An injury to yet another starting pitcher for the Marlins opened the door for left-hander Justin Nicolino — one of the organization’s top prospects — to make his big-league debut on Saturday night.
Nicolino took the mound in place of Tom Koehler, who was scratched with neck and upper back pain. That left Dan Haren as the only member of the original five-man rotation this season not to miss a start because of injury.
“Since I got drafted, in eight years [of pro ball] I’ve never missed a game before,” Koehler said. “But I didn’t want to be selfish and go out there, on my own pride, try to pitch and then [hurt the team].”
Koehler said he expects to miss only the one start, so Nicolino’s stay might be brief, especially with Jarred Cosart expected back soon from the disabled list.
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Nicolino, 23, ranks as the Marlins’ No.3 prospect — behind pitchers Tyler Kolek and Jose Urena — according to MLB.com.
Acquired in the big 2012 trade with Toronto, Nicolino has posted outstanding numbers in the minors, where he owns a career mark of 42-17 and a 2.67 ERA. He has gone 4-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 13 starts this season for Triple A New Orleans.
Ironically, Nicolino faced the Reds’ Anthony DeSclafani — who was also acquired in the Toronto deal and was Nicolino’s roommate at Double A last year — in his debut.
“It’s funny the twists and turns baseball can provide like that,” manager Dan Jennings said.
Nicolino does not pile up a lot of strikeouts, instead varying speeds on four pitches to keep hitters off balance and uncomfortable.
“He’s not going to overpower anybody,” said Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who caught Nicolino in the minors. “That said, he can run his fastball up there, 92 or 93 mph. The way he pitches makes his fastball a lot better. He’s got four pitches that he’s going to be able to throw for strikes at any time. He’s not a punch-out guy. He just finds ways to miss guys’ barrels with his movement and change of speeds.”
▪ Cosart is scheduled to make what will likely be his final rehab start for Double A Jacksonville on Sunday.
THIS AND THAT
▪ First baseman Michael Morse went 2 for 3 on Friday in a rehab game for Jacksonville.
But when Morse returns from a finger injury remains uncertain.
“He’s swinging better by his own account,” Jennings said. “Now this is strictly about his timing. We’re staying pretty in tune to where he is and what he feels like.”
▪ On Sunday, reliever Bryan Morris will make his first rehab appearance since going on the DL with a lower back sprain. Morris will pitch at Single A Jupiter.
“[Morris] says he feels outstanding,” Jennings said. “The pain he had in his back, it’s subsided enough to where he feels confident to go out and get a rehab outing.”
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP David Phelps (4-3, 3.96 ERA) at Cincinnati Reds RHP Michael Lorenzen (2-2, 3.70), 1:10p.m., Great American Ball Park.
▪ Monday: Off day.