Tom Koehler can’t put an exact finger on why his arm is so durable.
It’s not made of either rubber, steel or some unbreakable material.
But it’s always there for him, and for the Marlins.
The Marlins’ “Mr. Dependable” will make his first start of the season on Thursday when he takes on the Nationals. And if this season is like all the rest for Koehler, he’ll make at least 30 more of them.
“I always felt my most important role was every fifth day,” Koeher said. “If my name’s in the No. 9 hole, or the pitcher’s spot that day, my number one job is to take the ball.”
Since the start of the 2014 season, Koehler has accomplished that almost without fail. He has missed only one scheduled start since then and that was because of neck and back spasms caused by a rib injury — nothing to do with his arm.
Only 14 other major-league pitchers have made as many as the 96 starts Koehler has for the Marlins over the past three seasons. And only seven Marlins pitchers started more games than his 120.
If Koehler hits his three-year average of 32 starts this season, raising his career total to 152, he’ll move into third place on the team’s all-time list, trailing only Ricky Nolasco (197) and Dontrelle Willis (162).
Could it be genetic?
“Neither of my parents started a game in the big leagues, so I can’t say that’s it,” Koehler said with a smile.
Koehler attributes part of his durability to his college pitching years at Stony Brook, where he routinely threw 150 pitches over consecutive outings.
“I think a lot has to do with in college,” Koehler said. “I had multiple starts in a row where I threw 150 pitches. There was no handing the ball off to anybody. When I was taking the rubber, it was my game.”
While Koehler has never spent time on the disabled list with an arm or shoulder injury, he said he feels aches and pains like any other pitcher. There have been times, he said, when he wasn’t sure whether he would pitch because of some ailment or another.
“It’s not to say that I don’t have issues, because I’ve had issues,” Koehler said. “I think I’ve just been fortunate that my issues have never been what I view as large enough issues to keep me from doing my job.”
Outfielder Isael Soto, who is rated the Marlins’ No. 5 prospect by MLB.com, will miss the entire season after fracturing a foot in minor-league camp.
Soto, 20, was shagging fly balls when he sustained the injury.
Soto hit .247 with nine home runs last season at Single A Greensboro (North Carolina).
▪ Thursday: Marlins RHP Koehler (9-13, 4.33 ERA in 2016) at Washington Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-11, 4.57), 4:05 p.m., Nationals Park.
▪ Friday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (5-5, 4.96) at New York Mets RHP Zack Wheeler (missed 2016 season), 7:10 p.m., Citi Field.