JUPITER, Fla. -- On the final day of Spring Training, Wei-Yin Chen faced hitters for the first time. After tossing 16 pitches in batting practice, the Marlins' left-hander said his arm felt the best it has in years.Chen has missed substantial time over the past two seasons because he's been
JUPITER, Fla. -- On the final day of Spring Training, Wei-Yin Chen faced hitters for the first time. After tossing 16 pitches in batting practice, the Marlins' left-hander said his arm felt the best it has in years.
Chen has missed substantial time over the past two seasons because he's been managing a partial ligament tear in his throwing elbow. On Sunday, he got in some work off the mound on Field 5 at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex.
"We're kind of crossing some hurdles," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "At this point, I'm optimistic. We've got a pretty good chance if things stay on this track."
Breaking camp, the Marlins' rotation remains unsettled. Besides Jose Urena starting on Opening Day against the Cubs on Thursday, no other Marlins rotation spot has officially been announced.
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Because of lost time, the earliest Chen would fit into the rotation plans is likely May. But the fact he's throwing without any discomfort is encouraging.
"I feel happy," Chen said. "The past two years, the way I've been pitching, and the feeling after I pitched, it wasn't ideal. Today, I felt like the old days. Everything worked fine today. I'm really happy."
Among the hitters Chen faced on Sunday was third baseman Martin Prado, who will open the season on the disabled list as he recovers from right knee surgery. Prado could be ready by mid-April.
Since signing with the Marlins in 2016, Chen has dealt with left arm issues. Last year, he logged just 33 innings, going 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA in nine games (five starts).
In 2016, Chen was Miami's Opening Day starter, but in the second half, he went on the disabled list due to left elbow fatigue. Chen threw 123 1/3 innings in 22 starts that year, and was 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA.
The way Chen's progressed of late has the Marlins hopeful that the veteran could become part of the rotation at some point in the first half of the season. Entering Spring Training, there had been doubts, because he has had setbacks along the way.
"Optimistic would be the word I think about with him," Mattingly said. "When you came in, you were kind of pessimistic. We've seen buildup and then the arm kind of goes on him. It's gotten to be more optimistic as camps went on. We've watched his bullpen [sessions] be good. We're to live BPs now and we're still good."
Nicolino claimed by Reds
Justin Nicolino's tenure with the Marlins came to a close on Sunday when the 26-year-old left-hander was claimed off waivers by the Reds. Out of options, Nicolino had to either make the club or risk being lost on waivers.
After posting a 5.23 ERA in 10 1/3 Grapefruit League innings, the Marlins concluded he wasn't in their mix to be either in the rotation or the bullpen.
"We didn't feel like he was going to be one of our 25," Mattingly said. "Good for him that he gets an opportunity somewhere else. That's what you want for all your guys, really, to play in the big leagues."
The Marlins acquired Nicolino from the Blue Jays in 2012, and he spent time in the big leagues from 2015-17, posting a 10-13 record with a 4.65 ERA in 50 games with 33 starts. Last year, he was 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in 48 innings.
The Marlins' 40-man roster is now at 39 with 31 players still in camp. Clubs have until 11:35 a.m. ET on Thursday to set their Opening Day rosters.
The Marlins have a pretty good indication of how their rotation and bullpen will play out, although not everyone has been told.
"The things that would change it now is, by Opening Day, other people's rosters," Mattingly said. "If something happens that would change our minds. If we think we'd be better that way, then we would do that. Other than that, we pretty much know where we're going to go."
Jacob Turner, a non-roster invitee who had an out clause set to go into effect on Saturday, will be making the club and filling a long-relief/spot start role. Turner had missed one start due to flu-like symptoms, and he pitched two innings of relief on Sunday in a 6-2 loss to the Astros at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
"He's still here," Mattingly said. "We're looking at that. We haven't set [the roster], but he should get a little bit of a pass."
Prado (right knee) faced live pitching on Sunday morning, taking some swings against Chen. Prado, who will open the season on the disabled list, could be ready mid-April, at the earliest. Right-hander Elieser Hernandez (dental surgery) continues to build up throwing. He will open the season on the disabled list. Nothing is yet official, but there's a chance catcher J.T. Realmuto (low-back bruise), shortstop JT Riddle (sore right shoulder) will open season on the DL.
The Marlins have one more exhibition before Opening Day. On Tuesday at 3:10 p.m. ET, Miami takes on the University of Miami at Marlins Park. Left-hander Dillon Peters, who was sent down to Minor League camp recently, will make the start. Since Peters is already on the 40-man roster, he has a shot to join the rotation. Fans can catch all the action on an exclusive audio webcast.
The regular season gets underway on Thursday at 12:40 p.m. ET, when the Marlins play host to the Cubs. Jose Urena goes against Jonathan Lester.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.