Now that the numbers are dwindling in Spring Training, the evaluation process has gotten a bit tighter for Don Mattingly and the Marlins’ coaching staff.
"The biggest position we're looking for is that bridge guy," Mattingly said on Saturday morning.
Nick Wittgren, Brian Ellington and lefty Hunter Cervenka are the frontrunners for one spot. Each has been asked to go more than one inning in recent days.
Joe Frisaro of MLB.com explains the Marlins are leaning strongly on carrying eight relievers, with six of them already set. A.J. Ramos is the closer. David Phelps, Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa and Kyle Barraclough round out the setup roles. They mainly will go one inning, with Phelps the likely choice to go beyond that on occasion.
The Marlins don’t have a dominant starter, but Mattingly is hoping the rotation can get the team to the seventh inning. If not, pitchers will have to work more innings, which is one of the reasons this team could carry 13 arms on the opening day roster.
Dustin McGowan can fill the role of innings eater. Jeff Locke may start the season on the disabled list, but the former starter can do the same thing. Joe Urena may benefit from injuries and make a strong push for middle relief.
"If you look at our bullpen with Ramos, Phelps, Barraclough, Ziegler, and Tazawa, you know what you're getting there," Mattingly said. "Those aren't your true bridge guys. If it's early, you've got McGowan and whoever else it ends up being. Those guys there, we need those guys to be multiple-innings guys. If not, you end up beating everybody up.
"We're looking for three multiple-inning guys out of those long guys."
If Cervenka makes the club, he would be the lone left-hander in the 'pen. But he wouldn't necessarily be a specialist.
Ramos, despite injuries, had 40 saves last season. Because of his flexibility, Phelps could also work in the closers role for Miami.