The Marlins are looking at a few potential hard-throwing pitchers for their bullpen this season — a quality that could be even more valuable if they lose Carter Capps for an extended amount of time.
Kyle Barraclough might fit the bill perfectly.
Barraclough put together a strong major-league debut during the final two months of last season after the Marlins acquired him in the trade that sent the team’s former closer, Steve Cishek, to the Cardinals.
Barraclough went 2-1 in 25 relief appearances with 30 strikeouts, 12 hits allowed and 18 walks in 24 1/3 innings. He held opponents to a .154 batting average and often clocked his fastball in the 96-98 range consistently.
“He’s one of the guys that had a lot of success last year,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Guys like him can really make a jump in the offseason and then from there, they can either jump or they can get stuck. People have videos of you at this level and will keep taking shots at you.”
Barraclough, 25, would see the chances of earning a spot in the bullpen increase depending on the status of Capps, who entered the spring in contention for the closer’s role along with last year’s closer A.J. Ramos.
Mattingly said Wednesday afternoon he had no update on Capps, who had an MRI to check on soreness he felt in his right elbow, the same one that has caused him to miss significant playing time the past two seasons.
“We’re hoping for the best with Capps, and we’ll see where it goes,” Mattingly said. “Best-case scenario for all of us is he just needs a few days, and he can come back and he’s ready to go.”
Barraclough, like Capps, has the kind of power arm that could allow him to slide right in if he delivers this spring. He knows it’s a tough competition with other hard throwers such as Brian Ellington (2-1, 2.88 ERA, .194 opposing batting average last season), who already looked strong Tuesday in his one inning pitched.
“I feel pretty confident this spring, and I gained some confidence in my stuff after last season,” Barraclough said. “I still don’t want to take anything for granted because this game is always changing.”
Barraclough was a closer in Double A for the Cardinals last season, where along with a brief stint at Double A Jacksonville after coming to the Marlins he posted 14 saves, a 3-0 record and a 2.06 ERA in 38 appearances (43 2/3 innings).
A seventh-round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2012 out of Saint Mary’s (California) College, the 6-3, 225-pound Barraclough said his goal this spring is to develop his slider and work on his changeup to balance out his array of tough pitches.
“I’m trying to work on my changeup and add that third pitch to put something else in my repertoire and in the back of the hitters’ minds,” Barraclough said. “My slider got a lot better over the course of last season, and it’s something I can fall back on. It’s an equalizer because I can throw it all the time and it produces a lot of swings and misses or at least bad swings or bad contact for opposing hitters.”
FERNANDEZ IN FINE FORM TO START SPRING
Jose Fernandez appeared to be in midseason form in his first simulated game situation of the spring.
Fernandez showed excellent command of his fastball, which he said he threw about 21 or 22 times mixed in with about six or seven changeups and three sliders for a total of 31 pitches in two innings of a simulated start. Roughly 25 of his pitches went for strikes.
Fernandez struck out five batters and allowed only one hit during the session, with only two other batters putting the ball in play.
He is expected to make his first spring start Monday in Viera against the Nationals.
“The fastball location was good,” Fernandez said. “I felt great. The biggest step was being out there and having fun and competing. I missed not doing that in the offseason.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Christian Yelich didn’t participate in team activities Wednesday after experiencing some stiffness in his back following Tuesday’s game against the University of Miami. Yelich went 2 for 2 and like the majority of the team’s projected starters played three innings.
Yelich spent some time on the disabled list last year because of a strained back but doesn’t think this is anything to worry about.
“I should be alright in a couple of days or maybe [Thursday],” Yelich said. “It’s a little tightness. We had a light day anyway so just a little bit of a breather and see how it feels [Thursday]. It’s not like last year.”
▪ Robert Andino was hit by a pitch on the side of the head by Edwin Jackson during the team’s intrasquad game. The fastball caught Andino, who went 2 for 2 on Tuesday against UM, on the ear flap of the batting helmet. Andino appeared to be fine as he walked it off and remained in the game.
“I’m OK; my ear isn’t even hot,” Andino later joked. “At least my on-base percentage went up.”