The Miami Marlins have the makings of the best bullpen in the majors. That doesn’t mean decisions on the team’s pitching staff when it comes to David Phelps is an easy one to make. The reliever turned starter last season goes into the 2017 season with a clear spot on the staff, but where the Marlins use the 30-year-old may be up for discussion.
In his mailbag of questions that he answers on MLB.com, Joe Frisaro addressed the “issue” at a fan’s request. It was believed Phelps would return to the bullpen – after he made 59 appearances in relief before being moved to the starting rotation last season. Would the Marlins, who have signed many arms to help a rotation that has been restructured, add one more arm to make the transformation complete? The move would impact every member of the pitching staff, but it would have a direct effect on what manager Don Mattingly does with Phelps.
“I wouldn't rule out another veteran reliever, especially if the market drops on someone who could provide depth,” Frisaro explains. “I would be surprised if the Marlins opted to use David Phelps in the rotation, because they're already on record saying he impacts more games being in the bullpen.
“Considering their plan has been to build a "super bullpen," I'm sure Phelps' role has been discussed since October. Plus, they may have already reached out to the 30-year-old, who is going through the arbitration process. The Marlins owe it to him to give an indication of what they have planned.”
The Marlins did not make the splash they hoped for in signing a top-tier closer in Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, but they did subscribe to the theory of more is better and there is safety in numbers. Veterans were brought in and young arms added to give pitching coach Juan Nieves plenty to work with in the offseason and in spring training.
Saying Phelps has more of an impact coming into a game rather than starting one shows which way this team might leaning in just where to place him.
Frisaro also pointed out there is a possibility Phelps could move to the rotation again, but after signing both Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke, it might be a longshot.
“Not that Phelps couldn't be a factor in the rotation, but the key is how to best maximize the right-hander. If he is out of the bullpen, it weakens. I know Neftali Feliz would be a replacement, but Phelps already has raised his game with Miami,” he said.