Sandy Alcantara walked into the Marlins’ clubhouse smiling Thursday morning.
Alcantara greeted his teammates and then as he walked over to meet with manager Don Mattingly, he raised his arms above his 6-foot, 4-inch frame.
The chance he has been waiting for has arrived.
"I can't wait to get out there and take the mound for the first time," Alcantara said.
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After three months pitching in the minors, Alcantara will make his first major-league start Friday night when the Marlins face the Mets and their ace Jacob deGrom.
But that doesn’t mean the learning curve is over for the Marlins’ top pitching prospect.
"I think the one to keep in mind is to temper expectations in that there’s still room for growth and still areas he can improve on,” Mattingly said. “It’ll be good to see him do that here, but without the expectation that he’ll go out and dominate. I mean maybe he does, but we expect there could be some bumps in the road with him, but there will be some development with that.”
The Marlins' CEO Derek Jeter broke the news to the media Wednesday that Alcantara would be recalled from Triple A New Orleans. Miami then optioned reliever Nick Wittgren after Thursday's game to Triple A to make room on the roster.
Alcantara, the Marlins' No. 2 overall prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, made 14 starts at New Orleans and went 5-3 with a 3.71 ERA. Alcantara gave up 35 earned runs (six home runs) in 85 innings while striking out 64 and walking 34 batters.
"He’s a guy that has a good two-seamer and has a breaking ball that’s getting better and a changeup,” Mattingly said. “He’s got all the weapons, so for him it’s just him being able to sequence [his pitches], stay ahead in counts and then the other part is managing the game, holding runners, things like that.”
Alcantara said he has developed better command of his consistently high-90s fastball during his time in New Orleans.
Mattingly doesn’t expect to have any sort of pitching restrictions with Alcantara, who threw more than 100 pitches in four of his past five starts at Triple A.
"My command of the fastball has definitely improved and my breaking pitches,” Alcantara said. “I feel really healthy and I’ve focused on shortening the quantity of pitches by making the right pitches and shortening at-bats.”
Alcantara spent a month in the majors last September pitching as a reliever for the Cardinals. He made eight appearances and compiled a 4.32 ERA over 8 1/3 innings.
The Cardinals traded him to the Marlins in the deal in December for two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna.
Alcantara said Friday might feel like the first time all over again, but his experience with the St. Louis Cardinals last September should definitely help.
Alcantara said his wife and son will attend Friday’s game.
"It’s going to feel a little different since it’ll be with a different club and different ballpark, but at the same time it’s still the same plan and same game,” Alcantara said.
With the quick turnaround Thursday following a night game, the Marlins felt it was best for catcher J.T. Realmuto to take one more day to rest his sore left wrist.
“It just didn’t feel good yesterday swinging [the bat],” Realmuto said. “I took swings this morning and felt a little better. I should be in there [Friday] as long as it keeps feeling better.”
Friday: Miami Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara (2018 debut) vs. New York Mets RHP Jacob deGrom (5-3, 1.69 ERA), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.