Inbox: Surveying the post-Fernandez landscape
Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from Marlins fans
Like all the fans, I am deeply saddened by Jose Fernandez's injury. Why do you think so many pitchers are needing Tommy John surgery? And how can the Marlins recover without Jose?
-- Ross J., Tampa, Fla.
Without question, losing Fernandez is a crushing blow Miami must somehow overcome. There are no winners in this. It is terrible for Jose, the Marlins, their fans and all of Major League Baseball, as another young star will be out for an extended period of time.
There are many theories on why so many pitchers are blowing out their elbows. According to Fernandez's camp, there is a connection to when the pitcher was struck near the left knee by a comeback single against the Dodgers at Marlins Park on May 4. That drive left a nice bruise, and it may have caused Fernandez to slightly alter his delivery, which in turn caused extra stress on the elbow. Fernandez's next start was at San Diego, and the rest is history.
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There also is the fact Fernandez is a hard thrower who is still learning the limits of his body. Also, there are examples of pitchers who throw so many hard sliders who have incurred similar elbow injuries. Fernandez was throwing his fastball 52 percent of the time, compared to 48 percent for his offspeed pitches, which includes his slider and curveball.
The bottom line with pitching is many factors could lead to injury.
It's hard to say specifically why so many pitchers are going down at an alarming rate. Somehow, the Marlins have to move on; they have no choice. Can they recover? It will be tough. That will be in the hands of those who remain in the rotation. Miami has built around its starting pitching. It's up to the rest of the rotation to do its part to pick up the slack. If they can, you never know how the season will play out. If the starters struggle, then it could be a long summer.
If Andrew Heaney is the Marlins' top prospect, why wasn't he the one called up to fill Fernandez's spot? I know Anthony DeSclafani did the job in his first start. When will they call up Heaney?
-- Carlos T., Miami
DeSclafani was lined up better to get that first call, last Wednesday at Los Angeles. Heaney had pitched a couple of days before, so he wasn't an option then.
At Double-A Jacksonville, DeSclafani actually was the Opening Day starter, and Heaney went the second game. Not to read much into that, but the point is, the organization is very high on DeSclafani. The 24-year-old right-hander has tended to be the overlooked pitcher from the 2012 blockbuster trade with Toronto. The rookie stepped up in a big way and he won his MLB debut, giving up two runs while striking out seven against the Dodgers.
Credit the former Florida Gator for seizing the moment.
As for Heaney, ranked as the top lefty pitching prospect in the game by MLB.com, it appears his next step will be Triple-A New Orleans before he gets his first big league call. The Marlins have traditionally promoted their top pitching prospects from Double-A directly to the big leagues. From a developmental standpoint, giving Heaney some Triple-A innings isn't a bad idea. The aim is to make sure all players are as ready as possible to succeed at the big league level, not just get there as quickly as possible.
Why did the Marlins sign Randy Wolf when they have pitchers in their system who could fill either rotation or long-relief spots? The organization has Brian Flynn at Triple-A. Why not go with Flynn?
-- Ethan N., Sunrise, Fla.
I like the front office being proactive and signing Wolf, a veteran who happened to be available. The fact Wolf had an out clause at the same time the Marlins had a need showed the front office was being aggressive. Yes, there are pitching prospects like Flynn in the system. But MLB experience matters.
Miami is at a point where the club needs some veterans to ease the burden on the young players. Wolf brings stability and a presence. The rotation was so young to begin with. Obviously, age didn't matter so much with Fernandez as the ace. That was a case of talent being so great, it far offset his inexperience. Now, Fernandez is out for the season.
Wolf isn't completely the answer, but he knows what it takes to get the job done. DeSclafani earned a second start after the way he pitched at Dodger Stadium. If either DeSclafani or another starter scuffles, Wolf is a nice option to fill in.
Despite their road woes, the team has hung in there. The front office doesn't want to make this another season of developing pitchers like Flynn and others at the price of winning as many games as possible.
If the Marlins stay in the race, should they make a push for Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs? No question Samardzija would give Miami a true No. 1. What do you think?
-- Sara B., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
I raised this issue in my Fish Pond blog the other day. I do think the team should be open to doing whatever it can to try to stay in the race this season. With so many front-line starting pitchers being lost to injuries, the races are wide open. To the Marlins' credit, despite some rough stretches this year, they are over .500 after playing 20 games in 20 days, with 11 straight on the road.
I can tell you this about Samardzija specifically: Miami's front office has not been involved in any serious internal discussions. But typically, teams aren't seriously discussing major trades this early in the season. Also, there is the realization the Cubs' asking price will be enormous. Interested clubs would have to brace to part with their top two or three pitching prospects, plus a couple of position prospects.
It would be hard to imagine a realistic trade scenario with the Cubs without Heaney being part of the package. If not Samardzija, the general point is the Marlins should be open to acquiring any established starter who could be available. The asking price is always high for a proven starting pitcher.
If the Marlins want to make a statement to the players, coaching staff and fan base, then they should be looking to bring in the best starting-pitcher option available. If the team keeps winning, it will be interesting to see if the front office looks to add a piece to help ease the loss of Fernandez.
What is going on with the home- and road-record splits? It is like the Marlins are two different teams. Which team are they?
-- Mark D., Orlando, Fla.
Without question, the Marlins have been a team with two personalities. At home, they look like a serious contender. On the road, for the most part, they've looked lost. Over the course of a long season, things tend to even out.
I do think the front office built this team to take advantage of Marlins Park's huge gaps. That has paid off. On the road, it has always been something. In the early road trips, the bullpen and defense struggled. The offense had its moments, but lacked timely hitting. During the 11-game West Coast trip, which Miami wrapped up at 4-7, it was the starting pitching that lagged behind. There was a stretch where the starters couldn't go deep into games, and they had trouble throwing strikes.
There were some signs of life in San Francisco, because the Marlins started playing their game again. Miami split those four games. This team was put together to pitch and win close games. If the starters do their part, the results should be there, and it shouldn't matter where the team plays.