The Marlins, starved for starters, could get Wei-Yin Chen pitching on a rehab assignment in the next couple of weeks.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday that Chen, who has a partial UCL tear in his left elbow, pitched his second bullpen session earlier in the day. He will throw one more on Saturday and then live batting practice next week.
Chen could be sent on a minor-league rehab assignment the following week.
“I hope to get him out there,” Mattingly said. “He’s progressing to the point where at least he’s on the radar.”
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Chen, speaking through a translator, said he has thrown “five or six” bullpen sessions, differing from Mattingly’s count. He threw 35 pitches on Wednesday and has been throwing with two days of rest in between.
“I feel fine,” said Chen, adding that he’s pain free. “Every [session], I’m putting in more off-speed pitches.”
Chen, who is in the second season of a five-year, $80 million contract, hasn’t given the Marlins much value. He went 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA last season and is 2-1 with a 4.33 ERA in just five starts this year.
“As a player, you won’t feel good when you have to sit out so long,” the 32-year-old Chen said. “I wouldn’t say [I feel] pressure [to live up to the contract], but of course you want to pitch as good as you can.
“I try not to think about too much stuff.”
Chen was part of a rotation that at one point in the lead-up to 2017 was projected to include Edinson Volquez (4-8, 4.19 ERA); Adam Conley (4-3, 5.11); Tom Koehler (1-5, 7.92); and Jeff Locke (0-5, 8.16). That’s an 11-22 cumulative record from those five this year.
Only Conley remains in the rotation, and that is only after being demoted to the minors for more than two months.
Conley, who will start Friday night’s game at Atlanta, had a 7.53 ERA when he was demoted to Triple A New Orleans on May 8. But in the three games since returning to the majors he has a 1.74 ERA. And Conley said after his most recent start that he’s looking to increase his velocity.
Mattingly laughed when asked how a pitcher goes about accomplishing that goal, saying that if he knew then he could help every pitcher do the same thing.
But in Conley’s case Mattingly said the key is more about mechanics and getting everything synced up.
“He’s got long levers,” Mattingly said. “There’s a lot going on with his motion at times. When he gets that in sync, it seems to come out easier.
“What he worked on in the minor-leagues was trying to get down the mound more and not work so much around the corners. Those are important things that would help him increase velocity.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Mattingly on Miguel Rojas playing shortstop for the next two months with JT Riddle out for the year: “He’s swinging the bat better and better. There’s been growth. Him being able to pick the ball [defensively] is not an issue. Can he play short every day? If he’s healthy, no question. … This will be an important two months for him.”
▪ Reliever Dustin McGowan (7-1), on being tied for the most wins in the majors among relievers: “Some of those were gift-wrapped, but a win’s a win. You take them any way you can get them, no matter who [gets credit].”
▪ The Marlins are just 3-5 against the Braves this season heading into this weekend’s matchup.
▪ Thursday: Off.
▪ Friday: Marlins LHP Conley (4-3, 5.11 ERA) at Atlanta Braves RHP R.A. Dickey (6-7, 4.08), 7:35 p.m., SunTrust Park.