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Quijada optioned as Marlins refine bullpen

@JoeFrisaro
March 13, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- The first month of Spring Training allowed the Marlins’ big league staff to see firsthand what prospect Jose Quijada displayed last year in the Minor Leagues. The 23-year-old left-handed reliever impressed in limited Grapefruit League action, striking out six in 3 2/3 innings. But still in need

JUPITER, Fla. -- The first month of Spring Training allowed the Marlins’ big league staff to see firsthand what prospect Jose Quijada displayed last year in the Minor Leagues.

The 23-year-old left-handed reliever impressed in limited Grapefruit League action, striking out six in 3 2/3 innings. But still in need of more polish, Quijada was part of a wave of roster moves the Marlins made on Tuesday, which helped bring the remaining bullpen battles further into focus.

“With Jose, he’s a guy we really like,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve really liked what we’ve been able to see this camp. Obviously, last year he was doing some good things. But really what’s best for him is basically being able to start his season, and make sure he’s getting his innings. We ran out of innings, from the standpoint of really being prepared for the season.”

Quijada, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami’s No. 28 prospect, was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. In 2018, the lefty split time at Double-A Jacksonville and New Orleans, combining for a 3.00 ERA in 63 innings. He struck out 81, which led to him being added to the 40-man roster in the fall.

“Any time a guy is in camp and is on the roster, he’s close,” Mattingly said. “But there’s still some things development-wise we want to continue to work [with] him. We were running out of innings.”

Mattingly added Quijada is tracking towards his first big league callup, which could come in 2019.

With Quijada out of big league camp, Adam Conley, Jarlin Garcia and Mike Kickham are the primary lefty reliever candidates. Two of the three are projected to make it, with Conley a lock. Garcia was with the Marlins for parts of 2017 and 2018 as both a starter and reliever, although he is strictly out of the ‘pen now.

Wei-Yin Chen, a starter, is another possibility as the organization considers multiple roles for the veteran left-hander.

The Marlins are expected to carry eight relievers, and the way things are shaping up the Marlins may opt to carry six starters but keep a five-man rotation. If they go that route, one starter would serve in long-relief depending on usage and matchups.

As for the bullpen, Drew Steckenrider, the projected closer, Sergio Romo, Conley and Tayron Guerrero are considered locks. Other right-handers in the mix are Austin Brice, Riley Ferrell (a Rule 5 Draft claim), Tyler Kinley and Nick Anderson.

“We like those guys,” Mattingly said. “Everybody is still really competing. You’re getting towards the end of camp. You’re getting a better idea of where you think you may go. But there’s still some balls in the air, and we’ll keep looking at guys.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.