Miami Marlins

Injured Marlins pitcher Jeff Locke on schedule for return in May

SAN DIEGO – The originally intended pieces are back in place in the Marlins’ starting lineup and bench.

Their only missing piece in the bullpen, reliever Jeff Locke, appears to be on schedule in his recovery from an injury that has kept him sidelined so far this season.

Locke, who has been out since early in the spring with left biceps tendinitis, has been throwing live batting practice and is getting closer to beginning a rehab assignment according to manager Don Mattingly.

"We’ve had no setbacks with him, and we’re encouraged," Mattingly said. "We were a little nervous early, quite honestly. It starts when you can hardly throw after the first day of spring. That’ll put you back a little bit."

Locke, whom the Marlins signed in December to a one-year, $3 million deal, was shut down early in spring training.

Mattingly said he remains on track to return to the mound some time in May, although exactly when is still unclear.

"I think we did the right thing with him in spring," Mattingly said. "It took a while to get him going and get back out there throwing. I know we’re getting closer and closer."

Locke’s role upon his return would likely be that of a multiple inning reliever barring any unforeseen changes to the starting rotation.

It would also give the Marlins another lefty option in the bullpen. The Marlins currently only have one lefty reliever – rookie Jarlin Garcia.

Locke, who is a career 35-38 with a 4.41 ERA, was mostly a starter during his first four full seasons with 110 starts until the Pirates transitioned him to a relief role during the second half of last season.

"We still want — we’ve always talked about having a number of guys who can do multiple innings," Mattingly said. "He’s one of those guys that’s been a starter, but also could be a nice little bridge guy for us to be able to take pressure off other guys in our pen."

PRODUCTIVE MONTH

Marcell Ozuna continued his red-hot start to the season on Friday with a solo home run in the second inning - his sixth of the season.

Ozuna’s 20 RBI entered Saturday’s action tied with Bryce Harper for the most in the National League and it’s Ozuna’s most for a single month in his career.

The Marlins have hit 21 home runs through the first 16 games which ranked fourth in the NL before Saturday’s games, and had an almost even split between the ones hit on the road (11) and at home (10).

PHELPS EMBARRASSED

David Phelps’ physical appearance hasn’t changed.

But so far this season, the Marlins have been left a bit perplexed as to what’s wrong with one of their most reliable bullpen arms from a year ago.

"I’m just leaving balls in the middle of the plate," Phelps said. "It would be a different story if I was out there walking guys. It’s just execution. I was ahead of pretty much everyone tonight. I just wasn’t putting anyone away.

"It’s getting to the point where it’s embarrassing."

Phelps finished last season with a career-best 2.28 ERA and went 7-6, appearing in 64 games including five starts (86 2/3 innings).

Phelps also ranked 16th among all major league relievers last season in holding leads in a save situation with 25. He compiled a 2.70 ERA when pitching from the seventh through nine innings in 55 such appearances.

But in eight appearances so far this season (10 innings), Phelps has allowed nine earned runs and three home runs.

Phelps’ ERA ballooned to 8.10 following Friday’s outing in which the Padres scored four runs in the seventh inning with the big blast delivered on a three-run home run by catcher Austin Hedges that led to a 5-3 loss for the Marlins at Petco Park.

COMING UP

Sunday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. San Diego Padres RHP Luis Perdomo (0-0, 8.44), 4:40 p.m., Petco Park.

Monday: Off.

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