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Marlins monitoring starters, catchers, bench

Bullpen remains No. 1 priority, but club not neglecting other areas
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Strengthening the back end of their bullpen remains the Marlins' top priority at the Winter Meetings, pushing a couple of other areas of the club to the back burner.

Miami is also monitoring free-agent starting pitchers, as well as bench and backup catching alternatives.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Strengthening the back end of their bullpen remains the Marlins' top priority at the Winter Meetings, pushing a couple of other areas of the club to the back burner.

Miami is also monitoring free-agent starting pitchers, as well as bench and backup catching alternatives.

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"You know it's always such a commodity, and it's important to set the tone of a ballgame with strong starting pitching," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.

Miami helped solidify its rotation last week by signing veteran Edinson Volquez to a two-year, $22 million contract.

Volquez introduced: 'Marlins were my first choice'

Left-hander Jeff Locke, designated for assignment recently by the Pirates, is a possibility to sign as a free agent.

If the Marlins did sign Locke, they would have three left-handers in the rotation. Southpaws Adam Conley and Wei-Yin Chen are expected to be at the top of the rotation.

MLB.com and MLB Network has wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.

Video: Marlins looking to add big-name closer to bullpen

The Marlins are aiming to sign free agents to address pitching needs, and they are reluctant to part with any of their core position players. Miami has made that clear to the industry since the General Managers Meetings.

"It started more at the GM Meetings, because everyone wanted to have a feel for what direction we were going," Hill said. "If we were going to make some of our core available, they were inquiring. I think we've let them know that the signing of Volquez, but really the [Martin] Prado signing pointed us in the direction of where we were going."

After Jose Fernandez's death in a boating accident Sept. 25, there were some questions whether the Marlins would look to rebuild or retain the core.

"We weren't going to tear this group apart," Hill said. "We were going to try to win with this core. We're going to do everything in our power to improve."

Backup catching recently became a need when Jeff Mathis signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the D-backs. Tomas Telis is an internal option to back up J.T. Realmuto. Free agent A.J. Ellis, who played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly with the Dodgers, is also a possibility.

The Marlins had been hopeful to retain Mathis, but they planned on addressing backup catcher after filling their pitching needs.

"We stayed in communication with [Mathis], so we knew where things were going," Hill said. "He has done a great job for us. We wished him well with the next chapter of his life in Arizona. But we have backup catching options we're looking into, and hopefully, we've have that addressed, as well.

"He got an opportunity that he felt like he needed to jump on, and we weren't there yet, in terms of wanting to make that commitment."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Miami Marlins