When Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez talked about the Marlins being "the last team standing" back in spring training, he never envisioned it happening with his top hitter and pitcher out with injuries.
But that's the scenario Rodriguez and the Marlins have found themselves in over the past week -- and could potentially for several more -- as All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez battles inflammation in his lower back and ace Josh Johnson continues to try to build enough strength in his throwing shoulder to warrant a return from the disabled list.
"Remember when I was mentioning about our room for error being very small in spring training? We're seeing that," said Rodriguez, whose team has gone 1-5 since Ramirez was pulled in the second inning of an 8-0 loss to the Dodgers on May 29.
"With JJ being down and Hanley out we're scrambling and trying to put pieces together. I think the guys have been doing a good job. If we keep playing .500 ball until those guys get back, we're going to be fine. We're going to be in good shape when they come back."
Ramirez is expected to finally go on the disabled list after Sunday's game. How long he'll be out remains a mystery. But as far as Rodriguez is concerned, he thinks the Marlins should take the same approach they've taken with Johnson and keep Ramirez out until he's able to return at 100 percent.
"Even when Hanley isn't hitting, his presence in the lineup makes a difference -- because he can get on base, steal bases, make things happen," Rodriguez said. "And then with JJ out of the rotation, it's a huge difference.
"We don't want [Ramirez] to go on the DL. But if he has to do it, he has to do it. I don't want him on the field if he's not 100 percent. Same with JJ. We already battled and we fought, we put ourselves in a position where we can go .500 in the month and still be in good shape without those guys. We worked for that."
Johnson, who has been on the disabled list since May 17 with right shoulder inflammation, was originally hoping to return to the rotation this Tuesday. But Rodriguez said Johnson still hasn't regained enough strength in his shoulder to even get on the mound for a bullpen session.
The Marlins want Johnson to throw a couple bullpen sessions and then get a rehab start in before returning to the rotation. Johnson said Saturday all he's been able to do thus far is throw long toss at about 150 feet.
Rodriguez said whoever the Marlins call up from the minors after Sunday's game to start Tuesday against the Braves can plan on being around for awhile.
"We're going to be looking for an option in the minor leagues and planning on that option to be here for awhile," Rodriguez said. "We have a double header next week. Even if JJ's back, we're still going to need another pitcher. And if JJ's not back by then, we're going to need two more pitchers. We're planning for that too."
Rodriguez said there are four options down in the minors: veteran right-hander Chris Sampson (2-0, 3.50 ERA in Triple A New Orleans), left-hander Brad Hand (7-1, 3.53 ERA in Double A Jacksonville), right-hander Elih Villanueva (4-5, 5.70 ERA in Triple A New Orleans) and right-hander Tom Koehler (5-1, 4.24 ERA in Triple A New Orleans).
"Sampson has been doing good. Brad Hand has been doing good. Villanueva has been struggling. Koehler's last outing was a little bit shaky," Rodriguez said. "Whoever comes up I would like them to sit in the dugout and be here for [Monday's game]. I don't want them to just fly up on the plane and pitch."
HENSLEY HAS AC JOINT SPRAIN: Injured setup man Clay Hensley said he's expecting to miss at least three weeks with an AC joint sprain, an injury he's never had before.
Hensley, who went on the disabled list retroactive to June 2, said he's looking forward to the time off so he can also rest his sore left shoulder blade and ribs, which he injured slipping down the stairs at the team hotel in Cincinnati at the end of April.
"I guess Anibal [Sanchez] went through the same thing a couple years ago and his was actually worse than mine. He came back from it just as good, so I don't think there's going to be any surgery needed," Hensley said.
"I don't know if I was compensating for stuff with my left shoulder. I know I changed my mechanics a little bit just to get through the games and stuff. That's one thing I think played a factor into this because I never had anything like this before. I guess a good thing now is I'll be able to let everything heal on the left side as far as my shoulder blade and start from ground zero and come back and kick ass the rest of the year. That's the game plan."