Miami Marlins

Marlins have a few starting pitchers close to returning. Who will crack the rotation?

Miami Marlins pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne (43) works in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals Tues., March 20, 2018, in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Miami Marlins pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne (43) works in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals Tues., March 20, 2018, in West Palm Beach, Fla. AP

The Marlins’ starting rotation might look a lot different before April even ends.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly already announced one change on Tuesday as Odrisamer Despaigne, who pitched out of the bullpen and his spot in the rotation in less than a day recently, will return to a relief role.

Mattingly said it was the team’s plan from the start for Despaigne, whom they feel would best benefit the Marlins pitching out of the bullpen for the time being.

“Our plan was always for him to pitch Game 3 and then put him in the bullpen,” Mattingly said before Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox. “He’s a guy we would use to spot start if something popped up. We like our flexibility a lot more. We’ve struggled with innings out there just because of still reeling a little bit from that 17-inning game [Saturday].”

Despaigne, who turns 31 on Wednesday, began his career as a starter for the Padres and made 34 starts from 2014-15. He was then moved to the bullpen and eventually traded to the Baltimore Orioles where he pitched in the same capacity. The Marlins claimed Despaigne off waivers in September of 2016 and have used him in both roles since.

“We think he fits us and does the most for us where we can pitch him three out of five days, where I can use him in all kinds of roles depending on how we use him,” Mattingly said.

Despaigne nearly became the first pitcher since Tom Seaver (May 8-9, 1984) to win two of his team’s games in a row, according to Elias.

Despaigne threw 11 pitches in relief early Saturday morning and picked up the victory in the Marlins’ 2-1 walk-off win in 17 innings over the Chicago Cubs. He then started less than 24 hours later as scheduled and gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks while striking out six to finish with a no-decision.

With Despaigne out, Mattingly said rookie Trevor Richards will remain in the rotation.

Despaigne spoke about the rarity of pitching in two games in less than a day even though the Marlins couldn’t beat the Cubs again Saturday night.

Richards, who gave up five runs on eight hits in  4 1/3 innings with five strikeouts and one walk in his major-league debut Monday, would next start Sunday at Philadelphia. Caleb Smith is scheduled to start the Marlins’ first road game of the season Thursday, with Dillon Peters going Saturday after a day off.

The Marlins have an off day Wednesday also, which barring setbacks would give them the luxury of using only four starters through this turn of the rotation. José Ureña (who started Tuesday against the Red Sox) would then start next Monday against the Mets.

At that point, the Marlins have a few options they can turn to for the vacant fifth spot.

▪ Wei-Yin Chen (left elbow), who has not started a major-league game since May 1, pitched a simulated game on Monday night and could be close to a return to the rotation.

Chen, who is set to make $10 million this season with $8 million in deferred bonuses, has made only 27 starts (7-6, 4.85 ERA) in his first two seasons with the Marlins.

“His bullpens have been very good and his live batting practice sessions,” Mattingly said. “He’s getting close to where we can put him on a rehab assignment and get him ready.”

▪ Dan Straily (forearm soreness), originally intended to be the next starter in line after Ureña, hasn’t thrown off a mound yet but is building up toward taking that next step in the coming days.

▪ Elieser Hernandez, who missed over a week in spring training because of a tooth infection, threw a 45-pitch simulated game on Sunday and is another candidate to join the rotation soon.

▪ Mattingly said Jarlin Garcia, who the Marlins are planning to be a starter in the long-term, was available out of the bullpen.

COMING UP

▪ Wednesday: OFF

▪ Thursday: Marlins LHP Smith (0-0, 1.69 ERA) vs. Philadelphia Phillies RHP Nick Pivetta (0-0, 6.75), 3:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.

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