New Miami Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr has the task of taking a young group of arms and shaping them into a competitive rotation.
Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. may have the biggest job of any coach on the Miami Marlins staff. Charged with helping young arms continue to develop while blending them with veteran pitchers, it’s the hope the wizened teacher can get this staff to the point that there is promise for the future.
It’s a challenge Stottlemyre welcomes with possibly a twist or two as to how to make this cast of players gel and succeed. As Joe Frisaro of MLB.com wrote, the possibility of using an “opener” is a real concept that could be part of the team’s plan in 2019.
An opener is a relief pitcher who does just that – opens the game on the mound. He then gives way to a long reliever of starter.
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"“We talked about it in my interview process,” Stottlemyre said on a recent conference call. “I’m open to it, but you really have to be careful doing that to a young pitcher.”"
With the changing times and how pitchers have become specialists, it would not be shocking to see this as part of Manager Don Mattingly’s game plan on occasion. The issue that Marlins may face is making sure it does not become a habit.
"“Entering Spring Training, the Marlins have three veterans who, if healthy, should be locks to be in the rotation: Jose Urena, Dan Straily and Wei-Yin Chen,” Frisaro added"
Finding a spot for everyone could be an issue, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Essentially, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards – four rookies who started last season – will battle for two spots. Smith may not be ready for Spring Training because of an injury. Alcantara is the team’s top pitching prospect but is still inconsistent. Lopez and Richards are solid when the team provides them with run support.
This is why the opener role is so appealing to the organization.
"“We did a little bit of it in Seattle,” Stottlemyre said. “We had some swing guys in there, due to injuries.“We chose to play matchups, and take your sixth- or seventh-inning guy and run him through the top of their lineup, where history said that player had success against that part of the lineup. We did a little bit of it. Not to the extent of Tampa.”"
One pitcher to watch in the decision with the pitching staff is Nick Neidert. The propsect spent the 2018 season in Jacksonville, was named the Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and should start 2019 at Triple-A New Orleans. He has an outside shot at making the 25-man roster in Spring Training.