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’s gone at least six innings in four of his last five starts and has posted a 2.66 ERA over the stretch.
Nicolino, who tossed seven scoreless innings in his debut last Saturday in Cincinnati, will take the mound in the series opener Friday.
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 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.”
FERNANDEZ SET FOR FINAL REHAB START
The next time Jose Fernandez returns to Marlins Park, he’ll be preparing for his next big league start against the Giants on July 2. Fernandez is set to fly out to Double A Jacksonville Friday afternoon where he’ll make his final rehab start following Tommy John surgery.
For Fernandez, who has 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,” Fernandez 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].”
MINOR LEAGUERS TOSS PERFECT GAME
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.
“The leadoff hitter in the ninth hit a shot between first base and second,” Scott said. “Our first baseman dove, but it went his off glove and caromed to the second baseman, who got it and fired to [closer Steven] Farnsworth who covered first. It was a hell of a play. I was worried going into the ninth, not about the perfect game because of a lucky hit, but because we could lose the game up only 1-0. But when that first play happened to lead off the ninth, I knew fate was with us.”
Lilek struckout the side in the eighth inning after starter Gabriel Castellanos whiffed 12 over the first seven innings in the 1-0 win over the Mahoning Valley Scrapers. 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 lost their first five games and gave up 66 runs combined, Scott said.
Castellanos, a 21-year-old Dominican left-hander, was 7-21 with a 5.15 ERA in his career prior to Wednesday's start. For Lilek, a 21-year old lefty out of Arizona State, it was his first minor league appearance for the Marlins. Farnsworth, a 23rd-round pick in 2014, was 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 22 appearances before Wednesday.
“For the kids, it was special to see,” Scott said. “For a lot of them it was their first team win. Thirteen of the guys on the team, it’s their first year on that club. The team we played the first three games only had three 2015 draft picks. The team we played last two nights had four. So we're going to take our lumps once in a while. So if we get a couple more perfect games it will balance out.”