Miami Marlins

Only three MLB relievers threw a 103 mph pitch last year. The Marlins have one of them

Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero on his progress

Miami Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero talks about his progress on the mound in recent weeks after he pitched Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks
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Miami Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero talks about his progress on the mound in recent weeks after he pitched Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks

There’s no secret to Tayron Guerrero’s strength whenever he steps onto the mound.

He throws hard.

The number to look at: 103 mph.

Guerrero hit that mark with his four-seam fastball four times during a 17-pitch relief appearance on Aug. 13 against the Atlanta Braves.

For context, Guerrero was one of only three pitchers to throw a pitch that clocked in at 103 mph or faster. The other two: the New York Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Jordan Hicks.

The question remains: After one full year in the majors, can Guerrero make the jump and be a steady relief pitcher, whether in the middle innings, as a setup guy or a potential closer?

The answer will come with his consistency.

“With him, with that kind of stuff, we want to continue to fill the strike zone and force guys to be ready to swing the bat and then work secondary [pitches] off of that,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Keep working on his slider to give him more options throwing for strikes, being able to shorten it. But as much as anything, keep filling the strike zone up, force contact, force swings, get them in swing mode before worrying about everything else.”

Guerrero has been steady throughout spring training. The 6-8 righty has one strikeout, has yet to give up a hit and allowed just one walk over 2 2/3 innings of work spanning three innings. He retired both batters he faced during his outing Wednesday in West Palm Beach against the Hosuton Astros as the Marlins played split squad games.

Guerrero, 28, pitched 58 innings over 60 appearances with the Marlins last year, posting a 5.43 ERA and 10 holds as a middle-inning reliever. He struck out 68 batters he faced while walking just 30. His four-seam fastball averaged 98.8 mph, which ranked tied for second in MLB with Diego Castillo and behind Hicks (100.9). His sinker averaged 96.9 mph, the 15th fastest in MLB.

He showed stretches of solid work, including two individual streaks of eight scoreless appearances.

But he struggled as the season came to a close, giving up at least two runs over four consecutive appearances at the end of August and early September before closing with four scoreless innings.

“He kind of ran out of gas last year as the season went on,” Mattingly said, “so he’ll be a lot better prepared for that.

Guerrero isn’t the only flamethrowing reliever the Marlins have at their disposal, though.

Lefty Adam Conley, a starter-turned-reliever, has seen an uptick in his fastball velocity since moving to the bullpen.

According to Statcast, Conley’s four-seam fastball averaged 95.2 mph in 2018, his first full year as a reliever. In 2017, it was 89.7 mph.

The 5.5 mph increase was the largest one-year increase in MLB last year, which can be credited to Conley straightening out his delivery and his role change. As a reliever, Conley generally will throw 15 to 20 pitches in a given appearance, compared to 70-plus as a starter. The lower volume of pitches on a given night allows him to maximize his

Conley, who has given up two runs over 3 2/3 innings with three strikeouts this spring, topped out at 97 mph in his one inning of work on Wednesday.

Split-squad results

The Marlins dropped both of their split-squad games on Wednesday. In Jupiter, it was a 4-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. A few miles south in West Palm Beach, it was an 11-5 loss to the Houston Astros.

In Jupiter, Nick Neidert, the team’s No. 4 prospect according to MLBPipeline, threw two scoreless innings. He struck out one while giving up one hit and two walks. His command was spotty in the first inning but steadily improved in the second. ... Miguel Rojas, Rosell Herrera, Sharif Othman and Yadiel Rivera had the Marlins’ four hits. ... Jordan Holloway, the Marlins’ No. 14 prospect with a fastball that has topped out at 98 mph a year removed from Tommy John surgery, retired the side in his first inning of work before giving up two runs on two hits and a pair of walks in the second inning. ... Tyler Kinley (2/3 innings), Dylan Lee (1 inning), Brett Graves (1 inning) and Jeff Brigham (1 inning) all worked scoreless relief appearances.

In West Palm Beach, Trevor Richards put up another quality performance as he competes for a spot in the starting rotation. Richards gave up just two hits and one run — a solo home run to Robinson Chirinos in the third — while striking out four in 3 1/3 innings. ... Catcher Bryan Holaday went 1-for-1 with a walk and two runs. Lewis Brinson also reached base twice on a single and a walk. ... Brian Miller and Austin Dean both hit doubles. ... Reliever Drew Steckenrider struggled, giving up six earned runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batter while only recording one out.

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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