Marlins on verge of solidifying Opening Day roster

Marlins on verge of solidifying Opening Day roster

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A week before Opening Day, the Marlins trimmed their roster by two on Monday morning. In the next day or two, they plan on being either at or closer to the 25 who will break camp with Miami.

All that remains to resolve are a bench and bullpen spot or two now that outfielder Reed Johnson has been granted his unconditional release and reliever Preston Claiborne was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.

The transactions reduce the number in camp to 34, but in reality it is 33 vying for spots because Jose Fernandez will open the season on the disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Versatility is what the club is looking for from the remaining bench spots. Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, infielder Jeff Baker and backup catcher Jeff Mathis are the locks.

Competing for two spots are non-roster invitees Jordany Valdespin, Don Kelly, Reid Brignac, Tyler Colvin and Cole Gillespie. Donovan Solano, on the 40-man roster, is considered a front-runner. He also is a right-handed-hitting infielder, while Valdespin, Brignac and Kelly each bat from the left side.

Catcher Jhonatan Solano is still in camp, but he is expected to open at New Orleans.

"It shows our depth," manager Mike Redmond said. "We've got options, and it can go in a lot of different directions."

Bullpen battles also remain. Aaron Crow, Sam Dyson and non-roster invitee Nick Masset are in the mix, as is lefty Andrew McKirahan, a Rule 5 Draft pick. They are competing for one spot.

Expected to make the Opening Day roster are Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos and Bryan Morris, as well as long relievers David Phelps and Brad Hand.

• Right-hander Dan Haren and Mathis were teammates with the Angels in 2011. And Mathis has caught several of Haren's Grapefruit League starts, including one on Monday against the Mets. Will they work together regularly when the season starts?

Redmond said it is possible, but for now, the schedule worked out this way. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had caught several days in a row, so Monday was a chance to get Mathis into the game.

"I didn't really think anything into the matchups of him catching him, or stuff like that," Redmond said. "Now, could it end up working out like that during the season? Sure. But nothing really went into that, as far as my thought process."

Jarred Cosart, dealing with a blister on his right middle finger, is tentatively set to start on Wednesday against the Nationals.

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.