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Miami Marlins starters and innings limits

The Miami Marlins are opting to start Kevin Slowey another game to avoid stretching the tema's young starters for more innings. Should they also be discussing an innings limit?

When will the Marlins take the ball away from Jose Fernandez this season?
When will the Marlins take the ball away from Jose Fernandez this season?
Drew Hallowell

The Miami Marlins are opting to turn to Kevin Slowey for a second start this weekend versus the New York Mets instead of turning to a four-man rotation despite the extra rest afforded them this week. As reported by Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald, the Fish are considering the extra day of rest for their young starters they are concerned about the group's increasing workloads.

"If we can get guys an extra day here it's going to be better for them down the road," Redmond said. "Slowey has pitched well against the Mets. Now we don't rush these guys too much.

"At the end of day, at the end of this year, all these guys are going to be in unchartered territory with all of their innings. It all sounds good at the beginning of the season, but you know how it is at the end of the season. These guys are in unchartered territory. It just made sense to push them back, give them an extra day."

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This goes into the continued theme of the Marlins coaching staff, at the Major League level, continuing to serve as not only game managers but also playing an important role in the development of the team's youth. Like last season, the Marlins do not want to overwork the roster with heavier-than-expected pitching loads, and to that end, the team may consider getting guys like Jose Fernandez extra days off whenever possible.

The Marlins are likely giving up one extra Jose Fernandez start by starting Slowey, but in the long run, there is not much lost here. Fernandez is significantly better than Slowey, but the difference in one start is minuscule and the Fish should prioritize injury risk and care for their assets over "going for it" one more game this season. There are worse one-start replacements than Kevin Slowey.

The Fish may extend this theory into potential innings limits for their starters as well, though that has yet to be fully discussed.

The Marlins haven't discussed putting an innings limit on 21-year old ace Jose Fernandez like they did last year during his National League Rookie of the Year season. But Redmond made it clear the Marlins still have Fernandez's "best interest in mind."

"We showed that last year how we kind of handled him," Redmond said of Fernandez, who was shutdown the second week of September after throwing 172 2/3 innings. "[An innings limit] will be a conversation to have later in the year, end of the year. We'll see how it goes. But we've talked about possibly giving him extra days when we can throughout the year to save him and make sure he's fresh at the end of the year as well."

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Fernandez worked a respectable 172 2/3 innings last year, and the natural next step is to move him up to 190 or close to 200 innings this season. Henderson Alvarez had his career high in innings was in 2012 with 187 1/3 innings pitched. The most interesting case is actually that of Nathan Eovaldi. In 2011 and 2012, Eovaldi threw a combined 139 2/3 and 154 1/3 innings respectively, and he was unable to meet either of those benchmarks in an injury-shortened 2013 season. Since Eovaldi's game is predicated on fastball velocity, which may be affected by stamina (or lack thereof), it may be interesting to see how the team handles his innings at the big league level. Given that he has already suffered a shoulder injury in the past that held him out for two months, it may be worth keeping an eye on his innings.

Otherwise, the Marlins probably do not have to coddle their starters this year. Fernandez was rightfully held back from working further last season, but this year is the time to more or less unleash him. The team should be watchful and mindful of his innings and pitches on a game-to-game basis, but there should not be a need for a strict limit this season. For Eovaldi, it should be an end-of-season discussion based on how the coaching staff is seeing him respond and how well he feels, but a limit should be considered at 170 or 180  innings for him.