Yamamoto, Hernandez state cases for rotation

Young righties both author strong outing in bid to impress Mattingly

March 9th, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- A couple of the Marlins’ fifth-starter candidates pitched on two fields on Monday afternoon, giving the organization a little more clarity regarding how the rotation will eventually iron out.

Elieser Hernandez faced the Mets on the main field at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, tossing four shutout innings with five strikeouts in the Marlins’ 1-1 tie.

And on a back field, in a scrimmage between the Marlins’ Double-A Jacksonville and Class A Advanced Jupiter affiliates, started and went five innings.

Yamamoto appears to have the inside edge to be the fifth starter, but nothing has been announced yet. And the competition could go down to the wire, with Opening Day on March 26 against the Phillies at Marlins Park.

“I think you just see how it finishes,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of the fifth-starter candidates. “With some guys, you see different things. As it gets to the end, they think they have a chance, and all of a sudden, you see a different guy that’s not the same guy that was pitching early in the spring.”

Because starters are working deeper in Grapefruit League games, some candidates are getting their work in on back fields in Minor League games.

“[Yamamoto] may be the first guy doing it, but there will be other games where we’re going to need to have innings, possibly on back fields,” Mattingly said.

Yamamoto threw about 70 pitches.

“It definitely is different going from facing another team to facing your own colors,” said Yamamoto, who pitched for Jupiter on Monday. “But at the end of the day, I'm going to go out there and throw strikes, and pitch how I normally pitch.”

Hernandez -- who threw 41 of his 52 pitches for strikes -- certainly helped his case to make the club by limiting the Mets to two hits and not walking a batter.

“Really good today,” Mattingly said. “Located the fastball. Threw some really good changeups, and some sliders.”

Right-handers and also are in consideration, but both are considered long shots.

Neidert is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami’s No. 10 prospect, and Dugger, who logged 34 1/3 innings and made seven starts for Miami in 2019, has big league experience.

Neidert projects to open at Triple-A Wichita, but could be a quick callup, should he not make the Opening Day roster.

The Marlins have not announced any rotation spots. But veterans who appear to be set are right-handers , and and lefty .

The final two weeks of Spring Training could settle the fifth starter, and whether any starting candidates make the club as relievers. Hernandez is a possibility to relieve, if he isn’t part of the rotation.

“You’re looking at the best 13 [pitchers],” Mattingly said. “So, in whatever way that is, whether it is ‘pen or to start. If we feel like it’s best for [Hernandez], in whatever role that may be.”

Down the stretch in spring will be telling, as the starters get more work.

“As spring goes, especially for starters, you’re going to start running into clubs that are playing their [main] guys,” Mattingly said. “So you’re running into big league lineups pretty much the whole time that you’re out there.”

The Marlins will see how their pitchers do against other clubs' better hitters.

Hernandez, 24, threw 82 1/3 innings with 85 strikeouts and a 5.03 ERA with the Marlins in 2019. He carried a 4.58 ERA in 15 starts, but it ballooned to 9.39 in 7 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.

“I've been working really hard on my game,” Hernandez said through an interpreter. “I love the game. I'm a baseball player. If the team gives me that trust, I'm going to take the role [starter or reliever]. I just love the adrenaline that baseball has after I cross those two lines.”