Marlins monitoring young pitchers' innings

Marlins monitoring young pitchers' innings

MIAMI -- With a month remaining this season, the Marlins are closely monitoring the innings of a number of their young starters. The rotation includes two rookie left-handers who have yet to experience pitching into early October.

The organization also is exploring an innings plan for ace Jose Fernandez, who is on the disabled list with a right biceps strain. The 2013 National League Rookie of the Year is expected back mid-September, and he could make about three starts down the stretch.

Justin Nicolino and Adam Conley, two southpaws who opened the year at Triple-A New Orleans, are also close to being in uncharted waters when it comes to innings.

Nicolino has thrown 159 innings -- 44 with the Marlins. A year ago, he threw 170 1/3 innings at Double-A Jacksonville, plus the playoffs.

Conley, who missed time in '14 due to injury, is at 144 2/3 innings -- 37 2/3 in the big leagues. The lefty threw 65 1/3 innings in '14.

Manager Dan Jennings says innings limits generally are on a case-by-case basis.

"For me, personally, I think it's a lot to do with the number of high-stress innings they're involved in," Jennings said. "Are they pitching in traffic? We monitor it here and we monitor it certainly in our Minor Leagues. High-stress innings are certainly much more taxing than guys going out and having a relatively easy time navigating through a game."

The Marlins may have Fernandez, Jennings said, in the Sept. 12-17 range. Best-case scenario is three starts.

Fernandez has thrown just 43 innings this season, and he went 51 2/3 innings in 2014 before he underwent Tommy John surgery last May 16. As a rookie in '13, the right-hander logged 172 2/3 innings.

Because he's dealt with elbow surgery and now a biceps/shoulder ailment, part of the Marlins' offseason plans are to come up with a way to maximize Fernandez's innings.

"I think it will be common-sense-related," Jennings said. "In talking with him, I know in his mind, he wants to come back this year. He wants to pitch.

"I think we'll address the offseason and the plans for him for next year, whether it's potentially skipping starts, adding a day somewhere here and there, realizing that essentially a year and a half since he's gone through a full Major League season."

In 2016, if necessary, the Marlins may skip Fernandez from occasional starts in hopes of preserving him over the full season.

"There is the old rule of thumb, especially with young guys who are not established, the add-30 rule," Jennings said. "So if you can stack 30 more innings on the following year, you've got a chance to progressively build guys."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.