The Marlins’ highest-paid player won’t be ready for the start of the season.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said on Wednesday as pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training at Roger Dean Stadium that starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen would not be ready to open the regular season in late March.
Chen, who is set to make $10 million this season with another $8 million in deferred bonuses, has the highest salary in terms of total compensation on the Marlins’ roster in the wake of an offseason where the team traded Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon.
Mattingly said he expects Chen to be in the starting rotation at some point this season, but he will start a throwing program (as will reliever Nick Wittgren) this spring as he continues to rehab from a left elbow injury that cut short his 2017 season.
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“Wei-Yin is still in rehab protocol,” Mattingly said on Wednesday. “They’ll be throwing pens. They’ll be doing everything everybody else will be doing, but there still is a progression to what these guys are doing. Then as we get to the time that they’re ready then they go.”
Chen has had an overall disappointing stint with the Marlins since signing a five-year, $80 million deal before the 2016 season.
Chen has made only 27 starts in two seasons and has a 7-6 record with a 4.72 ERA in 156 1/3 innings.
Chen started on Opening Day in 2016.
“He didn’t start throwing until mid-January,” Mattingly said. “His throwing program will be a development, so we’ll just follow medical’s directives with him. We won’t force anything with him.
“Again, we just want to keep walking down the road with him, give him every opportunity to be healthy, No. 1, and give him the opportunity to compete because if you aren’t healthy, you can’t compete.”
Chen, 32, made only five starts last year and pitched in nine games before left elbow issues surfaced and kept him out the remainder of the season. Although the possibility loomed, Chen did not have Tommy John surgery, which would have been the second of his career.
In those appearances last season, Chen went 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA in 33 innings.
Mattingly said Wednesday that only Jose Ureña and Dan Straily figure to have spots in the starting rotation virtually assured entering camp. Mattingly said there are about nine pitchers not including Chen with a “legit chance to claim a spot in the rotation.”