Traveling man: Marlins LHP Brad Hand seeks Opening Day spot
Mar 10, 2014 at 2:00p ET
Hand, who turns 24 this month, has gone back-and-forth between the minors and majors since his big-league debut June 7, 2011.
In that start, he pitched six one-hit innings against the Atlanta Braves in a 1-0 loss at Sun Life Stadium.
"It seems like it's been a long time ago," Hand said on Sunday. "That was in the old stadium. Everything's a little different now. It was only three years ago. It seems like quite a long time."
That season, Hand started 12 major-league games and went 1-8 with a 4.20 ERA.
Since then, however, he has managed just eight appearances (three starts), totaling 24 1/3 innings, with the Marlins. He has a career 2-10 record and 4.48 ERA in 20 games.
"That's how it is anyways for the past three years," Hand said. "It's always been one day you could be here the next you could be somewhere else. You never really know. You've always got to be ready to go. Traveling out of a suitcase, living out of a suitcase, that's what you get used to."
After that taste of the big leagues, Hand took what he learned and needed to work on back to Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans with him.
His problem in the past has been throwing strikes, so the southpaw keyed in on fixing that.
Over those 60 innings in 2011, he walked 35 batters and struck out 38. He also surrendered 10 home runs. In his lone spot start of 2012, he issued six free passes in 3 2/3 frames, giving up seven runs.
"Big thing for me has just been getting ahead, not walking people," Hand said. "More on how to pitch. Basically when I came up -- I didn't really know -- I mean I knew how to pitch, I didn't know as much as I know now. You take those little things back with you every time and try to get better and work on those."
Hand seemed to turn the corner in 2013 after missing two months with an oblique injury. While in Triple-A New Orleans, he posted a 3-5 record and 3.42 ERA in 15 starts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was nearly double (81 Ks vs. 45 BBs) over 81 2/3 innings.
Upon his return to the majors as a September call-up, Hand went 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA in seven games (two starts). Over 20 2/3 frames he struck out 15 batters and walked eight.
This spring, he is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. The frontrunner is incumbent Tom Koehler, who pitched four scoreless innings in a start on Sunday.
Through three spring games (two starts), Hand has allowed one run on nine hits in seven innings for a 1.29 ERA. He has struck out nine and walked two.
On Monday, he tossed three scoreless innings against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, scattering three hits with five strikeouts and a walk. He escaped a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the first by fanning the next three batters.
If he doesn't win the job, Marlins manager Mike Redmond could put Hand in the bullpen. As a reliever, he is 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA in five appearances.
"That does give us some flexibility if they don't make it as a starter they can come out of the bullpen as a long guy," Redmond said of Hand and non-roster invitee Kevin Slowey. "That's good for us that we have guys that can start if we need them or make that transition to the bullpen."
The only problem?
Because of his travels between the majors and minors, Hand is out of options. If he doesn't make the Opening Day roster, another team can acquire him.
"I'm just going to go out there and pitch," Hand said. "I can't really control anything. If I pitch well then that's basically all I can control. If I pitch well then they have to make a decision on me.
"I wouldn't say there's any added pressure. It's just the same situation every spring training coming in and pitching well. You can't really control the decisions they make."