JUPITER, Fla. (AP)Midway through Ryne Stanek’s first throwing session of spring training with the Miami Marlins, he was interrupted by pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.
Stanek’s fastball kept sailing inside.
”If you find yourself missing consistently in the same area …” Stottlemyre said, embarking on a discourse about arm angles, eye focus and release points -that is, how to throw strikes.
Strikes were a problem for the Marlins last year. They led the majors with 615 walks and led the National League with 105 losses, which is not a coincidence.
Pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday for spring training, and a big goal will be to reduce bases on balls, although the Marlins prefer not to say it that way.
”As a hitter you don’t talk about walking; you talk about getting a good pitch to hit,” manager Don Mattingly said. ”It’s the same with the pitching side. I don’t think we’re going to be doing a whole lot of talking about not walking guys; we’re going to talk about attacking the strike zone. That was an issue for us last year.”
Among those who said he has received the message is left-hander Adam Conley. The five-year major league veteran endured his worst season last year, when he had a 6.59 ERA and walked 29 in 60 2/3 innings.
”The reality is that whatever staff we put together this year, we’re going to have great stuff,” Conley said. ”Myself included, we need to remember how good our stuff is and attack with what we’ve got. We’ve got no business being anywhere near the top of baseball in walks.”
The start of camp gave Mattlingly and Stottlemyre their first look at a staff with a young and promising but unsettled rotation, and a revamped bullpen. The Marlins expect better pitching and a better team in Year 3 under CEO Derek Jeter.
”Within our organization there’s a different expectation for improvement,” Mattingly said. ”It should be an exciting camp.”
Three holdover starters – Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez – are likely to be part of the rotation. Half a dozen prospects are among those contending for spots.
”There are a lot of guys to look at,” Mattingly said. ”Some of them we’re familiar with. You let the spring play itself out. We’ll see what it looks like. There are a number of guys you’re excited about seeing.”
One of them is 21-year-old right-hander Sixto Sanchez, acquired a year ago in the trade that sent All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Philadelphia Phillies. Sanchez will be given a chance to make the rotation this spring.
”Sixto is a guy the organization is excited about,” Mattingly said. ”A lot of people like what he is capable of doing. We get to see how fast it comes.”
Sanchez went 8-6 with a 2.76 ERA in Single-A and Double-A last year. He walked only 21 in 114 innings, suggesting there may be room for him on a team that wants to throw more strikes.
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