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Yamamoto will 'do whatever it takes' to start

Righty aims to build on rookie experience to claim spot in rotation
@cdenicola13
February 18, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- When right-hander Jordan Yamamoto takes the mound for the Marlins in their Grapefruit League opener on Saturday against the Mets, Miami's rotation battle will begin. Yamamoto, who threw around 30 pitches at live batting practice on Tuesday, will compete for a starting spot. Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith

JUPITER, Fla. -- When right-hander Jordan Yamamoto takes the mound for the Marlins in their Grapefruit League opener on Saturday against the Mets, Miami's rotation battle will begin.

Yamamoto, who threw around 30 pitches at live batting practice on Tuesday, will compete for a starting spot. Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith and Pablo López are essentially locks. That leaves Yamamoto, José Ureña, Elieser Hernandez and Robert Dugger vying for the other two slots. Sixto Sanchez (the Marlins' No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), Edward Cabrera (No. 6) and Nick Neidert (No. 11) are part of the next wave.

"It's definitely a big competition," Yamamoto said. "We have all these young guys here, including me, trying to fight for that one spot. It's funny, because everybody goes, 'You're here to make a team and don't blow it up [on] Day 1.' But in all our minds, it's a competition. We're here to compete and here to earn a spot. I'm going to do whatever it takes to earn that spot."

Yamamoto, 23, a native of Hawaii, stayed in Jupiter over the offseason to prepare for the upcoming season. He gained valuable experience in 2019, going 4-5 with a 4.46 ERA in 15 starts as a rookie.

"It's a big thing," said Yamamoto, who opened his big league career with a 1.24 ERA through his first five starts. "You don't know anything until you actually get [to the Major Leagues]. I didn't know much until I saw the routines of all the veterans. Just the other guys like [Smith and López], seeing their routines helped me set the tone for myself. I went into the offseason ready to work on [my] routine and getting my body right for this season."

Yamamoto hopes to set the tone for spring by adopting a fast pace and throwing strikes. With a six-pitch mix that doesn't overwhelm in terms of velocity, Yamamoto relies on the defense behind him to get outs.

"Honestly, again, spring is [about] letting guys compete, but [in] the first outing, you just don't quite know," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "... It'll be his first time [facing] hitters from another team, [with] people in the stands. Just getting back out there the first time again, it just starts the process of games for him. Then you've got to deal with runners, you've got to deal with anything that's going on in game situations. For all these guys, it'll be about, especially [in] the first one, getting on the mound and getting acclimated with having to deal with more things than what you're doing specifically in one drill. Now you've got to deal with it [all] as a package."

Up next
The Marlins continue full-squad workouts at 9:50 a.m. ET on Wednesday at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex. They are open to the public with free admission.

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.