The Miami Marlins come to Spring Training without a true closer, something manager Don Mattingly is hoping to resolve during camp.
It remains one of the mysteries of the early goings of Spring Training for the Miami Marlins. Who will become the team’s everyday closer?
To piggyback on that question, this organization, namely manager Don Mattingly, must decide if he can get by with one pitcher in that role, or will he have to resort to a “closer by committee” approach like he did in the final month of the season.
There are plenty of prospects, namely Drew Steckenrider, who would appear to be the odds on favorite to win the job outright, but he does have competition. Adam Conley, especially, with Tayron Guerrero in the mix and newly signed reliever Sergio Romo, who could see time as a long-reliever/setup man as well as the guy to record the last three outs of the game.
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If competition is what Mattingly was looking for, he sure has found it. And that does not include the potential of another arm, or two, coming forth and throwing themselves into the mix. In some cases, this might be a good problem to have, much like the overabundance of starters to work with.
The Marlins must settle on one player they can count on to fill the closer role and get the tough out when needed. The problem with expecting either Steckenrider or Conley to become a lights-out pitcher is neither one has extensive experience in the role, to begin with.
Conley started out as a starter in the Marlins organization but has moved to the bullpen and found success as a long reliever. Steckenrider has been a long reliever and set up guy. He was thrust into the role when pitchers before him tried and failed.
"“We’re going to be flexible to try to put our guys in the best situation to be successful,” manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, on the first day of Spring Training workouts for pitchers and catchers."
It’s a position that still needs attention and direction. New pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr will be charged with fixing what has been broken. If he can take any one of the relievers and build them into a dominant specialist, the rotation will benefit greatly.
"“If we have both guys available, and it was a right-handed section in the eighth, it doesn’t make sense to say, ‘Steck’s our closer, we’re not going to use him there,'” Mattingly said. “Or we’re holding on to Adam for the ninth, we we’ve got three or four lefties in the eighth.”"
While Guerrero may be the long shot to win the spot, but he also might be the hardest throwing pitcher of the foursome. Romo is a veteran who has been in this situation before and could be a stabilizing factor of the bullpen. Mattingly and the team must feel better about their relievers over last season and possibly better than just one week ago.
The club converted 30 of 53 save situations, with not all the leads being lost in the ninth inning, Frisaro explained. Miami’s ERA in the ninth inning or later was 5.34 – that was second to last in the Majors. It must be corrected or the starters who give the team a lead or solid innings will have used their efforts for nothing.