For the first time in nearly a year, Wei-Yin Chen will start a game for the Miami Marlins.
The question remains, will the Marlins start getting their money’s worth from the 32-year old lefty who has made only 27 starts in two seasons and is the highest-paid player on the club’s roster?
Chen, who was reinstated from the disabled list on Saturday to start against the Colorado Rockies, last pitched in a relief role late last season making four appearances in September. He threw six innings, and gave up one run on two hits and struck out five (1.50 ERA).
“We’ve been down this road a couple of different times,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It seems like every time we get to a certain point he has some kind of setback or things aren’t quite right.
“This one has been from the beginning of spring training, his first bullpen was impressive. He hasn’t missed a day. There hasn’t been anything on any report that shows he’s had any sort of setback. So it’s been a nice surprise to get him back this quickly.”
In five starts last season before being shut down with left elbow soreness, Chen went 2-1 with a 4.33 ERA with 20 strikeouts and nine walks in 27 innings.
Chen was later diagnosed with a partial tear of his UCL, but did not have surgery.
Chen is 7-6 with a 4.85 ERA as a starter in his time with the Marlins, but the club hopes he can recapture more of the form he had during his first four major-league seasons with the Baltimore Orioles during which he went 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA in 117 starts.
Chen, whom the Marlins signed to a five-year, $80 million deal in January of 2016, started on Opening Day that season and is due to make $10 million this year with another $8 million in deferred bonuses.
Chen made two starts during his rehab in Jupiter and went 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA, allowing only one run on five hits and one walk and recording 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
Chen’s return also begins an influx of experience to the Marlins’ young rotation which as of Wednesday included three rookies (Caleb Smith, Dillon Peters and Trevor Richards), a first-time starter (Jarlin Garcia) and Jose Urena, who is in his second season as a regular starter.
Richards was optioned Friday upon third baseman Martin Prado’s return from the DL and Smith had originally been listed as the team’s starter for Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rockies.
Lefty Dan Straily (right forearm strain) has also been rehabbing and is likely to be reinstated potentially to pitch on Monday per Mattingly in what would be his 2018 debut. Smith’s start will be pushed back to Sunday with Jarlin Garcia starting on Tuesday.
The Marlins’ rotation ranked worst in the National League in ERA at the start of the week, has begun to improve in that category with five consecutive games in which their starter allows two runs or less. The Marlins’ 4.75 ERA among starters still ranks 13th out of 15 NL teams, but 22nd out of 30 MLB teams.
The Marlins designated catcher Tomas Telis for assignment to make room for Chen on the active roster.
The Marlins have carried three catchers on their active roster since the start of the season. Telis had been used mostly as a reserve even before the return of J.T. Realmuto recently from injury and has gone 6 of 29 (.207) with one RBI in 23 games. Realmuto and Bryan Holaday are now the only catchers on the active roster.
Justin Bour was scratched from the Marlins' lineup an hour before first pitch with back spasms. He was listed as day-to-day.
Sunday: Miami Marlins LHP Caleb Smith (0-3, 5.82 ERA) vs. Colorado Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (3-0, 2.40), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.