Marlins ponder next steps with Jose Fernandez on the shelf
MAY 14, 2014 10:51p ET
LOS ANGELES -- What's a club to do when its ace -- and one of baseball's best pitchers -- finds out he needs to undergo Tommy John surgery?
How does said club uphold its reputation as the early surprise of 2014?
This is what the Miami Marlins must decide in just the second month of a promising season after learning reigning National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez will miss the remainder of the year with a ligament tear in his right elbow.
Entering Wednesday's game against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, the Marlins (20-20) sit three games back of the Atlanta Braves for first in the NL East. That's despite having dropped five straight and 15 of 18 on the road.
The short-term answer revealed itself Tuesday when the organization announced right-hander Anthony DeSclafani would make his major-league debut at Dodger Stadium in the series finale.
DeSclafani, 24, was a key prospect in the November 2012 blockbuster trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, when the Marlins decided to unload pricey talent for the promise of tomorrow.
Except tomorrow has become today.
A club that dropped 100 games last season has gotten production from a complementary mix of players.
Giancarlo Stanton is making an early case for MVP by pacing the big leagues with 42 RBI. How could he consider Miami a long-term option if the organization doesn't try to salvage a season that can still mean something?
During spring training, players constantly repeated the mantra "worst to first" -- clearly inspired by the Boston Red Sox's quick turnaround in 2013 that led to a World Series.
Many players commented over the course of the recent 8-1 homestand that Marlins Park exuded a different atmosphere and energy, particularly when Fernandez started.
Christian Yelich could sense it when people recognized him in public. McGehee and his wife contemplated it following games. Fans had begun to step away from their NBA postseason routine for a few minutes in order to find out how the team in Little Havana was faring.
Sure, top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney waits in the wings. Had he not thrown Monday for Double-A Jacksonville, it likely would've been him making his debut at Chavez Ravine. Instead, it's another member of the Suns taking the mound as the club officially begins its time without Fernandez.
Who knows whether a rookie puts the Marlins over the top? Look what Fernandez did last year, rewriting baseball history. The rotation is still solid with Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler, but it needs an established presence.
Need an example? Look no further than the division-leading Braves, who lost a pair of pitchers to Tommy John surgery before the season even started. What did they do? Sign Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana to one-year deals. Their rotation hasn't missed a beat, posting a major league-low 2.53 ERA.
Miami's long-term solution more than likely arrived just before Wednesday's batting practice at Dodger Stadium.
Veteran left-hander Randy Wolf signed a one-year contract after using his opt-out clause with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had been pitching for Triple-A Reno after missing the 2013 season with his second Tommy John surgery.
"I don't think anybody can replace Jose," manager Mike Redmond said. "We needed somebody to come in and eat some innings up whether that starter becomes a young guy -- whether it's Anthony DeSclafani here going forward or Randy Wolf down the road -- that's to be determined. Losing Jose was obviously a big blow."
Moving quickly with Wolf shows the organization doesn't want to lose any ground in a season it believes it can legitimately compete and contend in.
"With a young ballclub to go through our ups and downs -- we understood that," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "It looks a little bit different when Jose's at the head of it because you can weather a lot when you've got that kind of stuff. Now we take a step back, reassess where we're at and keep moving forward."
If the Marlins hope to stick around through September, that's the direction they must continue in.