Sports Outside the Beltway

Marlins Preview: Willis and Co.

The Florida Marlins are back, baby. And baby is the operative word. Weak, but bear with me. Heading into Spring Training the Marlins have the one of the youngest potential starting rotations in baseball. How young? Born January 12, 1982 Dontrelle Willis celebrates his 25th birthday today. Celebrating with D-Train today is Scott Olson, who turns 23 and may be the second oldest starter in the Marlins regular season rotation.
Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez are all but guaranteed spots. Johnson, 12-7 133 stikeouts 3.10 era in 2006, will not turn 23 until Jan 31. A product of the Marlins system, he was drafted by the Marlins in the 4th round of the 2002 draft. After three seasons in the minors he made his debut in September 2005. Johnson made 24 starts and pitched 157 innings in 2006 and was considered a Rookie of the Year candidate for most of the season.
Anibal Sanchez, who’s undeniable highlight of the season was his No Hitter Sept 6th vs. Arizona, started 17 games in 2006. He pitched 114.1 innings, striking out 72 and posting 2.83 era/1.19 WHIp. While the No-No was the highlight – his July 14th start at home to Houston was the start that set the tone for the season. After surrendering 11 earned runs in his two previous starts (vs. Bos and Was), Sanchez rattled off 21 solid innings against the Astros (7 IP 2 hits), Nationals (7 IP 1 hit) and Braves (7 IP 7 hits 1 run) earning 3 straight wins. Anibal turns 23 on February 27th.
The final spot in the rotation is anyone’s for the taking, but it will likely belong to Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco started 22 games for the Marlins in 2006 earning plaudits for solid work and an ability to transition to the starting role from the bullpen. In 140 innings he struck out 99 and walked 41, posting an 11-11 record and a 4.82 era. He may not have had a season like some, and in the Year of the Rookie Pitcher Ricky Nolasco managed to slip under most people’s radar. He just turned 24 in December.
Young hurler Yumeiro Petit is competing for work coming out of the bullpen. Appearing in 15 games last season for the Marlins he struggled. Pitching only 26.1 innings, Petit gave up 46 hits and 28 earned runs. While he did strike out 20, the fantastic potential he showed in the Mets farm system prior to the trade last offseason has not been evident in his short stint in the Majors.
While the Marlins did not make much noise at the end of the season, their record was far better than most expected. With a young core of pitchers already on the 40 man roster, and a solid talent base in the minor leagues, this staff looks to be set for next season and building towards an impressive future. Petit is the youngest of the current bunch. He will not turn 23 until after the 2007 World Series and has many hoping he lives up to early hype and becomes solid starter in 2008.

On the horizon:
Harvey Garcia (22) recorded 21 saves last season for Jupiter; he struckout 83 in 64.2 innings.

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