The Miami Marlins shouldn't make a potential pitching mistake

I'm worried about The Fish stretching out A.J. Puk as a starting pitcher

A.J. Puk
A.J. Puk / Rich Storry/GettyImages

The Miami Marlins bullpen is getting some reinforcements, but subtracting good relievers isn't exactly making things better. Even with potentially serious injuries to the rotation. What am I talking about? I'm talking about stretching out reliever A.J. Puk as a starting pitcher. I don't see much value in this move and mostly see it as a waste of time. I'll explain...

A.J. Puk should just be kept in the Miami Marlins bullpen.

A.J. Puk has exclusively pitched as a reliever so far in his Major League career. He debuted in 2019 with the Oakland Athletics, producing a 3.18 ERA/3.39 FIP, with 10.3 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9, in 10 games. The control rate was an issue, but everything else looked very good.

Unfortunately for both Puk and Oakland, he missed the 2020 season due to shoulder issues. He was back for the 2021 season, in which he produced a 6.08 ERA, with a more promising 3.32 FIP. He had 10.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 that season in 12 games and 13.1 innings pitched. Once again the control was not good, but the strikeout rate and FIP were impressive. He followed that up with a 3.12 ERA/3.68 FIP, with 10.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9, in 62 games and 66.1 innings pitched.

A.J. Puk improved his control in 2022, but the FIP went down and the ERA improved quite a bit. He was acquired by the Miami Marlins for the 2023 season. This time, he delivered a 3.97 ERA/3.59 FIP, with 12.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9, in 58 games and 56.2 innings pitched. He even had 15 saves, as at one point he was the team's closer.

Now Puk has good stuff and solid FIP's, with elite strikeout rates. He also vastly improved his control. Puk is being stretched out as a starting pitcher, so far he's having good results in Spring Training. He just had two shutout innings against the New York Mets. However, we're talking about two innings. Two innings. Will his shoulder issues resurface if he's stretched out?

Another issue is that there's simply no room for him in the rotation. Jesus Luzardo, Eury Perez and Braxton Garrett have spots locked up. Trevor Rogers and Edward Cabrera are the favorites for the last two spots. Sandy Alcantara is coming back next season and will have to take someone's spot. There's also top prospect Max Meyer. I'm not even mentioning some other depth options by the way.

It certainly looks as if A.J. Puk is basically a depth option himself, who will mostly start the season in the bullpen. Does it make sense to have him as a long reliever? Wouldn't he be better off as a shutdown reliever in the late innings again? He is unlikely to crack the rotation, is at best pitching depth, risking injury with a sudden jump in innings and risking a decline in production over the long-term.

At least Puk himself is happy:

"I was excited to get there and start again. I just want to go out there and get in the strike zone with all my pitches and work on the pitches I've been working on this offseason, and I was really happy with it.”

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