Marlins counting on Crow as a starter?

Miami will have newly acquired reliever stretch out for potential rotation job this spring

Marlins counting on Crow as a starter?

SAN DIEGO -- With or without adding a front-line starting pitcher, the Marlins are preparing Aaron Crow to start. The club has already informed the 28-year-old about its intentions when Spring Training opens in February.

Acquired from the Royals on Nov. 28, Crow has been a reliever since his big league debut in 2011.

Crow earns the save

"I'd say it will depend on what the rest of the winter holds," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "No matter what we do, we're going to stretch him out."

Crow's pitch count will be built up from the beginning of Spring Training, just in case he's asked to start.

With the Royals this past season, Crow threw 59 innings, but he made just one appearance in which he threw as many as two full innings. In 254 career games, his career high is three innings. The righty logged as many as two innings eight times.

As a Minor Leaguer in 2010, the right-hander made 29 starts and two relief appearances, throwing 166 1/3 innings.

The versatility gives the Marlins options.

"That only helps us," Hill said. "It will give us a chance to evaluate him as a starter in Spring Training. We'll just see how everything unfolds in, but we're definitely going to stretch him out."

Crow is an interesting option, because he may become a fallback plan if the team doesn't acquire rotation help. Miami has trade interest in Arizona left-hander Wade Miley, but his cost is steep. In return, the club would likely have to part with a top prospect or two, perhaps lefty Andrew Heaney. Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto could be another trade target.

Heaney escapes bases-loaded jam

Movement in the pitching market is expected to accelerate once free agent Jon Lester signs. That is expected to set in motion a number of deals. It appears the Marlins are not making a serious push for free agent James Shields, unless his price tag drops.

If the Marlins are unable to acquire a starter via a trade, they may seek to strengthen their bullpen more in hopes of shortening games, which would ease the burden on the rotation. The Royals rode that winning formula to the World Series, where they lost in seven games to the Giants. In Kansas City, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland were lights-out in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Should Miami seek to improve the rotation by strengthening the bullpen, a closer like Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman could emerge as a trade option. If Chapman was brought in, current closer Steve Cishek could slide into an eighth-inning setup role. Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos and Bryan Morris would emerge as seventh-inning choices.

However it plays out, the Marlins want Crow to be ready to start.

"You can't stretch him out once you've already got into the flow of the season," Hill said. "We've talked to him and [told him] that our intent is to stretch him out and give him a look as a starter and see how he runs with it."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.