The Marlins signed left-hander Jeff Locke for $3.025 million over the winter.
Consider it money down the drain.
Locke was designated for assignment on Tuesday, one day after he matched a franchise record by allowing 11 earned runs in a loss to St. Louis, as the Marlins’ starting pitching woes continued to worsen.
“We kind of knew walking into this year that we had a rotation we felt we were going to have to try to piece together, asking not necessarily for seven innings, but hopefully guys who could keep you in the game,” said manager Don Mattingly.
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It hasn’t happened. The Marlins’ starting staff has the third-highest ERA (5.05) in the majors while totaling the second-fewest innings.
Locke was just the latest example of a starter failing to deliver in a rotation weakened by the death of Jose Fernandez, a serious injury to Wei-Yin Chen, and underperformance overall. After spending the first two months of the season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, Locke didn’t perform, going 0-5 with an 8.16 ERA in seven starts. On Monday, he was lifted in the third, forcing Mattingly to go to a bullpen that was already running on fumes after having to cover six innings on Saturday when Tom Koehler couldn’t make it out of the second.
Mattingly and the Marlins are running out of patience.
“I think one of the things we’re trying to get to is that this is a competitive world that we’re in, and it’s not tryout camp,” Mattingly said. “It’s not developement. It’s result-based. You have to earn your way. In our situation, we have to find guys that are competitive, that will fight. The last thing we want is lackadaisical, kind of non-competitive outings.”
Compounding matters for the Marlins is a depleted minor-league system that is noticeably lacking in major-league ready talent. Adam Conley, who impressed last season and figured to hold down one rotation spot for the Marlins, ended up going to the minors and has continued to struggle at Triple A New Orleans.
Mattingly said the Marlins didn’t think moving to Locke to the bullpen in long relief was a good option, just to find out if he could turn it around.
“To do that, you’re going to send one of our option guys out, Jarlin (Garcia) or (Nick Wittgren), and both of those guys have been good for us out of our bullpen,” Mattingly said. “To just put someone in our pen that we’re hoping to pitch better doesn’t seem fair to guys that are actually performing.”
The Marlins called up right-handed reliever Drew Steckenrider from Triple A New Orleans to fill Locke’s roster spot. They’ll need to locate a starter for Saturday in San Francisco.
Locke could remain in the organization if no other team claims him and he accepts an outright assignment to the minors.