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Marlins to mix and match in ninth inning

February 13, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- Without a true closer, the Marlins are prepared to use matchups to help decide who takes the ball in the ninth inning.Right-hander Drew Steckenrider and lefty Adam Conley are regarded as the frontrunners to split the closer's role.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::• Spring

JUPITER, Fla. -- Without a true closer, the Marlins are prepared to use matchups to help decide who takes the ball in the ninth inning.
Right-hander Drew Steckenrider and lefty Adam Conley are regarded as the frontrunners to split the closer's role.
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"We're going to be flexible to try to put our guys in the best situation to be successful," manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday on the first day of Spring Training workouts for pitchers and catchers.
Neither has significant closing experience.
Steckenrider, a rookie in 2018, finished with five saves, but he was mostly used in setup situations until later in the season. Conley came up through the Minors as a starter, and last year was his first full season in the bullpen. The southpaw had three saves.
"If we have both guys available, and it was a right-handed section in the eighth, it doesn't make sense to say, 'Steck's our closer, we're not going to use him there,'" Mattingly said. "Or we're holding on to Adam for the ninth, we we've got three or four lefties in the eighth."
• Marlins await Romo's arrival, open to the opener
Opponents hit .179 off Conley in 2018, while right-handed hitters averaged .216 off Steckenrider.
Protecting late-inning leads was problematic for the Marlins a year ago: The club converted 30 of 53 save situations, with not all the leads being lost in the ninth inning. Miami's ERA in the ninth inning or later was 5.34, which was second to last in the Majors.
Along with Steckenrider and Conley, the Marlins have another likely option. Sergio Romo, who reached agreement on a one-year, $2.5 million deal on Tuesday, is expected to join the club by the weekend, pending completion of his physical. He's been out of the country, which is delaying the signing becoming official.
Pursuing CarGo?
The Marlins are open to adding at least one more established free agent position player.
Outfielder Carlos González, who has a residence in South Florida, is a possible pickup before full-squad workouts begin on Monday.
Gonzalez, 33, has spent 10 of his 11 big league seasons with the Rockies and is weighing whether to return to Colorado or pursue other options. Miami could be one.
Bouncing back
Caleb Smith (lat surgery) and Pablo López (right shoulder strain) are both a "full go" for Spring Training, but the club will keep close tabs on both of them. Smith threw a bullpen session on Wednesday, while Lopez is scheduled to throw off the mound on Friday.
"We're going to be a little more cautious with Caleb, because of the surgery," Mattingly said. "We'll be a little more cautious with Pablo, but there are no real restrictions on any of those guys."
Lopez spent the offseason conditioning, and he said he has gained about five to seven pounds of muscle.
The one pitcher with restrictions is right-hander Julian Fernández, a waiver claim from the Giants, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Fernandez will not be ready for Opening Day.
Urena throws to Alfaro
Miami's potential Opening Day battery was matched together on Wednesday. José Ureña, projected to start against the Rockies on March 28 at Marlins Park, threw his bullpen session to catcher Jorge Alfaro.

Acquired last week from the Phillies as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade, Alfaro is the Marlins' main catcher.
"He's a guy who works hard, and he's got experience, too," Urena said. "We had normal conversations, catcher and pitcher, as we try to get to know each other."
He said it
"We have such a great core of guys, from the pitching standpoint, to the coaching, to the catching, to the position guys, it's such a great group of guys. We hold each other accountable. We give each other feedback. That's one of the better ways to learn." -- Lopez, on the state of the team
Arriving late
Due to a visa issue, non-roster invitee catcher Santiago Chavez is the lone player who has yet to report to camp. Chavez is expected to join the club soon.
Up next
Day two of pitcher and catcher workouts on Thursday will get started at about 9:30 a.m. ET at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex.

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