Miami Marlins

The good, bad and expectations for the Miami Marlins rotation so far in spring training

Marlins manager Don Mattingly explains spring training lineups

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly explains how he decides his lineups for Spring Training games.
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Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly explains how he decides his lineups for Spring Training games.

As spring training continues and the Miami Marlins have to start making roster decisions, keep a close eye on the starting pitchers, with seven players vying for five spots.

With the exception of Caleb Smith, who is being eased back to full strength after lat surgery, all of the Marlins’ pitchers competing for rotation spots have pitched at least twice. Sandy Alcantara made his third start in Tuesday’s 3-1 win against the New York Mets to start the next turn of the spring rotation. Alcantara worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and striking out three on Tuesday but also walked four and threw more balls (30) than strikes (29).

Here’s a look at how each of the six starters has fared and what they have been working on throughout the spring.

Sandy Alcantara

Stats: 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 9 K, 8 BB

The walk count is high and he has shown command issues at times evidenced by his four walks on Tuesday, but the stuff has been there in spurts. Alcantara’s fastball has hit 98 mph at points and he has focused on better locating his secondary pitches (change-up, slider and curve). Consistency will be key for him down the stretch.

Trevor Richards

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Miami Marlins pitcher Trevor Richards (36) pitches during the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL. DAVID SANTIAGO dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Stats: 5 IP, 4 H (2 HR), 3 ER, 4 K, 2 BB

Richards is working on adding two pitches to his arsenal this spring. The first is a curveball, which will replace his rarely used slider as a secondary pitch to go along with his four-seam fastball and changeup, the latter of which has been his predominant strikeout pitch — Richards ranked fourth in MLB last year with 54 swinging strikeouts with a changeup. With Richards’ fastball sitting in the low 90s, having a three-pitch mix will be beneficial.

The second is a cutter to go in addition to his four-seam fastball. He had mixed results with it during his last start on Friday. He threw the cutter twice. The first to Yan Gomez didn’t cut, and Gomez took the 89 mph pitch for a home run. One at-bat later, Richards struck out Andrew Stevenson with the pitch. “We’ll see how that one comes along,” Richards said of the cutter.

Jose Urena

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Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena pitches during practice before the start of a Major League Baseball spring training game against the New York Mets at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in Jupiter, FL. DAVID SANTIAGO dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Stats: 4 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 4 K, 2 BB

Urena has already been tabbed the Marlins’ Opening Day starter and has been steady through his first two starts. His fastball is hovering around 95 mph and he has shown command of his slider and curveball on both sides of the plate. Urena is looking to build off a solid close to last season, in which he went 6-0 and posted a 1.80 ERA in 45 innings over his final seven starts.

Dan Straily

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Miami Marlins pitcher Dan Straily pitches during practice before the start of a Major League Baseball spring training game against the New York Mets at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in Jupiter, FL. DAVID SANTIAGO dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Stats: 4 1/3 IP, 4 H (2 HR), 3 ER, 5 K, 0 BB

Straily is unofficially the Marlins’ No. 2 starter heading into the season and, outside of two wind-aided home runs given up against the Braves on Sunday, has been reliable throughout his first two starts this spring. Straily, who went 5-6 with a 4.12 ERA last year, is steadily in the low 90s with his fastball but is in the top third of MLB when it comes to the spin on both his fastball and his curveball.

Wei-Yin Chen

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Miami Marlins pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (20) pitches during the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL. DAVID SANTIAGO dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Stats: 3.1 IP, 10 H, 9 ER, 2 K, 2 BB

Chen has struggled in both of his outings so far, getting pulled early in the second inning of his debut and then in the third on Sunday. His nine earned runs allowed are the most among pitchers who were MLB starters last year. The trend has continued from his poor outings away from Marlins Park last year. Chen, the 33-year-old lefty due $20 million this season, had an MLB-worst 9.27 ERA on the road last year compared to a 1.62 mark inside Marlins Park.

Pablo Lopez

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Miami Marlins pitcher Pablo Lopez (49) pitches during the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL. DAVID SANTIAGO dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Stats: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 K, 1 BB

The most notable difference in Lopez is the velocity on his four-seam fastball, which touched 97 mph on Monday. For context, Lopez averaged 92.7 mph on the pitch last year, according to Statcast. Lopez said the increase in velocity is based on taking advantage of the mound, and using his arm “like a whip” as soon as he plants his front leg on the slope of the mound. As far as his health is concerned, Lopez said is he feeling close to 100 percent after a right shoulder strain ended his 2018 season a month early.

Caleb Smith

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Miami Marlins pitcher Caleb Smith (31) pitches during practice before the start of a Major League Baseball spring training game against the New York Mets at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in Jupiter, FL. DAVID SANTIAGO dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Smith has yet to appear in a game this spring as the Marlins ease him back from his lat surgery, but he has throw a pair of simulation games on the back fields over the last two weeks. Smith, who started 16 games for the Marlins last year before the injury, is slated to throw a four-inning sim game this week and then transition into live games after that. Smith starting either on the injured list or in AAA New Orleans would not be surprising.

Highlights from Tuesday

Riley Ferrell (1 1/3 innings), Jarlin Garcia (1 inning) and Jose Quijada (1 inning) all had scoreless relief appearances, while Jordan Yamamoto gave up a run in two innings.

Brian Anderson and Jorge Alfaro had multi-hit games, with Anderson also hitting his third double of spring training. ... Dixon Machado hit an RBI double in the seventh to tie the game. The Marlins took the lead with a two-run eighth inning. ... Monte Harrison drew an RBI walk and stole a base.

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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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