The Marlins once had a regular habit of bringing back relievers from the dead. Joe Borowski, Todd Jones and Armando Benitez are three classic examples of bullpen arms that found new life with the Marlins.
Now the team is hoping to resurrect another.
Nick Masset is in spring training camp, vying for a spot in the ’pen after recovering from an extended layoff due to injury. Based on the early observations, the Marlins are optimistic he’ll land a roster spot.
“What I’ve seen so far, and I know it’s only bullpen mound sessions, all arrows are pointing the right way for this guy to reclaim what he was,” said Marlins general manager Dan Jennings.
Masset has pitched in more games — 359 — than any pitcher on the Marlins’ spring roster, starter or reliever. He was once a workhorse for the Reds a few years ago.
“I’m very lucky to be out here,” Masset said.
That, he is.
Masset turned in solid results for Cincinnati from 2009-11, working in 74, 82 and 75 games for the Reds during that three-year period with a sub-3.00 ERA.
Then came the spring of 2012.
“Early 2012, that spring, my third or fourth game, all of a sudden I threw a curveball or something, and I was like I felt a small pain,” Masset said.
Physical problems only escalated from there, and after undergoing a surgical procedure to repair his shoulder in 2012, Masset struggled to return to the mound and questioned his future in baseball.
“Is this the end?” Masset said of the thoughts that went through his head. “It was tough. It was hard to go through.”
Masset weathered two long seasons in which he didn’t appear in the majors. He underwent another procedure that relieved the numbness in his hand.
Finally, last season with Colorado, he returned to the mound and appeared in 51 games, going 2-0 with a 5.81 ERA.
It was a re-learning process, and one conducted half the time at Coors Field, not the most conducive of pitching elements.
“Mentally and physically, there were so many exciting things for me, just being able to return again, to be back on the field,” said Masset, 32. “To be able to go back out and throw 51 games was such a blessing.”
Though Masset’s stats didn’t stand out, the Marlins took a low-risk gamble by signing the pitcher over the winter to a minor-league contract with a spring training invite. Of the 25 such invites, he looms as the likeliest to land a final roster spot, assuming he pitches well in camp.
Masset said he’s back to his pre-surgery velocity of 92-95 mph.
And, unlike most others, he has a major-league track record.
“Loved what he did in Cincinnati,” Jennings said. “He’s an aggressive kid, has always pitched aggressive with a power sinker. We had some looks at him in Colorado, and we had reports on him late out of Colorado. Velo [velocity] started to come back.”
Masset said pitching in Florida should help his cause.
“I think my stuff is going to play a lot better with humidity,” he said. “My ball’s going to move more. It’s a whole different world out there in Colorado. Glad to be down here at sea level.”
Juan Pierre, a catalyst for the 2003 Marlins team that won the World Series, officially announced his retirement on Friday.
Pierre, known for his determined worth ethic on and off the field, ended his career with 2,217 hits and 614 stolen bases, which ranks 18th on the all-time list.
Pierre played in all 162 games for the Marlins from 2003-05 before being traded to the Cubs. He returned to the Marlins in 2013 to finish his playing career.
▪ Manager Mike Redmond said he intended to play all of the Marlins regulars, including Giancarlo Stanton and Ichiro Suzuki, in Tuesday’s exhibition game against the University of Miami.
Brad Hand will start that game.
Redmond said he hadn’t decided yet who will play Monday when the Marlins open the exhibition season Monday against Florida International University.