Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara was named the team’s Opening Day starter by manager Don Mattingly.
If any other pitcher besides Sandy Alcantara had been named the Miami Marlins starter on Opening Day against the Philadelphia Phillies, I think there might have been some question as to what manager Don Mattingly was thinking.
Yes, a case could be made for both Jose Urena, who Mattingly raved about right before the organization shut down operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued to sing his praises this past week.
The same could be said for Caleb Smith, who hopes to return to the same form he showed at the start of last season when he was added to the rotation literally at the last minute prior to the start of the 2019 season by Mattingly.
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But in reality, this is what the Miami Marlins front office had in mind all along when they sent outfielder Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis for Alcantara and other minor leaguers.
"“His stuff is as good as anyone,” manager Don Mattingly said on Wednesday in a Zoom call, via MLB.com. “I don’t care who you want to put out there. His stuff is as good as anyone’s.”"
That’s pretty high praise given the National League has some pretty good hurlers out there who have helped teams win World Series titles of late. But there is more to this than just taking the bump for the first game of the season. The Miami Marlins need Alcantara to set the tone for this rotation. He must become a leader and when the game is on the line, he must remain consistent and deliver.
That’s what an “Ace” does for his team.
"“The ace needs to be ‘that guy,'” Mattingly said. “Out of that guy, you want to know what you’re going to get. When he pitches, your team should feel like you’re going to win. You know that he’s going to give you a good outing.”"
The season Alcantara put together is not indicative of the record he pitched last season. It’s peculiar, if anything else because baseball is the one sport where players are judged on statistics more than any other outlet. There were times last season when the 24-year-old was masterful.
"“Alcantara was Miami’s lone All-Star last year, pacing the club in starts (32) and innings (197 1/3),” Joe Frisaro adds.“On a team that finished 57-105, Alcantara was 6-14 with a 3.88 ERA. What was telling was how he got better late in the year, posting a 2.59 ERA in six starts and 41 2/3 innings in September.”"
If Alcantara can give the Miami Marlins that kind of effort in 2020, given the short season and the pressure to win immediately, then he will have proven to be just as solid as the top-tier pitchers of MLB and could chase a Cy Young Award along the way. And if everything is equal, it means the Marlins will have won the trade with the Cardinals that sent Ozuna to St. Louis.
I had to throw that in there.
For now, the Miami Marlins are preparing for the start of the season. They have their starter for the first game in Philadelphia. The final touches are being placed on the roster. All that is left is playing the game.
Alcantara has been given a chance to make his presence known as a dominant pitcher, an ace, and a leader of this team. There is a lot to take in, but if he continues to throw as he has been in camp, everything else takes care of itself.
The Miami Marlins are hoping that’s the case. Because the Sandy Alcantara era is ready to lift off.