KISSIMMEE — Jacob Turner’s final push to make the Marlins starting rotation looked a lot like his other spring outings — a bit wild and probably not good enough to avoid a trip back to the minors.
The 21-year-old right-hander, who came into Sunday’s game against the Astros with a 10.61 ERA in three Grapefruit League starts (not counting another rough outing against the Cardinals Triple A squad), once again battled control issues and failed to get through five innings despite throwing 85 pitches, 47 for strikes.
Turner’s final pitching line in a 4-1, five-inning rain-shortened Astros’ victory: 4 2/3 innings pitched, five hits, four earned runs, four walks and one strikeout.
He walked the leadoff hitter in each of his first three innings he pitched and gave up a two-run home run to Brett Wallace in the third inning, a 410-foot-plus shot that bounced off the light post in left-center field.
“I was just kind of battling,” said Turner, whose Grapefruit League totals stand at 13 innings pitched, 18 hits allowed, 14 earned runs (9.69 ERA), nine walks and five strikeouts.
“It’s just one of those things you have to take a little bit positive from it. And I think the positive from this outing is just that no matter what you go out there with, you keep battling and go as deep in the game as you can.”
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and general manager Mike Hill watched Sunday’s game in person from the stands.
Manager Mike Redmond said he and the Marlins brass would meet after Sunday’s game to decide on the rotation, and would likely move veteran right-hander Kevin Slowey (2.63 ERA in 13 2/3 innings this spring) into the fifth spot if Turner faltered. Right-hander John Maine would then slide into the Marlins’ long reliever role with Turner heading to the minors to continue to get starts.
“He’s got good stuff,” Redmond said afterward of Turner. “It’s just consistency.”
Asked about the possibility of being sent to Triple A New Orleans, Turner said: “For me no matter where I’m pitching I’m going to try to get better and try to improve on the things I’m struggling with at whatever time it may be. You pitch the same way no matter where you are.”
Slowey, who made just one Grapefruit League start in five appearances, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since late September 2011 when he finished the season 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA in Minnesota. But before that he went 39-21 with a 4.41 ERA over his four previous seasons. Slowey is scheduled to start Wednesday versus the Red Sox in Fort Myers.
Before Sunday’s game Redmond said he would like for left-hander Wade LeBlanc, the only lefty in the Marlins rotation, to be sandwiched between his four right-handers.
“It’s nice to have a lefty in there, especially a guy who can pitch and eat some innings,” Redmond said. “He fits in there for me.”
LeBlanc, who will pitch Monday against the Tigers in Jupiter, is in line to start after Ricky Nolasco and Nathan Eovaldi in the third game of the year at the Nationals. Henderson Alvarez and the Marlins’ unannounced fifth starter would start the next series in New York.
Assuming the fifth starter spot and long reliever spots get finalized Sunday, the Marlins still have to decide what they will do with two spots in the bullpen as well as that utility infield spot. Maine, Chad Qualls and Ryan Webb were all scheduled to pitch Sunday before the game was called with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Redmond said he now has to figure out when they will get work.
Need for Solano
Before the Marlins sent Donovan Solano down to the minors last spring, manager Ozzie Guillen was hoping he could keep the 25-year-old utility infielder as an important fill-in on the 25-man roster.
A year later, Redmond is talking about Solano as a valuable part of the Marlins’ lineup, one the team sorely needs to be healthy for Opening Day.
“Right now I’m not as worried about the four-hole hitter as I’m worried about getting Solano in there,” Redmond said Sunday when asked who he might be considering to bat behind All-Star Giancarlo Stanton. “That’s a guy we need in our lineup and kind of makes our whole lineup come together.”
Solano, who injured his back Wednesday working out, had an MRI on Saturday and it appears the results were encouraging.
“He’s progressing,” Redmond said. “The trainer said he was doing much better [Sunday] and is going to play some catch. We’re hoping Wednesday-Thursday maybe get him back in a game. It’s definitely good news. He’s getting better. We’re hopeful he’s on board for the start of the season.”
If Solano isn’t ready, the Marlins are looking at several utility infielders as backup options.
Veteran journeyman Wilson Valdez, signed Saturday after being released by the Giants, started at shortstop Sunday after playing third Saturday and finished 1 for 2 with a sacrifice bunt.
“I know I’m ready to get this thing set,” Redmond said of roster decisions. “There’s a lot of anxiety for these guys. It would be kind of nice for guys to catch their breath, find out what’s going on. But we still have some decisions to make.”
Monday: Marlins LHP Wade LeBlanc (1-1, 3.86 ERA this spring) vs. Tigers RHP Rick Porcello (3-1, 2.50 ERA), 1:05 p.m. Jupiter (FSF)
• Tuesday: Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (1-0, 4.70 ERA) vs. Nationals RHP Dan Haren (0-4, 6.05 ERA), 1:05 p.m. Jupiter (FSF)