The Miami Marlins had to place starting pitcher Jacob Turner on the disabled list yesterday with a strained shoulder, and MRI results on the injury's severity should come soon. The injury was suffered while swinging the bat during batting practice, and from the sounds of it, it does not appear to be anything severe. Yes, Turner will be out until close to the end of the month, but if MRI results show nothing but musculoskeletal strain rather than tendon or rotator cuff concerns, he should be back in the rotation as soon as he comes off.
The Marlins, however, are not fretting the injury and did not hesitate to be careful with Turner. The reason for that is that the Fish still have the plentiful pitching depth they boasted before the season, when there was talk of the Marlins trying to pull a trade to free up that depth and shore up another position. The Marlins' starting rotation entered the 2014 season without a significant amount of injury risk; it is not as though Josh Johnson was still in a Marlins uniform. But it is these unexpected injuries that stunt rotations during the season.
The 2013 Marlins know about that because their starting pitcher depth was relatively weak. The team planned on beginning the season with Ricky Nolasco, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Wade LeBlanc, and Kevin Slowey, after they demoted Turner for poor play. But the club essentially used up its pitching depth by demoting Turner and turning to both Slowey and LeBlanc to start, so when both Eovaldi and Alvarez went down with twin shoulder injuries, the team had to get desperate. They got lucky with Jose Fernandez being fully ready to dominate Major League hitters, but their other rotation option was Alex Sanabia, and he remained in the rotation until he was injured and replaced by a struggling Turner. That went on for half a season as the Fish waited for Eovaldi and Alvarez to return. Tack on the fact that the team knew it was going to trade Nolasco before the July 31 deadline and the Marlins' staff was stretched for depth.
This season, that problem should not occur. None of the Marlins' starting pitchers are anywhere close to being considered for trading. The replacements in the minors are not at the level of Alex Sanabia (though Brad Hand is not the best pitcher either). But the primary reason for that is that Miami's pitching prospects all have an extra year under their belt, and at least three of them are being considered close to Major League ready. Brian Flynn dominated Triple-A last year and should have a chance to start in the bigs this year at some point. Adam Conley just reached Triple-A after a good season in Double-A and could get a shot depending on his performance this year. Top prospect Andrew Heaney is being heralded for a midseason call-up because he is such a polished product coming out of college, and the Marlins could opt to use him if he trumps Double-A with ease. Add Slowey out of the bullpen to the mix and Miami has enough firepower to withstand some longer-term injuries.
The Marlins are hoping it does not come to this and that the team can allow Flynn, Conley, and Heaney to develop and simmer at their own pace. But the Fish are prepared if they have to use those pitchers, and oddly enough, the low ceiling on guys like Brad Hand and Tom Koehler makes it so that the team should hope to have a reason to replace one of them. You never wish injury on any player, but it would be nice for Miami to justify playing Flynn or Heaney over Koehler at some point and for some reason in 2014. Injuries are likely to come and go in 2014, however, and if they do, the Fish are not only ready but willing to send out their minor league depth to combat it. There will be no collapse of this rotation like there was for the first half of 2013, and that makes even a minor injury like Turner's more bearable.