Marlins searching for answers to Chen’s road woes
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — The “homer” could follow the “opener” into baseball’s lexicon.
“If we’re seeing the same type trend then I think if you have a chance to schedule it — if you have an off-day and you can skip a guy and it lines him up for two home starts instead of one and back in Philly, or wherever it would be — I think you look at it,” Mattingly said.
Late last season Mattingly did elect to skip a scheduled Chen start in Philadelphia to have him pitch at home the following day.
Rather effective at spacious Marlins Park last season where he pitched to a 5-3 record and a 1.62 ERA, Chen became a completely different pitcher on the road, losing nine of 10 decisions while posting a 9.27 ERA.
“Last year, we’re hoping, was an anomaly as far as the road and home,” Mattingly said. “He’s a flyball guy. When he gets in smaller ballparks he may be trying to do something different than that. You’ve got to stay with your strengths and who you are. It’s tougher in Philly and some places where the ball jumps, but you still have to pitch the way you pitch and trying to do something that’s not really your strength gets you in trouble, and it feels like we saw some of that last year.”
Miami signed Chen to a five-year, $80 million deal prior to the 2016 season. He’s yet to perform up to that contract.
Injuries limited Chen to only 27 combined starts during his first two years with the Marlins. His 3.82 ERA over 33 innings in 2017 marks Chen’s lowest single-season average since making the move from Baltimore to Miami.
Through a translator, Chen said he found his home/road splits “kind of weird” but correcting them wasn’t a focus of his offseason.
“I tried to work on focusing on the hitters because that’s the only thing you can do,” Chen said.
Watching video of Chen’s 2018 performances, new Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. believes he’s identified aspects of the big lefty’s approach that can be tweaked.
“Some of it is usage, or I’ll just say lack of command on certain parts of the plate, and some is quality of pitches,” Stottlemyre said.
On Saturday night, Chen turned around what had been a disappointing spring. Working after starter Pablo Lopez, Chen allowed only one hit in four shutout innings against Washington.
Mattingly praised Chen’s aggressiveness and variance of speeds. Prior to that outing, Chen allowed nine runs in 3 1/3 Grapefruit League innings.