Marlins manager Don Mattingly talks about pitcher Wei-Yin Chen’s return from the disabled list
Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly waited as long as he could before he made the move.
But as Sunday’s four-and-a-half hour marathon against the Philadelphia Phillies turned to the 14th inning and the rest of his available bullpen options already used, Mattingly had no other choice.
Wei-Yin Chen made his way to the mound.
The starter-turned-relief pitcher’s first three outings of the year were not great, to say the least.
His fourth was more of the same. Chen gave up a two-run home run from Jean Segura off Wei-Yin Chen one at-bat after a triple by Andrew McCutchen, who missed a home run of his own down the left-field line by a few feet, to seal the Marlins’ 3-1 loss.
Chen’s pitching line for the season is tough to read: five innings, 12 hits, 13 earned runs allowed and a 23.40 ERA with seven strikeouts and five walks over four relief appearances.
The rest of the Marlins’ bullpen has a collective 3.68 ERA over 51 1/3 innings, including six scoreless innings on Sunday leading up to Chen’s turn on the mound.
“I think there’s too much in my head,” Chen said through a translator after the game. “I’ve been paying too much attention to what adjustment I should make or my mechanics, but now I just want to try to do my best to execute on every pitch, so even though I allowed a home run, I feel much better. I feel like I’m being much more aggressive on the mound and that’s a good thing.”
Marlins manager Don Mattingly added: “He’s battling. It’s where we’re at with him right now. Basically, he’s got to get through this.”
So where do the Marlins go from here? Well, it’s a tricky situation.
Chen, who is due $20 million this season and $22 million next year, is not a prototypical reliever by any sense of the word. He relies primarily on a four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90’s, a mid-80’s slider and a low 70’s curveball.
But with the Marlins wanting to give its young core of starting pitchers — Jose Urena, Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith — as much experience as possible, the bullpen is where Chen will be staying.
“I think his stuff is what it is and he’s going to have to get the ball to certain parts of the plate and mix,” Mattingly said. “Obviously he hasn’t been able to do that and be effective.”
The Marlins also have to think long-term. If an injury were to happen in the starting rotation or a starter has a bad outing, they need a backup plan. Right now, that’s Chen.
In the meantime, the Marlins are holding out hope that Chen will turn his production around.
“We’ll continue to give him time and give him the weapons to be successful,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “He’s been a successful pitcher in the major leagues before. We know he can help us win baseball games. That’s our job, to get him straight and get the ship righted and get him back to helping us win baseball games.”