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Opening Day starter a question mark

Opening Day starter a question mark for Fish

JUPITER, Fla. -- If timing indeed is everything, then the Marlins feel they need more time in deciding their rotation.

Initially, manager Fredi Gonzalez said he would announce the Opening Day starter on Tuesday. He also was planning to reveal the entire rotation.

However, he had a change of heart.

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"It's not a good time right now," Gonzalez said. "Every day, we're juggling stuff."

Gonzalez added that the team is weighing different options, and that he hopes to make an announcement within a few days.

The Marlins get rolling on March 31 against the Mets at Dolphin Stadium. New York is going with Johan Santana.

One candidate to get the start on Opening Day is 33-year-old Mark Hendrickson, who threw an impressive six scoreless innings against the Dodgers on Tuesday afternoon.

Hendrickson, who spent last season with the Dodgers, scattered three hits in the longest outing of the spring by a Marlin.

With 179 career MLB games under his belt, Hendrickson has by far the most experience on the staff.

There also is the possibility the Marlins will make a trade for a starting pitcher before the opener, which creates more questions. The team has a number of arbitration-eligible players after the 2008 season, including first baseman Mike Jacobs.

So a number of things could be in play over the final week and a half of Spring Training.

The candidates from within who could take the ball in Game 1 are Hendrickson, Ricky Nolasco, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop and Chris Volstad.

About the only name excluded from those within camp is Scott Olsen, who is recovering from shoulder tendinitis. Olsen, probably the No. 1 before his setback, threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and he is slated to pitch on Thursday, backing up Nolasco in a game against the Cardinals.

"I've been asked this before," Hendrickson said of this thoughts about pitching the opener. "I wouldn't consider any of us legitimate No. 1s, at least in my book of who I've played with before. It's an honor to pitch on Opening Day, no matter who gets the nod."

While it is just Spring Training, Hendrickson was impressive on Tuesday, changing speeds and getting easy outs.

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"Great outing," Gonzalez said of Hendrickson. "It's the second one in a row by him. That's why we got him in the first place. He's a veteran guy with good stuff, and he can solidify the rotation a little bit. Thus far in spring, he's done that."

As for the entire rotation, Volstad has become a surprise candidate who may end up making the team.

The 21-year-old from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was the 16th overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

Volstad may find himself on a big league roster with just seven games and 42 2/3 innings of Double-A ball under his belt.

The Marlins traditionally don't hesitate to promote young players if they have at least some Double-A experience. In 2003, then 21-year-old Dontrelle Willis was brought up in May after just six starts and 36 1/3 innings at Double-A.

Willis was 4-0 with a 1.49 ERA, dominating the Southern League when he was promoted. In all, Willis had 315 2/3 innings of Minor League experience before he broke on the big league scene and eventually became the National League Rookie of the Year Award winner.

Volstad has thrown 385 2/3 innings in the Minor Leagues.

"For me, his age and inexperience, does not enter into the decision," Gonzalez said. "He is showing good signs."

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

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