The Marlins and starting pitcher Caleb Smith look to earn a split in their interleague series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
It may go down as the best move the Miami Marlins have made in the Derek Jeter era of the franchise.
The first trade the long-time Yankees great made as CEO of the team was sending Mike King and international bonus pool money to his former team for Caleb Smith and Garrett Cooper. Both players have impacted this organization this season, even though both have struggled with injuries.
While Cooper shows power in the middle of the Marlins batting order when he is healthy, Smith continues to marvel as a pitcher who is not only dominant, but also the ace of a young staff that is better than statistics would indicate.
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When you look at Smith on the mound, you look at the team’s Opening Day starter for the 2020 season, and it’s not even close. After a 3-0 start where he was considered one of the best pitchers in baseball, followed by an 0-4 skid, it is Smith who has regained his momentum to once again sit atop the perch as manager Don Mattingly’s “go-to” starter.
Smith brings a 7-4 record to Tampa on Sunday as the Marlins look to win the final game of a short series with their cross-state rivals. After an 8-6 loss on Saturday night, can the man who has become Miami’s saving grace do it again?
"“The Marlins’ 28-year-old lefty, who makes his next start Sunday to close out a short two-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays that starts on Saturday, has dazzled since returning from a left hip injury that sidelined him for a month and added a speedbump to an All-Star-caliber start to the season,” Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald writes."
What Smith as also done is give the Marlins a dominant left-handed pitcher, something this team has lacked for years. All of this from the fifth starter in the rotation from the first week of the season. And remember, the team did not know what it would get from Smith in Spring Training after missing most of the 2018 season with a lat injury that required surgery.
To put in perspective what the Marlins had with Smith last season prior to his injury, he was 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 16 games. Dan Straily, the veteran of the staff last season was 5-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 23 starts. Smith’s impressive Spring was one of the reasons the team released the 30-year-old right before the 2019 season began.
Even with the time on the I.L. and two starts in Jacksonville, Smith has 119 strikeouts in 97 innings and in his last two outings, he has pitched seven strong innings. Now that the Marlins appear to be hitting the ball better since the All-Star break, giving Smith and the other starters in the rotation run support could mean a double-digit winning season for him, which the team did not have in 2018.
Smith and the Marlins face Yonny Chirinos who is 8-5 this season for the Rays. The righty owns an 8-5 record and a 3.70 ERA with 106 strikeouts this season.