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Marlins rotation open behind Straily, Urena

Chen expected to start season on DL; Realmuto done discussing rumors @JoeFrisaro

JUPITER, Fla. -- Rotation spots are wide open in Marlins camp.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly on Wednesday said three positions are up for grabs. The only two expected to lock down spots, barring anything unforeseen, are Dan Straily and Jose Urena.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Rotation spots are wide open in Marlins camp.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly on Wednesday said three positions are up for grabs. The only two expected to lock down spots, barring anything unforeseen, are Dan Straily and Jose Urena.

The organization views nine to 10 candidates will be competing for three of five spots.

"We went through our meetings yesterday," Mattingly said. "There's probably, really, legitimately three true spots that we'll be trying to fill. Dan Straily and Jose Urena are guys who have earned where they are in terms of expecting to be in our rotation. Other than that, I think there's a lot of guys. There's non-roster [invitees] competing for those spots and there are guys who have been here in the past, and there are guys just coming to us."

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Although Wei-Yin Chen is among the candidates, the Marlins don't anticipate the left-hander being ready for Opening Day because he is recovering from an elbow injury.

In the mix for rotation spots are lefties Adam Conley, Dillon Peters, Chris O'Grady, Caleb Smith, Justin Nicolino and Jarlin Garcia. Among the right-handers are Sandy Alcantara, the organization's No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Odrisamer Despaigne, Jacob Turner, Brett Graves and Elieser Hernandez.

Graves and Hernandez are Rule 5 claims.

Video: Alcantara on learning from 2017, veteran advice

"I really feel like there are nine to 10 guys who really, legitimately, are pitching to make our pitching staff," Mattingly said.

Mattingly is not ready to announce who will start on Opening Day, set for March 29 against the Cubs at Marlins Park. The choices, at this point, are Straily and Urena.

Straily was 10-9 with a 4.26 ERA in 181 2/3 innings last year, while Urena was 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 169 2/3 innings.

Straily threw a bullpen session in the morning Wednesday, but was excused from camp early to head to Phoenix. The right-hander's arbitration hearing is set for Thursday.

Chen likely to start off on DL: Considering all the lost time Chen has had in recent years, the Marlins aren't rushing his return. The 32-year-old is managing a partial tear in his left elbow, and he anticipates throwing off the mound in early March.

"I've been feeling pretty good so far, and we're not rushing anything," Chen said. "The only thing I'm concerned about is getting my arm ready to pitch again. I'm not concerned about making it before Opening Day or not. That's not my concern."

Video: TB@MIA: Chen strikes out seven over six strong frames

Elbow issues have limited Chen in his first two seasons with the Marlins. He threw 33 innings, going 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA, in 2017.

Chen was Miami's Opening Day starter in 2016 and made 22 starts, appearing in 123 1/3 innings.

For now, he's throwing off flat ground.

Chen and reliever Nick Wittgren, who had his right elbow scoped in the offseason, are the only two pitchers on a throwing protocol.

"In early March, I'm going to throw bullpens," Chen said.

Realmuto focused on the season: Catcher J.T. Realmuto, the subject of trade discussions in the offseason, is in camp and preparing for the season.

Realmuto addressed the trade rumors last Saturday at FanFest at Marlins Park. On Wednesday, he noted that he is done discussing the topic.

"J.T.'s talked about it," Mattingly said. "He's a guy, for us, who is a tremendous competitor. I never had any doubts at all that he would be here ready to go."

Video: Realmuto, Hill discuss trade rumors about him

Realmuto caught two bullpen sessions Wednesday, Alcantara and Urena.

A focus for all the pitchers in camp is establishing fastball command.

"That's going to be huge for us," Realmuto said. "We've got a lot of guys who throw hard, a lot of guys who really need to hone in on that location and focus on being able to locate fastballs and not just power through it. That's something we're really going to focus on in this camp."

Quotable: "It is not a big deal. I feel like I've been successful doing it in the past. Whether I do or not, I want to win games. If they feel like that's the best spot for me to be doing it, then I'm all for it. If they decide at some point they want me to come in earlier, I'm fine with that, too. When they give me the ball, the idea is to go and get three outs." -- Brad Ziegler, on whether he is the closer or in a setup role

Up next: The Marlins will begin practice Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex. Workouts are open to the public.

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

Miami Marlins, Wei-Yin Chen, J.T. Realmuto