Marlins to be methodical in search for starting pitchers

Marlins to be methodical in search for starting pitchers

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- For the past two seasons, the Marlins have had no shortage of rotation candidates. They matched a club record by using 13 starting pitchers in 2015.

But it's quality, not quantity, the club is seeking. So in its search for front-line starters, an emphasis is being placed on durability.

"I would say, durability, and reliability," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.

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The Marlins have made it clear they covet at least one, perhaps two free-agent starters. They're surveying the market for possibilities at the General Managers Meetings.

The ideal candidate would be able to handle the workload and responsibility of taking the mound the day or two after Jose Fernandez, the club's ace.

"Obviously, you want the most talented assortment of pitches, the presence and leadership abilities, a good teammate. All of those things," Hill said. "When you feel like you have a number of pieces in place, you want the right fit. That's really why we'll take our time, we'll be methodical. We'll take our time. We'll try to make sure whomever we bring is the best fit for what we're trying to do."

The Marlins are trying to boost their rotation, which was simply too unpredictable in 2015. Just three pitchers topped 100 innings. Tom Koehler paced the club with 187 1/3, while Dan Haren had 129 and David Phelps 112.

Neither was with the club down the stretch. Haren was dealt to the Cubs on July 31, and Phelps suffered a stress fracture to his right forearm in August.

Fernandez, Koehler and Jarred Cosart, who had an injury-plagued season, are the three front-runners to be in the rotation to open the season.

Fernandez dealt with his injury issues. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014, the hard-throwing right-hander made his first appearance with Miami on July 2. But he went on the disabled list on Aug. 11 after being diagnosed with a right biceps strain.

When available, Fernandez was impressive, going 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts. But he threw just 64 2/3 innings.

Before Spring Training opens in mid-February, the Marlins will map out a plan with how best to use and conserve Fernandez.

"The doctors are going to prescribe a graduated program for him," said Scott Boras, Fernandez's agent. "He threw somewhere in the area of 65-70 innings. Obviously, that jump to where he's going to go. I think his career high is 170-180. I'm sure we'll have discussions about that in the offseason."

Fernandez's career high for innings was 172 2/3 innings, during his 2013 National League Rookie of the Year season.

The Marlins are aiming to find the right fit in their search, not the most popular names.

"From the outside, it may not be the name you think it should be, or the player you think it should be," Hill said. "But through our research and what we've done, we feel that this player is the best fit for what we're trying to do to win the most games.

"I know free agency has just started and there is a lot of anticipation and people are excited, you want to make sure that you're thorough and thoughtful in the process, and you do what's right for the organization now and moving forward."

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.