The Cleveland Indians have created a blueprint of how to win in the playoffs. With the use of a relief staff that all but stymied the Toronto Blue Jays, the road to a World Series championship now runs through the state of Ohio.
As Joe Frisaro of MLB.com wrote on Wednesday, “The Andrew Miller Effect has been one of the most interesting and entertaining storylines in the American League Championship Series.
“The way Indians manager Terry Francona has used his versatile left-hander in multiple relief roles could also be a model for other clubs trying to maximize their bullpens.”
The Miami Marlins, a team that had issues with injuries in its rotation and in relief this season, could be a ball club that could learn by example. There are plenty of options for manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Melvin Nieves for next season. If everything remains the same, AJ Ramos figures to be the team’s closer. Fernando Rodney, according to rumors and stories already written, will not return to south Florida. The Marlins could use a relief corps by committee with several arms being called into action to help maintain a lead late in the game.
Frisaro points out, “There aren't many relievers as dominant as Miller, but Miami does have several candidates who can assume multiple relief roles. Here's a breakdown of five who could do for the Marlins what Miller is doing for the Tribe.”
David Phelps was a reliever turned starter out of necessity last season. He proved he could fill both rolls. Where Phelps falls into place this coming season has a lot to do with how the Marlins work to acquire starters at the top of the rotation.
The same holds true for Justin Nicolino. The left-hander appeared in 18 games for Miami (13 starts), and he finished with a 4.99 ERA and a .307 batting average against. Nicolino also struck out 37 in 79 1/3 innings. As a starter, his ERA was 5.48, but in five relief appearances, his ERA was 1.04 with seven strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings.
A lot of what Miami does where these two, or any of their relievers are concerned, has a lot to do with whether or not another closer or long reliever is on the team’s wish list this offseason.
Another name to keep an eye is Austin Brice. The starter turned reliever was successful at both for the Jacksonville Suns last season. Brice was the No. 3 pitcher in the rotation to start the Southern League season, but moved to the bullpen and was later added to the Triple A New Orleans Zephyrs roster before a late season call up. He showed great power in his fast ball and could be a dominant long reliever next season. Also, his ability to spot start could make him a valuable commodity.
Jose Urena and Nick Wittgen also figure to get a long look as well in spring training.