3 key questions for Marlins as camp nears

Pitchers, catchers set for first workouts Friday

February 17th, 2016

JUPITER, Fla. -- It was an offseason of reshaping and redirecting for the Marlins, and changes started with the hiring of high-profile manager Don Mattingly.

Miami upgraded its rotation with the unexpected signing of lefty Wei-Yin Chen to the richest contract for a pitcher (five years, $80 million) in franchise history. After putting the foundation in place to contend, it's time to take the field.

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The Marlins officially launch Spring Training on Friday with the first workouts for pitchers and catchers at Roger Dean Stadium. Full-squad drills start on Tuesday.

Before getting underway, MLB.com addresses three questions facing the team entering Spring Training:

1. Jose Fernandez's innings limit

Shortly into the start of Spring Training, the club will huddle with Fernandez and his physician, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed Fernandez's Tommy John surgery in May 2014, and map out an innings range for the season. The target number is 180, but there will be flexibility.

"They've thrown out 180 as the number I've heard," Mattingly said. "How do you get there -- is it 180 rough, hard-fought innings? Are there going to be easy innings in there? Are they coming off extra rest? Can we give him extra rest?"

Some tough calls must be made, but the Marlins don't have to finalize anything until Opening Day, which is April 5 at Marlins Park against the Tigers.

2. Rounding out the rotation

If the Marlins are to get to where they want to be, starting pitching will set the tone. The first three spots are pretty much locked down. Fernandez, Chen and Tom Koehler have secured spots, most likely in that order.

How the remaining two spots are filled will be decided in Spring Training. Jarred Cosart has the inside edge for the fourth spot, but he has to show he's ready after an injury-plagued 2015. David Phelps and Edwin Jackson are veterans who could either be in the rotation or fill long-relief roles. Lefties Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino also are in the mix.

"I feel like there's going to be some tough decisions to make, but good decisions," Mattingly said. "You always ask for tough decisions because you want there to be a competition and guys fighting for spots in a healthy way. I'm looking forward to just seeing how it shapes out."

3. The Barry Bonds factor

Of all the Marlins' offseason moves, the biggest surprise was the hiring of Barry Bonds as hitting coach. A year ago, Bonds spent a week as a special instructor in Giants camp, but this will be his first full-time coaching job.

There is tremendous fascination about how Bonds will perform in a teaching role.

"I think Barry brings a huge amount of credibility to a young club," Mattingly said. "They're going to know who Barry Bonds is. We had no fear about Barry and [the question of] can he coach. That part I had zero fear. I just wanted to make sure Barry was all in, as far as knowing how much time it takes and how much work it is. And he does, and he's excited, and that's the main thing. Once you get that, the other part is not even a worry."