Competition wide open for spots in Marlins' rotation

Fernandez, Eovaldi and Alvarez are safe; Fourth and fifth spots are undecided

Competition wide open for spots in Marlins' rotation

MIAMI -- Let the competition begin. When the Marlins open Spring Training on Sunday, two rotation spots will be up for grabs.

At a team charity golf event on Wednesday, president of baseball operations Michael Hill confirmed the only safe slots belong to Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.

The news isn't surprising. It has been anticipated that Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler, who finished last season in the rotation, would have to pitch their way into the starting five.

Turner certainly will get a long look. The 22-year-old is a former first-round pick of the Tigers, and he was a highly-touted prospect.

Turner was obtained by Miami from Detroit in July 2012 as part of the Anibal Sanchez /Omar Infante trade. The right-hander was a favorite to be in the rotation last Spring Training, but he struggled in camp and opened the season at Triple-A New Orleans. In 20 big league starts, Turner went 3-8 with a 3.74 ERA.

Despite some inconsistencies, Turner also showed some very encouraging signs, especially after he was brought back up.

"Turner was a big piece of our rotation when he came back from the Minor Leagues, and he pitched very well," Hill said. "That's the Turner who we would have liked to have seen from the beginning of the season. When he came back from the Minor Leagues, he was focused and did what we expected him to do. If he does that, he should be a part of the rotation."

Koehler, a hard thrower, gained experience as a starter and a reliever last year. His versatility should help him earn a roster spot, even if he doesn't open in the rotation.

"Koehler got more relaxed over the course of the season," Hill said.

As a team, the Marlins have started coming together this week to take part in the franchise's Ayudan caravan week.

On Wednesday, a large number of players attended the Jack McKeon Marlins Celebrity Golf Classic at Crandon Golf in Key Biscayne.

Miami opens Spring Training with workouts for pitchers and catchers on Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. Full-squad practices begin on Feb. 20.

Starting pitching is an organizational strength, from the big leagues down to the Minor Leagues.

If Turner or Koehler struggle, a number of other candidates are expected to emerge. Brad Hand and Brian Flynn are lefties who saw action as September callups.

"Hand had a great September," Hill said. "He looked comfortable and looked like he belongs in the big leagues."

Flynn also was part of the trade that brought in Turner in 2012. The lefty had success in 27 Minor League starts last year, posting a 2.63 ERA. The club felt that Flynn tired in September, and his numbers reflected that notion, as his ERA was 8.50 in four starts.

"I don't think anybody saw the real Brian Flynn in September," Hill said. "He's a workhorse left-handed pitcher. He led the PCL [Pacific Coast League] in innings pitched, and he was force in the PCL. To put up the numbers he did in the PCL was not easy to do. We wanted to give him experience in September. He was tired, so I don't think we got to see truly what he is. He will definitely be a part of the competition."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.