Justin Nicolino effective in season debut for Miami Marlins

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

Short on starters, the Miami Marlins called on left-hander Justin Nicolino for the finale against the Braves. He delivered everything they could have asked for.

The Miami Marlins desperately needed a quality outing from a spot-starter on Monday. Recalling Justin Nicolino from triple-A, he came through in a major way. Working six innings and allowing only one run, the young lefty put the Fish in a position to win.

While he wasn’t in line for the win after exiting, he regularly worked his way out of tight situations and kept the Marlins in the game.

At several points throughout the game, Nicolino backed himself into a corner. If he wants to find continued success, he’ll need to command the strike zone more. Throwing only 79 pitches, 52 were for strikes. He walked four batters and issued a hit-by-pitch to Adonis Garcia.

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In addition to the six allowed hits, only the one off the bat of Nick Markakis in the fifth inning resulted in any serious damage. That was enough to make Nicolino ineligible for the win, though, as the Marlins provided him no run support while he was in the game.

The start was an encouraging sign for both Nicolino and the Marlins. In his previous forays into the Major Leagues, Nicolino has managed to amass only 0.3 WAR. Starting 12 games in 2015, and 13 games in 2016, his career record of 8-10, with a 4.41 ERA wasn’t enough to land him on the opening day roster. Now depleted by injuries, he’s getting another chance.

Wei-Yin Chen appears to be out for the long-term. After experiencing elbow discomfort during a bullpen session, Nicolino is his likeliest stand in. If he is able to deliver results similar to Sunday on a regular basis, the Miami Marlins will likely keep him in the fold beyond 2017.

Injuries providing opportunities

We’ve already seen several younger players produce favorable results when they are thrust into action. We’ve seen Jose Urena perform well in his two starts this season. Now Nicolino figures to be part of the rotation longer than expected, at 25 years old, his time is now.

Edinson Volquez is back from his blister and looked good in his return. The starting rotation is starting to take shape for the Marlins, and provides hope that the future of pro club is brighter than many initially believed.

Keep in mind, though, that much of this optimism is exactly that: optimism. Miami Marlins fans are asking players with little success in the Major Leagues to carry the team into the playoffs. Nicolino looked good in his start, but it was only one start, and it’s irresponsible to say he’s arrived.

All the same, things appear to be trending in the right direction for the Fish. With Tyler Moore connecting for his three-run homer yesterday, the Marlins notched a much needed tally in the win column.

Nicolino’s next start will likely be in L.A. against he Dodgers. Facing a far more potent lineup than the one Atlanta boasts, his MLB readiness will be tested. However, another quality start will go a long way. The opportunity exists to solidify himself with the Major League club.

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If the Miami Marlins can trust Nicolino, and fellow youngster Urena, to pitch effectively, their rotation woes might be on the mend. With Straily and Volquez both pitching better in recent starts, things appear to be turning around for the Fish.