The last time Mike Dunn was unable to play due to injury, it was in 2005 ‒ when he was in college.
“I stepped on home plate and had an ankle dislocation,” he said.
An ankle, not an arm.
Dunn, the Marlins’ durable lefty reliever, has never spent a day on the disabled list for an injury to every pitcher’s most precious limb, which helps to explain the Marlins’ decision during the offseason to ink the southpaw to a two-year deal.
Dunn’s arm doesn’t have a pimple on it, much less a surgeon’s scar.
“It’s funny,” he said. “Whenever you get a bunch of new guys, you go like that [holding up his arm to show the other person]. Never had surgery. I’ve never had it and, knock on wood, I never have to have.”
The Marlins tend not to award multi-year deals to relievers, but made Dunn the rare exception due to his success and confidence they can always count on him.
Not only has Dunn totaled more relief appearances than any lefty hurler in the majors the past four seasons, he’s on target to break Braden Looper’s team record before his contract expires in 2016.
Looper’s 368 outings tops the franchise list, followed by Antonio Alfonseca’s 307 and Dunn’s 282.
But breaking the endurance record isn’t as important to Dunn as proving his contract extension was a mistake.
Yes, a mistake.
The Marlins are paying him $2.35 million this season and $3.45 million the next. With another solid season, Dunn might have received even more through free agency in 2016.
And that’s fine with him.
“I want it to be a situation where, at the end of it, someone can say to me, ‘Well, that was a terrible deal. If you would have done it year to year, you could have made more money,’ ” he said. “That’s what I want it to be. I want to prove I’m worth more than that. I want to live up to that two-year deal, and hopefully surpass it.”
In order to do that, Dunn has to remain healthy.
Perhaps strangest of all is this: Though Dunn has never had an issue with his arm, he might spend as much time on the training table as any pitcher on the staff.
“Guys make fun of me,” Dunn said. “A lot of guys are scared to go in the training room. I’m in there every day. I do preventative stuff. I’m doing something on my arm to keep the inflammation down.”
The trade that brought Dunn to the Marlins in the first place ranks as one of the team’s better deals, one in which they dealt Dan Uggla to Atlanta for Dunn and Omar Infante.
Uggla proved to be a mammoth bust for the Braves, who ended up releasing him last season with another year ‒ and $13.2 million ‒ left on the five-year, $60 million deal he negotiated with Atlanta.
Infante was traded to Detroit midway into his second year with the Marlins.
Dunn, almost an afterthought in that 2010 trade with the Braves, is still around, averaging his 70 appearances a season.
“I want to be out there every day,” he said. “My goal isn’t 70 appearances, or 75 appearances. My goal is actually 81. That’s pitching every other day, all season long. That means I’m healthy and durable, and doing my job.”