Marlins' bullpen picture coming into focus

Marlins' bullpen picture coming into focus

JUPITER, Fla. -- A trade and a couple of late afternoon transactions settled the Marlins pitching staff.

For now, at least.

The Marlins had a busy Tuesday, starting in the morning when veteran Seth McClung was released. In the early afternoon, the club announced it had swung a trade with the Tigers for pitcher Nate Robertson. Lefty relief prospect Jay Voss was sent to Detroit to complete the deal.

And after the Marlins beat the Nationals, 9-5, at Roger Dean Stadium, the team optioned Rick VandenHurk and Tim Wood to Triple-A New Orleans.

Barring any late moves -- and none are expected -- the Marlins are now prepared to go into the season Monday with 12 pitchers. The rotation will be: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Robertson. The order of the back end is subject to change.

Clay Hensley, who was in position to be the fifth starter, now is slated to be used in long relief.

In camp on a Minor League contract, Hensley last pitched in the big leagues with the Padres in 2008. Heading into Spring Training, his goal was to make the team, as either a starter or reliever.

"The goal was to be on the club," Hensley said. "If they want me to come out of the 'pen, I'm fine with that, too."

Hensley's deal includes a clause that allows him to opt out on Thursday, if he felt he wasn't going to make the team. Now, after a strong Spring Training, the right-hander is ready to take on a relief role.

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The rest of the bullpen will feature closer Leo Nunez, Brian Sanches, Jose Veras, Dan Meyer, Renyel Pinto and Burke Badenhop.

McClung was signed to a Minor League contract, and the team would have had to create a 40-man roster spot for him had he made the team. McClung also had a clause to opt out of his deal Thursday. When it was clear he wasn't going to make the club, the Marlins made their move Tuesday to give him time to find another team.

Bringing in Robertson is believed to be the final move the Marlins will make regarding their pitchers before Monday's opener against the Mets at Citi Field in New York.

Robertson last pitched for the Tigers on Saturday, when he threw five innings against the Yankees. He is expected to arrive in camp in the next day or two, and he could make his Marlins debut in a Spring Training game on Thursday against the Cardinals. Hensley is tentatively set to pitch that day.

In his career, Robertson has had several season compiling close to 200 innings. In 2006, he amassed 208 2/3 innings. And in '04 and '05, he threw more than 190.

"I know that he's a pretty good pitcher," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "There were a couple of years that he threw right around 200 innings. He's a workhorse. Coming to the National League, where teams haven't had a chance to see him much, maybe he can help us out."

VandenHurk opened Spring Training in the mix for a rotation spot, but in his past few outings, he was used in relief. At New Orleans, he will be a starter.

Wood, meanwhile, also can throw more than one inning. But he hasn't thrown more than two innings this spring. And his last four Grapefruit League appearances have been one inning each.

Wood is a hard thrower, who has impressed in Spring Training with his fastball and slider. His ERA is 0.96 in 9 1/3 innings. In 2009, Wood made 18 appearances with the Marlins and had a 2.82 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. He also appeared in 31 Triple-A games, and posted a 3.18 ERA.

The Marlins have preached the need for strike throwers all spring. Command was a bit of an issue with the veteran.

McClung appeared in six Grapefruit League games, and he threw 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking five. With 177 games of experience, McClung likely will hook up with another team in the next few days.

There's also competition for the final bench spot. Brian Barden, Hector Luna and Donnie Murphy are in the mix for a utility spot.

All three are natural infielders. Barden has more outfield experience, and the fact that he plays a high quality defensive shortstop is working to his advantage.

Barden started at shortstop on Tuesday in a Grapefruit League game against the Nationals.

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