Over the weekend, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro tweeted that when it comes to finalizing the Miami Marlins' bullpen, several suprises should be expected.
When it comes to how #Marlins bullpen shakes out expect surprises— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) March 23, 2014
Beyond Steve Cishek closing games, MIke Dunn serving as the lefty specialist, and Carter Capps or A.J. Ramos pitching in the later innings, several spots are available. The Marlins have notable starting pitching depth, but the organization also has a number of relievers who can see time this season.
Rodriguez signed a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training during the offseason. The former Washington closer is known for his power fastball, however his inability to throw strikes led to his departure from the back of the Nationals' bullpen.
Because his command has been a consistent issue, Rodriguez saw time in Triple-A last season. His 4.09 ERA in 22 major league innings is nothing to brag about, but the Marlins believe he has turned things around.
If he can get ahead in counts, Rodriguez would be a valuable and inexpensive contributor to Miami's 'pen. With Cishek and the hard throwing Capps expected to work the later innings, an efficient Rodriguez would make the back end of the Marlins' bullpen that much better.
Caminero is an internal candidate who the Marlins have been very impressed by this spring. In 13 innings last season with Miami, he posted a 2.77 ERA and left almost 90% (89.3) of his inherited runners on base.
Although he may not be the most experienced option, Caminero would provide Miami with another power arm (71.7% fastballs to complement a slider and changeup-type splitter). The fact that lefties batted .300 against him last season may hurt his chances, but that is a small sample size (4.2 combined innings) and he too would likely be effective at a low cost.
Wittgren, like Caminero, has impressed pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and the Marlins' front office throughout the course of spring training. He spent the majority of last season in Single-A, where he posted a 0.83 ERA in 54 and a third innings.
Averaging 9.77 strikeouts per nine innings earned him a promotion, and in 4 innings with Double-A Jacksonville, Wittgren didn't give up a run.
Wittgren was often called upon to save games at Single-A, and his ability to be productive in the ninth innings may help his chances. Miami may have him start the year in Jacksonville before a possible promotion, but he still could have a chance to make the club.
Ames was one of the arms Miami received in the Ricky Nolasco trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last July. With both the Marlins and Dodgers, he spent time at Triple-A, where he posted a combined 3-2 record and a 3.67 ERA.
Having spent most of his career developing in the minor leagues, Ames made his major league debut with the Marlins last season, pitching four innings in relief and posting a 4.50 ERA while briefly struggling with his command.
The Marlins were confident in what they got in return for Nolasco, and Ames has the chance to be successful out of the bullpen, particularly after a short start.
Brad Hand/Kevin Slowey
One of Brad Hand or Kevin Slowey is almost a lock to make the team, it is just a matter of which one.
Hand is out of options, which may give him a slight edge. He went 3-5 in Triple-A last year, but posted a solid 3.05 ERA in 81 and a third innings pitched. While he has spent most of his career starting, Hand can serve as Miami's long relief man. The fact that he is a lefty may also help his cause.
After he was plagued by an injury in 2013, Slowey resigned with Miami with hopes of opening the year in the rotation for the second consecutive season.
Having posted a 4.11 ERA in 92 innings last year, Slowey too is a long relief option. Slowey has more experience, but the fact that Hand is out of options and would be exposed to other teams if demoted may have weakened his chances.