The Miami Marlins are almost done trimming the roster down to size, with the team having now completed a penultimate set of cuts that leaves the roster at 27 players. The Marlins sent down prospect Jake Marisnick and utility infielder Donovan Solano among its 40-man roster members. The team also reassigned Austin Nola, Henry Rodriguez, Matt Angle, Juan Diaz, and Chris Hatcher to minor league camp.
Marisnick's demotion apparently has signaled that Marcell Ozuna, despite his horrific Spring Training season, will win the 2014 Opening Day job in center field. In fact, the possibility may have been present that, thanks to Reed Johnson making the roster, the Fish may turn to a platoon of Johnson and Brian Bogusevic in left field with Christian Yelich in center field. But Miami is leaning towards the more powerful and promising Ozuna over the veteran platoon, in part because Bogusevic himself struggled in spring as well (.174/.191/.196). As a result, Bogusevic may be traded or released to waivers due to him being out of options, thus completely erasing the team's return for Justin Ruggiano.
The Marlins' demotion of Solano is a sign of confidence for minor league veteran Ed Lucas, who now will make the team as the club's utility backup infielder. Solano was the promising of the two as the younger player, but neither figures to be good and Marlins manager Mike Redmond preferred Lucas's small advantage in flexibility.
"Solano has had a great spring," Redmond said. "We know exactly what he can do, and what he brings. At the end of the day, it came down to Eddie Lucas being able to do more things. Being able to play first. Being an emergency catcher, and being able to play the outfield. It was a really tough decision. I like Solano a lot. He plays hard. He plays the game the right way."
The move is especially confusing given that Miami will likely be without Rafael Furcal to start the season, as he recovers from a strained left hamstring suffered earlier in Spring Training. In his place will be Derek Dietrich, who will start against righties and probably yield at times to Jeff Baker against left-handers. This forces a very lefty-heavy lineup against right-handed pitchers that may get exposed by lefty starters and LOOGYs late in the game.
Henry Rodriguez was an interesting demotion because Miami had already sent Carter Capps and Arquimedes Caminero down to the minors. It was expected that the team would opt for another hard-throwing righty reliever in Rodriguez, but the team has reassigned him to minor league camp, which runs the risk of him walking away outright. Rodriguez has an out clause if he does not make the big league team and could walk after a strong Spring Training in which he whiffed 14 batters in nine innings.
In his place, the Marlins are likely to run Dan Jennings, who served as the team's seventh-inning or earlier LOOGY for much of last year. Along with Brad Hand, this leaves the Fish with three lefties in Hand, Jennings, and Mike Dunn next to Carlos Marmol, A.J. Ramos, Kevin Slowey, and Steve Cishek on the right side.
Once the Fish release or trade Bogusevic, the club will be down to 26 men, and the last move will be to place Furcal on the disabled list, retroactive to March 21. This allows Furcal to return by April 5, but there is no timetable for his return to the field. The hope is that he can get back quickly, but we all remember Giancarlo Stanton's infamous right hamstring that held him out for a month last year.