Sandy Alcantara never intended to leave Marlins fans wanting more.
But after a much-hyped opening act to his Marlins’ career earlier this summer, Alcantara hasn’t made it back onto a major-league mound.
That’s expected to change early next week after Alcantara gets his second turn as a Marlins’ starting pitcher once MLB rosters can expand to 40 players on Saturday.
Alcantara, 22, was sidelined with a right armpit infection shortly after his club debut on June 29th when he held the New York Mets to one run on three hits over five innings.
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Once Alcantara began a rehab stint at Triple A New Orleans on July 23rd, the Marlins showed some concern with his fastball command and a slight dip in velocity, which led the organization to choose to keep him in the minors for a while longer.
Alcantara is lined up to make one more start at Triple A on Thursday, which on regular rest would put him in line to start for the Marlins on Sept. 4 against the Phillies. The Marlins aren’t planning on using a six-man rotation so it remains to be seen how they plan to use Alcantara once he joins the club.
In seven starts at Triple A since July 23rd, Alcantara has pitched 36 1/3 innings and given up 34 hits, 16 earned runs while striking out 29 and walking seven. Alcantara has pitched six or more innings in each of his past four starts.
Alcantara, the Marlins’ top pitching prospect and No. 2 overall per MLBPipeline.com, gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits over six innings, walked none and struck out four on 94 pitches in his most recent start for New Orleans.
An encouraging sign is his fastball velocity returning to form.
Alcantara’s average fastball velocity in his one major-league start this season was 94.2 mph. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said last week that Alcantara’s velocity was closer to the 98.4 mph he averaged last year in his brief stint in the majors with the Cardinals in his recent starts.
In addition to Alcantara, and both Lewis Brinson (right hip inflammation) and third baseman Martin Prado (left quad strain) returning from the disabled list, the September roster expansion provides the Marlins an opportunity to add pitching depth to the roster.
An intriguing prospect reportedly being considered for a big-league promotion is 26-year old right-hander Jeff Brigham, the Marlins’ No. 20 overall prospect per MLBPipeline.com that they acquired in the three-team trade with the Dodgers and Braves in 2015 involving first baseman Mike Morse and pitcher Mat Latos.
Limited by multiple injuries including a couple of oblique strains in recent years, Brigham has risen quickly this year by putting up solid numbers at Double A Jacksonville (4-1, 1.18 ERA in 38 innings) and later at Triple A (5-1, 2.85 ERA in 47 1/3 innings).
According to MLB Pipeline, Brigham possesses a consistent mid-90s fastball that he’s shown improved command of this season while striking out 89 and walking only 20 batters.
Other top prospect pitchers have such as righty Nick Neidert (11-7, 3.31 ERA at Double A), acquired in the Dee Gordon trade, and righty Zac Gallen (8-8, 3.82 ERA at Triple A), acquired in the Marcell Ozuna trade, have shown rapid improvement this year.
The Marlins seem to be inclined to wait until next year to promote either as each can continue to develop in the offseason.
The Marlins could easily recall both Dillon Peters from Triple A, and Merandy Gonzalez from Double A since both are on the 40-man roster and would not require making a corresponding move.
Gonzalez (2-1, 5.73 ERA in 22 major-league innings this season) has compiled a 1.29 ERA over his past three starts (21 innings) at Jacksonville, striking out 10 and walking five.
Peters (2-2, 7.16 ERA in 27 2/3 major-league innings this season) has compiled a 3.78 ERA over his past three starts, striking out 17 and walking two over a span of 19 innings for New Orleans.
Tuesday: Miami Marlins RHP Jose Urena (4-12, 4.50 ERA) vs. Boston Red Sox LHP Brian Johnson (4-3, 4.12), 7:10 p.m., Fenway Park.
Wednesday: Marlins RHP Trevor Richards (3-7, 4.23) vs. Red Sox LHP David Price (14-6, 3.50), 6:35 p.m., Fenway Park.
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