Josh Johnson has had to shut it down here early on in Spring Training due to some nerve damage in his throwing arm, around the elbow and biceps area. Tests run on Friday were not able to conclude what exactly is wrong with his arm, but further tests are scheduled.
So, it is not known how long Josh Johnson will be out, but the Marlins are already preparing to go forward without him in the rotation in the meantime. Who are those candidates that will contend for a spot in the rotation? We have the answers: Jose Garcia, Kevin Gregg, Sergio Mitre, Yusmeiro Petit and Wes Obermueller, a non roster invitee.
Obermueller is a guy who has talent, but has bounced around the league a bit. Drafted by the Royals, he became a starter in Milwaukee for a period of time, then was traded to the Braves for Dan Kolb in the winter of 2005. The Braves gave him a shot coming into Spring Training in 2006, but he ended up staying in the minor leagues and eventually was released.
The Braves did seem to have high hopes for the then-29 year old, “He has outstanding stuff,” Bobby Cox said. “He’s around the plate, and he’s not wild. Our scouts liked him, and you can see why.” In Milwaukee, Obermueller bounced from starter to reliever, and the lack of consistency may have worn on his game.
Yet now he gets another fresh start with the Marlins. Obermueller has a live fastball, clocked in the low to mid 90’s and a slider.
Kevin Gregg, most notable as the newly acquired Marlin who took his new team to arbitration, is also getting a chance to start fresh. For the Angels, he was mostly a long reliever, making 29 appearances with a 2-3 record and a 3.45 ERA. He also struck out 7 Yankees in one appearance, which was the most by an Angel reliever all season long. He did make three starts and went 1-1 with a 6.89 ERA.
Gregg was obtained in a trade with the Angels for Chris Resop, and is a favorite to land in the bullpen and possibly even grab the closer’s role. In fact, due to the depth of the Angel’s bullpen, Gregg became available. Still, he has more experience starting games than he does closing them – and the Marlins may opt to go with a more known quantity in that regard.
Gregg has a live fastball, clocked at around 91-94, and mixes in a slider. He credits some of his success with working with that Angel’s bullpen and observing how those relievers tended to believe in their stuff and keep hitters off balance. It remains to be seen if the Marlins keep him in the pen or push him out as a starter to begin the season.
Yusmeiro Petit came over last season from the Mets as a potential starter, and hasn’t really blossomed as much as the Marlins had hoped. Petit spent most of last season at AAA Alburquerque working as a starter and logged a 4-6 record with a 4.28 ERA – a respectable ERA considering he pitched in the PCL which is usually a hitter’s paradise.
Petit is getting a longer look this season mostly because of Johnson’s injury, but the starter has some potential. In 2004, he was ranked one of the top 50 prospects in baseball by Minor League News (which ranked him #33) and was quickly becoming a sensation within the Mets organization. He has excellent control, but is not overpowering. Yet, unlike most control pitchers, he has an ability to strike out batters and even as a pro last season, he had 20 strike outs in 26.1 IP while only allowing 9 walks.
Sergio Mitre was brought over from the Cubs last season as a part of that Juan Pierre deal. He quickly grabbed a spot in the rotation, probably due in part to familiarity with Rich Kranitz – the Marlins new pitching coach and former Cubs minor league pitching coach. Yet an injury pushed Mitre to the DL and left him there for most of the season. Much to his horror, the Marlins starting staff never missed him and seemed to soar in his absence.
This has made Mitre quite a polarizing figure among the Marlins’ congnoscenti. His stats at the end of the season were not attractive, yet they did not tell the whole story. Mitre emerged at the start of the season as one of the most consistent starters for the Fish, even more so than Dontrelle Willis who, at that time, was suffering some kind of hangover from the WBC.
Mitre is back, but the Marlins are still taking it very slow with him and his shoulder. Keep an eye on him as Spring Training continues, he has pretty solid stuff and just needs to keep his pitches down. At times last season, he seemed to be committing the cardinal sin of letting the ball stay up in the zone and some suspect that his shoulder problems were not as serious as they seemed and that is why he was left on the shelf for so long.
Jose Garcia has one thing scouts don’t like – he is under 6′ tall. A typical prospect for a starter is usually going to be over the 6 foot mark and will garner more attention, yet even that has not kept eyes off of Garcia. The “diminutive” Dominican has electric stuff, striking out batters at every level of play.
He racked 87 strikeouts in 84.7 IP for AA Carolina while walking 25 batters. In total last season, he amassed a 12-10 record with a 2.88 ERA, giving up 143 hits and getting 161/45 K/BB in 165.2 innings. Garcia got called up and made a couple of appearances, striking out 8 in 11IP coming out of the pen with the Marlins last season.
This kid has the most upside in the group. He has a live fastball and can get you out so many ways. His velocity is deceptive due in part to his stature and his delivery.
From these five players, the Marlins are looking for a candidate to fill out the starting rotation and hold it down while Josh Johnson is out. Most likely, the Marlin selected will slide down into the #5 spot, rounding out Fredi Gonzalez’s rotation.