On what was very possibly his final day as a Miami Marlin, veteran reliever Brad Ziegler stood at his locker inside the visitors clubhouse at SunTrust Park with no idea where he might be standing at the same time Tuesday.
He could be in Pittsburgh joining the Cubs or Los Angeles hooking up with the Dodgers or Boston suiting up for the Red Sox or on the other side of the tunnel here in Atlanta to be with the Braves.
Or he could be standing in the exact same spot, still with the Marlins.
There is so much uncertainty.
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Ziegler is the most likely of all the Marlins to be dealt before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, and there’s a better chance than not that the 38-year-old submariner will be handed a plane ticket with new marching orders.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” Ziegler said Monday below a clubhouse television that was blaring out the latest trade rumors. “I’ve still got to be ready to pitch tonight. So if my whole mentality’s different, then it might effect how I am on the mound, and I don’t want that to happen.”
Two months ago, it would have seemed unlikely any team would have designs on acquiring Ziegler. On May 30 in San Diego, he coughed up a late lead and lost his closer’s role. When he gave up a run in his next outing, his ERA stood at 7.88.
What contending team would want that?
But a June 5 visit to a chiropractor might have turned Ziegler’s season around. Ziegler was dealing with back pain that had been nagging him for a couple of years.
“Since spring training of last year, I’ve been fighting my back deal,” Ziegler said. “I came across a chiropractor who gave me some exercises that targeted that just kind of targeted it in a different way.”
The results were immediate.
Since June 5, Ziegler has been a different pitcher. He’s allowed two runs on 14 hits in 28 total innings for a microscopic ERA of 0.64.
“I made a little mechanical adjustment, just where my hands were when I start my delivery,” Ziegler said. “And Donnie (Mattingly) used me in spots that’ve helped my success.
“But I think the biggest thing was getting my back freed up. It was even effecting my breathing. It felt like a rib was out of place or something. Now I don’t feel that same pain anymore.”
The Marlins’ fortunes have improved in step with Ziegler’s. The Marlins have gone 26-22 since June 5. Now, because Ziegler has helped both the Marlins and his trade value, his time with Miami could be down to a matter of hours.
Ziegler has been traded once before on the deadline, going from Oakland to Arizona.
“When I got traded on deadline day in 2011 to Arizona, I found out on Twitter the morning before I got to the field,” he said. “But they didn’t actually tell me until I’d been at the field for a couple of hours.”
Ziegler is trying to put it out of his head.
“I feel too good out there right now to get distracted,” he said.
The Marlins could activate starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara from the disabled list as early as this week. The decision could hinge on how Alcantara does in a bullpen session scheduled for Thursday.
“We’re talking about that,” Mattingly said on whether Alcantara would require another rehab start. “Once he throws his pen, we’ll have a better idea. He threw the ball good the other day.”