Spots on bench, in bullpen highly contested

Koehler, Phelps and Hand also vie for Marlins' fifth rotation spot

Spots on bench, in bullpen highly contested

VIERA, Fla. -- With a dozen Grapefruit League games remaining, it's "crunch time" for players on the bubble to make the Opening Day roster. Barring anything unforeseen, the Marlins have roughly two position and a couple of bullpen spots up for grabs.

Miami is leaning towards carrying 13 position players and 12 pitchers, which is creating urgency for those in contention to step things up in the final days of camp.

"We have a lot of positions that are set, no doubt," manager Mike Redmond said. "We've got a couple of positions on the bench that guys are fighting for, man. It's a battle out there. All of these at-bats are important."

The locks on the bench are backup catcher Jeff Mathis, infielder Jeff Baker and fourth outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

So, barring a change in thinking and the club going with 13 pitchers, there are two position vacancies to fill.

The candidates are Donovan Solano, Reid Brignac, Don Kelly, Reed Johnson, Tyler Colvin, Cole Gillespie and Scott Sizemore. Johnson and Colvin are outfielders, while the rest play the infield.

Kelly's nice stop

Kelly, a left-handed hitter, is getting a lot of attention because he can also play the outfield and first base, and he can step in as an emergency third catcher.

Solano is a proven commodity within the organization. He does have an option remaining, so he could be sent down if he flat out doesn't win a spot.

Brignac has had a terrific camp, and plays a solid shortstop. Johnson is a proven right-handed pinch-hitter who was a valued leader with Miami in 2014. Colvin and Sizemore also provide big league experience.

Miami hasn't had this kind of depth in a long time, but it will make for some difficult decisions.

"We talk about Spring Training as a tough time to evaluate," Redmond said. "We're trying to figure out what fits better on our bench. Those last couple of spots are important, as far as giving us flexibility and getting certain guys a day off."

Redmond on Phelps' start

Tight battles also are taking place in the bullpen. Tom Koehler, David Phelps and Brad Hand are vying for the fifth starter spot. The other two become long-relief candidates.

Closer Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos, Mike Dunn and Bryan Morris are set. So barring a trade, one spot appears to be open. Sam Dyson, Nick Masset, Carter Capps, Aaron Crow and Rule 5 Draft pick Andrew McKirahan are in the mix.

If McKirahan doesn't make the club, he has to be offered back to the Cubs.

"Until you're officially on the team, every game and every inning is important," Redmond said. "You want to see guys compete, that's what it's all about."

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.