Where would the contending Marlins be without rookie right-hander Eury Pérez? Certainly not one game behind in the race for the third and final National League Wild Card spot with seven games remaining.
Unfortunately, Pérez's season is over after the Marlins placed him on the 15-day injured list with left SI joint inflammation on Saturday. According to the Mayo Clinic, the SI joint links the pelvis and lower spine.
The 20-year-old Pérez first felt the discomfort on the left side of his lower back two starts ago in Milwaukee. On Wednesday against the Mets, he pitched through the pain, hoping to stay in the game to provide innings for an overworked bullpen.
"It was affecting me mostly with all the mechanics, the movement there trying to do extra, to be honest," Pérez said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. "Just trying to work on the command as well. So it was something that affected me."
That might explain Pérez's 5.19 ERA in four September starts. He completed five innings just once this month. He finishes his 2023 season nearly doubling his career high in innings (128 between the Minors and Majors). Considering how closely Miami has monitored Pérez's workload, it was a no-brainer to be cautious before something serious took place.
"The last thing we wanted to do is have him adjust his delivery or something," manager Skip Schumaker said. "It's the kinetic chain if something in the back goes wrong, and he starts feeling it other places, so that was definitely the move. I'm proud of him that he was honest with us. It's not easy as a 20-year-old to be honest. Not honest, but try to fight through some stuff and say he's OK. So it was a mature way to go about it. We wouldn't be here without him. There's no doubt about it. I don't think anybody would have thought he would have thrown that many innings up here this year, and then have the success he had this year. We haven't won this many games without him around."
The baseball world expected Pérez to debut at some point in 2023, but not nearly as soon as he did. But with injuries to starters Trevor Rogers and Johnny Cueto, plus a revolving door of non-roster arms to fill out the rotation, Miami decided to promote MLB Pipeline's top pitching prospect straight from Double-A Pensacola on May 12.
At 20 years and 27 days old, Pérez became the youngest pitcher in franchise history to make his Major League debut, and the youngest for a Dominican-born starting pitcher all-time.
Pérez lived up to the hype. His 2.36 ERA through 11 starts (minimum 50 innings) was the lowest for a pitcher 20 years or younger in the Live Ball Era. Miami temporarily shut him down before the All-Star break in order to monitor his workload, then brought him back on Aug. 7.
"I feel great," Pérez said. "I think I did a great job for it being my first year in the Major League level. I was going out there every day helping the team. My teammates, the support is just amazing. So overall, I will say it was a successful season for me. So now it's my turn to just try to support the team from the bench."