Marlins turn to rookie pitcher against Mets
Rookie Sandy Alcantara is scheduled to make his season debut and his first major league start Friday night when the Marlins host the Mets in the opener of a three-game series between the two teams battling to stay out of the National League East basement at Marlins Park.
Both teams are coming off losses in their most recent games. The host Marlins fell Thursday afternoon to the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-0. The Mets were off Thursday after suffering a 5-3 loss Wednesday night to the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
The present is pretty bleak for the Mets (32-46) and the Marlins (32-50), who have the two worst records in the NL.
But both teams may get a glimpse at things to come when the 22-year-old Alcantara steps to the mound against perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, New York ace Jacob deGrom (5-3, 1.69 ERA).
For the Marlins, who acquired Alcantara from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Marcell Ozuna last Dec. 14 as part of the organization’s latest teardown, Friday marks the latest step in the development of a pitcher believed to have upper-rotation potential.
Alcantara, who entered the season as Baseball America’s 70th-ranked prospect, throws in the high 90s and also offers an above-average curveball, slider and changeup. He was 5-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 14 starts with Triple-A New Orleans, for whom he exceeded 95 pitches in each of his final six appearances.
“He’s got all the weapons, so for him it’s just being able to sequence (pitches), stay ahead in counts and then the other part is managing the game holding runners, things like that,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters Thursday.
Alcantara didn’t get a decision and posted a 4.32 ERA in eight relief appearances last season with the Cardinals.
As for deGrom, the next month should determine whether or not he becomes the Mets’ building block for the future, or the player whose trade sparks the organization’s rebuilding efforts.
John Ricco, who became one of the three men filling the general manager’s role with the announcement Tuesday that Sandy Alderson is taking an indefinite leave of absence to focus on his cancer treatments, said Wednesday that moving deGrom and/or Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard is not something the club is necessarily looking to do. But he also admitted that he, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi need to entertain all possibilities as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
The Mets have a bottom-five minor league system and deGrom, who turned 30 earlier this month, has a 2.81 ERA in 123 career starts and does not become a free agent until after the 2020 season, would likely bring back the biggest haul of any pitcher on the market over the next month.
“For me, everything has to be on the table,” Ricco told reporters. “But you have to look long and hard before you move a game-changing, top-of-the-rotation pitcher.”
Alcantara has never faced the Mets. DeGrom is 4-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 14 career starts against the Marlins.