Tom Koehler hasn’t been told how long he’s going to be a member of the Marlins’ bullpen.
It could be permanent. It could be only for a little while. For now, Koehler is just going to try to make the best of it and be ready to fill in any time the phone rings.
And from the sounds of it, Marlins manager Mike Redmond plans to lean on Koehler as much as he can to help straighten out a struggling relief unit.
“Yeah, I’m a little disappointed,” said Koehler, who was the odd man out with Opening Day starter Henderson Alvarez coming off the disabled list and making his return Sunday against the Braves.
The Marlins are expected to option right-handed reliever Nick Masset to the minors to make room for Alvarez.
“I view myself as a starter, and I feel like when you make every start throughout your career at every level, it hits your pride a little bit,” Koehler said. “But I understand this is what the team needs right now. It’s also kind of a compliment that they think I can succeed in any role. All I can really do is go out there and try to give everything I’ve got every time.”
The Marlins called on Koehler on Saturday after Mat Latos took a hard comebacker to the mound off the bat of Cameron Maybin and was knocked out of the game in the fourth inning. He came in with runners on first and second and didn’t allow the Braves to score, giving up just two hits and striking out four over three scoreless innings in his first relief appearance since May 6, 2013.
Asked if Koehler could potentially be a late-inning option, Redmond said: “Yeah, I do.”
“He’s got the stuff,” Redmond said. “He’s got a good fastball and curveball. I know he’ll compete in any situation we put him in.”
When Koehler was first called up in 2012, he was brought up as a reliever. But he quickly was moved into the rotation. He has made 63 starts since and was 2-3 with a 4.62 ERA in seven starts this year before his appearance Saturday.
Koehler has always been a solid pitcher through his first three innings of work throughout his career. Opponents have hit just .230 off him, and he has an ERA of 3.05. It’s the second time through the lineup that has usually spelled trouble. His career ERA is 5.40 ERA from the fourth through sixth innings, and opponents hit .283 off him during those frames.
The Marlins’ bullpen was responsible for Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Braves and could greatly benefit from eventually adding Koehler and David Phelps (when Jose Fernandez returns) to the bullpen. The bullpen went into Saturday with a 6-7 record and a 4.59 ERA, ranking 24th out of 30 teams. The bullpen has also only produced four saves (tied for the second-fewest in baseball) in 1112/3 innings of work (15th out of 30 teams).
It will take Koehler some time to adjust his arm to pitching more often, but Redmond said Koehler is probably the strongest pitcher on the entire staff. Koehler is also counting on his velocity going up since he will be used for fewer innings.
▪ Right-hander Jarred Cosart (hamstring) threw a bullpen session Saturday and felt fine. He said he expects to make his next start Tuesday.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Alvarez (0-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Shelby Miller (4-1, 1.60), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Monday: Marlins RHP Dan Haren (4-2, 3.70) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (TBA), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.