Young Miami Marlins pitchers making impact


The future is looking bright for the Marlins, who have an impressive, large stable of pitching prospects in the minor leagues.

Oklahoma State's Andrew Heaney pitches against Oklahoma in the second inning of the Big 12 Conference baseball tournament in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Oklahoma won 1-0.
Oklahoma State's Andrew Heaney pitches against Oklahoma in the second inning of the Big 12 Conference baseball tournament in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Oklahoma won 1-0.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

The Marlins have enjoyed decent success the past two months of the regular season, compiling a 27-24 record in June and July.

It’s no secret the Marlins came together once their rotation solidified, with a crop of young arms leading the way. The future is only brighter, with Miami having a large stable of top-flight pitching prospects in the minor leagues.

Wayne Rosenthal, the pitching coach of the 2003 World Series team, is now the organization’s minor-league pitching coordinator, and he oversees the development of prospects such as Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Anthony Desclafani, Brian Flynn and Adam Conley.

“We have a lot of young arms down in the minors,” Rosenthal said. “Brian Flynn is tearing up Triple A. Our pride is our Double A staff with Heaney, Nicolino, Desclafani and Conley, and those are only the starters.”

Heaney has especially been on a tear. He tossed 27 consecutive shutout innings in Single A, then threw six more scoreless in his first Double A start.

“I see a very solid pitcher; Heaney knows what he’s doing,” Rosenthal said. “He has a slider as an out pitch. This is his first full year. He’s going to be a very good prospect. His body is very raw right now, and he’s going to only get stronger.”

Nicolino and Desclafani were both acquired in last November’s trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Henderson Alvarez, also acquired in the trade, is already pitching in the majors.

Nicolino and Desclafani have had very similar years so far. In 2013, split between Single A and Double A, Nicolino is 6-4 with a 2.77 ERA in 21 starts. Desclafani, also getting work in both leagues, is 7-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 20 starts. In his last start, Desclafani struck out seven in as many innings.

“Nicolino is very intelligent, he’s a lefty, very crafty. He knows how to use his pitches,” Rosenthal said. “Desclafani, honestly I didn’t know what to expect from him. But he’s surprised me, he’s taken off very well.”

Flynn pitched seven innings in his most recent start at Triple A New Orleans. He struck out six and allowed three hits. Flynn is seen as the most likely pitcher to replace Jose Fernandez in the majors when Fernandez reaches his innings limit.

Rosenthal does not work with the pitchers every day, but he has met with each of them four or five times already this season. Together with each team’s pitching coach, Rosenthal helps set up a plan for each pitcher. He said their goal was to develop each pitcher’s mental and physical abilities and to “let them mature into the game.”

The Marlins seem stocked in pitching prospects for the first time in years. Recent draft picks and acquisitions have not worked out well for Miami, despite its reputation of developing pitchers.

Chris Volstad, a first-round pick in 2005, never lived up to his potential in the majors and was traded away. Brett Sinkbeil, drafted 19th overall in 2006, also flamed out quickly. Chad James, a 2009 first-round pick, has yet to make an impact or show significant progress in the minors.

Now, with a major-league rotation where the top four starters have an average age just over 22, the Marlins have even more young talent on the way.

“If you have 10 prospects, and five of them make it, you have something ahead of the ball game,” Rosenthal said. “Having these guys push each other, we have a great base. We can promote from within and have good talent.”

Coming up

•  Tuesday: Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (2-1, 2.61 ERA) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.36), 7:05 p.m., PNC Park, Pittsburgh.

•  Wednesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (3-6, 4.34) vs. Pirates RHP Charlie Morton (3-3, 4.07), 7:05 p.m., PNC Park, Pittsburgh.

•  Scouting report: Alvarez has allowed only four runs in his past 27 innings.

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