Not only are the Miami Marlins banking on a bullpen that runs eight deep, the organization is also hoping that a unit full of right handers is the way to win the National League East.
Once again, manager Don Mattingly is faced with the same issue the team dealt with last year – almost becoming a point of normalcy with a sign that hangs over the bullpen – NO LEFTIES ALLOWED.
Fans saw the issues that could arise in having such a blueprint in the 4-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Opening Day. It was a cause of debate when Joe Frisaro opened his “Inbox” feature on MLB.com.
What does manager Don Mattingly plan on doing now with no lefties in the bullpen? Opening Day showed how difficult it is not having a southpaw.
The Marlins had bullpen issues last season because of lack of performance and injuries. Reliever Mike Dunn was injured for the majority of the season and now the former Marlins arm is pitching in Colorado after signing a free agent deal. The Marlins brought in relievers with experience to form a mega bullpen in the mold of the Cleveland Indians.
On Monday, that bullpen failed to keep a lead.
“That was an organizational decision the club was open about all offseason and throughout Spring Training. The Marlins feel handedness is overrated,” Frisaro explained. “They also noted that David Phelps is their Andrew Miller, and he's arguably their best reliever. Mattingly said after Monday's 4-2 loss to the Nationals that he plans to match Phelps up with the other team's top hitters. It didn't work out, and left-handed hitters Bryce Harper and Adam Lind each homered.”
Dunn, who is now with the Rockies, was Miami's primary lefty reliever a year ago. When you look at his splits, left-handed hitters batted .278 off Dunn, compared to .263 for right-handed hitters. Phelps' splits a year ago: lefties .230, righties .172.
The Marlins signed right-handers Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa in free agency, but they passed on lefty Travis Wood, who could start or relieve. Now with the Royals, Wood limited left-handed hitters to a .126 batting average, while right-handers batted .265.
The Marlins are counting on David Phelps to be their horse out of the pen. The spot starter last season won his arbitration case this offseason, and will be counted on to get this team to AJ Ramos in the closer’s role. If the combination of Ziegler, Dustin McGowan, Tazawa and others can keep leads, this bullpen could be the right formula for a winning season in south Florida.