The Marlins managed to make it through spring training last season relatively unscathed in terms of serious injuries. But barely a week into spring training this year, they could be looking at a major loss to their bullpen.
Manager Don Mattingly confirmed Tuesday that hard-throwing reliever Carter Capps — a contender for the closer’s role — underwent a MRI after complaining of soreness in his right elbow.
“[Capps] came up with some elbow soreness the other day so he had an MRI done I believe it was yesterday, and he’s seeing our doctor today,” Mattingly said following the team’s 5-1 victory Tuesday over the University of Miami.
Mattingly said the film of the MRI was being sent for a second opinion, and that the team should get answer relatively quickly.
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“It’s concerning any time you have to stop a guy from throwing. But at this point, there’s not really much to talk about until we really get down what is going on and where we go from here.
“I’m not sure how quick that will be, but it won’t be long.”
Capps didn’t pitch the final two months of last season after going on the disabled list with a right elbow sprain. He also went on the DL in 2014 for the same issue.
Capps entered spring training competing with A.J. Ramos for the closer’s role — a spot the Marlins figured would help lighten his workload and strain on his right arm.
One source said the Marlins are looking around the league for potential relief help through a trade.
“We have a lot of guys in the pen that can step it up,” Ramos said. “Obviously it makes things easier if Capps is here with us, but there are guys that have been there and we’re still in good shape.”
Ramos recorded 32 saves last season after taking over for Steve Cishek.
And while he appears capable of filling the team’s closer role again, Ramos said Capps’ potential loss would be a blow to the team’s bullpen and understood the Marlins’ desire to consider Capps for the closer’s spot.
“Carter is a big part of our bullpen,” Ramos said. “His stuff is amazing. I don’t know the specifics of [his status], but hopefully we get it figured out.”
Last season, Capps led the majors with a whiff rate of 16.84 strikeouts per nine innings. The next highest was then-Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman, who averaged 15.74 strikeouts per nine.
Mattingly said earlier in the spring that using Capps as the closer in the ninth could reduce the wear on his arm.
Capps has not consistently closed since 2012 when he was in the minors due to the elbow issues. That season as a member of the Seattle Mariners’ Double A and Triple A squads, Capps recorded 19 saves in 21 opportunities, and posted 75 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings (39 relief appearances).
Capps appeared in only 17 games in 2014 and only 30 games last year before the elbow injury forced him to miss the remaining two months of the season.
Last year’s setback cut short what seemed like a step in the right direction for Capps, who struck out 58 batters and walked only seven with a 1.16 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. The prior season although pitching in 10 2/3 innings less, Capps posted a 3.98 ERA with only 25 strikeouts and five walks with a 1.18 WHIP.
Right-hander Jake Esch struggled a bit his start against the Hurricanes. Esch gave up UM’s only run on a Jacob Heyward sacrifice fly after allowing the first two UM batters to reach base. Esch limited the damage by striking out Hurricanes catcher Zack Collins and right fielder Willie Abreu. Esch walked two and struck out two but only gave up one hit.
Being the spring’s first exhibition game, the Marlins used one pitcher per inning and pulled their starters after three innings. A total of 26 position players participated, including Ichiro Suzuki, who was the designated hitter and Don Kelly, who pinch ran for Ichiro and later took his place in the lineup.