At the beginning of last season, the then Jacksonville Suns were counting on their “big three” to carry the starting rotation in the Southern League. Jarlin Garcia, Jake Esch and Austin Brice were thought to be part of the future of the Miami Marlins’ organization in a minor league system that was thin of starting pitching and quality arms.
Esch was released last week and claimed by the San Diego Padres. Brice was packaged as part of a deal to acquire Dan Straily from Cincinnati in prior to Spring Training. Garcia, the Marlins No. 4 prospect, isn’t opening the season in the rotation, rather will be coming out of the bullpen for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
Yes, with change comes new opportunities for hitter and pitchers to make an impact here in Jacksonville. If Garcia wants to make it to the big show – where I was for a cup of coffee last season before suffering a season-ending arm injury – he is going to have to do it in a relief role.
Jacksonville native and Jump Shrimp pitching coach Storm Davis told the media on Tuesday the pitching staff has veterans in some spots and in others this is a young group. He said his job, along with the rest of the team’s coaching staff is not only to help these players get to New Orleans (at the Triple-A level), but to also get them to Miami.
“I think I have a pretty good idea what Donny [Mattingly] wants at the big league level being at the big league camp the past two years,” Davis said.
Davis’ experience as a player and coach in the minors should be a huge benefit for these arms on the roster. He pitched in the major leagues from 1982 to 1994. He is a two-time World Series champion with the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics.
The Jumbo Shrimp will turn to Dillon Peters and Matt Tomshaw as their top two starters. Both spent time on the Jacksonville roster last season. Peters was impressive in camp, drawing praise for his fastball and his command of pitches. Davis said Mattingly likes to use his bullpen, as evident of the fact Miami will use eight pitchers in relief this season. His role here in town is to prepare these pitchers for either coming out of the pen or to be able to pitch every fifth day.
Peters is the guy this team will count on to lead the pack.
“Dillon is going to be guy, said Davis. “He is going to be our opening day, not only in Mississippi (on Thursday), but here (against Chattanooga on April 12th). He is young, strong and hardheaded at times but that’s a good thing. He has the will to be a big league starter.”
Davis also said there are some things in Double-A ball he has to iron out and they are there to help him improve as a player.