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Chen to start season in Marlins' bullpen

@JoeFrisaro
March 24, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- Wei-Yin Chen paces all starters on the Marlins’ roster in MLB starts with 170. But the 33-year-old will enter 2019 with a different role on the staff. The organization on Sunday morning announced that Chen will be moved to the bullpen, while also not ruling out that

JUPITER, Fla. -- Wei-Yin Chen paces all starters on the Marlins’ roster in MLB starts with 170. But the 33-year-old will enter 2019 with a different role on the staff.

The organization on Sunday morning announced that Chen will be moved to the bullpen, while also not ruling out that the left-hander could still have opportunities to start at some point during the season.

Chen is accepting the decision and says he will do his part to help the team.

“Given the choice, I'd like to be a starter for the Marlins, because starting is what I've always been doing,” Chen said through his interpreter. “It's more natural and comfortable for me. But, of course, I'm in the bullpen and I'll try to make the best of the decision. I will not let it affect me mentally. I will look to fit into that role and help the team as much as possible.”

Chen also is the highest-paid player on the Marlins, making $20 million this year.

Aside from Jose Urena, who will face the Rockies in Thursday’s season opener, the Marlins have yet to announce their other four starters.

With Chen out of the picture, the candidates are Dan Straily, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith.

The Marlins are prepared to keep all five on the big league roster, with one going to the bullpen. Smith’s status remains uncertain because he is recovering from left lat surgery, and he may still open the season on the injured list.

“For us, we're just looking at what's best for this team, for this organization, to maximize our assets and put ourselves in the best position to win ballgames,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “We felt like, given the information that we've gone through in spring, that it was the best fit to have [Chen] as an additional lefty in the 'pen to come get outs for us out of the 'pen.”

Chen made 26 starts and logged 133 1/3 innings for the Marlins in 2018, going 6-12 with a 4.79 ERA. But his performances were dramatically different at home compared to on the road. At Marlins Park, the lefty was 5-3 with a 1.62 ERA, but he went 1-9 with a 9.27 ERA away from home.

Chen has had a rough Spring Training, with a 9.37 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. He had eight strikeouts and opponents hit .357 off him.

Chen says he will not change how he approaches his outings working out of the bullpen.

“I wouldn't change anything because I'm in the bullpen,” Chen said. “As a pitcher, you just do what you need to do and stick to your routine. I won't change any game plan or try to throw harder just because I'm in the bullpen.”

Galen getting closer

Right-hander Zac Gallen is knocking on the door of his first big league opportunity. On Sunday, the Marlins tested the 23-year-old against the Cardinals in the final Grapefruit League game.

Gallen gave up one run in five innings with seven strikeouts and no walks in Miami’s 2-1 loss to St. Louis at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

Gallen got the starting nod on Sunday knowing he is part of Triple-A New Orleans’ rotation. The right-hander was optioned earlier in camp.

But the message from chief executive officer Derek Jeter and the organization to the players is -- if they perform, they will get an opportunity.

“Mr. Jeter came in here and said, ‘The best guys are going to play there,’” Gallen said. “If you can kind of just get on a roll and carry that through, I think that’s really important to have in the back of your mind. If you’re pitching well, they might need a guy and make a call. It’s definitely in the back of my mind. But I don’t try to consume myself with it too much.”

Ferrell shut down

Reliever Riley Ferrell has been shut down due to right biceps tendinitis, and he appears likely to open the season on the injured list. The right-hander last pitched on Friday, throwing two-thirds of an inning and walking three.

A Rule 5 Draft pick from the Astros, Ferrell was tracking toward making the Opening Day roster.

“His fate could impact the rest of our bullpen,” Hill said. “That's why nothing is final until it's final. In Ferrell's case, he's battling some biceps tendinitis. We've actually shut him down.”

In 6 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League play, Ferrell had a 2.70 ERA with 10 strikeouts and five walks.

Up next

The Marlins finished Spring Training with a 15-13-1 record, and they will open the regular season on Thursday against the Rockies at 4:10 p.m. ET at Marlins Park. José Ureña will be the Opening Day starter.

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