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Marlins bring in pair of veteran relievers to improve the bullpen

Kevin Gregg with the Marlins in 2008
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

In an effort to stabilize the bullpen, the Miami Marlins have added two veteran relievers to the equation. They acquired RHP Bryan Morris from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a Competitive Balance A Round draft pick (No. 39 overall).

The 27-year-old Morris appeared in 21 games for the Pirates this season, going 4-0 with a 3.80 ERA (23.2 IP/10 ER). He was originally acquired by the Pirates in the Manny Ramirez trade back in 2008; a trade that send Ramirez from Boston to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jason Bay from Pittsburgh to Boston.

Morris made his Major League debut with the Pirates in September of 2012 and has posted a 5-7 record and a 3.46 ERA prior to this season.

Morris said he was in Los Angeles with his wife during the Pirates’ series against the Dodgers when he heard about being traded. It was a surprise, but a good surprise.

"It was unexpected, but I'm very excited," Morris said. "It's a young, energetic team, and I'm glad to be a part of it. I'm gonna take it and try to run with it, and hopefully I get the job done."

What makes Morris valuable is his versatility. He can come in as a middle reliever and pitch two more if Redmond needs him to.

"I think that's what's so attractive when you talk about guys," Redmond said. "That versatility is not bringing up a rookie to try and see what he's got. We know the stuff he has. Now it's just a matter of him getting out there and pitching."

It’s also important to fix the bullpen with veterans who have experience in the most stressful innings rather than just call up rookies in a fashion similar to throwing a dart at a map.

"This guy's been through it. He's pitched in big games and done quite a few different roles, "Redmond said. "He brings that experience where we can get him out there in any situation -- for me -- and let him go out there and pitch."

The slot value for the No. 39 pick is worth $1.4 million, which will go toward signing Kevin Gregg, who has agreed to sign a minor league deal to return to the Marlins. News of Gregg's pending signing was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

The Marlins have not yet confirmed the signing as a physical is pending. Gregg was the Marlins' closer in 2007-08, collecting 61 saves in 74 opportunities. Gregg saved 33 out of 38 games with the Chicago Cubs last season and has 177 career saves.

Once the deal is official, Gregg will report to the Marlins Spring Training/minor league complex in Jupiter, Fla., where he will spend about a week getting ready to join the team.

Arquimedes Caminero was sent down to Triple-A New Orleans to make room for Morris. Chris Hatcher will likely be the one who is sent down for Gregg when he’s ready solely on the basis of being the only true expendable reliever in the Marlins bullpen.

The injury to Carter Capps -- who will be evaluated by Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of Tommy John surgery – put the Marlins bullpen in a pickle. Both Gregg and Morris will provide Redmond with more options to set up closer Steve Cishek, who is on his way to making an All-Star appearance.

Cishek has a case to be an All-Star for the first time in his career with 29 strikeouts in 22.2 innings and a 1.15 WHIP.

“What makes him stand out more than anybody is the fact that he's so funky,” Marlins reliever Dan Jennings said. “I've never hit off Steve before but I think when you talk to guys who hit off them, they'd say that they're uncomfortable because it feels like the ball's coming from third base when he throws it."

Cishek converted 11 out of 12 saves, which is tied for ninth most among National League closers. Trevor Rosenthal of the St. Louis Cardinals and Addison Reed of the Arizona Diamondbacks each have more saves than Cishek but also sport an ERA over 4.00. So the saves category, while the most important stat for a closer, isn’t necessarily the overall statistical decider for closers.

“We had some games where we scored a ton of runs in some of our wins,” Jennings said, “which is awesome for us. It takes a little pressure off of us. But we're getting those wins without needing a save. So it's tough to just factor in saves. It's just one of those things that you could be the best pitcher in the world and you might have three saves versus somebody else who might have struggled and get 10 saves.”

Only San Diego Padres closer Houston Street has yet to blow a save in the National League while appearing in about as many games as Cishek. But most closers are being judged on the Craig Kimbrel standard. For good reason to; the Atlanta Braves closer has 37 strikeouts in just 20.1 innings

"He throws 100 mph and has one of the best sliders in the game,” said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson. “He's not afraid of going after anybody. You saw when Stanton came up he threw him some heaters. Those closers aren't scared of anybody and that's Craig's mentality."

Cishek rebounded nicely against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday after giving up two tie-breaking runs to the Braves on Sunday’s loss. Francisco Rodriguez and Sergio Romo (NL leading 17 saves) proves that every closer deserves a mulligan or two.

His interestingly “funky” delivery makes him incredibly deadly in times of first impressions. While the fans vote for the All-Star starting lineups, the managers (those who appeared in the previous World Series) pick the pitchers. If National League manager Mike Matheny wants to win home field advantage for his Cardinals – or the Marlins – in the World Series, he brings in Cishek in the ninth.

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