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Justin Nicolino to make MLB debut tonight as Tom Koehler dealing with neck/back pain

CINCINNATI -- One of the turning points in the 2003 season for the Marlins came at Great American Ball Park when Tommy Phelps made an emergency start in place of Brad Penny, who was scratched due to an illness. Phelps won that night, and the Marlins continued their march to the World Series.

Could history repeat itself?

Tom Koehler -- who was scheduled to start tonight -- was scratched due to neck and back pain. And the Marlins have called up left-hander Justin Nicolino Triple A New Orleans to take the mound in his place.

"Just locked up on me a little bit and thought we'd play it safe and not risk going out there and then having them bring somebody in," Koehler said. "It's kind of just muscle spasms. I thought it was best to say something, so I did. They said I could wake up tomorrow and feel perfectly fine."

Koehler said he expects to miss no more than tonight's start and jump back into the rotation.

"Very short term, like a day or two," Koehler said of the anticipated recovery time frame.

Nicolino ranks as the No. 3 prospect in the Marlins' organization (behind pitchers Tyler Kolek and Jose Urena) and was acquired in the big 2012 trade with Toronto. What's interesting is that Nicolino will be facing the Reds' Anthony DeSclafani, who was also obtained in that blockbuster deal before being traded to the Reds over the winter for Mat Latos.

Nicolino, 23, doesn't have overpowering stuff, relying instead on pinpoint control. This season, he has gone 4-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 13 starts for New Orleans, striking out 45 while walking 21 in 78 1/3 innings.

A second-round pick for Toronto in 2010, Nicolino is from Orlando and has posted strong numbers in the minors, where he has gone 42-17 with a 2.67 ERA in 111 games (102 starts). He has averaged 6.5 strikeouts and 1.6 walks per nine innings.

To make room for Nicolino, catcher Jhonatan Solano was designated for assignment.

At this point, the extent of Koehler's injury is uncertain. He isn't being placed on the disabled list, at least not as of yet. But it's yet one more injury to a member of the Marlins' starting rotation. Henderson Alvarez, Latos and Jarred Cosart have already spent time on the disabled list. Of the original five-man rotation, only Dan Haren hasn't missed a start due to injury.

 

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