As manager Jack McKeon has said more than once over the past few days, "it's salesman time" for the Marlins. Before Florida wrapped up its series with Philadelphia on Sunday, McKeon said rookie Brad Hand would be given an opportunity to sell himself.
Hand will be slotted into Clay Hensley's spot in the rotation and is scheduled to start Wednesday against the Mets, while Hensley will shift back to the bullpen.
"We’ve got Hensley back in the pen, so that gives us another guy that can give us two, three, four innings," McKeon said. "[Hensley] was kind of an emergency guy anyhow, but we used him as a fifth starter. But now we’ve got the kid [Hand] going, so it’ll be good to see him pitch."
Hand is 1-5 with a 4.23 ERA in nine starts this year, and he allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits in five innings against the Phillies on Friday. The lefty has been up and down between the majors and minors this season, as he started three games in June and July and a pair in August.
But now it appears Hand is in the rotation for good, and he will get a chance to start either four or five more games the rest of the way, depending on how the Marlins handle off days and next week's doubleheader. McKeon said the front office has discussed the possibility of promoting another staring pitcher once the minor-league season ends on Monday.
Hand said he was “excited” about the “great experience, great opportunity” to prove himself and potentially secure a spot in the 2012 rotation.
“I’m just trying to finish the season strong and hopefully carry it into next season,” Hand said. “I feel like I’ve gotten — compared to my first start was pretty good, but after that it was kind of iffy — better since then.”
What are some of the things Hand has been working on?
“Throwing strikes, getting ahead, keeping the ball down and throwing the offspeed for strikes in the zone more often. Consistency is always a big thing. Some innings you’ll be really good, and then some innings it’s not there and trying to find it a little bit. Consistency throughout the hole game and get deeper in the game.”
Hensley opened the year as the set-up man for closer Leo Nuñez, but after going on the DL in June started increasing his pinch count to return as a starter. Hensley, who pitched in the rotation earlier in his career, never seemed to get comfortable in his new-old role, and was relieved to be returning to the pen.
“We gave it a shot in the rotation, and I thought I was going to be able to do it and get in a little bit of a groove, but it was a little tougher than anticipated,” Hensley said. “I couldn’t get into a groove. I would have some decent starts, then have a real bad one, then a good one, a bad one. I couldn’t string together several strong outings in a row. I think at this point, it’s probably best for me and the organization that I go to the pen and try to finish the season strong there.”
Reliever Brian Sanches, on the 15-day disabled list since Aug. 17 with a strained right elbow, is expected to be activated Monday and be available to pitch on Tuesday. Sanches was back in the Marlins’ clubhouse before Sunday’s game after making a rehab appearance for Class A Jupiter on Saturday, when he allowed two runs on two hits in 2 2/3 innings.
McKeon held Mike Stanton out of Sunday's lineup, one night after the outfielder stumbled while crossing first base trying to beat out an infield grounder and tweaked his hamstring.
“I don’t think it should be long," McKeon said. “Tightness in the hamstring — I don’t imagine that’s a long process.”
McKeon said Stanton, who is listed as day-to-day, would be available to pinch-hit. Moving around the Marlins' clubhouse before Sunday's game, Stanton did not walk with a limp or show any signs of pain.
Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, ss; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Greg Dobbs, 3b; 4. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 5. Logan Morrison, lf; 6. Mike Cameron,cf; 7. Bryan Petersen, rf; 8. John Buck, c; 9. Anibal Sanchez, p
Phillies: 1. Shane Victorino, cf; 2. Michael Martinez, 3b; 3. Chase Utley, 2b; 4. Ryan Howard, 1b; 5. Hunter Pence, rf; 6. Raul Ibanez, lf; 7. Carlos Ruiz, c; 8. Wilson Valdez, ss; 9. Roy Halladay, p
-- Matt Forman