Where do things stand for Marlins' rotation after Pérez's early exit?

Right-hander leaves start in 1st inning due to discomfort from broken fingernail

March 13th, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- With 15 days to go before the regular season begins, the Marlins’ pitching staff is in flux as it deals with injuries to starters Braxton Garrett (general left shoulder soreness) and Edward Cabrera (right shoulder impingement) as well as relievers Calvin Faucher (shoulder) and J.T. Chargois (neck spasms).

Miami right-hander Eury Pérez exited in the first inning of Wednesday afternoon’s 2-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Nationals for precautionary reasons, due to discomfort from a broken nail on his right middle finger -- a recurring issue that has yet to be resolved.

“That's the problem,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “It's tough to build up when he has the fingernail, and it's 14 pitches, so obviously not ideal when you're trying to get to the 70-or-so pitch mark. We needed him to bulk up today, and [it] didn't happen. So try to figure out what's going on and make sure he can build up.”

After striking out the leadoff batter on three pitches, Pérez walked back-to-back hitters on 10 pitches -- the first of which set off the discomfort. Following a foul by Keibert Ruiz, Pérez was visited on the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium mound by Schumaker, catcher Christian Bethancourt, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., head athletic trainer Lee Meyer and the infield.

The 20-year-old Pérez has been dealing with nail trouble throughout the spring. During live batting practice in February, it was the changeup that caused him trouble. His second spring start on March 2 was cut short at 36 pitches because the slider was affecting his broken nail. He said it was “not a big deal” at the time. Last Friday, Pérez wore a fake nail and relied on his four-seamer and curveball to avoid aggravating the issue.

Before being taken out on Wednesday, Pérez’s four-seam velocity had dipped from 98-plus mph to 95.1 mph on the final offering. This time around, Pérez said it wasn’t because of a single pitch, rather the fake nail was lifting up.

“I don't know yet,” Pérez said of the next course of action via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “I spoke with Lee, and he told me that we will tackle this early tomorrow, and we're going to make sure we have a plan so this doesn't happen during the season.

“Of course, it bothers [me] a little bit because it messes with your timing and stuff that you're doing to prepare. But the most important thing is that I'm healthy and that I'm going to be ready for Opening Day.”

As things stand -- and knock on wood if you’re superstitious the way things are going -- left-handers Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Trevor Rogers and Ryan Weathers haven’t experienced hiccups so far. While Opening Day is out of the picture for Garrett, he will progress to live batting practice soon. The club won’t have a better idea about Cabrera until he plays catch on Thursday’s off-day.

In the bullpen, Chargois was scheduled to visit a specialist for his neck/spine area and Faucher was still not ready to return to the mound.

For now, right-handers Bryan Hoeing, Vladimir Gutierrez, Sixto Sánchez and Declan Cronin, who also dealt with a blister issue on Wednesday, are multiple-inning relief options rather than starting ones, according to Schumaker. Hoeing went three innings in a Minor League game on the back fields, and Gutierez is scheduled to appear in Saturday’s Grapefruit League action.

But it’s Sánchez’s renaissance after undergoing two shoulder surgeries and sustaining multiple setbacks over the past three years that has caught everyone’s eye. Through three spring outings, he has tossed four scoreless innings with three strikeouts, two walks and one hit.

“I said early on that someone's going to surprise you every Spring Training, and this is definitely a surprise,” Schumaker said. “He's throwing 99 mph. He's always had a changeup, so having 99 with 87 is quite a bit of difference. … Moving forward, let's see how he feels tomorrow and the next day. But I don't think we're going to extend him any more than a couple innings. Let him feel good about it, let us feel good about it and move on from there.”

On Wednesday, Sánchez maxed out at 98.8 mph and started an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play in the sixth during his second frame of work.

“Very happy overall for feeling the same Sixto that I was before,” Sánchez said via Dorante. “I can finally say that I feel 100 percent. But just happy overall for that and just being back.

“I say 100 percent because from my last outing, I had my velocity back, but it was not as it was today. And not only that, but I feel that confidence is back. That's why I say 100 percent.”