Ceda could make impact in Marlins' 'pen

Ceda could make impact in Marlins' 'pen

MIAMI -- A year ago, the Marlins felt they had obtained a prized relief prospect in exchange for veteran Kevin Gregg.

Thus far, the club is still waiting to find out.

Jose Ceda, a towering 6-foot-4, 280-pound reliever, missed all of 2009 with a right shoulder injury. The setback came within the first few days of Spring Training, so the organization never got a serious look at the hard-throwing Dominican Republic native.

Indications are Ceda will be healthy for the start of Spring Training in February. If so, he could become a factor in an unsettled Marlins bullpen. Even if Ceda is not on the Opening Day roster, he could make an impact sometime in 2010.

"He's totally healthy," said Marlins vice president of player development and scouting Jim Fleming. "We let him go home for the holidays. He finished his rehab. He will come back, and we'll pick up the rehab again to make sure he's 100 percent heading into Spring Training.

"He will come in early. We're very pleased with where he's at. The injury is resolved."

The Marlins obtained Ceda from the Cubs for Gregg on Nov. 13, 2008. At the time the deal was made, it was widely reported by baseball insiders that Florida had lured in a promising reliever with a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s.

Because Ceda missed a full year, it will be a challenge for him to make the Opening Day roster. Typically when a player is out for so long, he gets his timing back in the Minor Leagues. So chances are good that he will begin at Double-A Jacksonville.

Still, if he performs and shows in Spring Training that he can get batters out, the Marlins have given untested players in the past an opportunity.

Working in Ceda's favor is the fact that bullpen jobs are wide open. After trading Matt Lindstrom to the Astros at the Winter Meetings, there is a need for hard-throwing right-handers.

Already this offseason, the club acquired lefty reliever Hunter Jones from the Red Sox as part of the Jeremy Hermida trade. Jones has some big league experience.

There promises to be plenty of competition and opportunity for a number of relief candidates with either limited or no MLB service time.

Ceda, Leo Nunez, Brian Sanches, Burke Badenhop, Jay Buente, Kris Harvey, Chris Leroux, Cristhian Martinez, Brett Sinkbeil, Ryan Tucker and Tim Wood are the right-handed relievers currently on Florida's 40-man roster.

Nunez will enter Spring Training as the frontrunner to close, while Sanches and Badenhop have the most big league tenure from the rest of the group. Everything else is up for grabs.

If healthy, Ceda has the potential to fit into the back end of the bullpen.

When he was with the Cubs, Ceda was ranked among the top prospects in their system. His numbers certainly were impressive. In 2008, Ceda appeared in 37 total Minor League games, including 22 appearances at Double-A. He struck out 95 in 84 2/3 innings, while walking 42.

"I saw him throw in our mini camp, and it was free and easy," Fleming said. "With a shoulder, that's the first thing you look for -- is the joint flexible?"

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