With Elieser Hernandez starting, a run of continuity is over

Throughout the Miami Marlins’ ups and downs during the season, the starting rotation has the been the rock of this team.

Through 64 games, it’s been Jose Urena to Trevor Richards to Pablo Lopez to Sandy Alcantara to Caleb Smith. Those five have put the Marlins in the top ten of all of baseball in ERA among starting pitching. It’s also the longest an MLB team has gone this season with only five starting pitchers.

Due to Smith going to the 10-Day IL with left hip inflammation, the Marlins will start Elieser Hernandez in his place on Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Marlins had the full five days to decide on how to replace Smith in the rotation. If it wasn’t going to be Hernandez, one option was throw in Wei-Yin Chen as either a starter or even use an opener for a bullpen day which would likely include Chen.

“We’ve talked about a number of different things,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said on Friday. “Where our rotation is in Triple-A. We’ve talked about possibly doing an opener game, using our bullpen more. Chen could be part of that in some fashion.”

Smith has been the Marlins best candidate to represent the team in the MLB All-Star Game. He has recorded a 3.41 ERA over 12 starts while striking out 82 hitters and walking 20 over 66 innings. He also has a 31.5% strikeout rate ranks fifth among qualified starters behind stars Gerrit Cole, Blake Snell, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer. Hitters have swung and missed on 32.3% of the total swings against him this season, which has him eighth among 106 qualified starters (min. 400 total swings generated) according to Statcast.

However, the 27-year-old had seemed to have regressed over his last three starts, allowing 11 earned runs over 13 innings and surrendering six home runs. The hip injury may be the reason why.

As for Hernandez, the Marlins acquired him from the Houston Astros in the 2017 Rule 5 draft. As a rookie he went 2–7 with a 5.21 ERA in 65.2 innings, primarily in the bullpen.

As a starting pitcher in the minor leagues, Hernandez went 3-1 with a 1.19 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A New Orleans, overshadowed by the hype surrounding Zac Gallen like an aura.

Hernandez gave up two runs on four hits in two innings without a strikeout against the San Francisco during his lone big league appearance inn 2019. He’ll get an opportunity for a full audition this time around.

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