Alcantara on possible '23 return: 'I know I can pitch this year'

September 18th, 2023

MIAMI -- Marlins ace  is throwing again, and he's hoping to return soon to help his team's push for the postseason.

Alcantara, whose MRI last week revealed a right UCL sprain, tossed his second bullpen session prior to Monday's series opener against the Mets at loanDepot park. He threw 20 pitches while incorporating his entire arsensal.

"I feel good, but not the same that I felt earlier this year, because I got hurt a couple weeks ago," Alcantara said. "But I've just got to keep believing in myself. I know I can pitch this year, so hopefully I can do my best to be back. I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing."

The 28-year-old Alcantara was initially diagnosed with a right forearm flexor strain and was placed on the 15-day injured list on Sept. 6 after feeling discomfort during his Sept. 3 start at Washington. He played catch for the first time since that outing last Wednesday.

Neither Alcantara nor manager Skip Schumaker committed to the next course of action, with the latter stressing the club has not changed course and continues to take the reigning National League Cy Young winner's status day by day.

"[We'll] talk to him tomorrow," Schumaker said of the next step. "I hate to give it to you like that, but that's just the reality. He had a really good day today. We'll see how he feels tomorrow, walk through his progression and then go from there. But I'm not going to get too far ahead of it, just because I don't know what he's going to feel like tomorrow. All I know is today was a good day."

Would Alcantara need another bullpen session? Could he go out on a rehab assignment? If so, Triple-A Jacksonville's season ends on Sunday. Might he instead throw live batting practice to his teammates? Perhaps pitch in a simulated game?

One reporter asked whether the Marlins might entertain the possibility of using Alcantara in abbreviated starts if he's not completely built up.

"This is just kind of uncharted waters, right?" Schumaker said. "We have two weeks left. He's coming off an elbow injury, and he feels good today. He's built different, and I don't think he's like most guys. Obviously, you guys have known him a lot longer than I have. I think where we are in the season, he wants to get back, and he's doing everything he can to get back. As far as when he gets back or what we even see him or view him as, again, we're going to take this slow and take it day by day and see how he feels tomorrow."

Since Alcantara landed on the injured list, the Marlins have gone 8-5. There are 12 games remaining, including Monday's matchup against the Mets. Miami is in position for the third and final NL Wild Card spot due to a head-to-head tiebreaker over Chicago. The Marlins are a half-game back of the D-backs, who hold the second spot, and also own the head-to-head tiebreaker there.

"I feel so bad right now, because I've been here watching my teammates doing everything and just sitting here enjoying them," Alcantara said. "It's bad for me, because I've never been like that. So hopefully this year is going to be the last time I'm going to be on the IL. Hopefully God gives me the health to keep doing what I'm doing. But I'm just excited to be back."