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Surprising Marlins seek reinforcements for stretch run

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As the trading deadline nears, Florida’s other major league team may become a buyer instead of a seller. The Florida Marlins are in the somewhat surprising position of qualifying for the post season.

Who would have thought Miami would be ahead of the New York Mets? The Mets, with its strong-armed starting pitching staff was expected to follow up last year’s World Series appearance with another strong run.

It has not worked out that way. Injuries to team leader David Wright and flame-throwing Matt Harvey, among others, have put their post season plans in jeopardy. They sit 5 ½ games behind the Washington Nationals and 1 ½ games behind the Marlins in the National League East.

While New York’s strength is starting pitching, Miami’s biggest need is getting the game to the eighth inning where Fernando Rodney and A.J. Ramos are there to slam the door.

Outside of all-star Alex Fernandez, the Marlins have a promising left hander in Adam Conley and an up-and-down Tom Koehler. Another solid starter could be the missing piece.

Miami reportedly has an interest in Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson, but would be reluctant to part with the few major league prospects they have in the farm system. The Marlins are reportedly talking to the Rays about Chris Archer, Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi and could be offering shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.

Whether or not the Marlins are able to land another starting pitcher, what they have accomplished this year is remarkable just the same. Not only do they lack championship-quality starting pitching, they have overcome other hurdles to enter the stretch run just four games behind the Nationals.

Most importantly, they lost second baseman Dee Gordon for 80 games. The defending National League batting champion was suspended by MLB for using performance enhancing drugs.

Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton has hit a few of his typical tape-measure home runs, but his average has hovered in the .220 to .230 range for much of the season. Power-hitting first baseman Justin Bour, with 15 home runs, has missed nearly a month with a high ankle sprain.

In response, first-year manager Don Mattingly has pushed the right buttons. Among his most successful moves was batting J.T. Realmuto, his catcher, in the leadoff position.

At .313, Realmuto is among four Marlins’ starters hitting at or above .297 or above. Hitting coach Barry Bonds deserves some credit for this.

Gordon returns to the lineup on Thursday night and Bour is expected back soon. If Miami can land that starting pitcher, they have a very good chance of playing October baseball.

 

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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