JUPITER, Fla. -- Justin Nicolino indeed made the decision a tough one, but the left-hander was ultimately caught up in the numbers game. On Tuesday morning, the Marlins optioned the 24-year-old to Triple-A New Orleans, but manager Don Mattingly made it clear that Nicolino's Minor League stint could be brief.
"As we spoke in the meeting, we kind of had him as our sixth guy," Mattingly said. "We're not really quite sure that's necessarily the right decision at this point. But we're going that way, knowing that we're going to need him over the course of the season."
Along with Nicolino, relievers Kyle Barraclough and Brian Ellington were also optioned to New Orleans. The two are hard-throwing right-handers who finished up the 2015 season in the big leagues. Tomas Telis was optioned as well and will be the starting catcher at New Orleans.
Re-assigned to Minor League camp were outfielders Destin Hood and Isaac Galloway, as well as right-handers Andre Rienzo and Paul Clemens, and catcher Francisco Arcia.
Miami now has 39 players left in big league camp.
Now that Nicolino is out of the mix for the Opening Day roster, the Marlins' rotation appears to be coming into focus, with Wei-Yin Chen, Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler, Adam Conley and Jarred Cosart in line to start. But at this point, only Chen and Fernandez have been officially announced as members of the rotation.
Mattingly made it clear that the organization feels it is a matter of time before Nicolino will be a fixture in the rotation.
Mattingly spoke very highly of Justin Nicolino. Called him their 6th man. #Marlins feel some more polish
"He's a guy who gets outs and a guy who competes," Mattingly said. "He does everything well. He's a guy we think is going to pitch in the big leagues for a long time. He's just not going to start the season for us."
Nicolino posted a 5-4 record and a 4.01 ERA in 12 starts for Miami in 2015. He also logged a 7-7 record and a 3.52 ERA in 20 starts for New Orleans, and in 2014, he went 14-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 28 starts for Double-A Jacksonville.
Barraclough -- Miami's No. 20 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com -- made 25 appearances for the Marlins last year and posted a 2.59 ERA. A seventh-round pick in the 2012 Draft who was acquired from St. Louis in a July 2015 deal involving Steve Cishek, Barraclough posted a combined 2.06 ERA at three Minor League stops last year.
The 25-year-old Ellington, Miami's No. 26 prospect, posted a 2.88 ERA in 23 big league appearances as a rookie last season. The right-hander, a 16th-round selection in the 2012 Draft, has registered a 3.62 career ERA in the Minor Leagues.
Telis, the No. 17 prospect in Miami's organization, has batted .217 in 41 career big league games. Telis, a 24-year-old Venezuela native, has played in 119 games over two seasons at the Triple-A level, where he has batted .311 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs.
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.