Peter Gammons: A Marlins Monday, position allocation, & Dusty Baker on Betts

JUPITER, Fla.—Some days the split squad games suit what the Marlins need to make their eight man bullpen work. For instance, as Mike Hill says, “we’re trying to get Ichiro Suzuki and Justin Bour as many at-bats against lefthanded pitchers as possible this spring because with a four man bench we have to see if they can hit lefties.”

In other words, no platoon for Bour, who in his major league career has played in 78 games against lefthanded pitchers for 110 at-bats, a .223/.283/.291/.564 line and no home runs. Ichiro actually had a .339 average against lefthanders last season, but in only 59 at-bats.

Before they learned that Martin Prado has a Grade One hamstring and will miss weeks of the early season, their bench was Ichiro, Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas and A.J. Ellis, which Don Mattingly conceded might force a pitcher to bat in the middle of the game, then be relieved, because Ichiro and Dietrick would have to be held for leverage situations. Now, that means Ichiro will be alone as a situational hitter.

Next, Hill says “we have to develop three relievers that can give us length if and when a starter doesn’t get through five or six innings.”

OK, that means they open the season with Adam Conley (25 starts, 133 1/3 IP), Edinson Volquez (34 GS, 189 1/3 IP), Dan Straily (31 GS, 191 1/3 IP), Wei-Yin Chen (22 GS, 123 IP) and Tom Koehler (33 GS, 176 2/3) in the rotation, with Jeff Locke and minor league lefthander Dillon Peters available for depth.

So the length to get to the final two or three innings and perhaps even pull a piggyback start are Dustin McGowan and hard-throwing Jose Urena, who is being stretched out as a starter and threw well in Port St. Lucie Sunday. That leads them to Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough, Junichi Tazawa and possibly Hunter Cervenka to eventually get to closer A.J. Ramos.

And Mattingly and Hill then use the optionable pitchers route to run pitchers back and forth between New Orleans and Miami. Justin Nicolino has made tweaks to his delivery and ticked close to 95. Nick Wittgren, maybe Drew Steckenrider.

“I really believe we can be really good,” says Mattingly. “All the talk is about the Nationals and the Mets, and they are very good teams with great pitching. But if you look at our everyday lineup, we may be as good as anyone. Our outfield (Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna), healthy, is outstanding. J.T. Realmuto can be a star. We have Dee Gordon for a full season. We just have to juggle and make the pitching work.”

As the season progresses, they may have depth coming out of their system in third baseman Brian Anderson and shortstop J.T. Riddle. They spend hours every day scouring the waiver wires. Pitching coach Juan Nieves is tireless.

Can this work without a 200 inning pitcher and what essentially is a two man bench? “We’re going to give it a try, and I think we can make it work,” says Mattingly.

And, if it works through the All Star Game to be played in Marlins Park, there are the issues of the sale and whether or not Jeffrey Loria is the ambassador to France and what cash is available for a midseason pickup, or three. It may take 30 pitchers by Labor Day, but it will be fascinating to watch.

Dusty Baker watches Mookie Betts and sees a young Henry Aaron, Baker’s longtime friend. “They’re about the same size at the same age, and I watch those magic hands of Mookie, the same swing  and see the explosion and I see Hank. I know Hank as a hitter, as a young player, and a friend, and when I see Mookie, I say, ‘Mercy, that’s Hank Aaron.”

A month after Betts arrived in the big leagues, Matt Yallof bought into my doing a side-by-side of the great Aaron and Betts. Dusty says we got it right, my friend.

Through the weekend, Harvard was 7-6 on its southern swing, and freshman shortstop Quinn Hoffman—Trevor’s son—was playing very well.

Well, the Ivies are becoming MLB grads’ favorites. Jarod Boone, Bret’s son, will be playing shortstop for Scott Bradley next year at Princeton. And Jarod’s high school coach in Torrey Pines, Ca.  Kirk McCaskill will have his son Riley playing at Dartmouth.

You probably remember McCaskill was a great hockey player at the University of Vermont, the Catamounts, a university started by the Allen family.

Dusty hasn’t decided on his lineup or his closer, despite so many media suggestions. He’s still thinking about Adam Eaton in the seven. “That position can either be a second leadoff man or someone who can come up with big guys on base and make contact and knock in a couple of runs,” says Baker.

As for the closer, there is an acknowledgement that Blake Treinen has closer stuff, but even with his improvement against lefthanded hitters, his ability to generate ground balls and double plays make him invaluable in the seventh and eighth innings. Shawn Kelley is so tough he’s overcome two Tommy John Surgeries, but can he hold up pitching three straight days? Koda Glover lurks.


  1. Kenz A Fan says:

    In regards to the Nationals possible closer, you shouldn’t discount Enny Romero, who’s not only impressed more than a few in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic, but has shown he has the potential of being the next Chapman, not to mention a whole lot less expensive. At least for the next four or five years. He’s shown he deserves serious consideration.

    • Couldn’t agree more, he is a top tier talent, the proof is in the pudding.

      • Kenz A Fan says:

        Thing is, I doubt any player, especially a pitcher can hold onto the Adrenalin rush for an entire season. Still, it would be interesting to see what he can do, if given the roll. Then again, with Dusty managing, he tends to lean more on players he feels more comfortable with, and is less likely to give new kids a chance. It’s like his talking about how impressed he with with Koda Glover, but does anyone seriously think that Dusty will give the closer job to Glover or Romero? My guess, he’ll talk spin about how he was impressed, but in the end he’ll give the job to either Treinen of Kelley. Right now, Glover and Romero are outside his “comfort zone” which is kinda sad when you think about it.

        • True, its tough to make big decisions like “who is the closer?” based on small sample sizes, especially when you have prior comfort and trust in other pitchers. Though, if the kid keeps it up, its just a matter of time… but will it be to late for 2017 before they realize it, if that is the case.

  2. GhostOfFenway says:

    Wow, some nice words there from Dusty. Can’t say I am ready to compare him to Hammerin’ Hank, but I definitely see a resemblance in their presence. Mookie has the look and hora of someone that knows they are going to continue to do great. The thing with Mookie is that it took him putting together a DiMaggio’esk on-base streak in the minors for anyone to notice him at 5-nothing, 100-nothing, and see him as a big time player. He is a guy that will play, even 15 years and 200+ million dollars from today, with a chip on his shoulder. Maybe it wont all be here in Boston, but this guy is going to stay hungry.

  3. Peter coming in heavy and early with the Marlins and Don Mattingly this year.

    • Mike Auger says:

      Well think about it, from Fernandez at the end of last season to Loria and Trump to Ichiro to Bonds to Mattingly to the WBC to the 2017 All-Star-Game, Miami and the Marlins are going to continue to be to be a storyline regardless of record this year.