Fish Bytes

For Miami Marlins, every starter needs to be an ‘ace’

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Dan Straily (58) throws a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals in Washington on April 5, 2017.
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Dan Straily (58) throws a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals in Washington on April 5, 2017. AP

Jose Fernandez is no longer with them.

But as far as the Marlins see it, they still have a pitching ace. Five of them.

“Today [Edinson] Volquez is our ace. Tomorrow it’s [Wei-Yin] Chen,” said Dan Straily, who will be on the mound for the Marlins in Tuesday’s home opener.

Nobody on the Marlins would dare suggest they’re no worse without Fernandez than they would be with him. They’re not crazy. Fernandez was among the best of the best.

“For sure the rotation is not the same as it would be with Jose,” said Adam Conley, a member of the Marlins’ five-man starting staff. “No one’s denying that. He was definitely one of the best starting pitchers on the planet, and he’s not here anymore.”

But don’t tell the Marlins their rotation is, well, mediocre without him. They’re not buying the conventional thought that the Marlins rotation as it exists now is nothing more than a collection of back-of-the-rotation starters who don’t measure up with the rest of the league.

“I know our rotation is a lot better than people think it is,” Conley said. “If we play baseball like we’re capable of playing, then we’re going to surprise a lot of people, because they don’t think we’re very good.”

That much-maligned rotation hardly disgraced itself the first week of the season. Through Sunday, the starters ranked seventh in the National League with a staff ERA of 3.56.

In four of the six games, the starters gave up one or zero runs.

Although it’s premature to declare the rotation the second coming of the 1971 Baltimore Orioles, which featured four 20-game winners, Marlins pitchers served notice that they may not be the pushovers the baseball pundits believe them to be.

“No matter what the perception is, the bottom line is that if you’re playing Major League Baseball, you’re one of the best players on the planet,” Conley said. “You’re there because you have the ability to be successful at that level.”

Conley almost didn’t crack the rotation after struggling through a sluggish spring training. But all Conley did in his first start was retire the first 11 batters he faced and garner the win in Saturday’s victory over the Mets.

And get this: He wasn’t happy with his outing.

“The fifth inning wasn’t sharp at all,” Conley said. “I threw 25 pitches in the fifth inning. I gave up the homer to [Lucas] Duda, walked the next two guys. I can improve greatly on what I did.”

In his Marlins debut last week, Straily gave up five runs in only  3 1/3 innings. He failed to strike out a batter. But the performance wasn’t as bad as his pitching line looked. Straily was a victim of some bad luck and poor fundamental play behind him, such as a botched fly ball that wasn’t caught and missed cutoff on a throw to the plate.

“Some days,” Straily said, “you’ve just got to [stink] less than the other guy.”

Straily doesn’t wear blinders. He understands the Marlins don’t have a Fernandez in their rotation.

“Yes, there are clear-cut aces out there,” Straily said. “That’s not deniable. But there really aren’t that many. And even those guys get beat.”

Conley said no one should be surprised if the Marlins’ starters prove to be better than what most expected.

“The thing is, we’re not going to be surprised,” Conley said. “I’m not going to be surprised. A lot of people don’t think we’re any good, so they’ll be surprised.”

HOME OPENER PLANS

Festivities for the Marlins’ home opener will start at 4 p.m. on the West Plaza, and fans are being urged to arrive early. Parking garages will also open at 4 p.m.

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Marlins’ 1997 World Series team, Livan Hernandez, Charles Johnson and Edgar Renteria will take part in the ceremonial first pitch.

REALMUTO RECEIVES RECOGNITION

Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto was named the National League Player of the Week after hitting .500 with a pair of homers.

Realmuto hit safely in all five games he played in and had a .542 on-base percentage.

COMING UP

▪ Tuesday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (0-1, 13.50) vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Bartolo Colon (0-0, 1.50), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (0-0, 1.80) vs. Atlanta Braves LHP Jaime Garcia (0-1, 6.00), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

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