunch of outings now including extended. Just knowing your body, knowing yourself, knowing your body, knowing your mentality, it’s time to go.”

Locke was 9-8 with a 5.44 ERA in 19 starts and 11 relief appearances for the Pirates last season. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Marlins during the offseason.

When he comes back, Mattingly said Locke will join the rotation.

WORLEY TO START

Mattingly named right-hander Vance Worley (0-1, 6.75) Saturday’s starter over left-hander Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.40).

“No true reason other than these guys are a pretty good right-handed hitting club,” Mattingly said. “Hopefully, that is something that can slow them down a little bit. [Worley] pitched OK [in his last start]. We weren’t really able to put guys away, but he kept us in the game. It tells you a lot about Vance. His career, he’s always kind of battled. He’s going to fight to keep you in games.”

▪ Infielder Miguel Rojas, who has been on the 60-day disabled list since May 9 with a broken right thumb, is out of his cast and said he’s progressing ahead of schedule.

“When I first went to the doctor they said I was going to be out eight to 10 weeks because of the injury,” Rojas said. “But now, I’m looking to see him again in three weeks and start grabbing, squeezing and doing baseball activities [after that]. So I’m pretty optimstic about coming back as soon as possible when my 60 days are up.”

▪ Mattingly said third baseman Martin Prado (rigth hamstring strain) and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (left oblique strain) have begun dry swings and are on target to begin rehab assignments in 10 to 14 days.

“They’re starting to do some things,” Mattingly said. “Martin is starting to hit some balls off the tee, doing more warmup stuff, throwing, that type of thing. Now, it’s just a matter of getting him ready to go out and play some games.”

▪ There’s been no progress with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (left arm fatigue).

“I haven’t heard a plan as far as what kind of timetable or what his next steps are going to be,” Mattingly said. “I assume rest to a certain point and then start up some kind of throwing program.”

COMING UP

▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Worley (0-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. Los Angeles Angels RHP J.C. Ramirez (4-3, 3.81), 4:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (2-2, 3.08) vs. Angels RHP Matt Shoemaker (3-2, 4.47), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

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