Caleb Smith had his second minor league rehab start in Double-A Jacksonville on Sunday. He threw five innings, allowing four runs on four hits, including two home runs, and eight strikeouts in the Jumbo Shrimp’s 6-4 win over the Chattanooga Lookouts.
“He’s strong,” Jacksonville manager Kevin Randell said in his assessment of Smith. “Velocity’s good, location wasn’t as strong as the last outing, obviously. He gave up a couple home runs, no big deal. He’s out there just competing, getting his work in and he had good stuff tonight. He just left a couple pitches up.”
Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly said the team wanted Smith to throw 90 pitches to build up arm strength in time for when he is activated from the 10-Day Injured List. Smith is likely to rejoin the team this coming week during their road trip at Washington and Atlanta.
“I’m not sure the exact day but his next (start) will be here,” Mattingly said.
Smith was one of the Marlins top starting pitchers until inflammation in his left hip sidelined him for almost a month. Up until June 7, he had a 3.41 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, an opposing batting average of .198 and 82 strikeouts in 66 innings over 12 starts. He’d most like be an All-Star selection had it not been for the injury.
Elieser Hernandez has pitched in Smith’s place and has gone 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and 26 strikeouts in 24.1 innings. Zack Gallen and Jordan Yamomoto have also been called up for the first time in their respective careers and pitched in place for Pablo Lopez and Jose Urena. Hernandez spent much of his rookie year in the Marlins bullpen so there’s a possibility that he has earned his place on the roster and is better served to return to the bullpen instead of going back to Triple-A New Orleans.
“It could be either way,” Mattingly said. “It’s been something that we talked about and it’s probably going to go back to what’s best for each guy and what’s best for the organization. Is it best for him to be in the bullpen not pitching very often or is it best for him to get the ball every five days and continue to grow? So that’s going to be the question that we talk about within the organization, development and what’s best for that individual’s development.”
One other factor is which of the young starters are under an innings limit. So far there have been no indication of such so if that’s not going to be used as a motivating factor to move towards the bullpen then a return to New Orleans for one of the three (likely Hernandez) is in order.