First they lost Carter Capps. Then it was Mike Dunn.
Two relievers who figured to be major, late-inning pieces in the Marlins bullpen were lost to injuries before the season even started. But one month in, the Marlins are getting surprising results from a re-configured bullpen.
A.J. Ramos has converted all nine of his save opportunities.
David Phelps has turned into an eighth-inning wipeout force.
And Kyle Barraclough has become a key link to the back end of the bullpen.
The Marlins began the day Thursday with the fifth-lowest bullpen ERA (3.43) in the National League and, excluding the lone loss during their 10-game stretch in which they won nine, the relievers had allowed only six earned runs in 25 2/3 total innings (2.10).
In their two wins over the Diamondbacks to start the Arizona series, the bullpen covered seven innings — three on Tuesday and four on Wednesday — and did not allow a run.
“We’ve all just kind of fed off each other, and we’re on a pretty good roll right now,” Phelps said.
When the season started, the Marlins’ bullpen contained a hodgepodge collection of mostly veteran arms who had started and relieved: Chris Narveson, Edwin Jackson, Dustin McGowan and Phelps.
But it has since been transformed.
The Marlins decided to make Phelps their eighth-inning man. The hard-throwing Barraclough was called up from the minors to serve as a seventh-inning setup specialist. And it all started to click.
“I think the two things that have been really big for us, as far as our bullpen, has been Phelps solidifying another inning out there with A.J., and then Barraclough,” said manager Don Mattingly. “He’s come up and solidified another inning. So he’s given us three guys out there.”
In his nine appearances since taking over in the eighth-inning role on April 17, Phelps has not allowed a run. Barraclough has not yielded a run since coming up from the minors that same day. The two have combined to strike out 26 hitters in 17 2/3 combined innings since April 17.
After a rough early start, Bryan Morris has also improved, save for the Marlins’ 14-5 loss to the Brewers on Sunday when he gave up a pair of runs in the blowout.
Ramos said Phelps said having defined roles has helped.
“I feel like, early in the season, one of the things that was given us a little trouble was when the phone would ring, unless it was the ninth inning, your heart gets going and you’re jumping up seeing who it’s going to be,” Phelps said of the uncertainty initially. “When guys know when they’re going to pitch, it seems like they do a little better. They can prepare.”
Phelps, in particular, has benefited from having a specific role. In the past, he either started or, when used out of the bullpen, entered in long relief.
“I think, for the first time in my career, that I’ve fully bought into being a bullpen guy instead of having one foot in, one foot out,” Phelps said. “Now I’m just going out and leaving it all out there for the one inning I’ve got.”
Justin Bour could be ready to play as early as Friday.
But he and the Marlins will first test his dislocated left pinky finger by having him swing a bat on Friday before making that decision. Bour is still dealing with swelling and stiffness in the finger, which he injured Tuesday.
Derek Dietrich started at first base for Bour on Wednesday while Chris Johnson received the assignment Thursday.
Jackson, who has been on the disabled list since April 19 with a right triceps strain, threw his first bullpen session Wednesday and said his arm felt fine.
“I think now it’s just a matter of getting game-ready,” Jackson said.
Friday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-1, 4.26) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Vince Velasquez (4-1, 1.44), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Saturday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (2-3, 7.25) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 4.88), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.