Sandy Alcantara has shown many times this spring why he can be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher for the Miami Marlins sooner rather than later.
But there have been points where he has given clear reminders that he’s a 23-year-old pitcher, a top prospect who still has room to develop.
Saturday’s outing, an 11-6 come-from-behind victory against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, combined both ends of the spectrum in a span of 83 pitches.
The good: Seven strikeouts in just 3 1/3 innings, bringing his total for the spring to 21 in 15 1/3 innings over five starts.
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The bad: Six earned runs and nine hits in those same 3 1/3 innings.
“I was trying to come out inning after inning, trying to do things right,” Alcantara said through an interpreter. “I got good strikeouts, but I also allowed a few hits. Things happen in the game. I’m just trying to do things better.”
Alcantara’s consistency has been spotty throughout his five starts this spring. Yes, he has those 21 strikeouts and had only given up two runs before being shelled on Saturday. But he has also walked 11 batters and given up 15 hits.
One thing is certain, though: Once Alcantara gets into a groove, his potential is undeniable. Getting into that groove earlier and staying there are key.
His bread and butter are a four-seam fastball and cutter that both averaged about 95 mph last year. His fastball has touched 98 mph this spring.
From there, Alcantara mixes in a slider steadily in the mid 80s and a change-up in the low 90s that make hitters swing and miss. He also has a curveball that he used in spurts last year.
“It’s about how you bounce back,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “That’s the key for all of us. You’re going to have rough days and days that don’t go as well as you’d like. It’s going to happen to everybody.”
Alcantara, the Marlins’ No. 5 prospect according to MLBPipeline, experienced that at the end of last season when he received his first extended look as an MLB starter. The 6-4, 170-pound righty went 2-3 with a 3.44 ERA over six starts. After winning his first two starts and having a solid performance that resulted in a no-decision in Start No. 3, Alcantara had a pair of four-inning appearances in which he gave up a combined nine earned runs.
His final start of 2018? Seven innings, one earned run allowed, 10 strikeouts.
The growing pains are going to come, and that’s not limited to Alcantara. The Marlins have four starting pitchers vying for innings with the big league team — Trevor Richards, Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez are the others — who have shown potential this spring but also haven’t pitched a full major league season.
“We’re young,” Mattingly said earlier this spring. “We’ve got power arms. Sometimes it’s going to get away from us, but we want the thought process, more than anything else, to be aggressive and to get after the strike zone.”
Notables from Saturday
▪ Miguel Rojas went 3-for-3 at the plate to continue his spring success. Rojas is hitting .517 (15-for-29) over 12 games.
▪ After a five-run fifth inning put the Marlins within one run and Isaac Galloway tied the game with an RBI groundout in the sixth, Pedro Alvarez put the Marlins up for good with a three-run home run to center field off Mets reliever Seth Lugo. Alvarez hit a second home run in the eighth.
“Pedro has actually been swinging the bat good for a little bit here, probably the last five, six days,” Mattingly said. “You’re starting to see the swing. The rhythm is getting better.”
▪ The Marlins’ bullpen gave up just two hits after Alcantara was taken out of the game in the fourth.