Badenhop underdog rotation candidate

Badenhop sleeper rotation candidate

JUPITER, Fla. -- At the start of Spring Training, baseball insiders hinted that Burke Badenhop was a sleeper candidate to make the Marlins. Now, with the regular season approaching, the 25-year-old right-hander is opening eyes at spring camp.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez has stated publicly that Badenhop is in the mix for either a spot in the rotation or the bullpen.

Ideally, the Marlins would like for the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder to be starting every fifth day. But the team is keeping an open mind about using him in long relief if the rest of the rotation is unsettled.

"They are the baseball guys," Badenhop said of the front office. "They've won a lot of games and a World Series [in 2003]. They know what they're doing. I'm just going to go out and take the ball, and do what I can do. I'm sure they will make the right decision."

The Marlins started off Spring Training with 38 pitchers in camp. In recent days, a number of the club's highly regarded pitching prospects have been sent down, yet Badenhop finds himself in contention to make the team.

The reason?

In five appearances this spring, he's thrown 10 scoreless innings, including a save. He's allowed four hits, striking out six and walking four.

On Thursday, he didn't allow a run in four innings of relief against the Mets. A sinkerball pitcher, he fanned four and induced six ground-ball outs.

At the rate Badenhop is progressing, his big league break will only be a matter of time. If he doesn't make the club and starts off in the Minor Leagues, he could be brought up quickly depending on need.

Whatever the decision becomes, he is just happy to be in consideration, especially since he has just three appearances as high as the Double-A level.

Badenhop, in his first Spring Training with Florida, came to the Marlins as part of the trade that sent Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera to Detroit.

"I'm just happy to still be here and to be given a chance," he said. "I can't ask for a greater chance than what they've given me, and I'm just trying to capitalize on it. It's unfortunate that starters went down. You're looking to fill those innings until those guys get back."

The Marlins rotation already has suffered a setback with Sergio Mitre out until at least June with a strained right forearm. Scott Olsen, hampered by left shoulder tendinitis, is expected to be in the early rotation, but he isn't in line to start on Opening Day. Olsen will throw a simulated game on Sunday morning.

Mark Hendrickson is the front-runner to start on Opening Day against the Mets on March 31. Badenhop is competing with Ricky Nolasco and Rick VandenHurk for a rotation spot.

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Before Spring Training is over, Badenhop is expected to get a Grapefruit League start.

Even though he lacks experience at the higher Minor League levels, he possesses maturity and a competitive edge.

Badenhop also has the tenacity to keep pushing. That comes from the fact he was a 19th-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, the same year the Tigers selected outfielder Cameron Maybin with the 10th overall pick.

Maybin and left-hander Andrew Miller were the centerpieces of the Willis-Cabrera deal.

Badenhop pitched four seasons at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and was a first-team Academic All-American with a 3.89 grade-point average as an economics major.

"My goal was not to play Minor League ball," he said. "My goal has been to play Major League ball. If I'm good enough, I'm good enough. If not, [I'll go to the Minor Leagues]."

Badenhop has impressive Minor League credentials. Overall, he has a 32-13 record with a 2.89 ERA in 67 games, with 402 total innings.

Yet, he spent all but three games in '07 at Class A Lakeland, where he was 10-6 with a 3.13 ERA in 23 starts. Miller also opened in Lakeland last year, before he was promoted to Double-A Erie, and eventually to the big leagues with the Tigers.

Badenhop finished up last year going 2-0 with a 1.45 ERA at Erie.

"I'm never going to apologize for where they put me," Badenhop said. "If I could have promoted myself, I would have. It was nice to start off with Andrew Miller last year and see him progress."

Now Badenhop finds himself moving up the ladder.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.