2004 Marlins Bullpen and Bench Preview

Marlins Insider covers the Bullpen and Bench for the 2004 season and gives projections on what newly acquired closer Armando Benitez will do this year.

2003 Recap
The Marlins went into the 2003 season with a young bullpen staff that at times showed very strong potential. Left handers Michael Tejera and Armando Almanza both showed decent ability as middle relievers in 2002. From the right side the Marlins started the season with newly acquired Tim Spooneybarger, and control specialist Nate Bump. For the closers role the Marlins planned on using a situational platoon system of right-handers Branden Looper and left-hander Vladimir Nunez. Both had pitched well at times in the past and both were considered to have potential, but both players careers could best be defined as inconsistent.

By mid-season it was clear that the bullpen staff was not up to par if the Marlins were to make a serious post-season run. Spooneybarger had gone down with a serious elbow injury, Tejera and Almanza were not performing, recently promoted Tommy Phelps and Nate Bump had pitched decently but could not be relied upon to carry a playoff quality team. The closer situation was even more muddled as Nunez was completely horrible and was demoted and Looper's inconsistency continued.

For those reasons, the front office made aggressive moves to improve the bullpen. They signed right-hander Chad Fox who was discarded by the Red Sox after a disappointing stint as their closer and they traded several young prospects to the Texas Rangers for fiery closer Ugueth Urbina.

Both moves were instrumental in the Marlins success as Fox was excellent down the stretch in middle relief and Urbina, while sometimes making the situation scary, pulled out the saves to put the Marlins in the position to win the title.

2004 Preview
If there is one area where the Marlins are considered weak it is their bullpen. Both budget cuts and lack of production led the front office to make many personnel changes for the 2004 season. From the left side, both Almanza and Tejera are gone being replaced by Tommy Phelps and Matt Perisho. While neither can be considered a significant upgrade, their production can't be much worse than what the horrible performances from the 2003 guys.
From the right side, Nate Bump, Justin Wayne and Chad Fox round out the middle relief staff. Bump throws nothing overwhelming but he has great control and seems to get the job done. Justin Wayne was once considered a top starter prospect but like Bump just doesn't have the overwhelming stuff. Chad Fox however carries a fastball that hits 97 mph and he also has a devastating sinker. In the off-season, he was said to be working on adding a change-up to his repertoire.

For their closer in 2004, the Marlins made a payroll decision and decided to let both Urbina and Looper go. Urbina, while usually getting the job done, still allows too many base runners to justify the top closer level salary that he was looking for. Looper was also set for a substantial enough pay increase that the Marlins could not justify paying it for his level of performance.

Instead, the Marlins decided to save roughly a million dollars in salary and sign another closer who, while often showing flashes of dominance like Urbina and Looper, is viewed upon as being inconsistent. Armando Benitez worked for several years as the Mets closer and was among the league leaders in saves almost every year. The fickle New York media and fans however never trusted Benitez as their closer and he was often the target of both heckling and intense media scrutiny. No one questions Benitez's stuff as a closer. He throws a high 90's fastball and a hard sinker. The problem that Benitez has is that he is considered emotionally weak for a closer, too often letting the pressure of the situation get to him as well as not being able to handle the criticism that a closer often as to endure. In 2003, Benitez had a breakdown of sorts as his walk count, which in the past was very low, sky-rocketed and he blew save after save. The Mets traded him to Seattle where he finished out the season with continued inconsistency.

Benitez still has the stuff, track record, and overall ability to be a top-notch closer. The Marlins front office is banking that less media intensity and the Latin American community of South Florida will help Benitez re-gain that status.

2004 Bullpen Staff

Left Handed Relievers
Tommy Phelps
Matt Perisho

Right Handed Relievers
Nate Bump
Justin Wayne
Chad Fox

Closer
Armando Benitez

2004 Projected Stats

Year

Team

G

GS

IP

W

L

SV

H

BB

SO

ERA

2004

Florida

71

0

76.2

2

5

39

44

50

80

3.05



2004 Bench Preview

Infield Reserves
Mike Mordecai

Prototypical utility player. Smart, understands his role, and has a knack for coming through in the clutch.

Damion Easley
Can play either 2B, SS, or 3B. More than a utility player, Easley can fill in for an extended period of time. He is solid in the field and at the plate he carries a power bat.

Wil Cordero
Can play 1B and the corner OF spots. Gets the job done at the plate. Hits for both power and average

Outfield Reserves
Abraham Nunez
Long time prospect Nunez put on 20 pounds of muscle this off-season and showed it off by leading the Grapefruit League with 10 homeruns.

Lenny Harris
The All-Time career pinch hits leader. Harris can be relied upon to get the job done when called upon from the left-side of the plate.

Catcher Reserve
Mike Redmond
Red is a solid fielder and a good hitter who performs considerably better against left-handed pitching. He is not an everyday catcher, but is considered one of the most dependable backups in the majors.


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