The Marlins will open the season next week with plenty of uncertainty, but their biggest issue might be the starting rotation.
The starting five will include a guy who hasn’t won a game since 2010 and three pitchers who started last season in the minor leagues. None of the five finished with a winning record in 2012.
Jacob Turner, who came to camp penciled in as the No. 2 starter, was optioned Tuesday to Triple-A New Orleans, a move that set up the starting rotation.
Ricky Nolasco will start opening day Monday in Washington, followed by Nathan Eovaldi. Wade LeBlanc, Miami’s only left-handed starter, will go third, followed by Henderson Alvarez and Kevin Slowey.
Only Nolasco and Alvarez, who was traded to Miami by Toronto in November, made more than 30 starts and averaged at least six innings last year.
“We are definitely looking for guys to eat up some innings,’’ Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.
“This spring has kind of been a mixed bag. We’ve had some really good starts, and we’ve had some struggles out there. We are hoping when those lights go on, these guys really turn it up and we are able to get deeper into games.’’
Last year, the Marlins went into the season with an experienced rotation of All-Stars and veterans whose resumes include no-hitters and postseason games: Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Carlos Zambrano.
But Miami lost 93 games and finished in last place, in large part because its starters didn’t pitch up to their expectations.
As a group, the 2012 starters logged 982 1/3 innings (an average of about six innings per start), sixth among NL rotations. But their 4.12 ERA ranked 10th and their 48 wins were 13th.
This year, the Marlins are counting on Alvarez, Eovaldi and Slowey to make major strides. If they scuffle, it will be a long year, especially for the bullpen as relievers could be depended on to throw an inning or more per appearance.
“We don’t have the luxury of throwing guys out there for one inning,’’ Redmond said. “I’m sitting here right now hoping (the starters) go six innings (per start), but we just don’t know.’’
Eovaldi has looked good this spring with his explosive fastball, going 3-0 with a 3.65 ERA. But he averaged just 5.4 innings per start last year in a season split with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami.
Alvarez struck out seven batters in five innings Tuesday and allowed one earned run, lowering his ERA to 3.55.
Slowey, who spent last season in the minor leagues with Cleveland, came to camp as a non-roster invitee. He takes a 2.63 ERA into his start Wednesday in Fort Myers against Boston.
“After a couple of years of struggling and being hurt, you really pine for that opportunity to compete again. I’m very thankful for that,’’ said Slowey, whose last major league win came in September 2010.
Redmond was a teammate of Slowey’s in Minnesota. The right-hander went a combined 39-21 from 2007-10 with the Twins, including four winning seasons and three with double-digit win totals.
“The guy I see out there now is the same guy I caught in Minnesota. That’s him,’’ said Redmond, who caught Slowey’s major league debut.
“I think he is going to be a big part of our rotation, going out there pounding the strike zone. Hopefully that consistency will rub off on some of our younger pitchers when they see how he attacks hitters without having a 95 mph fastball.’’
LeBlanc split time in 2012 in New Orleans and Miami; with the Marlins, he made just nine starts. Redmond is slotting him third in the rotation after two hard-throwers.
“After Eovaldi, a big power guy, we’ll mix in a lefty who is more of a control, finesse type of guy just to give a different look,’’ he said. “We figured that was the best way to go.’’
There’s also a chance Turner, 21, will wind up in the rotation at some point in 2013.
He impressed then-manager Ozzie Guillen last year after coming to Miami in July in the trade that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit. He went 1-4 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts.
But he had a rough spring, posting a 9.69 ERA. In New Orleans, he will focus on commanding his pitches.
“We’ve made it clear we see him in our plans pitching in this rotation, but he’s got to go down there,’’ Redmond said.
“He’s got to pound the strike zone and work on his command and his pitches. When he does that, he’ll be back. It’s just a matter of consistency.’’
Ricky Nolasco: In last year of contract; could be traded during season.
Nathan Eovaldi: Explosive fastball; was 4-13 in 2012 with Dodgers/Marlins.
Wade LeBlanc: Only lefty in rotation; went 2-5 in swing role last season.
Henderson Alvarez: Made 31 starts and logged 187 1/3 innings in 2012 for Jays.
Kevin Slowey: Last pitched in majors in 2011, when he was 0-8 for Twins.
• Giancarlo Stanton hit two homers – an opposite-field shot to right and one to dead center — in the Marlins’ 8-5 win over the Nationals in Jupiter.
• Henderson Alvarez struck out seven in five innings and allowed one earned run.
• Dan Haren, Washington’s No. 4 starter, gave up five earned runs on seven hits, including four homers.