Marlins' bullpen candidates get final audition

March 24th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Barring additional injuries, one final battle remains on the Marlins’ Opening Day roster: the bullpen.

Three pitchers in the mix -- , and -- appeared in Saturday’s 5-3 Grapefruit League win over the Nationals at CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches.

That trio is vying to join closer Tanner Scott, setup man Andrew Nardi as well as righties Anthony Bender, Sixto Sánchez, George Soriano and Bryan Hoeing in the relief corps. The final two spots are yet to be decided, with Tuesday’s intrasquad scrimmage at loanDepot park perhaps the final chance for guys to make an impression.

“It's going to go down to the wire, there's no doubt,” manager Skip Schumaker said.

Here’s how the latest audition went on Saturday:

RHP Gutierrez
Non-roster invitee
Saturday’s line: 3 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 K
Grapefruit League stats: 10 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 9 K

Although the 28-year-old Gutierrez started Saturday, he would be used in a multi-inning relief role with Miami. Gutierrez, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2022, experienced a setback with his elbow while at Triple-A last summer. He has 32 MLB games (30 starts) on his resume. The Marlins would have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster if Gutierrez makes the Opening Day roster.

“I'm happy with the results I've given the team,” Gutierrez said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “If it was up to me, I will put me on the team, obviously, but it's not my decision.”

Schumaker’s analysis: “After the [three-run] first inning, settled in. A lot better offspeed, stayed out the middle of the plate, so I thought that was better.”

RHP Cronin
Status: 40-man
Saturday’s line: 1 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Grapefruit League stats: 10 2/3 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 3 HBP, 5 BB, 11 K

The 26-year-old Cronin was claimed off waivers twice this offseason, first by the Astros, then the Marlins. He made his MLB debut in 2023, appearing in nine games for the White Sox with a 9.00 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP.

“I feel good about it,” Cronin said. “Obviously, I think the body of work in camp for the most part was pretty solid. They're not just looking at this small sample size. They're looking at the type of things that made them want to bring me here in the first place. I feel like I've made a case for myself. There's obviously a lot of talented pitchers in this organization, there's depth and that sort of thing, but I feel pretty good with this being my last outing of the spring, and I feel pretty comfortable that I showcased what I can do.”

Schumaker’s analysis: “Cronin, I thought, threw the ball really well. Sinker/slider combination's really good. 95-96 [mph] with a real slider. Got out of a jam, which is great.”

RHP Maldonado
Status: 40-man
Saturday’s line: 1 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Grapefruit League stats: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K

Maldonado, ranked as Miami’s No. 19 prospect, has yet to make his Major League debut, but he did compete for Puerto Rico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. The 26-year-old has 18 career saves in the Minors.

“I thought I did well,” Maldonado said. “I thought I showed what I can do this spring. There were good spots, bad spots. I showed I can learn on the fly. I can adjust, get big league hitters out. My Minor League success wasn't a fluke. I think I've shown that so far. We'll see what happens come Opening Day, but I feel good with where I'm at. Whatever moves happen, I know it’s best for the team and best for me in the future. So I'm good with it.”

Schumaker’s analysis: “Maldonado's slider is as good as anybody's. Him throwing that slider to righties and lefties can only help him. If it doesn't happen this camp or whatever Opening Day, he's going to help us at some point. But he's still very much in the mix.”