David Phelps reached, as he put it, his “tipping point” on April 21.
Phelps gave up four runs on four hits in a loss to the Padres. It was his eighth relief appearance, and he had given up at least one hit in every one of them. His ERA stood at 8.10.
The Marlins’ top setup reliever wasn’t getting the job done.
“Obviously, your confidence takes a hit when you’re going through a run like that,” Phelps said. “It was a stressful time. It was kind of getting to the tipping point for me, where I was going to blow up.”
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That was then. Now?
Since that April 21 game in San Diego, Phelps has gone nine straight outings in which he hasn’t allowed a run, and just one hit — an infield hit, at that.
“It seems like he’s been getting back on track,” said manager Don Mattingly. “He had a couple of bad outings, so you try to get him an inning where it’s not the game on the line. You try to build two or three outings [like that] together, and the next thing you know, the guy’s building some confidence.”
During Sunday’s win over the Braves, he took over in the eighth with a 3-1 lead and retired three batters on 10 pitches, the latter two on strikeouts in which his fastball velocity touched 97 mph.
“It’s a little easier for your [velocity] to be up when you’re not throwing 30 pitches an outing,” Phelps said, referring to a couple of lengthy outings.
Phelps averaged 24.5 pitches in his first eight outings. Over his last nine, the average has dropped to 14.2 pitches.
So what changed?
“I think I’m throwing a few less cutters,” Phelps said. “I went back to look at video and realized that the less guys see it, the better it is.”
Phelps also made sure his “miss” pitches actually missed the strike zone.
“I had a lot of balls leaking back over the plate, whether it was the cutter or two-seamers,” Phelps said. “I’m just being a little bit smarter with my misses. I’m missing instead of missing in over the plate.”
The result: “The biggest thing now is I’m getting guys out,” he said. “Confidence is up.”
▪ His right hand in a cast, infielder Miguel Rojas expressed hope that he can return to play just before the All-Star break in July, which may be optimistic.
“We’re looking forward to a speedy recovery,” said Rojas, who underwent surgery Friday to repair a broken thumb. “I think it’s going to be a speedy recovery because [the doctor] gave me hope.”
Rojas said that his surgeon inserted three pins and a steel plate in his thumb. He was told the splint could be removed in a week and to expect a healing period of four to six weeks.
“The good news is there is no damage to the ligaments or tendons,” he said.
▪ Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria’s oblique injury is more serious than an abdominal injury he suffered early through the season, and could be out anywhere from two to three weeks.
“I just heard it was worse than last time,” Mattingly said. “Some of the symptoms were different than before. This is more of a true oblique.”
▪ Starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen was examined Monday by a doctor, but no determination on what the next step might be.
Chen, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list with what the Marlins termed as “left arm fatigue,” had a bullpen session cut short on Saturday when he continued to experience discomfort.
Mattingly said, at the very least, Chen won’t throw for a couple of weeks.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (1-1, 5.60) vs. Houston Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-0, 1.69), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (1-1, 1.98) vs. Houston Astros RHP Lance McCullers (3-1, 2.98), 12:10 p.m., Marlins Park.