The Miami Marlins’ starting pitching staff has looked rather pedestrian since Jose Fernandez went down with a season-ending arm injury five weeks ago.
Now, Miami is turning to another of its top prospects to hopefully give a boost to a struggling rotation.
Andrew Heaney makes his major league debut Thursday night as the Marlins open a four-game series with the visiting New York Mets.
Fernandez went 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA in eight starts through May 9 before needing Tommy John surgery as Miami’s starting pitchers ranked seventh in the majors with a 3.22 ERA.
Marlins starters have posted a 4.93 ERA since Fernandez’s injury, though, and have allowed at least four runs in seven of the last eight games to bring the rotation’s ERA up to 4.04 – the first time it’s been above 4.00 since mid-April.
Miami (36-35) has dropped seven of nine overall after falling 6-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, and it will see if Heaney can help the team snap out of its funk.
The left-hander is considered Miami’s top prospect after being selected ninth in the 2012 draft out of Oklahoma State. He went 3-0 with a 2.74 ERA in four starts with Triple-A New Orleans this season after being promoted from Double-A.
"Jose Fernandez is Jose Fernandez, and Andrew Heaney is Andrew Heaney," president of baseball operations Michael Hill told the team’s official website. "We love them both and we’re glad that we have them both. We’re going to allow Andrew to grow and hopefully have a lot of success at the major league level."
Heaney hopes to make an impact immediately.
"I don’t want to hold them back. I want to contribute," Heaney said. "That’s my main goal, to help this team win games."
Giancarlo Stanton has been the main catalyst for Miami’s success to date, leading the NL with 20 homers and 57 RBIs. He bruised his left wrist chasing a ball against the fence in the first Wednesday, then homered in the bottom of the inning.
Stanton, who hasn’t missed a game this season, had to leave in the sixth but he expects to be in the lineup for this contest.
"We need this guy for the long haul," manager Mike Redmond said. "He wanted to stay in, but I’m thinking about tomorrow and the next day."
Stanton scored on Marcell Ozuna’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth May 7 to give the Marlins a 1-0 victory and three-game home sweep of the Mets (32-40).
New York had dropped 11 of 14 before holding on for a 3-2 win over St. Louis on Wednesday. Eric Young had a pair of RBI doubles to help the Mets end an eight-game road losing streak.
Zack Wheeler (2-7, 4.38 ERA) will take the mound Thursday looking to snap out of a funk.
Wheeler has dropped his last two starts, giving up four runs and six hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 6-4 loss at San Francisco on June 8 before having the same line through five innings of Saturday’s 5-0 defeat to San Diego.
The right-hander went 1-1 with a 1.37 ERA over his previous three outings.
"It’s not fun," Wheeler said. "I’m leaving it up a little bit, and the sinker’s not working for me."
He’s walked eight in two starts against the Marlins this season but has pitched well overall. Wheeler gave up one run and struck out 10 in six innings of New York’s 4-3 walkoff win April 25 before allowing two hits and striking out seven in six scoreless innings of the Mets’ loss May 7.