The schedule says this is the Marlins' only off day of spring training, and for most players it is. But for Andrew Miller and Clay Hensley, this day will be another crucial one in helping the Marlins decide how they'll shape their five-man rotation. Miller and Hensley are pitching in an intrasquad game at 11 a.m. on one of the back diamonds, and you can bet that the Marlins' brass will be there to watch.
Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco were always in the rotation. Anibal Sanchez is now in. That leaves two openings. Based on everything I've seen and heard, Hensley and Chris Volstad are the frontrunners for the other two spots, with Miller, Rick VandenHurk and Hayden Penn looking like the odd men out at the moment. Penn, who is out of options, hurt his chances with Sunday's rough outing when he gave up four runs on five hits and a pair of walks in just 1 2/3 innings. VandenHurk threw four scoreless innings on Sunday. But it was done in near anonymity, in a minor league game on one of the back fields as the Marlins were playing the Nationals inside the stadium. That manager Fredi Gonzalez and front office wizards Larry Beinfest and Mike Hill watched Penn and Johnson pitch in the regular game against Washington probably doesn't bode well for VandenHurk (0-1, 6.23). Miller (1-0, 10.80) has not exactly had a great spring and looks likely for New Orleans.
Hensley, who has has been the biggest surprise of the spring for the Marlins, has pitched 10 1/3 innings without allowing a run. Hensley has given up just four hits and, while other members of the staff have battled control issues, he has not issued any walks. Contrast that with Miller (eight walks in 7 2/3 innings) and VandenHurk (four walks in 8 2/3 innings). Even Volstad (7BB/12 1/3), Sanchez (8BB/13 1/3) and Johnson (6BB/12 1/3) have had their problems. Hensley and Nolasco (0 BB/12 IP) have not.
I'll be heading out to the back field to check it all out. Look for live updates on my Twitter account @clarkspencer.
-- Rule 5 pick Jorge Jimenez didn't work out for the Marlins, who returned him to the Red Sox. But the player the Marlins lost in the Rule 5 draft, outfielder John Raynor, is having a nice spring with the Pirates. Raynor, who was the second player taken in the December draft during the winter meetings, has gone 10 for 26 with a double, home run and two triples. He is battling for the fourth outfield spot with Pittsburgh.