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Will Miami move its most versatile pitcher to the back end of the bullpen in 2017?

David Phelps spent time between the bullpen and the rotation for the Miami Marlins last season

Due to constraints of being a small budget baseball team, could the Miami Marlins take David Phelps and make him the opening day closer in 2017?

Phelps, who began the season in the bullpen in 2016, spent time in the second half of the season as a starter out of necessity due to injuries. The idea isn’t unheard of as starters like Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz made the move to prolong their careers – moves that also helped put them in the Hall of Fame.

The Marlins traded for Fernando Rodney prior to last season’s All-Star game to help in the closer’s role due to injuries to AJ Ramos. The two were not as effective as the team had hoping once Ramos returned to the pen. Because Phelps offers more flexibility – having pitching in 59 reliefs appearance last season before he became a starter, does he offer a better opportunity to save games for the team?

Miami’ starting rotation should look a lot different this coming season.

Joe Frisaro of MLB.com thinks this might be the best thing for Marlins in 2017.

"Phelps' role for next year will be interesting to follow, as he may wind up in the rotation if there is a need, though his maximum value may still be as a reliever. He could even become an option to close, if Ramos doesn't return in that role," Frisaro writes. "The ability to limit walks could push Phelps over Ramos for the closing nod. Ramos allowed 4.92 walks per nine innings in 2016, compared to Phelps' 4.04."

The 30-year-old Phelps had a 2.28 ERA and four saves in 64 outings (five starts) for Miami last season. The right-hander has made 64 starts among his 174 big league appearances for the Yankees and Marlins.

There is still a belief Ramos will remain the closer and has the statistics to back it up. Ramos had 40 saves in 43 chances last season, although his WHIP was a career-high 1.36.

Phelps offers Miami some flexibility. If he is not moved to the closer’s role, could he assume the long relief role – much like Andrew Miller in Cleveland? If Miami is able to make a run at Aroldis Chapman from Chicago, does that mean Phelps could become a permanent starter?


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