Justin Nicolino had an opportunity to open the season in the Marlins' starting rotation.
However, the Marlins optioned Nicolino to Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday. Manager Don Mattingly called him the team's "sixth man," according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.
At the end of last season, the Marlins relied on Nicolino and lefty Adam Conley. But the club also said it will not rush either prospect, and it appears the organization feels Nicolino needs more time to develop.
The Marlins were able to evaluate Nicolino last season, during which he tossed 74.0 innings with Miami. He pitched to a 4.01 ERA and 4.85 FIP over that span.
Nicolino did not receive much time on the mound this spring, which could indicate the Marlins opened camp with the belief he would open the season in Triple-A. Over 8.1 spring innings, Nicolino pitched to a 2.16 ERA.
When the Marlins acquired Nicolino from the Blue Jays in 2012, it appeared the expectation was he would become a front end of the rotation arm. Although he has not had much success to this point, Nicolino could still have a successful career in Miami.
Miami has a fair amount of rotation depth, which could have also factored into the decision to option Nicolino. Jose Fernandez, Wei-Yin Chen, Tom Koehler, and Jarred Cosart all appear set to open the season in the Marlins' rotation.
Now that Nicolino is out of the mix, Adam Conley could emerge as the favorite to earn the fifth spot. Edwin Jackson, David Phelps and Brad Hand are all also options.
Nicolino has not had much of an issue with walks in his career, but he has not had much success with regard to strikeouts. His 2.80 K/9 rate was the lowest in baseball among pitchers who tossed at least 20 innings.
It appears the Marlins are being necessarily careful with Nicolino's development, and he should benefit from the additional minor league time.
There is no reason Nicolino should not be in the Marlins' rotation moving forward. He will just have to wait a bit longer.