Brad Ziegler exists.
He lives. He breathes. He wears a uniform and throws baseballs.
It’s just that nobody ever gets to see him do his thing. The Marlins are sequestering the 37-year-old sidewinder like a top-secret weapon they don’t want discovered.
Ziegler is the only uninjured Marlin who has yet to appear in a single Grapefruit League game, and chances are the veteran reliever will remain largely concealed throughout the spring.
It’s by design.
The Marlins don’t want opposing hitters — especially those belonging to teams in the National League East — to get used to Ziegler’s submarine delivery. Since the Marlins are playing nearly half of their 35 spring games against NL East teams, they’re keeping Ziegler out of sight.
They also start the regular season by playing their first dozen games against division rivals.
“It’s only deceptive to someone that doesn’t see it all the time,” Ziegler said of his unnatural delivery. “I’m coming to a new division, and I’m going to be facing new teams more than I ever have in the past, and I’m trying to keep that deception there as long as possible.”
Ziegler said that when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks, they shared a spring training facility with the Colorado Rockies, an NL West division rival.
“We faced the Rockies eight or nine times in spring training and 19 or 20 times during the season,” Ziegler said. “After a while they’d see me so much, there was no deception.”
Because of Ziegler’s age, the Marlins are also being cautious with him this spring in terms of workload.
While Ziegler has been invisible in big-league spring games, he’s been pitching against minor-league hitters on the back practice diamonds. He said he typically needs seven or eight outings to get ready for the season and is on target to meet that goal.
He’ll likely pitch in a Grapefruit League game. It just won’t be against the three NL East teams the Marlins will be playing: the Braves, Nationals and Mets.
“That’s one thing they told me, that I’m not going to face any division teams in big-league games,” he said.
THIS AND THAT
▪ At 5-9, minor-league prospect Dillon Peters wouldn’t be the shortest player to wear a Marlins uniform. That title belongs to 5-6 Richie Lewis, who pitched for the Marlins from 1993-95.
But he’s down there.
The 24-year-old left-hander delivered a strong start Thursday, holding the Nationals’ ‘A’ lineup without a hit over three innings in a 2-2 tie in West Palm Beach.
“I’m a young guy, a non-roster invite, and I was fortunate enough to get invited to camp,” said Peters, who made his first spring training start.
“Basically, I just wanted to show them what I had, show them what I could possibly do in the future.”
Peters was the Marlins’ 10th-round draft pick in 2014 out of the University of Texas.
But he has impressed in his brief minor-league career. Last season, Peters went 14-6 with a 2.38 ERA in 24 combined starts for Single A Jupiter and Double A Jacksonville.
▪ Catcher A.J. Ellis took batting practice on Thursday for the first time since sustaining a hamstring injury.
▪ Jeff Locke continues to throw on an every-other-day basis as he works his way back from left biceps tendinitis.
Locke is not yet throwing off a mound and could start the season on the disabled list.
If Locke is not on the Opening Day roster, his spot would likely be filled by another reliever, according to manager Don Mattingly.
▪ Friday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen vs. Minnesota Twins RHP Tyler Duffey, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Scott Copeland at Houston Astros RHP Mike Fiers, 1:05 p.m., West Palm Beach.