MIAMI -- Since the All-Star break, the Marlins have played a stretch of 28 games with just one day off in the middle of it. Saturday's game against the D-backs marked their 12th in a row.
But now they've got two days off scheduled next week on Monday and Thursday, and the rest not only gives the Marlins some time away from the ballpark, it affords manager Mike Redmond the chance to dwell on which starter -- either 24-year-old Brad Hand or 36-year-old Brad Penny -- he will send to the bullpen to accommodate Henderson Alvarez's return to the rotation on Saturday.
In the meantime, both Hand and Penny will be available to make relief appearances. The Marlins optioned their only long reliever, Anthony DeSclafani, to Triple-A New Orleans following Friday's game, so having them in the bullpen will provide the team more depth if there's a need for extended relief.
"Part of it could come down to if we need a guy out of the bullpen," Redmond said. "We might need a guy with an extended outing out of the bullpen, and that might make our decision easier going forward. There's a little bit of that unknown of what's going to happen here in the next couple of days."
When Redmond does get around to making that decision, he'll also have to bargain between experience and youth.
Penny has been staging a comeback in Miami's system since signing a Minor League contract on June 18, and he has only made two Major League starts this year. The righty has gone 1-0 and allowed five earned runs over 10 innings. Before joining the Marlins' rotation on Aug. 9, he was 2-2 with a 2.28 ERA in five starts for New Orleans.
But Hand, who began the season as a reliever, was given the opportunity to take over one of the back-end spots of the rotation in July. He didn't get a win until his fourth start back on July 20 against the Giants. But between that start and Aug. 5, the left-hander was one of the Marlins' best hurlers, posting a 2.28 ERA and going 2-1 over four outings.
Hand has been hampered by the long ball in his most recent outings, however, allowing a grand slam and a two-run homer to Cincinnati's Devin Mesoraco last Sunday, and two first-inning homers to the D-backs on Friday.
"It's a feel thing," Redmond said. "[We were] hoping for one of them to make it a clear and easy decision, but it hasn't been."