The Marlins’ bullpen took a major blow Tuesday.
The team announced that reliever Carter Capps would have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow ending his 2016 season.
Capps has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and was scheduled to have the surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews Tuesday in Gulf Breeze.
Capps, who has missed significant amount of time over the past two seasons due to issues with the same elbow, visited with Andrews Monday in Pensacola to get a second opinion on the results of the MRI he underwent last week after he had previously experienced soreness in the elbow while throwing on Feb. 28.
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“Obviously Carter coming off a pretty historic year with his stuff finished on the disabled list,” Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill said. “It’s a tough blow, but I think we have the men in the clubhouse to replace him.”
Capps entered Spring Training expected to push last year’s closer A.J. Ramos for that role this season.
Regardless if he had won the position battle, the Marlins lose someone they expected to be a vital piece of their late-inning relief.
Capps posted a 1.16 ERA last season and struck out 58 batters in 31 innings in a setup role last season. His 16.84 strikeouts per nine innings ratio was tops among all relievers in the majors, leading Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman’s 15.74 average.
“We have some with power arms and that opens up that opportunity,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “But it’s definitely a loss. Carter was as dominant as you could get last year.”
Capps missed the final two months of last season on the disabled list with a right elbow sprain, and spent time on the DL in 2014 for the same reason, appearing in only 17 games. Capps saw Andrews then, but did not have surgery.
Hill said Andrews confirmed the initial examination by team doctor Lee Kaplan which prompted the need for surgery.
“We always say you can never have enough depth and we like the arms we have in camp,” Hill said. “This is an opportunity for someone to step up into that role.”
Hill said as a reliever, they expect Capps’ recovery period to be about 10-12 months, shorter than the usual recovery time for starting pitchers, and hope to have him back for Opening Day in 2017.
“Each guy is a different case, but barring no set backs, it does seem like the relievers come back quicker,” Mattingly said. “You don’t have to work them back up to pitch 100 innings. It’s about the short term and quick burst. That being said it’s still a medical thing and we’ll see how it goes.”
Hill said he didn’t think Capps’ unusual delivery where he takes a small hop off the rubber of the mound contributed to the problem.
“Coming into camp, he went through his offseason progressions and looked great,” Hill said. “He threw his first couple of batting practice sessions and looked good. His last live BP when he tried to ramp it up to 100 percent, he felt he couldn’t. We shut him down and had him get it looked at.
“It’s pitching no matter what the delivery is, it’s tough with pitching. We just hope he can get healthy and we get him back on the road to recovery.”
Hill said the team is open to the possibility of making a move for a late-inning reliever, but are giving the relievers currently in camp every opportunity.
“We have our scouts in every camp right now so we’re watching every team,” Hill said. “If there’s a possibility for an upgrade we’ll do so, but we’re happy with who we have in camp right now.”
Ramos, who posted 32 saves last season after taking over for Steve Cishek, would likely retain his job as closer. Ramos has also dealt with injury this spring, not yet being able to appear in a game due to stiffness in his right calf.
Bryan Morris, Kyle Barraclough and Brian Ellington all appear to be viable options for late-inning relief as hard-throwing right-handers with Mike Dunn, a reliable lefty option.
“We’ve seen really good stuff from [Barraclough] and [Ellington],” Mattingly said. “Both guys got some experience last year which is nice. Power in the spring is usually the guy that gets hit. The guy who changes speed has power over the hitter.”
Giancarlo Stanton was not in the lineup Tuesday against the Yankees. Stanton did not make the trip to Viera due to soreness in his right knee – the same one that required surgery to remove bone chips in 2012.
Hill said Stanton ran, threw and hit in the batting cage on Tuesday morning. Hill said no MRI was planned for Stanton, who has played in two Grapefruit League games so far and gone 1 for 3 with a walk against the Cardinals in his last appearance Saturday.
“We’ll see how the knee responds to that, and we’ll take it day by day with him,” Hill said.
Tom Koehler, who surrendered three runs (two earned) in 1 2/3 innings in his first start, pitched three scoreless innings in a 1-0 win against the Yankees Tuesday. Koehler threw 45 pitches (24 for strikes), struck out one, walked one and allowed three hits.
"I actually thought I threw the ball better in my last start," Koehler said. "I threw a lot of fastballs, but only one or two first pitch strikes. That’s something I need to clean up because you can’t have traffic on the bases all the time and always get out of it. I was fortunate Dee [Gordon] made a great play [in the first inning] and [Justin] Bour started a nice double play [in the third inning]."
Chris Johnson broke up a scoreless stalemate in the bottom of the seventh for the game’s lone run.
The Marlins were held hitless for six innings until Don Kelly hit a bloop single to center after Derek Dietrich drew a walk from Yankees reliever Nick Rumbelow. Johnson then singled to left to score Dietrich.
Wednesday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley vs. Cardinals RHP Mike Leake, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
Thursday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena vs. Braves RHP Bud Norris, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.