Miami Marlins: Jeff Locke pitches well in first rehab assignment

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Miami Marlins desperate for starting pitching, Jeff Locke’s successful rehab assignment is a step in the right direction.

It’s no mystery that the Miami Marlins are looking for help in their starting rotation. With Edinson Volquez nursing a blister on his pitching hand, and Wei-Yin Chen sidelined with arm fatigue, the Fish need arms. On Monday, southpaw Jeff Locke gave fans something to look forward to.

Locke was originally intended to compete with the Marlins at the Major League level, but an injury sustained in spring training put that on hold. Locke appears to be getting back to full speed now. Pitching at single-A Jupiter, Locke tied batters in knots. The Hammerheads were unable to come away with the victory, but Locke took a step toward rejoining the Major League club.

In four innings of work, Locke simply dazzled. His strikeout totals weren’t high, but he has never been a strikeout pitcher to begin with. Fanning three batters and allowing two hits, Locke didn’t allow a run while he was on the mound. He commanded the strike zone well, throwing a mere 58 pitches in his return, 34 were strikes.

It remains unclear how long the lefty will be toiling at lower levels before joining the pro club. The team likely wants to slow-play his recovery from bicep tendonitis.

Whenever Locke rejoins the team, he will be welcome. The Marlins find themselves in a position where they are desperate for big league level pitching. Many imagined Locke’s role would originally be in long-relief, that seems doubtful now. The emergence of Jarlin Garcia, and the consistent improvement of Nick Wittgren have de-prioritized the need for long relief.

Where Locke might fit

Locke will find himself slotting into the Miami Marlins big league rotation as soon as his arm is ready. There is hope that the Marlins pitchers that are currently out of commission will return soon, but that’s a guessing game at this point. Volquez’s blister might be slow to heal, and there are any number of potential issues with Chen’s arm.

Locke’s return is to be taken with a grain of salt, though. Keep in mind that he struggled in his final season in Pittsburgh, and has never ended a season with a sub-3.50 ERA. He has the goods to be a functioning member of the Miami Marlins pitching rotation, but isn’t the answer to all the problems the Fish are facing.

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It’s wisest to go slow and not push Locke too hard in his recovery. The worst thing that could happen is that his injury becomes re-aggravated and he is lost for the year.