He’s only a non-roster invitee and this was only a game against college kids, but Chris Narveson wasn’t complaining after striking out the side in his spring debut Tuesday against the University of Miami.
“I’ll take that,” said Narveson, who is a long shot to make the major league roster after almost three years away from the majors.
Narveson, 33, is a lefty starter who went 23-17 with a 4.73 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2010-2011. He missed much of the next two seasons with shoulder and finger injuries before playing for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Japan’s Central League in 2014. He went 4-11 with a 4.53 ERA in Japan -- nothing stellar. But the Marlins were intrigued enough to give him a look this spring as a potential long reliever or Triple A starter.
Narveson is grateful to be getting a chance in the big leagues again.
“It obviously hasn’t been a straight path, but it’s been fun,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t always know where things are going to go. Things are going great and then you get hurt. To be able to go out there and pitch for an organization like the Marlins is a lot of fun.”
Before making the decision to play in Japan last season, Narveson reached out to former Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee, who resurrected his career in 2013 with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles before returning to the majors in Miami.
“He said, ‘Go do it, 100 percent,’” Narveson said. “It’s just a great experience. It used to be something where you went there and people forgot about you. Now it’s a universal world with the Internet and all. They don’t necessary know how you’re doing, but now they know, ‘Hey this guy can still pitch.’”
Every Marlins pitcher was limited to one inning of work Tuesday. Narveson and Andrew McKirahan, a Rule 5 selection from the Cubs, were the only two Marlins to strike out the side.
McKirahan, 25, is an intriguing young arm. Although the Marlins are only projected to take one left-handed arm with them in the bullpen in Mike Dunn, McKirahan could warrant a spot if he keeps pitching like he did Tuesday. He threw 12 pitches, 10 for strikes and was just flat out nasty.
"You know looking at this division, quite honestly, if you can have it [a second lefty] it's a luxury that helps put everyone else in slots in your bullpen," general manager Dan Jennings said. "It's something we're looking seriously at. This kid, it's a great story to see a kid get an opportunity around in a new place, new eyes. Pretty damn good first impression too."
Jennings said McKirahan "has a tick above average plus fastball with a plus slider" and is "very competitive kid on the mound."
McKirahan has to make the big league club once camp ends or he has to be put on waivers where another team can pick him up. If they don't, the Marlins then have to send him back to the Cubs or work out a trade with Chicago, Jennings said.
"We'll give this kid every opportunity to earn our rights to stay," Jennings said. "With [Pat] Misch and Narveson and our own guys in [Adam] Conley and [Grant] Dayton... Brad Hand... I think our answers [to finding another lefty arm] are here in camp. We've said that the whole time. It should be fun to see how that plays out."