Like any other pitcher, Mike Dunn’s arm is made of flesh and bone.
But Dunn is not like most pitchers.
If teams awarded perfect attendance certificates the way schools do with students, Dunn would be the Marlins’ guy, hands down. He has never spent a day on the disabled list during a major-league career that began in 2009 when he broke in with the Yankees.
Come May — if not sooner — he’ll likely break Braden Looper’s team record for appearances, a feat that underscores his durability as well as his success during his five seasons with the club.
Never miss a local story.
“I’m just lucky to have the durability of health,” the ever-humble lefty said. “In the long run, it would be something to look back at afterwards. To say that I did it, it’s pretty cool.”
Dunn has appeared in 354 games — 14 shy of Looper’s record — for the Marlins since being acquired from the Braves in the Dan Uggla trade.
“I pride myself on being able to average 75 games a year,” said Dunn, who fell just short of that annual goal when he appeared in 72 last season.
Dunn is coming off a season that wasn’t his best with the Marlins. His ERA climbed to 4.50 following respective seasons of 2.66 and 3.16, and he issued more walks, which increased his WHIP to 1.389.
“In the grand scheme of things, I probably didn’t pitch as good,” he said.
But it was a pair of rough patches — one in April and the other in August — that undermined his season totals.
“I had a rough April and that kind of put myself behind the eight-ball early, and I had to fight back,” he said. “Then August came around and I had two bad games. So I look back at it as last year I pitched in 72 games and four of them were really bad. If you eliminate those four, I gave up [almost] half my runs in four games. So 68 games were quality games. Sixty-eight times I took the mound and did my job pretty well.”
Dunn said he does his best pitching when he’s being used for full innings and not as a lefty specialist in which he is brought in to face one or two left-handers.
The more work the merrier, in other words. And Dunn is a workhorse.
While his appearance totals are impressive, they don’t tell the whole story — for him or any other reliever.
They indicate the number of times he pitched in a game. What isn’t recorded — at least for public consumption — are the number of times a reliever warms up in the bullpen but doesn’t enter the game.
When those figures are added to the equation, the numbers become even more impressive.
Dunn, for example, said he warmed up 122 times in 2011. He appeared in 72 games that season.
“It got to triple digits in September last year, and I just stopped counting,” he said.
“You get up a lot, but that’s part of the business, especially being left-handed. That’s just the life of a reliever. For me, I feel my off days were the ones where I got up two or three times but didn’t pitch in a game.”
Still, Dunn is always there to take the ball.
“There are definitely days you get to the park where you’re really sore, really hanging,” he said.
But to this day in the majors, Dunn has always shown up for work.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Tom Koehler will start Thursday when the Marlins open their Grapefruit League slate against the Cardinals.
▪ Jake Esch will get the start for the Marlins when they face the University of Miami on Tuesday.
▪ Marlins manager Don Mattingly said he will go with his regular lineup to start the game against the Hurricanes.