Miami molds super 'pen to fit Marlins Park

Ground-ball rate one of factors club looked at when identifying potential additions

Miami molds super 'pen to fit Marlins Park

MIAMI -- The Marlins' newly constructed bullpen will come at batters from all angles and directions. Brad Ziegler has a submarine-style delivery, and Junichi Tazawa mixes in a forkball.

The two recently signed free agents join closer A.J. Ramos, an All-Star in 2016, and hard-throwing right-handers David Phelps and Kyle Barraclough in what Miami hopes becomes a "super 'pen." Manager Don Mattingly will have a variety of reliever options. What the organization hopes they all share is a style that fits with spacious Marlins Park.

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The Marlins are strong defensively, and they play in a big building. They targeted pitchers who can induce ground balls and keep the ball in the park.

"I don't know if I'd say ground-ball pitchers, specifically," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "Obviously, we looked at ground-ball rates, but I think our focus has always been to identify pitchers that we think can be successful in our ballpark."

Ziegler, who pitched for the D-backs and Red Sox last year, is among the MLB leaders in inducing ground balls. The unorthodox righty, who has 85 career saves and is a fallback closer option for Ramos, had a percentage of 63.3 percent, tied with Mets closer Jeurys Familia for fourth highest in the Majors.

Tazawa, a teammate of Ziegler in Boston, had 39.9 percent ground-ball rate, and he averaged 9.79 strikeouts per nine innings.

Miami is also bringing back Dustin McGowan, a hard-throwing right-hander who became a free agent after throwing 67 innings in 2016. His ground-ball rate was 54.4 percent.

Marlins infield coach Perry Hill is among the top instructors in the game, and the club welcomes balls being put in play on the ground.

Lorenzo Bundy, who coaches the outfielders, is working with three talented defenders in Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. So if the relievers can hit their spots, they should have plenty of help in the field.

"With our team, we pride ourselves on our defense," Michael Hill said. "Perry Hill with our infielders, and Lo Bundy and our athletic outfield. We're very happy with our defense that we put on the field."

In Spring Training, Mattingly and his staff will figure out specific bullpen roles. But there could be a combination of, say, Tawaza working the seventh inning and Ziegler the eighth to set up Ramos one night, and the next game could be Phelps and Barraclough bridging the gap to the ninth.

However the roles are drawn up, Miami will offer varied looks.

Barraclough led all National League relievers last year in strikeouts per nine innings (14), and Phelps was sixth. Ramos, who saved 40 games, averaged 10.27 strikeouts per nine.

"Even larger than the current makeup of our club, we wanted to try to identify pitchers that we felt could benefit and be successful at Marlins Park," Michael Hill said. "We think everyone that we brought in this offseason will fit not just with our team, but with having success in our ballpark."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. 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.