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Taxed Marlins 'pen missing its 'switch-pitcher'

@JoeFrisaro
August 20, 2020

Pat Venditte is the latest Marlins reliever to be dealing with an ailment. The “switch-pitcher” exited Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to the Mets in the sixth inning with a right oblique strain. Still experiencing soreness, Venditte, who underwent an MRI on Wednesday, was placed on the 10-day injured list on Thursday.

Pat Venditte is the latest Marlins reliever to be dealing with an ailment. The “switch-pitcher” exited Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to the Mets in the sixth inning with a right oblique strain.

Still experiencing soreness, Venditte, who underwent an MRI on Wednesday, was placed on the 10-day injured list on Thursday. The club reinstated infielder Miguel Rojas from IL.

Venditte is the 12th Miami reliever to be added to IL since the season started. The bulk of those are players on the COVID-19 list who tested positive for the virus in the first week of the season. Eight of the 12 relievers the Marlins carried on the Opening Day roster are part of that list.

The Marlins have used 22 different relievers this season, plus infielder Logan Forsythe, who threw an inning of relief on Monday in a lopsided loss to the Mets.

One of the challenges manager Don Mattingly and his staff have faced is bridging the middle innings to get the game to setup right-hander Brad Boxberger and closer Brandon Kintzler.

Two relievers who are sorely missed are right-handers Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger. Both have been groomed as starters, but they made the Opening Day roster as bullpen options. They also would have been candidates to join the rotation.

Both would be ideal candidates to bridge middle innings in games the starter goes less than five.

On Tuesday, rookie Humberto Mejía threw four innings in his second big league start.

“We thought Dugger could have been a one-to-two-inning guy for us, in the middle,” Mattingly said. “That fifth- and sixth-inning bridge guy to get you to the back end.”

Dugger made one appearance this season, as an emergency starter on July 26, at Philadelphia. Initially, right-hander José Ureña was scratched from that start, and later it came out that he tested positive for COVID-19. Dugger worked 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) in a no-decision.

Neidert’s only appearance came in the second game of the season, on July 25 at Philadelphia, when he threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

If they had been on the active roster, either would have been an option to log multiple innings in Monday’s loss to the Mets, when Jordan Yamamoto was lifted after 1 1/3 innings.

“The starters are what get you in trouble,” Mattingly said. “If the starter goes [1 1/3 innings] like the other day, now you’re trying to bridge all the way through the game. You’re trying to find stops here, and matchups all the way through the game, and you end up using a lot of guys.”

Eibner’s first strikeout

Brett Eibner has another game ball that will be displayed in his home. When he struck out Mets shortstop Amed Rosario in the ninth inning on Tuesday, it marked his first strikeout as a big league pitcher. It came in his first appearance on the mound.

Previously, Eibner was a position player, breaking in with the Royals in 2016. He has eight career home runs, with his first being a special moment, especially considering who it came off.

On June 16, 2016, Eibner started in left field and hit ninth for the Royals against the Tigers. In the fifth inning, he homered off former American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.

“I’ll probably put my first career homer up with my first strikeout,” Eibner said. “My Verlander home run ball will have a little company.”

Worth noting

• Due to rain, right-hander Sandy Alcantara’s simulated game has been moved to Thursday at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.

On the injured list after testing positive for COVID-19, Alcantara is still set to throw about 50 pitches. Mattingly said the one-day delay doesn’t change the club’s plans on what is next for the right-hander.

“It doesn’t change his scheduling or our scheduling for what we’ve got planned, as long as it goes good,” Mattingly said.

• Shortstop Jonathan Villar, whom Mattingly said has looked sluggish of late, was out of the starting lineup on Wednesday for the first time this year. Villar appeared in all 162 games with the Orioles last year.

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