Even with a decision looming on whether he’ll survive the Marlins’ final cuts and land a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster, Donovan Solano expects to sleep peacefully Monday night.
“If I’m still alive and healthy, that’s all that matters,” Solano said.
The soft-spoken infielder from Colombia is among a small handful of players who will likely learn their fates Tuesday when the Marlins are expected to set their final 25-man roster.
Only three spots remain up for grabs: two for backup position players and another for a reliever. According to sources, it’s between Solano and Reid Brignac for a backup infield spot, and Jordany Valdespin and Don Kelly for the other bench job.
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The lone bullpen opening comes down to Sam Dyson and Aaron Crow.
The Marlins whittled the list of contenders on Monday by granting veteran outfielder Reed Johnson his unconditional release and optioning reliever Preston Claiborne to Triple A New Orleans.
“I don’t think about anything,” Solano said of the uncertainty. “I don’t think about anything outside of today.”
It was one year ago when Solano was informed he had not made the team and would start the season in the minors. He returned to his hotel in Jupiter and began making plans with his wife to travel to New Orleans, home of the Marlins’ Triple A team.
But hours later, in the Marlin’s final spring training game, backup infielder Ed Lucas was hit by a pitch, breaking his hand. Solano received a call telling him to hold off on New Orleans and to instead rejoin the Marlins.
He made the club.
“It was [a miracle],” Solano said.
It wasn’t the first time the Marlins were forced to make last-second adjustments to their Opening Day roster. In 2013, pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez were placed on the disabled list with injuries. As a result, the sudden vacancies were filled by Jose Fernandez and Alex Sanabia.
And in 2008, Alejandro de Aza was injured in an outfield collision in the Marlins’ final exhibition game. That cleared the way for Brett Carroll to make the team.
Manager Mike Redmond said the decision to release Johnson was a difficult one emotionally.
Johnson, 38, was second in the majors with 16 pinch-hits last season.
“That was a tough one,” Redmond said of his conversation with Johnson on Monday morning. “I lost a few nights’ sleep over that one. That was tough to see him go.”
Redmond said the signing of Ichiro Suzuki as the team’s fourth outfielder severely limited Johnson’s chances of making the team.
“He’s been on the fence, that maybe 24th or 25th guy, for several years and continues to make ball teams,” Redmond said.
But this might have been Johnson’s final hurrah in the majors.
“Whenever you get to this stage in players’ careers, you don’t know,” Redmond said.
Later in the day, Johnson signed a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals.
Redmond, a Gonzaga graduate, was disheartened by his alma mater’s loss to Duke on Sunday in the NCAA Tournament. Redmond remained in Melbourne after Sunday’s Marlins’ game in Viera to watch the basketball game at a local restaurant.
“Terrible drive home, one of the worst I’ve ever had,” Redmond said of the drive back to Jupiter following the game. “It was tough.”
Dan Haren, who has been one of the most consistent starters all spring for the Marlins, finally hit a road bump, allowing seven runs over 51/3 innings in the Marlins’ 7-1 loss to the New York Mets on Monday.
“Spring has been pretty good for me until that last inning,” said Haren, who gave up five runs in the sixth.
Lucas Duda drove in five runs for the Mets with a two-run homer and three-run double.
Haren entered his final Grapefruit League start having given up only three earned runs in 14 innings (1.93 ERA).