Marlins size up 7 pitchers for 5 rotation jobs

After Jose Urena, six potential starters remain in the mix

March 10th, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- Starting pitching, in the eyes of the organization, has a chance to be the Marlins' strength. 

It's also an area of the roster that has some spots up for grabs, with seven candidates in the mix for five positions. Jose Urena has already been announced as the Opening Day starter, but after that, it's subject to change.

"I think we know who the candidates are, for sure," manager Don Mattingly said. "But the actual order, other than Jose, we still have a little bit of time we can manipulate."

In no set order, right-handers Dan Straily, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards and Sandy Alcantara and lefties Wei-Yin Chen and Caleb Smith are vying to be in the rotation.

Of the group, Smith, who is recovering from surgery to repair his left lat muscle, has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game this spring. But he has faced hitters on multiple occasions in simulated games on back fields at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex.

Lopez missed the final month of the 2018 season due to a sore right shoulder, but he has been strong thus far in Spring Training. In fact, he's been Miami’s best starter, statistically -- allowing one run in nine innings with eight strikeouts and one walk.

There are two weeks of Grapefruit League games remaining for the Marlins to finalize their remaining four rotation spots.

Here's a quick breakdown of the candidates, and how they're faring thus far this spring.

Straily: The veteran right-hander is lined up to be No. 2 in the rotation behind Urena. In three spring starts, Straily has logged 7 2/3 innings and allowed five runs, including four home runs. Don’t read too much into the numbers with Straily, because he is getting season-ready, and not competing to make the team. The thing to watch is whether he will still be with the Marlins on Opening Day. The club is open to trading the 30-year-old for the right offer. Stay tuned.

Chen: Signed for $20 million this year, and $22 million in 2020, Chen is going to be on the staff in some capacity. It could be as a starter, a long-reliever, or a combination of both. The left-hander comes off a solid night of relief on Saturday in Miami's 2-1 win vs. the Nationals. Chen threw four shutout innings. But in 7 1/3 innings this spring, his ERA is 11.05. Miami could use Chen situationally, meaning he may start on occasion and be available out of the 'pen on other occasions. Based on his home/road splits in 2018, the Marlins are open to finding a formula that works. Chen's ERA at home a year ago was 1.62, compared to 9.27 on the road.

Lopez: The four perfect innings Lopez threw vs. the Nationals on Saturday night opened eyes that the 23-year-old has top-of-the-rotation potential. His fastball is touching 96-97 mph, and his curveball and changeup were on point. Lopez made 10 big league starts last year, after starting off at Double-A Jacksonville. If he's fully built up after missing September with his shoulder issue, Lopez should be a rotation lock.

Alcantara: Alcantara threw 4 1/3 shutout innings in Sunday's 5-2 win against the Braves. In 12 spring innings, he's given up two runs. But he's walked 10 and struck out 14. For Alcantara, his command may determine whether he makes the big league club or starts the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

Richards: After making 25 big league starts last year, Richards has put himself in position to open the season in the rotation again. The right-hander has eight strikeouts in 8 1/3 Grapefruit League innings. Richards has a plus changeup, and is replacing his slider with a curveball.

Smith: It's not been a matter of if Smith's healthy, it's about getting him up to speed after his surgery. As a rookie last year, he struck out 88 in 77 1/3 innings before the injury ended his season.