Miami Marlins

With latest move, Marlins set up for full-on youth movement in the starting rotation

The Miami Marlins’ starting rotation is set.

The final move to set up the rotation came Monday morning, when the Marlins released veteran pitcher Dan Straily for assignment. Couple that with Sunday’s announcement that Wei-Yin Chen is coming out of the bullpen, and the Marlins are down to their five candidates — and are going all-in on a youth movement with their main pitchers.

Jose Urena, 27 is the Opening Day starter against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday. The other four, all of whom were rookies last year, in order: Trevor Richards, 25; Sandy Alcantara, 23; Pablo Lopez, 23; and Caleb Smith, 27.

“You look at veterans and you know the names,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “All those veterans were young at some point. They started somewhere and they had to start somewhere. We just felt like this rotation is more about us moving forward. These guys are young and they’ve got experience. It’s not like they haven’t pitched here. We’re comfortable with the guys.

Straily, 30, went 5-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 23 starts last season. He had two stints on the designated list, first for a forearm inflammation and then for an oblique strain.

For his seven-year MLB career, with includes stints in Oakland, Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati and Miami, he is 42-36 with a 4.23 ERA.

“Quite honestly, this has been ongoing for a while,” Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill said. “As we approached the tender date, we had decision that we were exploring. ... I think ultimately it made the most sense to carry him into spring training because we had a lot of questions to be answered.”

Those questions, specifically with the youngsters, were answered in spring training.

Richards had a 1.86 ERA with 20 strikeouts and just four walks through 19 1/3 innings. He added a curveball and cutter to give him a four-pitch mix to go with his changeup that can be one of the best in MLB and his four-seam fastball. Lopez had a 0.90 ERA with 16 strikeouts and one walk in 20 innings. Alcantara, while up and down over his five starts, showed generally solid command of all five pitches and his fastball topped out at 98. Smith’s swing-and-miss stuff didn’t fade despite missing the second half of his rookie year after undergoing lat surgery.

“The message from Day One was that we were going to take the best 25,” Hill said. “... We just felt like it was in [Straily’s] best interest to give him an opportunity to catch on and start with another team.”

Regardless, the move means the Marlins are putting a lot of stock in a young staff, including some who would seemingly be on inning restrictions. Smith, for example, who was electric to start his rookie year (88 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings over 16 starts), is only eight months removed from lat surgery that normally takes between nine and 11 months to fully recover. Lopez pitched 58 2/3 innings at the MLB level last year (121 total), Alcantara 34 at the MLB level (161 total).

“This is just the start of the season,” Hill said. “It’s a long season, but as we leave Jupiter, Florida, we’re extremely excited about what’s in front of us because the tone was set by [Mattingly] and his staff from Day One of what we were going to do every day at the ballpark and our guys have taken that message to heart.”

Bullpen set

The Marlins have finalized their bullpen as well. The group includes Sergio Romo, Adam Conley, Chen, Austin Brice, Nick Anderson, Tyler Kinley, Tayron Guerrero and Drew Steckenrider.

Riley Ferrell, a Rule 5 draft pick, will start the 2019 season on the Injured List after dealing with bicep tendinitis at the end of spring training.

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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.