Marlins first baseman likely to return for Cubs series; Nicolino sent down
By Steve Wilaj
MIAMI -- With two Major League starts under his belt, Miami rookie Justin Nicolino was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans prior to Tuesday's series opener vs. the Giants at Marlins Park, while reliever Bryan Morris returned to the club from the 15-day disabled list.
Meanwhile, first baseman Michael Morse -- who recently completed a rehab stint after going on the 15-day DL on May 26 -- had a brief setback and isn't ready for action just yet. Manager Dan Jennings said the veteran is experiencing "tightness in his back" and will likely be activated when the Marlins travel to Chicago on Friday for a three-game set with the Cubs.
"Nothing major," Jennings said of Morse. "He swung the bat well. I spoke to him just a bit ago. He feels like his timing is there. I think in the next few days you'll see him ready to go."
Morse, who was sent to the DL with a right ring finger sprain, played 10 games for New Orleans and Double-A Jacksonville beginning June 17 and went 9-for-34 with a home run. In 37 games with Miami prior to his injury, he hit .211 with two homers.
As for Nicolino, the Marlins' No. 3 ranked prospect went 1-1 in his two starts. The 23-year-old lefty won his debut in Cincinnati on June 20 by tossing seven scoreless innings, before taking the loss Friday when he allowed five earned runs in four innings vs. the Dodgers.
While Nicolino's demotion coincides with the return of Morris (3-1, 2.95 ERA) -- who went to the DL on June 8 with a lower back strain and completed a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Jupiter and Jacksonville -- it's also due to Jose Fernandez's return to the rotation Thursday.
"We knew with Jose coming back Thursday, we wanted to keep him down there and keep him stretched out and not put some of the young guys in the bullpen," Jennings said.
"Honestly, it's a case where he can stay now," he added about Nicolino (1-1, 4.79 ERA). "He just needs to go down and continue to master his command and control. ... We were very impressed with him and the way he handled himself."
Alvarez (0-4, 6.45 ERA), who has been on the 15-day DL since May 23 with right shoulder inflammation, completed his second bullpen session Tuesday. It was 30 pitches, and Jennings said the club hopes to send the righty on a rehab assignment "somewhere right around the All-Star break or shortly thereafter."
Prado's timetable to return is yet to be determined. The third baseman went on the 15-day DL with a right shoulder sprain June 18 and is still waiting to test the injury.
"He's doing a range of motions right now," Jennings said. "But when he feels comfortable about the arm and throwing across [the field], that will be a welcomed site for him and for us."
Steve Wilaj is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.