Miami Marlins: Late Inning Strategy Will Intrigue Early This Season

The Miami Marlins are a family: a really injured family. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Marlins are a family: a really injured family. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Let me start by saying you’d be reading this same article whether the Miami Marlins had won their opener or not.

But why did David Phelps pitch two innings for the Miami Marlins Monday?

Again, not just firing off an impassioned, knee-jerk rant based off of one game out of 162 here. If Phelps had struck out the side in the sixth, done so again in the seventh, if he had retired six straight batters on six straight pitches, if he had crushed a 500 ft HR in his plate appearance…it wouldn’t matter. Same article, same question: why put Phelps out there for two innings?

All offseason, the story has been about the deep bullpen. Relievers will frequently be used, and used smartly, exploiting match-ups and making up for a starting staff that either lacks the stamina to go deep into games or the talent to shut down a strong lineup a third or fourth time through the order. Putting Phelps

Putting Phelps into the game made sense. Starter Edinson Volquez had had some close calls with the heart of the order to that point, despite not allowing a run. No issues with the call to turn the ball over to the strength of the club.

However, fresh off of the offseason, and with an off-day tomorrow, there seemed to be little reason to stretch out a reliever. Everyone should have been available. Granted, you can argue everyone should have been fresh enough to be stretched out as well. Although, I’d suggest giving up a towering moonshot in the previous frame disqualifies you from being a must-pitch relief option in the next one.

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2017  will be an interesting season, especially in the early goings, and certainly for as long as the club sticks to a four-man bench. Followers of the Fish are well acquainted with just how rare a complete game has become for a Miami pitcher. How often will starters even be allowed to shoot for a quality start (QS) this season if that key sixth inning would require facing top-tier competition?

Was Volquez’s early removal the first example of “Bryce Harper rules” in 2017, or will this same situation play out when Maikel Franco or Matt Kemp are the big outs to get?

How much of Phelps getting the call a second time around had to do with no one being on base? No one was warming up, so it wasn’t just a case of not wanting to burn a bench bat. Would we have seen Junichi Tazawa jump up sooner if Adeiny Hechavarria had hit a double?

I’m not convinced we would have. While the bench is being kept thin to maximize pitching flexibility, is it possible there is an unexpected wrinkle in the grand offseason plan? Is it a concern that the consequences of a thin bench could short circuit how that shiny new bullpen is used?

Who becomes the go-to guy to get lefty bats out, in a bullpen bereft of left-handed arms? It doesn’t look like it should be Phelps. Will this work itself out, or will the plan to go without one be cast aside?

Next: Opening Against The Nats? Same-O, Same-O For Fish

In the end, there’s a lot of season left; fans shouldn’t overreact to one game. But if you want some early season drama, some nitty-gritty baseball minutia for the diehard fans that have been starved of such things during a long offseason and little competition during Spring Training, this is your story. For every game will expand the sample size of what will undoubtedly prove to be April’s most fascinating storyline.