How will the Marlins put this together?

It isn't clear what they'll do when injured players return and the roster must be tweaked

May 26th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- You know that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” meme of the cork board?

That’s likely how Marlins fans felt during Wednesday night’s 5-4 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. The quick two-game set concluded with questions that don’t have definitive answers leading into Thursday’s off-day.

Who rounds out the rotation?
With Jesús Luzardo on the 15-day injured list since May 15 (retroactive to May 12), the Marlins have been able to utilize three off-days to their advantage and go without a fifth starter. That will change on Friday, when the club opens a stretch of games on 10 consecutive days.

Luzardo, who is sidelined with a left forearm strain, has not begun throwing. Forty-man roster options Braxton Garrett, Jordan Holloway and Sixto Sánchez are on the Minor League injured list. Right biceps fatigue delayed Edward Cabrera’s season, but he is coming off his best start of 2022 for Triple-A Jacksonville, with 11 strikeouts across six innings on Friday.

What about , who went three innings as Wednesday night’s starter?

The 27-year-old right-hander opened 2022 in the bullpen, thriving with a 0.55 ERA through eight outings. In his first start on May 17, he held the Nationals scoreless for 4 2/3 innings. Poteet returned to the bullpen on Saturday, allowing one run over two frames. In ‘21, Poteet posted a 1.06 ERA through the first three starts of his career before a blister issue and later a right knee sprain affected his results and sidelined him for good.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly played coy when asked whether there had been discussions concerning what to do with that fifth spot. Has Poteet done enough?

“We like what Cody's doing, period,” Mattingly said. “He had a rough first inning, but he's thrown the ball really well this year. He's thrown the ball well when he's started, he's thrown the ball well in long relief. He's given us short stints and has thrown the ball well, so we've used him in a variety of roles. He's been really good in all of them. Something that we're talking about: What do we do with that? What's the best thing for our team as a whole? Where do we fit him? Do we try to fit him in, or is he more valuable out of the bullpen?”

Postgame, Poteet mentioned that his five-run first inning didn’t give the team a chance to win, something a starting pitcher is supposed to do. Did he consider Wednesday an audition for that role?

“I don't really think about it that way,” Poteet said. “I'm just trying to pitch. Whenever they want to have me pitch in whatever situation, that's kind of above my pay grade, I guess. Just trying to go out there and put up zeros whenever my name is called.”

What's the deal with Hernandez?

In the Marlins' pregame notes, was listed as Sunday's probable against the Braves at Truist Park. But the right-hander struck out two batters in a scoreless fifth inning Wednesday in his first relief appearance since July 20, 2019.

Afterward, Mattingly said Hernandez is still slated to start the series finale in Atlanta. The Marlins just didn’t want him to go eight days between starts. Wednesday served almost like a bullpen session.

Who are going to be the odd men out?

With high-leverage arm Anthony Bender landing on the IL with back stiffness, the active roster has 14 position players and 12 pitchers. On Monday, 26-player rosters must be 13 pitchers and 13 position players. The Marlins might need to make a decision before then, because infielder Joey Wendle, utility player Jon Berti and reliever Richard Bleier are progressing in their rehab assignments and could return as early as this weekend. In the case of Berti and Bleier, there also would need to be corresponding 40-man roster moves.

Five Marlins relievers (Tommy Nance, Hernandez, Cole Sulser, Steven Okert and Dylan Floro) combined for five scoreless innings on two hits and one walk with eight strikeouts Wednesday. That can only make the decisions tougher.

The Marlins received praise from Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose club has been the gold standard when it comes to relief work over the years.

"I don't know what they were planning on doing with Poteet, but [I] figured it was going to be some sort of a bullpen day,” Cash said. “We've learned over a couple of years now, those are challenging. Hitters just can't get in a rhythm. I think we were fortunate to get the runs early, and then when they mixed and matched kind of the rest of the ballgame once he came out, it makes sense why the bats kind of went quiet."