Marlins looking for starters to go distance in 2015

With Alvarez as anchor, Miami has several rotation options until Fernandez returns

Marlins looking for starters to go distance in 2015

MIAMI -- Coming up short in the James Shields sweepstakes didn't necessarily set the Marlins back, but it did increase the importance of the rest of the rotation candidates stepping forward.

Miami's starters ranked 12th in the National League last year in innings pitched, which is a major reason why the club actively pursued Shields, who agreed to a four-year deal on Monday with San Diego.

When the Marlins' pitchers and catchers begin Spring Training workouts on Feb. 20 at Roger Dean Stadium, there will be no shortage of promising candidates for the final rotation spots. But unlike Shields, they don't have the history of regularly racking up 200 innings.

Newcomers Mat Latos and Dan Haren do bring plenty of experience. And David Phelps, acquired from the Yankees, will compete for the fifth starter spot.

If Latos and Haren perform as expected, they will help bridge the innings until Jose Fernandez joins the rotation anywhere from June 15-July 15. Fernandez will open the season on the disabled list as he completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

"As far as the upgrades, we were very pleased to bring on a Mat Latos," general manager Dan Jennings said Sunday on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM. "We felt like if we could get our hands on a guy who had that opportunity to pitch from the middle to front of the rotation, it lessens any pressure you would have on Jose's timetable. In Dan Haren's case, he's been a model of consistency."

Henderson Alvarez, an All-Star in 2014, is the probable Opening Day starter. Jarred Cosart showed promise after being acquired from the Astros last July.

Tom Koehler, lefty Brad Hand and Phelps are fifth-starter choices. The two who don't win the spot will likely wind up in the bullpen.

Considering the strengths of the Nationals' and Mets' rotations, the Marlins' starters are going to have to do their part if the club is to be a playoff contender.

Last year, Miami's starters combined for 947 1/3 innings. Only the D-backs (937 1/3), Cubs (927) and Rockies (905 1/3) threw fewer. The Marlins also used a franchise-record 13 starters.

Fernandez's injury in May is a significant reason the rotation was never truly set. But to reach the next level, more stability from the starters is necessary.

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.