Miami Marlins

A young All-Star pitcher. A veteran backup catcher. To the Marlins: A ‘good combination’

Miami Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara happy to ‘represent my team’ at All-Star Game

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara was named to the 2019 MLB All-Star Game.
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Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara was named to the 2019 MLB All-Star Game.

Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara has gone through ebbs and flows throughout his first full season in Major League Baseball.

But he has had one constant over his past three months to help him get through the growing pains in Bryan Holaday.

Holaday, the Marlins’ backup has caught 12 of Alcantara’s 15 starts since being called up on May 24. That includes Friday’s series opener against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

Some of that has had to do with how the starts have lined up. Alcantara has stared seven day games this year, days that Marlins manager Don Mattingly usually rests starting catcher Jorge Alfaro.

But Mattingly has also seen benefits from having the 23-year-old Alcantara with the 31-year-old Holaday.

“Sandy feels comfortable with Holly,” he said. “I like the way he makes him use his mix. It’s been a pretty good combination.”

Alcantara entered Friday with a 4-10 record and a 4.44 ERA over 23 starts. The lanky 6-4, 170-pound righty leads Miami in innings pitched (135 2/3) and double plays forced (18). He is the only Marlins pitcher remaining with the opportunity to make every schedule start this year.

He has also strung together a pair of strong starts against both the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves leading into his start against the Rockies. He earned a no-decision in the Marlins’ 10-inning, walk-off win on Saturday after giving up just two earned runs over 7 2/3 innings while striking out six.

It was needed production after four rough outings following his first All-Star Game appearance — a stretch in which he had a 7.89 ERA and gave up at least four earned runs on three occasions.

“I think he has shown some tremendous signs,” Holaday said. “Obviously he’s had a couple games where you kind of see his youth, but he’s made some strides, especially with his overall command with all of his pitches. I think that’s the biggest part for him because he has the stuff to be capable of being an ace.”

That stuff: A five-pitch mix centered around a four-seam fastball that averages 95.5 mph and tops out around 98 mph. He also weaves in a slider, sinker, changeup and curveball.

“He’s been trusting himself more and been on the attack more, which is what we love to see out of him,” Holaday said. “He does have that electric stuff and he has the ability to challenge guys with a 98 mph fastball. That’s huge for us when he can go out and attack hitters and trust in what he does. That’s when he has a lot of success.”

And Holaday is there to help guide him through it.

“Me and Sandy have a really good relationship,” Holaday said. “I think he really trusts me and the work I put in, as I do with him. I think we work well together. He’s a really fun guy to catch.”

Walker returns

Utility infielder Neil Walker (right index finger sprain) was reinstated from the 10-day injured list on Friday and immediately returned to the starting lineup. Walker hit fourth in the lineup and started at first base against the Rockies.

“It’s good to get Walk back,” Mattingly said. “It gives us a switch hitter, a guy that can play on both corners. It helps our lineup a little bit to be able to stretch it in different ways.”

The Marlins designated infielder Deven Merrero for assignment to make room for Walker on the active roster.

More injury notes

Starting pitchers Jose Urena and Pablo Lopez both had rehab starts on Friday, with Urena throwing one inning with the Class A Advanced Jupiter Hammerheads and Lopez throwing with the Triple A New Orleans Baby Cakes.

Urena threw 10 pitches in his one frame, giving up a run on a leadoff triple and sacrifice fly before inducing a flyout and groundout to end the inning.

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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.