It’s no secret that Coors Field is a power hitter’s dream. The altitude and the configurations of the stadium make it a trip worth taking for Major League Baseball’s best sluggers.
Down in south Florida, the Miami Marlins are building a pitching staff, more importantly a bullpen, that is best suited for its own ball park. This “Super Pen” as it has been called by many, could be difference in a winning season and a possible spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
The pieces are there for this franchise. They all must fit in a newly constructed puzzle that has president of baseball operations Michael Hill’s design all over it.
MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro points out the Marlins' newly constructed bullpen will come at batters from all angles and directions. Brad Ziegler has a submarine-style delivery, and Junichi Tazawa mixes in a forkball.
The two recently signed free agents join closer A.J. Ramos, an All-Star in 2016, and hard-throwing right-handers David Phelps and Kyle Barraclough in what Miami hopes becomes a "super 'pen." Manager Don Mattingly will have a variety of reliever options. What the organization hopes they all share is a style that fits with spacious Marlins Park.
That also means the play of outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich will help determine if the this team can cut down on runs scored. Actually, it will be a full defensive effort if Miami wants to erase a 79-82 record from last season and focus on a lot of potential in the coming months.
"I don't know if I'd say ground-ball pitchers, specifically," Hill said. "Obviously, we looked at ground-ball rates, but I think our focus has always been to identify pitchers that we think can be successful in our ballpark."
Team manager Don Mattingly, at pitching coach Juan Nieves have been given new toys to play with. Now, they must make them work according to plan. The key will be how the new members of the pitching staff, along with the existing players on the roster, work well together – both on the mound and in the field.
Lorenzo Bundy, who coaches the outfielders, is working with three talented defenders in Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. So if the relievers can hit their spots, they should have plenty of help in the field.
"With our team, we pride ourselves on our defense," Michael Hill said. "Perry Hill [the Marlins’ infield coach] with our infielders, and Lo Bundy and our athletic outfield. We're very happy with our defense that we put on the field."
The Marlins open spring training on Feb. 14 with pitchers and catchers reporting for camp. That’s when all the pieces start to fit into place. Because of many new faces in new places, it also may be tough in deciding who stays on the main roster and who begins the season in the minor leagues.
Frisaro adds that Mattingly and his staff will figure out specific bullpen roles. But there could be a combination of, say, Tawaza working the seventh inning and Ziegler the eighth to set up Ramos one night, and the next game could be Phelps and Barraclough bridging the gap to the ninth.
However the roles are drawn up, Miami will offer varied looks.
Barraclough led all National League relievers last year in strikeouts per nine innings (14), and Phelps was sixth. Ramos, who saved 40 games, averaged 10.27 strikeouts per nine.