Marlins ink Detwiler, sign 7 to Minors deals

January 8th, 2021

MIAMI -- The Marlins signed veteran left-hander to a one-year Major League deal, the team announced on Sunday. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Marlins designated for assignment southpaw Stephen Tarpley, who was claimed off waivers by the Mets on Friday.

In addition, the Marlins signed seven players to Minor League deals with invites to Major League Spring Training: infielder Eddy Alvarez, right-hander Anthony Bender, right-hander Alexander Guillen, catcher Sandy León, right-hander Luis Madero, catcher Brian Navarreto and righty Zach Thompson.

During an interview on the Beyond the Bases podcast with Kyle Sielaff, Detwiler called Miami a good fit because of its desire to improve the bullpen, its 2020 National League Division Series appearance and Marlins Park's pitcher-friendly results.

"I'm getting to the point in my career where it's not just playing baseball -- I can see an end to it -- it's winning, and you want to win now because you never know how many more years are going to come down the road,” Detwiler said. “It was an opportunity where it's a winning team in a really good division."

Detwiler, who turns 35 in March, compiled a 3.20 ERA, 3.90 FIP and 1.22 WHIP across 19 2/3 innings of relief for the White Sox in 2020. His 58.3 percent ground-ball rate was the highest of his career.

According to Statcast, Detwiler ranked in the 92nd percentile among MLB pitchers by allowing only 3.3 percent barrel contact last season. He switched up his repertoire from 2019 to '20, increasing the usage of his slider (from 1.9 percent to 30.5) and his sinker (19.8 percent to 29.3) while turning to his four-seam fastball (32.6 percent to 27.7), changeup (16.4 percent to 9.3) and curveball (14 percent to 3.2) less. Detwiler didn't throw his cutter. The slider was a pitch he picked up during a second stint in independent ball in ‘19.

"Two years ago, I started throwing a cutter which at times was good, at times it wasn't. It would get bigger, it would get smaller. Fast forward to last year and I started to get a feel for it," Detwiler said. "I started to be able to control it, feel for when I needed to use it, and that would keep mostly right-handed hitters at bay, which is something I had struggled with my changeup being on and off quite a bit.

"The slider really came in there and helped me a lot. I lost feeling for it towards the end of the year a little bit and started getting hit around. But I think this offseason we went into it with the guys I train with, with the mentality of, 'We really need to attack the slider, we need to have the best feel for it that we possibly can, because it's what's going to get me my outs facing right-handed hitters and strikeouts against lefties.'"

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Over 12 big league seasons, Detwiler is 27-48 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 224 games (95 starts). Since leaving the Nationals in 2014, he has played for six MLB clubs and an independent league team.

Detwiler, who recorded four or more outs in seven of his 16 outings in 2020, could find himself in a hybrid role with the Marlins. He has a 4.48 ERA and 1.45 WHIP as a starter vs. a 4.80 ERA and 1.54 WHIP as a reliever in his big league career. The southpaw started 12 games in '19 for the White Sox, his highest total since making 13 starts in '13 with the Nats.

"Beginning of my career I started more," Detwiler said. "This is what you kind of see with a lot of pitchers that don't have as much success as a starter as expected. I was just pretty much used as a Swiss Army knife. If you need a spot start here, need me to cover 3-4 innings, come in and get one guy out -- that's not really in the cards any more [since] you've got to face three hitters -- but I've done it all. Each one has a little different mentality that you need to bring to it, but at the end of the day, it's all just pitching. You just need to focus on one batter at a time. It sounds so cliché, but there's a reason it's cliché."

Miami has made it known that its bullpen (which had a 5.50 ERA in 2020) is an offseason focus, with manager Don Mattingly calling it a "work in progress" last month. Detwiler became the fourth addition so far, joining right-handers Adam Cimber (trade with Cleveland), Paul Campbell (Rule 5 Draft selection) and Zach Pop (Rule 5 Draft trade).

In an NL East division that features several prominent left-handed-hitting sluggers, like Atlanta's Freddie Freeman and Philadelphia's Bryce Harper, the Marlins have three southpaw relievers on their 40-man roster: Detwiler, Richard Bleier and Alex Vesia. Lefties slash .236/.310/.324 against Detwiler compared to .300/.363/.476 for righties.

Tarpley, whom the Marlins acquired from the Yankees in a trade last January, allowed 12 runs (11 earned) in 11 innings in 2020. He also missed time with a right oblique strain.