Miami Marlins top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney was scheduled to make a start on Thursday night after Manager Mike Redmond said the rotation was remaining the same to begin the home stand. But according to reports, Heaney was scratched from his Thursday start, and it isn't because he is being promoted.
Marlins' Vice President of Player Development told the Miami Herald that Heaney would "skip a start here or there" in order to remain active and healthy towards the end of the season, and urged fans to not read into the situation.
"We decided a few weeks ago we were going to skip a start here and there (with Heaney)," said Marty Scott, the Marlins' vice president of player development. "This is the first of several. We'll probably do this again in July and one more time in August."
There has been growing speculation about when the Marlins will call up their top pitching prospect, who is continuing to dominate in the minors. But Scott said the decision to scratch Heaney from his scheduled start Thursday had nothing to do with a pending call-up.
"Don't read too much into it," he said.
Rather, Scott said the Marlins want to make sure Heaney is still available to pitch for them in September, especially if the team is still in playoff contention.
After losing Jose Fernandez to season-ending Tommy John surgery, the Marlins are rightfully being careful with Heaney, who is expected to be at the top of the rotation in the years to come. The belief is Heaney, who has pitched well since being promoted to Triple-A New Orleans, will miss an occasional start through August and September.
Heaney has a limit of 160-170 innings, and he has already posted 72 and 2/3 of those as he worked his way up the minor league system. Fernandez had a similar innings limit, proving that injuries are sometimes inevitable, but when the reigning National League Rookie of The Year was promoted, the Marlins were struggling.
Miami to this point has remained competitive, and the addition of Heaney to the rotation will only make them better. Should the Marlins reach the postseason, the plan will allow Heaney to pitch without any issues.
The Marlins are attempting to avoid a Stephen Strasburg type scenario, where they are in the playoff hunt come September but a young prospect (Heaney here) has to be shut down.
"This way, we don't have to worry about shutting him down in September," Scott said. "If we don't let him skip a couple of starts and rest up and guard these innings, we'd have to shut him down in September, and that's something we don't want to do. We don't want to have to shut him down in the middle of a pennant race."
Miami's approach with young talent this season has been respectable, with Heaney not likely going more than five or six innings his first few times out.
In a New Orleans Advocate piece, Heaney was quoted saying he is ready to be promoted but respects the Marlins' decision making process.
Asked if he was ready to be called up, Heaney said he wanted it under the right conditions. The Marlins could do so without risking his status later with regard to salary arbitration.
"I feel like I am, but I don’t want to be ready to fill a spot," he said. "I want to be ready to compete and help the team win. They’re in first place. I don’t want them to bring me up as an experiment."