The Marlins desperately need their starting pitchers to get deeper into games consistently.
While the team is struggling in several areas these days, the Marlins’ inexperienced starting rotation is ranked among the worst units in baseball, which is having a negative ripple effect on its pitching staff as a whole.
Marlins starters have pitched only 91 innings through the first 19 games, which ranks 27th out of 30 major-league teams. Only the Chicago Cubs (87 1/3) had fewer innings pitched entering Saturday’s game among National League clubs.
Nine of their first 19 starts have lasted less than five innings.
Rookie Trevor Richards was the latest starter to exit a game early after throwing 102 pitches over 3 2/3 innings and allowing five earned runs.
The group’s 5.64 ERA ranks second-worst in the NL ahead of the Reds (5.73) and 28th overall.
As a result, the Marlins’ bullpen has been taxed heavily through the season’s first three-plus weeks.
The Marlins’ bullpen entered Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers having pitched 88 innings – more than any other National League team’s relievers and second only to the Los Angeles Angels (89.2).
Despite the group combining for a 100 strikeouts, which is tied for the second-most in the majors with the San Diego Padres, it’s made it challenging to keep guys fresh on a squad that just put two relievers on the disabled list – Odrisamer Despaigne and Chris O’Grady – this week.
“Pitching seems to set the tone no matter how you slice it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “The outings that I think we’ve gotten pretty good pitching to keep us in the game have turned out to be good, competitive games. The ones that get out of hand for us are the ones where we have three or four inning starts.”
Inexperience has played a factor with the rotation consisting of three rookies (Richards, Caleb Smith and Dillon Peters), Jarlin Garcia (two career starts) and Jose Urena, who opened a season as a starter for the first time this year.
Richards has made it past the fifth inning in only one of his four starts. Peters and Smith have only done that twice in four starts each and Jose Urena three times in his first four with only one outing lasting longer than five innings.
Garcia, who has been by far the most effective, exited after five innings on Tuesday due to five walks that ran up his pitch count against the Yankees.
The rotation has issued an MLB-high 53 walks.
“It’s something we continue to talk about,” Mattingly said. “We have to be able to attack the strike zone. When you have four basically rookies in that rotation and you’re trying to be really good and trying to make every pitch and sometimes that can get you in trouble. You’re not trusting your stuff. Let teams put the ball and play, making pitches and just count on that, instead of it having to be the perfect pitch, the perfect curveball, the perfect changeup. You’re going to end up throwing the ball all over the plate.”
The good news is the Marlins’ most durable starter a year ago is getting closer to coming back.
Dan Straily, who has been sidelined the entire season thus far with a right forearm strain, will pitch Tuesday in another rehab start in Jacksonville (Double A) and it could be his last before a return to the club possibly when they return home after the trip to Los Angeles.
Straily’s 33 starts last season finished tied for the most in the National League along with Gerrit Cole, Lance Lynn and Zach Davies.
Wei-Yin Chen, who has not pitched since last September and not started a game since May 1 of last season, is set to pitch Sunday in a rehab start in Jupiter.
Sunday: Miami Marlins LHP Caleb Smith (0-2, 6.89 ERA) vs. Milwaukee Brewers RHP Junior Guerra (1-0, 0.82), 2:10 p.m., Miller Park.
Monday: Marlins LHP Jarlin Garcia (1-0, 0.86) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers TBA, 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.