Bullpen battles heating up as camp nears end

Bullpen battles heating up as camp nears end

Bullpen battles heating up as camp nears end
JUPITER, Fla. -- With the days of Spring Training winding down, the competition for bullpen spots is heating up at Marlins camp.

It's a good problem for the club, and an unenviable situation for the players on the bubble.

The Marlins are planning on carrying 12 pitchers, with five starters. So seven bullpen spots are up for grabs.

Heath Bell is set at closer, and the team expects to be without Juan Carlos Oviedo for the foreseeable future.

Formerly Leo Nunez, Oviedo is on MLB's restricted list, and he is in the Dominican Republic.

Even when cleared to return, Oviedo likely faces disciplinary action from Major League Baseball.

Edward Mujica, Ryan Webb, Steve Cishek and Jose Ceda are strong candidates for right-handed setup roles. Mike Dunn and Randy Choate are lefty late-inning options.

Wade LeBlanc, who is having a terrific camp, is a long relief candidate. So is right-hander Chad Gaudin, a non-roster invitee.

LeBlanc, while making a strong case to be on the club, has an option left. There is a chance the team feels it doesn't need a true long reliever because of early-season off-days. The Marlins are off on April 6, 10 and 16.

"Everybody is doing a great job," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "We've got some decisions, and they're making it tough. We'll see how the next two weeks play out. I think that will give us a little better idea.

"A lot will depend on how we decide to go as a team. You can go a few different ways with the off-days. You might not need a long guy when you've got those off-days. Or you may decide you want to go with the long guy. It all depends on how you want to set it up."

How the starters finish up Spring Training also will be a factor.

The rotation is expected to be Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Zambrano and Anibal Sanchez.

"Hopefully, all goes well with the starters, and they all stay on track," St. Claire said. "If something were to happen with one of them, you could probably go with four starters, and a long guy in there."

More clarity will be known in the final two weeks of camp.

In the home stretch of the spring, pitchers become sharper, and hitters get more into a groove. Usually, the competition sorts things out.

Manager Ozzie Guillen, his staff and the front office will sit down and make their recommendations and decisions.

"I think it will all depend on how it shapes up the next two weeks, and how Ozzie wants to go with the staff," St. Claire said. "Everybody is doing such a good job right now. You can go a lot of different ways with it.

"I think we're looking at a good problem right now. It's not real good for the guy who gets sent down, but it's real good for us. We may have this guy who is ready to help us now, but we've only got seven spots down there."