Inbox: Will Marlins recover from loss of Jose?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from Marlins fans

Inbox: Will Marlins recover from loss of Jose?

Can this core ever recover from the loss of Jose Fernandez?
-- @rainmain101213

It has been four months since Fernandez's tragic death in a boating accident, and the grieving process is not over. You're asking a question that many fans are curious about: How will the club respond after such a devastating loss? When Spring Training gets underway on Feb. 14, manager Don Mattingly, the players and the staff will be asked how they'll move forward.

The bottom line is it's going to be tough. There is no replacing Fernandez's incredible production and contagious personality.

As for the core, it was retained mainly in honor of Fernandez. A majority of the players were his teammates and close friends. They leaned on each other and picked each other up at such a difficult time.

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The 2016 Marlins were a tightly knit group. As we saw in the immediate aftermath of the accident, the bond grew even tighter.

If the 2017 Marlins are going to have success, it will require a team effort. They don't have the luxury of knowing that one of the best pitchers in the game will be on the mound every fifth day.

Is it just me, or are these Marlins kind of reminiscent of 2003 -- reliable pitching, strong offense and defense?
-- @ERov35

I see where you're coming from, but let's not forgot the 2003 World Series championship team had strong starting pitching. Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Brad Penny, Carl Pavano and Mark Redman were a pretty formidable rotation. Willis won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, and Beckett, of course, overcame blister issues to become the World Series MVP.

The 2003 starters combined for a 67-54 record with seven complete games. Their collective ERA was 3.91, which ranked sixth in the Majors.

The 2016 Marlins starters combined for a 47-53 mark with a 4.32 ERA, which was 12th in the big leagues. And that staff had Fernandez.

The 2017 Marlins have a better bullpen than the '03 squad. Both teams were athletic, played strong defense and had a solid everyday core.

Is it a lock for Jeff Locke to end up in the 'pen?
-- @ryankurlander

I get the pun. On paper, this appears to be true. But I've seen too often where projections prior to the start of Spring Training don't necessarily pan out.

Barring injury, four rotation spots appear filled. In no particular order, they are Wei-Yin Chen, Edinson Volquez, Adam Conley and Tom Koehler. Dan Straily, Locke, Jose Urena and Justin Nicolino are in competition for the fifth spot.

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Nicolino has an option, so it would be convenient to start him off at Triple-A New Orleans. Urena is out of options, so he has to make the Opening Day roster or the club risks losing him on waivers. He has pitched out of the bullpen before and could end up in long relief.

Locke will get a chance to win a rotation spot, and if that happens, Straily could pitch in relief. For now, I would guess that would flip, with Locke being used in relief and Straily starting.

I noticed Miguel Rojas got a lot of playing time at shortstop in September. Will he get a chance to compete for the starting spot with Adeiny Hechavarria?
-- @julioattheshop

The versatility of Rojas is a luxury, and the Marlins like having him backing up all four infield spots. Remember, Rojas is the team's best fielding first baseman. In the late innings, he probably will be used as a defensive replacement for Justin Bour.

Hechavarria had his struggles at the plate last year, batting .236. If he can return to his form in 2015, when he hit .281, Miami would have one of the best shortstops in the NL. His defense is Gold Glove-caliber.

Rojas is a talented fielder, and he batted .247 last year. The Marlins have said they feel Rojas could be an everyday shortstop. For now, he appears best suited to a utility role.

Do the pitching moves the Marlins have made mean Nick Wittgren and Brian Ellington aren't anticipated to make the Opening day roster?
-- @gregolsenego

The Marlins have made it clear they are open to carrying eight relievers and 13 total pitchers. As noted, Urena and Locke both have strong chances to make the Opening Day roster as long relievers. Wittgren and Ellington each have shown they can pitch effectively in the big leagues, and they promise to be factors in the bullpen in 2017.

Marlins' bullpen use

But if you look at how the roster is constructed, six relievers are guaranteed to make the team: A.J. Ramos, Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa, Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps and Dustin McGowan. If Urena and Locke are the long relievers, then Wittgren and Ellington would start off at Triple-A. Both have options. So even if that happens, it is only a matter of time before they get called up. It's the nature of the business.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. 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.