JUPITER, Fla.–While several of the Marlinsâ€™ organizationâ€™s top arms will be grouped together in high Class A to start the season, thatâ€™s not to say Double-A Carolina will be lacking.
With a rotation that will include righthanders Gaby Hernandez, Rick Vanden Hurk, and Jesus Delgado, the Mudcats will be slightly more interesting to watch this season than last yearâ€”a year that righthanded Anibal Sanchez graduated to the big leagues and threw the gameâ€™s sole no-hitter in 2007.
Hernandez, who came over from the Mets in the Paul Lo Duca deal prior to last season, has good overall stuff, but his curveball still hasnâ€™t become consistent enough to grade it as an average pitch. While there was talk of scrapping Hernandezâ€™s curveball and giving him a power slider to go along with a 94 mph four-seamer, the club added a cutter at the tail end of last season to give him another weaponâ€”and something thatâ€™s allowed his breaking ball to progress.
Hernandez grew into the pitch in the Puerto Rican Winter League, and impressed the Marlinsâ€™ brass during his short stint in big league camp this spring.
â€œItâ€™s not only helped in giving him another pitch, but itâ€™s helped his breaking ball,â€ Marlins vice president of scouting and player development Jim Fleming said. â€œHeâ€™s throwing his curveball with a little bit more velocity. Heâ€™s getting close.
â€œHis location and command of the cutter is still a work in progress, but heâ€™s always had solid command of all his other pitches. He pitches with his fastball a lot and heâ€™s a very aggressive kid, so weâ€™re real pleased with where he is. His changeupâ€™s his third pitch; his cutter is probably fourth right now, but with the way itâ€™s coming I think itâ€™ll become more important to him pretty soon.â€
Vanden Hurkâ€™s stock improved after the 6-foot-5 righthander put up good numbers in Hawaii Winter Baseball last fall, showing improved velocity and little fear of commanding the inner half of the strike zone.
His fastball usually sits in the 93-94 mph range, but Vanden Hurk touched 97 this springâ€”and has a chance to dominate in the Southern League this season.
In addition to a 12-to-6 curveball and changeup, the Marlins also added a cut fastball to Vanden Hurkâ€™s mix while he was in Hawaii, which potentially gives him another option to finish off hitters.
â€œHeâ€™s a big kid with good body control and really can pitch with his fastball,â€ Fleming said. â€œHis breaking ball was soft and really didnâ€™t kind of go with him and his approach, so we gave him a cut fastball (used in Hawaii).
â€œWe firmed up the curveball and gave him another weaponâ€”a cutter to use so thereâ€™s not such a variance of speed. Now he has three pitches and he has a good changeup. The cutter just needs to be a cutterâ€”just something he can use to go hard in on lefthanders.â€
With Delgado, itâ€™s going to be a whole different world. Signed by the Red Sox out of Venezuela in 2001, Delgado was part of the package Florida received in the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell deal.
The 22-year-old has spent the majority of his career working out of the bullpen, but the more the Marlins watched him, the more they felt he could work in a starting role.
Delgado has always shown the potential for three plus pitches: a 92-93 mph fastball, curveball and changeup.
â€œThe comment that kept coming up was that he had â€˜starter stuffâ€™–He had that changeup and he threw his breaking ball for strikes,â€ Fleming said. â€œHeâ€™s aggressive, so I think thatâ€™s why you want him in the bullpen, but at the same time heâ€™s got pretty good stuff for a starter, so weâ€™re going to start him this year in Double-A.
â€œI donâ€™t know if youâ€™d call it an experiment, but we felt like it was worth trying because the pitches are in placeâ€”thereâ€™s not a lot for us to do hereâ€”and we can always move him back to the pen if we want to. But heâ€™s very intelligent, he can pitch to a scouting report and he likes to use all his pitches. We really didnâ€™t think that fit in the bullpen, so weâ€™re going to try that out.â€
â€¢ ON THE MOVE: On the flip side of Delgado is righthander Jacob Marceauxâ€”who will be moving from the rotation to the bullpen this season.
A 2005 first-rounder out of McNeese State, Marceaux went 4-11, 3.99 in 117 innings at high Class A Jupiter last season. A lot of his struggles were attributed to blister problems that limited the use of his slider, and the fact that he often had trouble staying within himself mechanically. His delivery wasnâ€™t particularly repeatable as a starter and his velocity was down last season, so the club made the decision to use him in short spurts instead.
â€œMarceaux is kind of a power guy, but we were losing some of the power because he was trying to pitch so much,â€ Fleming said. â€œWeâ€™re going to put him in the pen and make him go at people and try to get the fastball up to where it was beforeâ€”95, 96.
â€œHe was more 91,92 last year, but weâ€™re starting to see the increase in velocity. For right now, weâ€™re probably going to go in two-, three-inning stints and then build him up to a late-inning role.â€
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