The Miami Marlins have become too familiar with the pitching carousel over the past year. They sent former closer A.J. Ramos to the New York Mets before last year’s trade deadline. So far, Miami looks really good for that trade, as Ramos has an ERA of 5.59 since joining the Mets, and his season came to a close in May following a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, finding a suitable replacement has not been pleasant.
Two players have taken most of the saves for Miami over the past year. The first, Brad Ziegler, picked up 10 saves in each of the past two seasons, but he lost his closing role earlier this year after not being able to minimize damage on plenty of occasions and having an ERA close to eight. He recovered in a middle relief role, but the Marlins traded him to Arizona before the trade deadline.
Kyle Barraclough took over as the new closer for Miami in June and July. He piled up nine of his 10 saves on the season during that stretch, and his ERA dipped below 1.00 at the end of June.
That success did not last.
Barraclough blew a save against Tampa Bay to begin July, and his ERA ballooned by exactly one in a five-run meltdown to the same Rays team three weeks later. After not being traded, he has yet to recover. He has allowed earned runs in four straight appearances, including four in an August 2 loss in which Maikel Franco walked the Phillies off with a three-run home run.
Don Mattingly finally saw enough after the first game of Miami’s series against the Cardinals, and he yanked the role away from Barraclough. If Wednesday’s eighth-inning appearance was any indication, however, the Santa Clara native could be getting closer to AAA New Orleans than to getting his coveted role back.
There is still a mystery as to who will get the most closer opportunities moving forward, as the Marlins have not been in a save situation since Monday. Mattingly said that he would take a committee approach, which is not a bad idea since the Marlins are effectively out of playoff contention.
Adam Conley and Drew Steckenrider have been the most consistent relievers in the bullpen and commonly found in the seventh and eighth inning roles. Javy Guerra picked up the save on Monday and also has closer experience with the Los Angeles Dodgers, so he may also get some opportunities down the stretch.
Do any of those relievers have a chance at sealing the closer role for 2019? It would not hurt. Both Seattle and Oakland have found unbelievable success at that spot and are in the thick of the AL playoff race, and the Angels became instant playoff threats with Francisco Rodriguez closing games in the 2000s decade. Finding consistency in the bullpen will be key in turning the Marlins around sooner.
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