After spending the past two months watching “the sun go down” in Jupiter while dealing with the monotony of working his arm back into shape, pitcher Jeff Locke is finally ready to put on a uniform and join the Marlins’ starting rotation.
“I’m healthy, good to go,” Locke said. “[I’m] just real eager to get back up here and put some work in for these guys to try to help the club.”
The Marlins are expected to activate Locke from the disabled list and hand him his first start on Thursday.
The Marlins signed Locke over the winter to a one-year deal worth $3 million, thinking he could either be used in the rotation or out of the bullpen in long relief. But Locke landed on the disabled list early in spring training with left bicep tendinitis, causing him to miss the first two months of the season.
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“In a way, I’m proud of myself the way I went through those last two months because it’s really tough,” Locke said.
Locke made 110 career starts, all with the Pirates, and was an All-Star in 2013. He went 35-38 with a 4.41 ERA for Pittsburgh.
He said he threw 78 pitches in his final rehab start for Double A Jacksonville, then threw an additional 15 pitches in the bullpen to be sure he was good to go.
Manager Don Mattingly said he is “tentatively” prepared to start Locke on Thursday against Arizona and move Vance Worley to the bullpen.
“I remember telling you guys in spring training, however long this thing takes, we just want to do what works,” Locke said. “We just want to get it right one time and when we come back, we don’t want any other setbacks. And I think we’ve achieved that to this point. I couldn’t be happier right now than to be up here.”
Reliever Kyle Barraclough’s strikeout rate is down while his walk rate is up — in both cases, significantly.
“I think some of it is the league is making an adjustment to me,” said Barraclough, who established himself as a key late-inning reliever for the Marlins last season but has struggled in that role this year.
Barraclough averaged 14 strikeouts and 5.4 walks per nine innings last season. This year: 8.9 strikeouts and eight walks. He said hitters have been laying off his low slider. Instead of swinging at the pitch, they’re taking it for a ball.
“They’re not swinging at sliders down as much, and that’s something I have to look at and adjust to, whether I [need to] throw the slider for a strike more often,” he said.
▪ Reliever Junichi Tazawa, who is on the disabled list with rib cartilage inflammation, threw a bullpen session on Monday and is nearing a minor-league rehab stint.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.40) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.55), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (3-3, 3.83) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (2-2, 4.34), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.