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Young starting staff reminiscent of '06

Urena fronts rotation followed by Richards, Lopez, Alcantara and Smith
@JoeFrisaro
March 28, 2019

MIAMI -- How quickly the starting pitching progresses will determine how long the Marlins’ building process takes. Without question the organization is banking on its promising starting staff, which features Jose Urena as the established veteran, followed by four pitchers who were all rookies in 2018. The last time the

MIAMI -- How quickly the starting pitching progresses will determine how long the Marlins’ building process takes.

Without question the organization is banking on its promising starting staff, which features Jose Urena as the established veteran, followed by four pitchers who were all rookies in 2018.

The last time the Marlins had this many promising, young arms was in 2006, with a rotation fronted by Dontrelle Willis and featuring then-rookies Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez.

“I think about the rotations over the years, and that’s probably the last time we had so many young ones in one rotation at one time,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “But you get a little bit different feel from those guys. Dontrelle was the elder statesman of that team. We have Urena as the elder statesman of this one. It’s just a little bit different feel.”

The 2006 Marlins were managed by Joe Girardi and featured Willis and All-Star Miguel Cabrera. That squad had more than 20 rookies at various points of the season and finished 78-84.

Trevor Richards, Pablo López, Sandy Alcantara and left-hander Caleb Smith round out the 2019 rotation. Of the group, Richards made 25 starts a year ago, while Smith had 16, Lopez 10 and Alcantara six.

“The ’06 team was an entirely rookie team, with the exception of Willis and Cabrera,” Hill said. “This one, I think is a little more well-rounded, when you talk about [Curtis Granderson] and Neil Walker, Martin Prado, Sergio Romo.”

The Marlins currently have more organizational starting depth than in 2006. Their Triple-A New Orleans rotation will feature prospects Nick Neidert, Zac Gallen, Jordan Yamamoto, Hector Noesi and maybe Elieser Hernandez or Brett Graves. At Double-A Jacksonville, the rotation will feature Jorge Guzman, Sixto Sanchez (who will likely open in extended spring), Robert Dugger, Graves or Hernandez, if they aren’t in Triple-A, and Cody Poteet.

The Class A Advanced Jupiter rotation also is loaded with Braxton Garrett, Trevor Rogers, Edward Cabrera, Jordan Holloway and Will Stewart.

“Those guys have starter profiles,” Hill said. “Even then in ’06, when we had those guys in the big leagues, we didn’t have what we have behind them in the Minor Leagues."

Buying in to the build
Yes, the Marlins are young and gaining experience. But they’re also a club that has everyone buying into the direction the organization is going.

With an inexperienced team, growing pains are expected along the way. But manager Don Mattingly points out everyone in the clubhouse is happy to be a Marlin.

That’s important to move the organization in the right direction.

“You have to it,” Mattingly said. “If you don’t, you can feel it. You’re not always going to get it 100 percent. There’s going to be some guys who are on the fence. But I think when you look back at some of our moves in the winter, all are leaders [that] we brought in. They all had success.”

The Marlins added veterans like Walker, Granderson and Romo.

“Having success and also are willing to share with some of our younger guys,” Mattingly said of what is important. “So having that buy-in, and also having good veterans, who are willing to share with these kids and set examples, is important.”

First Opening Days
JT Riddle spent parts of the past two seasons with the Marlins, but Thursday marked the first time the left-handed-hitting shortstop was on the active Opening Day roster.

A year ago, Riddle opened the season on the injured list, and in 2017, he was called up from Triple-A for the first homestand. Miami opened on the road that year.

Along with Riddle, Richards, Alcantara, Lopez, Nick Anderson and Rosell Herrera experienced their first Opening Day.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.