Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins’ Steve Cishek knows pressure of being the closer

 

Marlins reliever Steve Cishek converted his final 29 save chances last year and got a big contract — all coming as a result of his replacing Heath Bell.

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Marlins closer Steve Cishek ranked sixth in the NL in saves last year:

Name Team SV
1. Craig KimbrelATL50
2. Rafael SorianoWSH43
T3. Aroldis ChapmanCIN38
T3. Sergio RomoSF38
5. Edward MujicaSTL37
6. Steve CishekMIA34


cspencer@MiamiHerald.com

Steve Cishek hates losing.

But if not for losses — and losses that came about as a result of Heath Bell’s dysfunction in 2012 — Cishek probably would not now be enjoying success closing out wins for the Marlins.

“It’s crazy how it works sometimes,” Cishek said.

Cishek converted his final 29 save opportunities to finish out the 2013 season, the longest active streak in the majors. His reward: a $3.8 million contract, which will make him the fourth-highest-paid player on the Marlins’ payroll.

The Marlins’ only larger payroll obligations belong to Giancarlo Stanton ($6.5 million), Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($6 million) and — incredibly as it may seem — the closer Cishek replaced: Bell.

The Marlins must pay Bell $7 million as part of the trade that sent him packing to Arizona after one dreadful season in Miami. Bell was traded again over the offseason to Tampa Bay, but the Marlins remain on the hook for a big part of his salary.

Cishek said he remains in touch with Bell. Occasional text messages. The obligatory Christmas cards. Cishek said he even feels for him and what he endured in his one disastrous season with the Marlins.

“He was going to be the anchor of our team, and things just didn’t work out,” Cishek said. “It was tough to watch.”

Cishek said Bell, though unhappy with his reduced role after the Marlins could stomach no more of his ninth-inning meltdowns, still supported him in the aftermath.

“A lot of people thought he was going to give me a hard time,” Cishek said. “But he wasn’t like that at all. He never said a harsh word.”

After a game in San Diego in which Bell had blown another save and Cishek was forced to work three innings in what turned out to be a Marlins victory, Cishek said Bell was waiting for him in the tunnel.

“He put his arm around me and congratulated me, saying he was proud of me,” Cishek said.

And so, because of failure, Cishek has enjoyed success.

He knows, though, it could all turn on him just as quickly as it turned on Bell two years ago, that if he doesn’t continue peeling off saves, he’ll be the one hearing boos. For closers, it comes with the territory.

“If you blow one save, people remember that,” Cishek said. “You’re the worst pitcher ever.”

The Marlins lost 100 games a season ago. Without Cishek preserving 34 of the team’s 62 wins, it could have been even worse.

“It definitely could have been a lot worse,” manager Mike Redmond said. “To win ballgames, you have to have a good closer, and we have that.”

Cishek is not taking his success for granted. He’s working on perfecting his split-finger fastball, which he used some early last season but “canned” it midway through.

“I want to learn how to throw it, throw it for a strike, bury it,” he said.

Injury report

Utility infielder Jeff Baker left Monday’s game with a left quad strain, according to Redmond, and Rafael Furcal sustained a strained left hamstring.

“He [Baker] said he slipped coming out of the box in his first at-bat, so we got him out of there,” Redmond said. “He said he didn’t think it was a big deal. We’ll be able to tell more [Tuesday]. Hopefully, it’s not a big deal, and they won’t miss too much action.”

Monday’s game

Reed Johnson went 5 for 5 and Giancarlo Stanton belted a tape-measure home run as the Marlins pounded out an 11-1 victory over the host New York Mets. Derek Dietrich contributed to the 19-hit attack with a two-run home run.

Monday’s starter, Brad Hand, pitched three scoreless innings in which he struck out five.

This and that

• Anthony DeSclafani delivered two scoreless innings for the Marlins in his Grapefruit League debut. Desclafani, the Marlins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, struck out two.

• After two successful outings in which he did not allow a run, long-reliever candidate Kevin Slowey gave up four runs over three innings in a “B” game against Mets minor-leaguers on Monday.

• The Marlins won’t be accused of sending over a depleted lineup to Fort Myers on Tuesday when they face the Boston Red Sox. Redmond said he intends to take projected starters Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Casey McGehee to face Boston.

The Red Sox were fined by Major League Baseball, according to media reports out of Boston, after they used a lineup featuring only one regular — center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. — in their game last week against the Marlins in Jupiter.

COMING UP

•  Tuesday: Marlins LHP Brian Flynn at Boston Red Sox RHP John Lackey, 1:05 p.m., Fort Myers.

•  Wednesday: Marlins (TBA) vs. Atlanta Braves (TBA), 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.

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