Dennis Eckersley moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen. So did John Smoltz in his time with the Atlanta Braves. Both players are in the Hall of Fame. While Adam Conley is not at that level yet, could the move to the ‘pen be the right move for the former Miami Marlins starter?
Conley had toiled between the Major Leagues and Triple-A New Orleans, working on his control over the course of his career. When he was brought up from the minors this season, the left-hander was moved to the bullpen.
It was a move that paid off both for himself and the Marlins. The organization envisions him as an Andrew Miller-type pitcher. It also means he might have found his niche on this pitching staff.
More from Marlins News
- Miami Marlins news: Another target gone
- Why didn’t the Miami Marlins sign JDM?
- Miami Marlins rejected Boston‘s trade offer
- Miami Marlins are pursuing Michael Conforto
- Miami Marlins need to spend to win
As Joe Persak of sun-sentinel.com wrote, the idea was for Conley to move out of the pen at some point and start, much like Jose Urena did last season. Now, that is not even a consideration with the success he has had.
"“Entirely out of the bullpen, Conley has the best strikeout rate, hit rate, WHIP, FIP, adjusted-ERA and ERA of his career through 27.1 innings,” Persak wrote."
In 2016, Conley was penciled in as a back-end starter with Jose Fernandez at the front of the rotation. After being redrafted in the second round of the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft (he was first selected in the 32nd round in 2008), Conley has posted modest numbers as a Major Leaguer, going 23-17 with a 4.52 ERA in 90 games. He has one save, recorded this season, to his credit.
Conley and many of his fellow relievers have been the subject of trade rumors. It’s a testament to how far he has developed and a sign this is a bullpen that could be one of the best next season.
Moving to the bullpen has been a change of mindset for Conley, who approaches the game differently than he did as a starter. Being called on multiple times a week, preparing for an inning or two of work – it’s different than knowing you will pitch every fifth game.
So far, it’s a change that has agreed with him. It has also meant Conley approaches the way he pitches to hitters. Pitching coach Juan Nieves has a lot to do with the new concept.
"“I often call the starter that starts that way, it’s like training for a boxing match,” Nieves said before the Marlins’ game against the Braves on Tuesday. “And you start feeling your [opponent] in the first inning, and he knocks you out, and you were training a year for this fight, and here we go.”"
Whatever the change, whatever the approach, it is working for Conley and the Marlins. You could not say that this time last season. Now, with just two months in the remainder of the season, he hopes to continue his progress with his new role.
Other teams are taking notice, so much so they are interested in adding him to their roster. For now, Conley is just concentrating on where he is and what he has to do to help his current team win ball games.