It wasn't too long ago that the bullpen was giving Marlins skipper Mike Redmond headaches with nightmarish eighth inning meltdowns and other disappointing performances.
"I feel a lot better about the bullpen," lately Redmond said before Friday's game against the Mets.
A suddenly dominant Chris Hatcher (he's struckout 12 of the last 13 hitters he's faced), a rock solid Bryan Morris (he hasn't given up a run in 11 1/3 innings since being acquired on June 1st from the Pirates) and the recent arrival of 36-year old veteran Kevin Gregg (he tossed a 1-2-3 eight inning Thursday in his debut) have all played key roles in that.
Although the bullpen is still surrendering more runs per game this season (4.28, 18th) than last season (3.99, 12th), Marlins relievers are doing a better job handling inherited runners than they were a year ago (26% compared to 30%) and rank higher in save percentage (12th compared to 18th last year).
"It's a lot deeper," Redmond said of his pen. "We have a lot more depth. We're stronger out there.
"But the key is still the starting pitching. Where you can get exposed is when you get four or five innings out of our starters a couple days in a row -- as you saw against the Pirates. You get thin. That bullpen has to eat up a lot of innings. They just can't keep that pace up. Last night was perfect. We got six innings out of [Andrew] Heaney. You saw those guys come in and what they were able to do. But that's the key. It's always a process. Every team not just us. I feel a lot better about the bullpen. We've just got to put it all together and get some wins here."
Redmond said the Marlins sent Gregg down to the minors with a plan to be able to pitch on multiple days in a row and the veteran doesn't have any restrictions.
"Last night I thought it was perfect to get him in there to be able to see how he looks," Redmond said. "He did a great job. He's going to fit in perfect in that bullpen."
BEST OUTFIELD IN BASEBALL
Jake Marisnick picked up his first outfield assist of the season Thursday night when he came racing in from center field to catch a fly ball and then gunned out Mets lead-off hitter Eric Young Jr. with a bullet throw to first base in the eighth inning.
Marisnick has always been considered a standout defensive player through the minor leagues so it was no surprise.
"You see the athleticism out there with him," Redmond said. "Jake has a good arm. He's aggressive defensively. He's done a great job out there. I've been fortunate to see him play a lot of centerfield. He's good out there."
Even before Marisnick got here on Monday, the Marlins were already playing like sensational as a group. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Marlins outfielders lead baseball with 26 runs saved this season -- five more than the Mets, who are in second. Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton ranks third among all outfielders with 13 runs saved. Marcell Ozuna, the usual starter in center, is sixth overall with nine runs saved. Left fielder Christian Yelich, expected to be back from the disabled list on June 29th, ranks 29th with four runs saved.
"Those guys can cover a lot of ground," Redmond said. "That's fun -- especially in this ballpark. The gaps are big and the ballpark is spacious. We have fast young guys out there that can cover a lot of ground. Pitching wise it's a lot more comforting you know you have those guys out there."
TURNER ADJUSTING TO BULLPEN LIFE
Before he was booted out of the Marlins rotation on Monday, Jacob Turner had made all but one of his 117 professional appearances as a starting pitcher.
Manager Mike Redmond said Turner, the former ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, is going to have to pitch a lot better in his new role as a long reliever before the team considers putting him back into the rotation.
"Whether it's a confidence thing or just a result thing, he needs to pitch better," Redmond said. "If he's able to do that then we'll see where we're at as far the rotation.
"It just came to a point where he hasn't had enough success to keep him in there. We still love him and love his stuff and there's more in there. Now it's just a matter of him without the pressure [of starting] coming out and being able to pitch out of the bullpen and get his stuff back."
Turner, who is 7-18 with a 4.70 ERA as a starter in the big leagues, would obviously prefer to start. It's all he's known.
"But at the same time I understand their perspective on it," Turner said. "So, I'm not so much saying it shouldn't be this way. I just have to go down there and execute and be more consistent. I think when I do that good things will happen."
"Slowing down the snowball effect," is what Turner said he has to do.
In his first four losses of the season big innings hurt Turner. In his first loss of the season against the Dodgers on May 13, he gave up five runs in the sixth after starting the game with five scoreless innings. In his next loss May 18 at the Giants, Turner surrendered three runs in the first before settling in and giving up four runs total over six innings.
"I don't think it's anything other than executing the big pitch when you have to," Turner said. "A lot of times you might be in the heart of the lineup, facing a 3 or 4 hitter and you have to really bear down and make a couple quality pitches to get yourself out of the situation.
"Unfortunately early in the season I just wasn't able to do that in a couple starts. That inning turned from giving up one or two runs to giving up four or five runs. I think that ruined a lot of outings for me. It's just about going out there and being as consistent as I can so when that situation comes up I make the good pitch."
> Marlins (36-36): 1. Rafael Furcal 2B, 2. Adeiny Hechavarria SS, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Casey McGehee 3B, 5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 6. Garrett Jones 1B, 7. Marcell Ozuna LF, 8. Jake Marisnick CF, 9. Henderson Alvarez RHP.
> Mets (33-40): 1. Eric Young Jr. LF, 2. Daniel Murphy 2B, 3. David Wright 3B, 4. Curtis Granderson CF, 5 Bobby Abreu RF, 6. Lucas Duda 1B, 7. Anthony Recker C, 8. Ruben Tejada SS, 9. Daisuke Matsuzaka RHP.