Before the Florida Marlins’ 9-7 loss to the Washington Nationals on Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, the team announced that it had returned Jorge Jimenez to the Boston Red Sox.
Jimenez was taken by Houston from Boston in the Rule V draft in December, and then immediately sent to the Marlins in the Matt Lindstrom deal.
Though Jimenez played solid defense at third base in limited opportunities, he went only 3-for-18 at the plate with two doubles. The .167 average was not enough to convince Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez that Jimenez was ready to hit major-league pitching.
It’s too bad that is the case because the Marlins really need better defense at third base than Jorge Cantu can provide. With the players they now have in camp, it looks like their strongest lineup with have Cantu at third and Gaby Sanchez at first base.
It’s still not clear whether Logan Morrison will make the team as Sanchez’s lefty-hitting platoon partner or perhaps Mike Lamb, who is hitting .333 this spring, will fill that role.
Lamb, Hector Luna, Brian Barden, Donnie Murphy, Wes Helms and Emilio Bonifacio are all hitting well so far this spring, setting the bar higher than Jimenez was able to jump from Double-A, where he played last season for the Red Sox.
Because Jimenez was a Rule V selection, the Marlins did not have the option to send him to the minors. Perhaps in years past the Marlins might have kept Jimenez on the roster through the season anyway. This season, though, they believe they have not only a chance to contend right out of the starting gate, but with their new stadium under construction they want to show to their fans more of a commitment to contend.
The bullpen is also starting to take shape.
Gonzalez said earlier this week he expects six of seven bullpen spots to go to Jose Veras, Leo Nunez, Brian Sanches, Dan Meyer, Renyel Pinto and Burke Badenhop.
Veteran Mike MacDougal, who gave up three more runs Sunday on one hit and three walks in 2/3 of an inning and now has a 9.64 ERA in five appearances, is not likely to win that last spot.
That also means he plans to carry 12 pitchers on his 25-man roster, at least early in the season when starting pitchers usually do not go as deep into games.
If the five starting pitchers are Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibel Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Andrew Miller, that leaves Clay Hensley, Scott Strickland and Hunter Jones to battle for the last bullpen spot.
If Miller does not make the rotation and gets sent to Triple-A, Clay Hensley would serve as a fifth starter and swingman and Hunter Jones might get the last bullpen spot.
Gonzalez has never had the luxury of three lefthanders in his bullpen before, except perhaps in September when rosters are expanded, but if he goes with five right-handed starters, he might want to carry three lefty relievers – Pinto, Meyer and Jones.