Puk debuts as starter with 2 hitless innings vs. Mets

Plus: When might Anderson make 1st appearance this spring

February 27th, 2024

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- For the first time since Spring Training 2021, left-hander followed a starting pitcher’s routine on Tuesday ahead of the Marlins’ 7-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Mets at Clover Park.

Puk went through warmups before throwing a pregame bullpen. He made the long walk to the dugout with his catcher and pitching coach, then sat on the bench and watched as his teammates batted in the top of the first. After pitching a scoreless bottom of the inning, he returned to the dugout and waited until it was time to return for the second.

“I felt great,” Puk said. “I was excited to get there and start again. I just want to go out there and get in the strike zone with all my pitches and work on the pitches I've been working on this offseason, and I was really happy with it.”

The 28-year-old, who is being built up to start, tossed two scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one walk. He threw 26 pitches (18 strikes) and maxed out at 96.3 mph.

Puk introduced a five-pitch mix consisting of a four-seamer, sweeper, sinker, cutter and splitter. In 2023, he was predominantly a fastball/sweeper pitcher while serving in high-leverage situations, though he did turn to the occasional sinker and changeup. The Marlins were especially pleased with the splitter in his spring debut.

“You can see that there were some uncomfortable swings and takes today, and so that kind of tells you everything you needed to know,” catcher Nick Fortes said. "So I think he's probably pretty happy about today.”

Miami’s final two rotation spots were already up for grabs, and with left-hander Braxton Garrett behind schedule in his throwing program, that opens the door even more for Puk and others.

“The opportunity's there for him, just like a lot of other guys,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “It's going to be a battle for that last couple spots, and he's obviously in the mix. And what he showed today is real. That's why we're extending him and getting an extended look, because his stuff is starter stuff. It can be back-end reliever stuff, too. But we think he can start. He thinks he can start, so that's why he's getting the opportunity.”

Anderson nearing his debut

faced non-roster invitee Vladimir Gutierrez in live batting practice on the back fields in Jupiter, Fla. Both players are a bit behind others in camp because they signed after Spring Training began.

“After [Anderson] hits, we'll see if he's ready for game action,” Schumaker said. “He had a really good day yesterday. [With] the fielding and conditioning, we want to make sure his legs are underneath him. I'm not trying to have him pull an oblique first at-bat or anything like that. So still taking it day by day, making sure he's ready. When he's ready, he'll let us know. He's been around for a long time. He understands his body.

“He came in in good shape. But game action's a little bit different, and [I] just want to make sure that our strength and conditioning staff and trainers, everyone, is comfortable with him getting on the field. And then when that happens, we're good to go. There's a lot of games left, so he's got plenty of time.”

The Marlins host the Astros on Wednesday before traveling to the west coast of Florida for games against the Yankees and Phillies. Veterans usually don’t make the long road trips during Spring Training, so that’s something to take into account when considering Anderson’s possible debut.

Top 30 prospect watch

Here's a look at how five Minor Leaguers fared in Tuesday's game vs. the Mets:

• Jacob Berry (No. 4) went 2-for-2.

• Jacob Amaya (No. 5) went 0-for-2.

• Brock Vradenburg (No. 9) finished 1-for-2.

• Troy Johnston (No. 20) went 1-for-2.

• Josh Simpson (No. 25) allowed one run on one hit with two walks in the fifth.

Worth noting

Right-hander Edward Cabrera will make his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday against the Astros at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET.