Miami Marlins

Far from complete, Marlins pitchers look to go the distance

Miami Marins' pitcher Jeff Locke works off the mound during the first day of the Marlins' spring training in Jupiter on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.
Miami Marins' pitcher Jeff Locke works off the mound during the first day of the Marlins' spring training in Jupiter on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Jeff Locke and Luis Perdomo were the last two pitchers to go the distance at Marlins Park.

Nine innings. Complete games. The 2016 season.

“It’s probably one of the games I’ll never forget,” Locke said. “It’s something special, to finish something you started.”

Locke is a Marlin now. But he wasn’t then. Neither was Perdomo. And therein lies the story.

No Marlins pitcher has thrown a complete game anywhere — either at home or on the road — in nearly three years. The last to do so was Henderson Alvarez on June 3, 2014.

The Marlins’ drought of not having a starter complete nine innings isn’t merely long. It’s unprecedented, a major-league record, and there are no signs it will come to an end this coming season.

That’s because the Marlins are planning to have an eight-man bullpen to make up for the perceived shortcomings with their five-man starting rotation, one lacking a bonafide ace because of the death of Jose Fernandez.

“I think we’re pretty much out of the age where the [starter] gets to throw 140 or 130 [pitches],” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “And until I think there’s some kind of science saying it’s not hurting the guy to throw more [the trend will continue].”

Last season, the Marlins set a team record with 559 instances of a reliever being used. That’s the ninth-highest figure in big-league history. But the Marlins aren’t the only team keeping their starting pitchers on a short leash.

There were only 83 complete games thrown in the majors last season, an all-time low, and the number has been in gradual decline for a decade.

Mattingly noted that analytics have shown that a starter’s level of effectiveness drops off the second and third times through the lineup, thus the impetus for bullpen help to complete the final innings.

“Obviously, we see the value of relievers,” Mattingly said.

Of the Marlins’ five projected starters, only one — newcomer Edinson Volquez — has ever thrown a complete game. And he has done it just three times in 252 career starts.

Not even Fernandez managed to deliver one, as sensational as he was.

But starters covet them, which explains why Wei-Yin Chen didn’t hesitate when asked which he would prefer most: his first complete game or his first big-league hit.

“The complete game,” Chen said.

LOCKE HAS AN MRI

The Marlins are awaiting the results of an MRI performed Thursday on Locke’s left shoulder, but they remain optimistic that it is nothing serious. Mattingly said Locke continued to experience discomfort in his throwing shoulder when he threw lightly after resting it for a few days.

“[He’s] better than he was before, but when he started throwing [Thursday] he was still feeling something,” Mattingly said. “Better, but not where we wanted.”

Locke hadn’t thrown for a few days before testing the shoulder Thursday with some light throwing. But Mattingly said when Locke continued to feel discomfort the decision was made for him to have the MRI.

“We haven’t gotten the results yet of what it’s saying,” Mattingly said. “We’re not expecting anything bad. But we’ll let the doctor tell us that.”

Locke, who was one of the Marlins’ free agent pickups over the winter, is expected to start the season in the bullpen.

THIS AND THAT

▪ Outfielder Marcell Ozuna is the only projected starting-lineup player not starting in Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener. Mattingly said Ozuna is also dealing with shoulder discomfort. “I just want to give him an extra day,” Mattingly said.

▪ Mattingly said outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is being eased back into drills after bruising his right knee and tweaking his back in an outfield collision.

▪ The team continues to monitor the market for a handful of remaining free agent pitchers — Alvarez, Doug Fister, Colby Lewis and Jake Peavy — but only on an “in-case-of-need” basis.

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