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Guerrero turning heads out of Marlins' bullpen

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MILWAUKEE -- The 6-foot-8 Tayron Guerrero stands out in a crowd. Still, the lanky right-hander was one of the most overlooked pitchers on the Marlins in Spring Training.

People are taking notice now. With a fastball that averages 97.8 mph, and with an eye-opening 15.83 strikeouts per nine innings, Guerrero is quickly becoming one of the most fascinating relievers in the Majors.

MILWAUKEE -- The 6-foot-8 Tayron Guerrero stands out in a crowd. Still, the lanky right-hander was one of the most overlooked pitchers on the Marlins in Spring Training.

People are taking notice now. With a fastball that averages 97.8 mph, and with an eye-opening 15.83 strikeouts per nine innings, Guerrero is quickly becoming one of the most fascinating relievers in the Majors.

Who is the soft-spoken 27-year-old from Isla Tierra Bomba, a tiny island off the coast of Colombia? And what is Guerrero's upside? Three weeks into the season, he's already progressed from multi-inning reliever to late-inning setup role, and if his control improves, he's perhaps a future closer.

"Tayron has been a nice surprise for us," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "We always knew he had a big arm and was a guy with tremendous stuff. It was just a matter of throwing the ball over the plate. He's thrown the ball over the plate."

In the Marlins' 9-1 win over the Yankees on Tuesday night, Guerrero showed a bit of his upside and concerns. In the sixth inning, he walked two and allowed a single, but he struck out three in a scoreless frame. One of Guerrero's fastballs was clocked at 100.1 mph.

Video: MIA@NYY: Guerrero K's Austin, strands bases loaded

The Marlins acquired Guerrero from the Padres in July of 2016 in a seven-player trade. In the deal, Miami picked up Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea and Guerrero for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo and Josh Naylor.

Two years later, Guerrero has an opportunity to make his presence felt in the big leagues. His fastball is lighting up scoreboards. According to Statcast™, Guerrero has already touched 100 mph or more seven times. The only two pitchers with more readings at 100-plus are Jordan Hicks of the Cardinals (17) and Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees (10).

As Guerrero gains confidence, the Marlins are more confident placing him in high-leverage situations.

"I think guys always morph," Mattingly said. "You start with some plan out in your bullpen, and if a couple of guys aren't getting their outs, then that plan changes. I think it can always change. He's been a nice surprise for us, and a good guy that we've been able to use some early in the game, but also we've used him in the eighth and felt good about putting him out there."

Guerrero's 97.8 mph four-seam fastball average is truly elite. It ranks tied for second among 351 pitchers who have thrown at least 10 this year.

"During the offseason, I worked so much on how to control my fastball better, and one of those things was working on my mechanics," Guerrero said. "With my hands up, that's made me better. Every time I throw the ball, it moves better."

Video: CHC@MIA: Guerrero fans Rizzo to K the side in the 6th

The most notable mechanical tweak was Guerrero's hands are higher, above his chest, compared to previously at his belt. It's helped him get to his release point better.

Home for Guerrero is Isla Tierra Bomba, a day-trip beach destination from Cartagena, Colombia. The island is accessible only by boat. Since there are no baseball fields there, he takes a boat ride to Cartagena to work out.

A soccer player as a child, Guerrero didn't pick up baseball until he was 16. His baseball path involved boat rides at 6:30 a.m. to the closest ball fields, and returning at night, walking two miles through a snake-infested jungle.

"I still take the boat to go to Cartagena," Guerrero said. "Maybe, if I'm here all year in the bigs, I can buy a house in the city."

Guerrero's improved fastball command is partly attributed to Cartagena native Julio Teheran of the Braves.

"He told me to always remember one thing: Take from your best year, what you did to have success in that year," Guerrero said.

In 2014, Guerrero pitched at two Class A levels, and in 49 2/3 combined innings, his ERA was 1.45 with 56 strikeouts and 20 walks.

"I had my hands up then," Guerrero said. "[Teheran] told me, 'Ok, go back again to your hands up. It will be successful for you.'"

Guerrero is making an impression now with the Marlins, but his first big league experience was with the Padres in 2016, as he threw two innings in one game.

At three Minor League levels with Miami in 2017, Guerrero had a 4.46 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 29 walks in 36 1/3 innings.

On Opening Day, Guerrero struck out the first four batters he faced against the Cubs.

"I'm a tall guy, and it is hard for tall guys to repeat deliveries over and over," Guerrero said. "I'm trying to make it simple. Just try to do one thing with my mechanics. I'm trying to do it every time, every time."

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

Miami Marlins, Tayron Guerrero