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Recent injuries, roster decisions suggest Marlins will break camp with these starting pitchers

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Here’s who will fill out the staff behind de facto ace José Ureña.

Photo by jure62_09_aq/Instagram

The phrase “No. 1 starter José Ureña” will take some getting used to, but the 26-year-old right-hander won’t be challenged for that title in the foreseeable future.

On Saturday morning, Marlins manager Don Mattingly confirmed that veteran Dan Straily will begin the 2018 season on the disabled list while recovering from right forearm inflammation. Pitching coach Juan Nieves mentioned a tentative mid-April return date during an in-game interview with FOX Sports Florida.

The club still hasn’t formally announced any of the pitchers who will follow Ureña in the Opening Day rotation. However, by process of elimination, we can deduce that they’ll take this five-man group south to Miami (in no particular order):

  • RHP José Ureña
  • RHP Odrisamer Despaigne
  • LHP Caleb Smith
  • RHP Jacob Turner
  • LHP Justin Nicolino

Check out their Grapefruit League stats, which do not include appearances in minor league games:

2018 spring training performance from Marlins Opening Day rotation

Player ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB K BA OPS WHIP
Player ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB K BA OPS WHIP
José Ureña 6.10 5 5 10.1 11 7 7 0 8 8 .256 .757 1.84
Odrisamer Despaigne 3.60 6 2 20.0 18 10 8 2 8 16 .240 .660 1.30
Caleb Smith 5.21 6 2 19.0 19 12 11 4 11 21 .257 .839 1.58
Jacob Turner 4.70 5 2 15.1 18 9 8 1 8 9 .305 .781 1.70
Justin Nicolino 5.23 5 1 10.1 12 7 6 1 7 8 .300 .883 1.84
Source: MLB.com

For comparison’s sake, these were the first five starters from 2017:

  • RHP Edinson Volquez
  • RHP Dan Straily
  • RHP Tom Koehler
  • LHP Wei-Yin Chen
  • LHP Adam Conley

Plenty of other candidates had also been under consideration as spring training progressed. Rookie fireballer Sandy Alcantara is arguably the most glaring omission, falling victim to MLB’s service-time manipulation practices. He figures to rejoin the major league squad in mid-May.

Rule 5 draft selections Elieser Hernandez (wisdom tooth extraction) and Brett Graves (oblique strain) couldn’t fully stretch themselves out for a starter’s workload due to injuries. Chen’s elbow issues still have him sidelined. Fellow lefties Conley and Dillon Peters will have opportunities to battle back onto the active roster after making some adjustments at Triple-A. Jarlin Garcia is with them in New Orleans, getting reacclimated to the rotation after spending 2017 in the bullpen.

Undrafted right-hander Trevor Richards did everything in his power to make it a tough call. He out-dueled reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (twice!) this week and posted a 0.75 earned run average in 12 total Grapefruit League innings. But because Miami’s 40-man roster is full (and Richards isn’t on it), promoting him would require a corresponding move. Unless the front office decides to designate Nicolino for assignment, there’s no path for him to get to Marlins Park for the season-opening homestand.

The Fish used 12 different starting pitchers last season, a total I’d expect them to easily surpass in 2018. So please try not to overreact to these uninspiring Opening Day selections.