It appears a winner has been declared: right-hander Edward Mujica.
It's not exactly a shocking development, as Mujica appeared to be the front-runner once it was clear Juan Carlos Ovideo, the reliever formerly known as Leo Nunez, wasn't going to be an option. Manager Ozzie Guillen had said, however, that the spot had to be earned, and that it wouldn't go automatically to someone based on last year's results.
Mujica was competing with right-handers Ryan Webb, Jose Ceda and Steve Cishek and left-hander Mike Dunn for the job. On Monday, pitching coach Randy St. Claire, whom Guillen had said he would rely on to make the call, did just that.
"Edward's the guy who got the most chances last year," St. Claire said. "For me, it's his to lose."
Mujica certainly has done nothing to lose it. He allowed his first run of the spring on Sunday, and has a 1.80 ERA in five Grapefruit League innings. He's struck out six and, perhaps more importantly, walked none.
"He's not going to walk guys, and that's the thing you need out of the guys in the back end of your 'pen," St. Claire said. "If he gets beat, he will get beat by getting hit."
Mujica didn't get hit much last year, finishing with a 2.96 ERA over 76 innings, allowing just 14 walks all season. Of all the relievers who were competing, Mujica did have the most eighth-inning appearances, with 33 1/3 of his 76 innings coming in the eighth. Dunn was next with 22 of his 63 frames.
The Marlins still could use lefty Randy Choate in the eighth to face tough left-handed hitters. But once it became clear Oviedo wasn't going to make it in time for the season, Mujica became the logical choice for the setup role, and he cemented it with his strong spring performance.