Marlins mull 6-man rotation with 'win now' in mind

February 17th, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- Even with the offensive upgrades made over the offseason, the key to the Marlins' success in 2023 hinges on the starting pitching. Several MLB clubs are considering a six-man rotation, and Miami is one of them.

"It's something we'll take a look at," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said. "There's guys in that rotation potentially that are still on inning restrictions. So we have to balance all of that, and we have to win games. It's time to move on and get past the losing part. All of that needs to remain at the forefront and most important, but we will look at that, and then carry -- if you do go with a six-man [rotation] -- you carry one less guy in the bullpen.

"And you want to make sure that sixth man is giving you competitive starts and can actually win games. It can't be development. It needs to be 'win now.' We are confident with those six guys all fighting for spots, too."

Who are the options, and what were their 2022 stats?
RHP (2.28 ERA, 32 starts)
RHP (3.35 ERA, 25 games/24 starts)
LHP (3.32 ERA, 18 starts)
RHP (3.01 ERA, 14 starts)
LHP (5.47 ERA, 23 starts)
LHP (3.58 ERA, 17 starts)

Why is this under consideration?
"Obviously, we have some guys other than Sandy and Johnny [who] don't have a lot of innings under their belt through a course of a year, and to try to keep them healthy for six, seven months is the most ideal," manager Skip Schumaker said. "And so we're trying to figure out the best case for each guy and how that looks, but nothing set in stone."

Only Alcantara, Cueto and Rogers have thrown more than 130 MLB innings in a season. All but Alcantara have missed time to injury. The downside is fewer starts for the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.

Does Miami have enough depth?
Schumaker believes so.

No team gets by using just five starters. In 2022, the Marlins turned to 14 (two were openers). There also are non-roster invitees Daniel Castano, Bryan Hoeing, Enmanuel De Jesus and prospects Eury Pérez, Dax Fulton and Sixto Sánchez. Later on, Jake Eder should join the fold.

Miami will have three open 40-man roster spots when they move Max Meyer (Tommy John rehab), Anthony Bender (Tommy John rehab) and Nic Enright (Hodgkin lymphoma) to the 60-day injured list.

"I think we have some exciting young arms that are ready to take the next step," Schumaker said. "I'm really looking forward to seeing Cabrera. I'm really looking forward to seeing Braxton, so I'm looking forward to seeing these guys pitch. You have to realize that we have seven new eyes on them --- or seven new coaches with eyes on them that have never seen these guys before other than video. So it's up to them and how they go about it, but we're excited to see them. Depth-wise, I think we have the depth."

How long would a six-man rotation last?
"I think it's fluid," Schumaker said. "I think it depends on off-days and innings limits and that type of stuff, although I don't have an innings limit on any of our pitchers. Again, trying to keep them as healthy as possible through a course of a season. We looked at certain teams that did it last year, and they were extremely successful at it."

How would it affect the bullpen?
The 26-player active roster has to be a 13-13 split between pitchers and position players. If the Marlins went with a six-man rotation, they would have just seven relievers.

"If a couple guys have a couple quick starts, do we kill the bullpen?" Schumaker asked.

What would a five-man rotation mean for the odd man out?
"I think it depends, because you want to have somebody built up that can take someone's spot immediately that you can trust, but you also want to have someone back there [in the bullpen] that can keep you in games if it's a three-run, four-run, whatever or someone gets hurt," Schumaker said. "You want to have someone back there that can give you some length, that can keep you in the game and give you a chance to win still. To answer your question, both.

"You always want to have somebody back there to have multiple innings to give you some sort of coverage, just in case you have back-to-back hiccups from your starters. But I'm not going to tell you that we have just one particular long guy, like that's who it is back there. That's why you kind of watch Spring Training, kind of figure out if the six-man [rotation] is real or not. If there is a five-man rotation, you want to have somebody back there to have multiple innings and to give you coverage."