CINCINNATI -- Though they sit 10 games under .500, the Marlins still have reasons for hope. They play in a weak division in which no team has caught fire. Jose Fernandez is expected to rejoin the rotation on July 2. And management still believes the lineup is much better than it has shown.
“The division is keeping us in it,” said Michael Hill, president of baseball operations. “But the bottom line is we have to win more games. We’ve got to get closer to .500 to really insert ourselves into the playoff picture. You can’t expect that the clubs above you will continue to tread water, keeping you in it.”
Despite their poor record, the Marlins found themselves only 6 1/2 games behind first-place Washington going into Sunday. That’s because the Nationals’ record is the worst of any division leader.
One day after rookie pitcher Justin Nicolino turned heads with a dazzling debut performance, Hill spoke of how the front office has some difficult decisions to make concerning the rotation.
The Marlins have -- or soon will -- far more starters than there are spots in the rotation. Fernandez is scheduled to make his next-to-last rehab start Monday at Single A Jupiter. Jarred Cosart was on the mound Sunday in what could be his final rehab start for Double A Jacksonville.
The Marlins presently have six starters on their roster.
“We’ve always asked for tough decisions and we knew, as guys were getting healthy, we were going to have tough decisions,” Hill said.
But Hill firmly stated that the front office has no intention of trading away “any of our major rotation pieces” in order to alleviate the looming logjam.
“We are fortunate we have some players who are flexible, that we can move to the bullpen,” Hill said. “We have some young players who may have to go back (to the minors).”
Both Tom Koehler and David Phelps could go to the bullpen, for example.
Hill also said that when Fernandez returns, the Marlins could go with a six-man rotation, at least initially.
“It might be something early with Jose that you might look at doing,” Hill said. “It could happen because you might just re-insert Jose into the rotation. But post-All-Star break, it’ll be a five-man rotation.”
The biggest disappointment so far, Hill said, hasn’t been the pitching. It’s been the hitting.
“We have to be a more consistent offense and score runs,” Hill said. “We thought we would have hit our stride by now. You’ve got a guy (Giancarlo Stanton) leading the league in home runs and RBI. And you’ve got a guy (Dee Gordon) close to leading the league in hitting and stolen bases. We’ve shown our youth.”
Hill fended off any suggestion that the Marlins might look to trade veterans such as Martin Prado and Michael Morse before the July 31 trading deadline. Both players are under contract through 2016.
“Any pieces that are under control aren’t even considerations to do anything,” Hill said. “We aren’t building this team for 2015. We’re building this for ’15 and ’16 and ’17. We’re trying to build a perennial contender.”