Marlins to use rest of season as map for 2016

Marlins to use rest of season as map for 2016

ST. LOUIS -- For the Marlins, there is still plenty to play for in the final two months. Injuries and trades have created opportunities in the rotation and bullpen, and several positions are up for grabs down the stretch.

Here's a look at some of Miami's top storylines for the remainder of the season.

Rotation
Already, 11 starters have been used, and more may enter the mix. Three right-handers the club felt would be second-half staples are on the disabled list: Jose Fernandez (right biceps strain), Henderson Alvarez (right shoulder) and Jarred Cosart (vertigo).

Fernandez on DL stint

Those injuries, coupled with the late July trades of Mat Latos (Dodgers) and Dan Haren (Cubs), have created openings for several prospects. Left-handers Justin Nicolino, who is ranked as the team's No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com, Adam Conley (No. 4 prospect) and Brad Hand, along with right-hander Kendry Flores (No. 6 prospect), should all get shots to start.

Fernandez is hopeful to return, but that is not a guarantee. Alvarez had surgery, and he's done for the season. But Cosart, who is on the Minor League disabled list, may be back by September.

"There's going to be a lot of guys who will get an opportunity," manager Dan Jennings said. "Right now, with some of these guys reaching thresholds on innings, we've got to monitor that as well."

David Phelps has thrown 109 1/3 innings, and his career high is 113 with the Yankees last year.

"We just want to make sure we are smart on how we approach it," Jennings said.

The Marlins may go with a six-man rotation in September to finish up the year.

Closer
A.J. Ramos took over the closer's role in mid-May, and he's 18-for-23 in save chances. The right-hander has shown the composure for the role. Now, Ramos is trying to solidify the spot for 2016.

Capps strikes out side in 8th

Hard-throwing Carter Capps, who is on the disabled list with a right elbow strain, is expected to return sometime next week. Capps has been the primary eighth-inning right-hander, but he is a candidate to close next year.

Bullpen
Kyle Barraclough, who was acquired from the Cardinals in late July for Steve Cishek, collected his first big league win in Wednesday's 14-6 rout over the Red Sox. The hard-throwing right-hander, who has made the leap from Double-A Jacksonville, has five strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings since being called up.

Barraclough's first career win

Miami is targeting power arms for the back end like prospect Brian Ellington, who throws 98 mph and is finding himself in setup situations.

Right-hander Bryan Morris and lefty Mike Dunn are two experienced setup relievers the Marlins are evaluating to see if they could be part of the mix next year, but the two are also candidates to be traded by Aug. 31.

First base
When Michael Morse was traded to the Dodgers on July 31 (and then later dealt by Los Angeles to PIttsburgh), Justin Bour became the front-runner to take over at first. The left-handed hitter is second on the team in home runs with 10. Bour projects to be part of Miami's future plans, but the organization is deciding if he's the full-time answer or just a situational player.

Must C: Bour's mammoth homer

Casey McGehee also is getting starts at first, as the team is evaluating whether he will come back in a bench role.

Outfield depth
Giancarlo Stanton's injury (broken left hand) and Marcell Ozuna's demotion to Triple-A New Orleans has created playing time for Ichiro Suzuki. The 41-year-old is still going strong, and he remains an option to return as a bench player. If Ichiro is back in 2016, he will be chasing a major milestone, as he's 88 hits shy of 3,000.

Ichiro's two-run triple

Cole Gillespie, who has been solid, is making a case to be the fourth or fifth outfielder.

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