JUPITER, Fla. -- Perhaps the Marlins have two rotation openings, instead of three.A strong frontrunner has emerged for the third spot. On Thursday, manager Don Mattingly said left-hander Jarlin Garcia, who led the team in appearances as a reliever last year, is being built up to start.• Spring Training: Info
JUPITER, Fla. -- Perhaps the Marlins have two rotation openings, instead of three.
A strong frontrunner has emerged for the third spot. On Thursday, manager Don Mattingly said left-hander Jarlin Garcia, who led the team in appearances as a reliever last year, is being built up to start.
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Mattingly didn't officially say the 25-year-old has secured one of five rotation positions, but the lefty is one of the most talented pitchers in the organization. His average four-seam fastball velocity, according to Statcast™, was 94.35 mph last year, above the MLB average of 93.21.
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"Jarlin will be a starter this year," Mattingly said. "We'll be working towards that. We think that's probably the best for his development."
Garcia was a starter for most of his Minor League career, making 32 starts at two levels in 2015, and 12 the following season. But in 2016, the organization transitioned Garcia from the rotation to the bullpen.
"I've always had it in the back of my mind that I could be a starter," Garcia said. "This year comes a new opportunity, a new regime. I just have to go out there with the right mindset and work hard to be the best starter I can be."
The only two starting spots announced are for right-handers Dan Straily and Jose Urena. Mattingly has yet to announce an Opening Day starter, but noted it will be among those two.
As a rookie last year, Garcia was Miami's best left-handed reliever, leading the club with 68 appearances. He went 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA in 53 1/3 innings, with 42 strikeouts, 17 walks and a 1.20 WHIP.
"A lot of times in organizations, they love bringing guys up to give them a taste of being in the big leagues," Mattingly said. "They pitch shorter stints to keep innings down, and get them comfortable, and then put them back into the rotation. That's what we're going to be doing with Jarlin."
Mattingly added the plan with Garcia is to build him up to start, and not switch him back to the bullpen at the end of Spring Training.
Telis preparing to catch: Playing winter ball in early February, Tomas Telis was behind the plate when his team, Caribes de Anzoategui, won the Venezuelan League championship. There's a good chance the 26-year-old could be the Marlins' backup catcher this year.
The Marlins did not make signing a veteran backup for J.T. Realmuto a priority this offseason. A.J. Ellis handled the role last year, but he just reached agreement with the Padres.
Telis will be given every chance to break camp with the Marlins.
"Telly is going to get plenty of chances to catch," Mattingly said. "He did a nice job last year of showing his versatility. He played some first. We don't want to cut him short on his catching. I've even noticed sometimes on the roster, it doesn't even show him as a catcher. He's a catcher. Telly is going to get a chance to show us what he can do. He's a guy who is out of options. We're going to find out what Telly can do."
The fact that he is out of options makes this a big Spring Training for Telis, a switch-hitting catcher who shows signs of being a quality hitter. He hasn't received many big league chances, but played some first base in the Majors last year. He spent winter ball working on his defense.
"I was focused more behind the plate," Telis said. "I've got a really good chance to make the team this year. I just want to concentrate on being behind the plate, and see what happens."
At Triple-A New Orleans, Telis had a slash line of .279/.326/.396 with five home runs and 31 RBIs. He hit .240/.279/.346 in 104 big league at-bats.
Telis, Realmuto, Chad Wallach and Austin Nola are the catchers on the 40-man roster.
Limited first for Realmuto: Realmuto also played some first base last year, taking advantage of his athleticism. But there is less emphasis on using the 26-year-old in that role this Spring Training.
"We talked about J.T. a little bit," Mattingly said. "It depends how our roster shakes out. He handled first base really easily last year. So, that's something we know is there to help him get off his feet. But sometimes from the catching standpoint to playing, everybody says it's like a day off, it's really not. Mentally, you still have got to get ready to play. Mentally, it's back there."
A year ago, the Marlins introduced Realmuto to first base during Spring Training, largely because they didn't have many backup first base options for Justin Bour. Realmuto ended up playing nine games, with eight starts at first.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.