While the chaos that surrounds the road weary Miami Marlins grabs their team spirit by the neck and throws it into the below .500 abyss, there are bright spots around them that provides a glimmer of light guiding them back to Marlins Park.
One of bright spots is Dan Jennings and bullpen getting some added work early. Which is something that will prepare them for their homestand against the Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners.
"It's important for us to get established," Jennings said.
In their successful 5-2 opening homestand, the Marlins starters have pitched at least six innings in all but one game, totaling 40.2 innings pitched in seven games while the bullpen swallowed 22.1 innings. During the current nightmarish road trip, the Marlins starters have accounted for only 19 innings in four games while having the bullpen account for 13 innings.
It's only four games compared to seven and since they lost each game they only pitched eight innings but the key stat is while last week at home, the starters have gone six innings at a time but have only done it once in their four road games. That's the key for the Marlins in the terms of pitching, but the current positive take is give the bullpen more time to get into mid-season form and the coaches know when to hold them and when to throw them.
"We haven't been overworked at all. Ususally if [a reliever] throws three days, they kind of say 'we'll give you a day', so I think usually three days is the most. I would like to think I would never have to ask for a certain day as long as pitch counts are staying down, but they're good at keeping us at three days."
What's also important during this early road slate is to establish the bullpen roles behind closer Steve Cishek. Marlins manager Mike Redmond has three options for the eighth inning: righty A.J. Ramos, lefty Mike Dunn, and former Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.
While figuring out the roles, it is important to not play the results in an irrational manner. Marmol surrendered the decisive grand slam to Jayson Werth in the eighth inning during a Wednesday night loss to the Nationals after not giving up a run in his prior appearances. That hasn't changed the young manager's view of him.
"I still felt good about having Marmol out there," Redmond said. "This guy has closed down a lot of games and pitched in a lot of situations over the course of his career. That's why we signed him, to come in and take over for the guys that we lost."
Cishek finally got his first appearance in the road trip in Friday's loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Marlins star closer hasn't pitched in a week, and the Marlins could've send him to the mound in two scenarios during their series at Washington. Each scenario that Redmond opted to use someone else has lead to a spirt-chrushing National grand slam.
"I don't know if we were prepared to throw him two innings," Redmond said of using Cishek.
That may actually be good thinking. Using the old "it's early" cliche, it's in the Marlins' best interest to get the other relievers out there and throwing while using their best guy ideally only in the ninth inning with the lead. Cishek has a 33 consecutive saves streak (longest active streak) going as far back to June 8, 2013 at Philadelphia or all places.
Hopefully the Fightin' Fish can rebound and take the series from the Phillies and get back to having their starts pitch at least six innings a game.