David Phelps to be used in Relief Role?

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Last week, the Miami Marlins defeated newly acquired pitcher David Phelps in salary arbitration. Phelps had originally requested $1.875 million from the Marlins, the team countered with $1.4 million.

On Sunday, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald gave us insight on why the Marlins offered the money they had offered and maybe gave us a glance on how they plan on using Phelps for the 2015 season

"These closed-door arbitration hearings can get lively. For example, according to a source on the side of pitcher David Phelps, the Marlins said in his hearing last week that the former Yankees pitcher projects as a relief pitcher here (barring an injury to a starter).The Phelps side objected, as they would in a courtroom, pointing out that only past performance, not future role, can be used in arbitration arguments. The Marlins won the hearing, making them 2-0 this year. (They also beat Mat Latos.)"

It’s interesting that the Marlins told the arbitrator that Phelps would primarily be used as a reliever for the upcoming season. Since he was acquired along with Martin Prado from the Yankees, the general assumption was that he would be competing with Brad Hand and Tom Koehler for the fifth starters role, assuming Dan Haren does end up pitching for the team. 

If the Marlins had signed James Shields, it would have been safe to assume Phelps would not have a role in the Marlins rotation, but with Shields not in the picture, it seems the Marlins will have Koehler and Hand battle it out for the fifth rotation spot, with prospect Justin Nicolino looming in the shadows.

Last year, the Yankees used Phelps equally as a reliever and a starter, as he appeared in 32 games last season – 17 starts – resulting in 113 innings of work in 2014.

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David Phelps should be an almost automatic lock to make the Marlins 25-man roster out of spring training, as his arbitration case, even in defeat, earned him a salary of over $1 million for the upcoming season.

The 28-year old struck out an impressive 24% of the hitters he faced as a reliever, but struggled with his command, walking almost 17% of the hitters he faced. This resulted in an ugly 4.96 ERA and a 5.76 FIP in 16 1/3 innings (15 appearances).

For Phelps, the 2015 season could be a big one for his career. If he struggles again, he’d be a strong non-tender candidate for the Marlins, as he is a super-2 eligible guy, meaning he’d be in line to go to salary arbitration three more times with the team, which could result in a steep pay raise.

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