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Bullpen is where competition is on Marlins' roster

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Among the challenges the Marlins face in rounding out their roster is fortifying their bullpen.

Most likely, there will be at least three spots up for grabs when Spring Training gets under way in February.

While Miami is actively shopping infielder Yunel Escobar at the Winter Meetings, it also is in the market for center-field depth, and perhaps a veteran reliever or two. Although many reliever candidates are untested at the big league level, the Marlins feel they have a number of quality arms.

"It's a great opportunity," manager Mike Redmond said. "We have an opportunity for guys to come in and establish themselves as big league players. It's going to be a lot of innings for guys down in the bullpen. It's a great opportunity. I'm excited to go out there and see these guys play, and see what we've got."

In the bullpen, Steve Cishek is the front-runner to close, and Ryan Webb and lefty Mike Dunn are projected to be setup men. A.J. Ramos is the mix. And so could be Wade LeBlanc, if he doesn't win a rotation spot. Tom Koehler, who also is in the mix to start, could wind up in the 'pen.

"If we had to open today, Steve Cishek would be the closer," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "I think you look at Ryan Webb and Dunn [in the back end]. We were happy with the way Koehler threw the ball. He will be in the fifth-starter competition, but he could go in the 'pen. Ramos threw the ball well.

"There is good competition. There are at least three jobs open out there, if not more. There will be some good opportunity for some young arms to get a shot."

If something makes sense, the Marlins would be willing to add some experienced relievers to the mix.

Ramos, a right-hander, showed promise after being a September callup, striking out 13 in 9 1/3 innings.

One of the more intriguing candidates is Arquimedes Caminero, a hard-throwing right-hander, who is returning from Tommy John surgery. The 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic is 6-foot-4, 245 pounds. He struck out 44 in 38 1/3 innings last year in the Minor Leagues, and posted a 1.64 ERA.

Along with Dunn, some lefty options are Dan Jennings and Scott Maine, who was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays. Lefty Grant Dayton showed promise in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 18 in 12 innings.

"I've got to see these guys in Spring Training," Redmond said. "Obviously, we've got to figure out which guys are better in which situations, and which guys we can extend out. Which guys will get to pitch multiple innings, and then figure out how to match them up."

A number of the candidates lack big league experience, but the organization feels it has a number of quality arms. Performance and matchups will determine the roles.

"As far as roles, pitchers are always big on roles. 'What's my role?'" Redmond said. "Guys are going to be doing lots of different things. We need guys to eat up innings. It's going to be a nice challenge, and a nice competition. As a young pitcher, you have to enjoy the competition, and see who steps up."

Center field is an area that is being explored. Justin Ruggiano, who can play all three outfield spots, is the front-runner to win the spot.

"He can play the wings, but we like him in center field," Beinfest said. "He's kind of transformed himself into a pretty good center fielder. He gets good jumps. The arm strength is not above average, but he gets himself into position. He makes good, accurate throws. We've been happy with his progression in center field."

Miami Marlins, Arquimedes Caminero, Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Dan Jennings, Tom Koehler, Scott Maine, A.J. Ramos, Ryan Webb