Posted on September 11, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
As they fight for their playoff lives, the Miami Marlins appear to have no concrete plan for how to handle the backend of their bullpen. Manager Don Mattingly says he is taking a “wait-and-see approach” to determine who will be called upon to pitch in a potential save situation between A.J. Ramos and Fernando Rodney.
Ironically, both Ramos and Rodney were all-stars this year and were exceptional during the first half of the season. However, neither appears to be the obvious choice to be the team’s closer at the moment, causing problems for a team that is clinging to hope that it can win the second wild card spot in the National League and reach the postseason. After Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Marlins are two games under .500 and 5.5 games back of the second wild card spot.
Ramos began the season as Miami’s closer, with Rodney being acquired in late June to serve as the setup man after saving 17 games in 17 opportunities for the San Diego Padres. When Ramos went to the DL in August with a broken finger, Rodney moved into the closer’s role. Rodney continued to be Miami’s closer even when Ramos returned from the DL. However, Rodney has been nowhere near as good in Miami as he was with the Padres earlier this year.
Rodney has been particularly terrible since the calendar flipped to September, allowing six runs on seven hits over 2.2 innings across four outings. After such struggles, moving Ramos back to the closer’s role would appear to be the obvious choice. However, Ramos continues to struggle with pain in his finger, putting Mattingly in a tough position as to how to handle his bullpen during the late innings.
“Right now, we’re trying to get to the playoffs,” Ramos says. “We’re trying to get wins. Just like when [Rodney] came in, he wasn’t like, ‘I should be the closer because of this, this and that.’ He was like, ‘OK, if I’m the eighth-inning guy, I’m going to go out there and do the job.’ We’ve all taken that same kind of attitude towards it, to go forward from here and get as many wins as possible.”
However, the issue of who closes for Miami has been complicated by Ramos saying he will have to manage the pain in his finger the rest of the season. “For right now, it’s just being able to deal with the pain,” Ramos said. “If it’s just pain, and I know nothing else bad is going to happen to it, I can deal with it. It’s just going to be a little tougher.”
Ramos also says his finger strength is being affected, which means there’s no guarantee that he’ll be at his best when he takes the mound. With Rodney’s recent struggles thrown into the equation, it’s easy to see why Mattingly is having such a hard time deciding who should close out games for the Marlins.
At this point in the season, the Marlins have little margin for error and need to go on a winning streak soon if they hope to have any chance of reaching the postseason. The uncertainty between Ramos and Rodney at the back end of the bullpen isn’t helping, giving Miami just one more thing to overcome if it hopes to earn a postseason birth this year.