Bass encouraged by spring debut

March 25th, 2022

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Saying right-hander Anthony Bass' debut season with the Marlins didn't go as planned would be an understatement. Signed to be the club's closer, Bass blew his first two save opportunities of 2021, including the controversial walk-off hit-by-pitch at Citi Field, and never returned to the role.

"I wanted to go out there and I wanted to be the guy in the ninth, and it didn't happen the way I wanted to," Bass said. "But I knew that I needed to help the team, and I knew that I needed to make adjustments. And [manager Don Mattingly] came up to me and told me that he's going to keep throwing me out there in big parts of the game, not necessarily the ninth inning, and just be ready. And I took that like he has all the confidence in me."

Over his final 66 outings, Bass compiled a 2.78 ERA, primarily in the seventh and eighth innings. The 34-year-old returned to the mound during Thursday night's 9-3 loss to the Mets at Clover Park, working a scoreless fourth in his Grapefruit League debut. He struck out Francisco Lindor on a four-seam fastball and got Pete Alonso to ground out to short before consecutive singles to Eduardo Escobar and Jeff McNeil. Bass stranded the runners when J.D. Davis flied out to deep right.

In 2021, Bass had an 11.81 ERA in eight outings against the Mets, compared to 3.05 vs. everyone else across 62 appearances.

"That's just one of those things throughout my career, there's that one team that just kind of gives me a fit for whatever reason, and last year it was the Mets," Bass said. "It was good to go out there tonight, put up a zero against obviously a lot of their starters in the lineup, to kind of just set the tone when I do face them. So I was really happy about that."

Last season, Bass' splits were drastic: .195/.273/.266 (RHB) vs. .300/.374/.630 (LHB), relying heavily on his two-seamer to lefties (40.5%). At one point, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. sat down with Bass and broke down how his hand's positioning with the four-seamer (4.5%) would play better up and inside the zone. So the 10-year veteran intends to use that and incorporate his splitter (2%) more in 2022.

What a relief

Right-hander Nick Neidert will be used in the bullpen, and it's a role he has embraced thus far. In fact, Miami's No. 20 prospect had considered the transition over the offseason because of the organization's starting depth.

Since debuting in 2020, Neidert has bounced back and forth between the Minors and Majors, compiling a 4.70 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 25 walks in 44 innings. The learning curve will continue, but he has been able to lean on veterans Richard Bleier and Bass, both of whom began their careers as starters.

Neidert relied heavily on his four-seamer and slider during two scoreless innings on Wednesday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, ditching what scouts consider his best pitch -- a low-80s changeup -- and his curveball. The 25-year-old's fastball averaged 89.9 mph in the outing, which is in his usual range.

"I know a lot of guys who have gone from starting to 'pen, who have had a velo uptick, so that would be great to have if that's the case, and stuff may get better," Neidert said. "But besides that, I'm really excited to see kind of what role I'm in -- long reliever, one-inning guy, or if that changes throughout the year, just kind of whatever I can do to help the team is really what I want to do."

Another pitcher who might be used in a different capacity in 2022 is rookie Cody Poteet.

When Miami's rotation got bit by the injury bug in 2021, the club shuffled through arms. Then came Poteet, who posted a 2.95 ERA through four starts. But he sprained his right knee on June 4, and it clearly affected him over his final three starts (9.64 ERA), after which he was sidelined.

Over the winter, Miami's No. 24 prospect added a sinker to his arsenal and continued developing his changeup, which he threw 13 times -- most of any of his four pitches -- across two scoreless frames on Wednesday.

"Overall, I'm just thankful for the time that I did get to go out there and compete and help the team win, and it was exciting to see what I can do at that level," Poteet said. "I never pitched at the Major League level before, and just to see how my stuff [played], and what I can be when healthy -- basically what I'm capable of doing -- I feel like it can help the team win. I'm excited for whatever that kind of looks like going forward."