JUPITER, Fla. -- With the return of a 162-game season, Major League clubs will closely monitor pitchers' innings in 2021 after a truncated '20 slate. The Marlins are certainly no exception, with a projected starting staff in which every pitcher is 25 years old or younger.
During a Zoom call on Tuesday, Miami pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. noted factors like previous workload and progressions will come into play when determining an individual's plan this season. The Nationals famously shut down All-Star right-hander Stephen Strasburg in 2012, making him unavailable for a playoff run. The Marlins do not want to do that in '21.
"Guys like Sixto [Sánchez], we're going to have to put an inning cap on his workload," Stottlemyre said. "We've sat down and we have a plan for that. I personally feel like it's important that they pitch in the month of September, so you might see some things that we do on a monthly basis to where, you know, they skip a start and try not to do all of that on the back end. The other thing that we don't know is, you know, guys get hurt. Maybe they don't reach their inning totals, because they're not as efficient. So, we have an idea, or we think we know what that looks like, and what those numbers are going to look like at the end. So there is some sort of planning going into it.
"I think it's important they learn how to start and finish games, but we're going to have to be cognizant of a guy like Sixto Sánchez that throws a lot of strikes, and realistically, you could look up and this guy could have 80 pitches and [be] going into the ninth inning. We're going to have to manage that, we're going to have to answer questions from you guys as well, when we go pull him out, so that we can plan for him pitching a full season.
"I don't want to get down to the end where we have two or three guys on any restrictions and we have to hold those horses in the barn, because we're going to need them. So it's a delicate process, and it takes some planning from start to finish. But we need to get out of the gate, we need to let these guys pitch, get their pitches up, let them settle into a routine, and then start to manage as the season goes on."
Here is an innings breakdown of Miami's projected rotation:
RHP Sandy Alcantara
2020 (including postseason): 54 2/3
Career high: 197 1/3 (Majors in 2019)
RHP Pablo López
2020 (including postseason): 62 1/3
Career high: 145 1/3 (Minors in 2017)
RHP Elieser Hernandez
2020: 25 2/3
Career high: 107 2/3 (Minors in 2016)
RHP Sixto Sánchez
2020 (including postseason): 47
Career high: 114 (Minors in 2019)
LHP Trevor Rogers
2020 (including postseason): 29 2/3
Career high: 136 1/3 (Minors in 2019)
Early in camp, Alcantara and López stated that their goal was to reach 200-plus frames this season. How plausible might that be? Alcantara fell 2 2/3 innings below that benchmark during his 2019 All-Star campaign. López, who has been hindered by injuries in the past, has not come close. Regardless, it's no secret it will take more than five starting pitchers to get through the marathon season. That is where Miami's depth will help, with prospects Nick Neidert, Braxton Garrett, Edward Cabrera and Daniel Castano as well as veteran Gio González in the mix.
One potential boost for the organization is the unique approach it took once the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Spring Training last March. In order to keep the young arms going, the Marlins had their starters maintain a routine in between Spring Training and Summer Camp. When it came time for Opening Day in July, Alcantara was able to throw 87 pitches into the seventh inning.
"They were on a five-day rotation as if they were pitching in games, doing their bullpens and facing hitters," Stottlemyre said. "We made sure they did that. We didn't know what was going to come from the pandemic and how baseball was going to handle that. And I really didn't want to take a chance on those guys getting shut down. While it wasn't against another color uniform, they stayed on turn and they were in a routine. So we go back and when we look at that, we can count some innings there."
Here are more highlights from Stottlemyre's 22-minute Zoom call with media:
On 2020 Draft class of pitchers, including MLB Pipeline's No. 28 prospect Max Meyer
"All those guys have some great stuff. I think our scouting department did a wonderful job in evaluating those guys. How quick they come I don't know. It's going to be up to the players."
On the new-look bullpen
"Most of those guys are veteran guys [who] have been around and got some history. Most of them throw strikes, something we've really struggled to do in our bullpen. If you look at it, there's not a ton of swing and miss. But they are guys that come at you and they kind of know who they are. And we really deepened the depth of our bullpen. On nights that maybe Anthony Bass isn't going to close out a game, we feel pretty confident in knowing that Yimi [García] can step up and do it."
On Jorge Alfaro's offseason work
"I'm very pleased with Jorge stepping up, and you know, admitting it. That's hard to do, being a young player and realizing you have some things to overcome. We spent a lot of time in the offseason with [catching coach Eddy Rodriguez] and Jorge once a week, with Zoom calls and just really going over the strengths of our pitching staff and trying to get to a point where we can understand the weapons that these guys have. And creating a routine and a preparation and doing his work on each one of his guys, so that we can make good choices in-game. The other part of that is getting in the game in between the lines and seeing things, and being that leader, being that quarterback and earning those pitchers' trust. That takes time. So we've given him some good feedback, some direction."