Marlins right-hander David Phelps has proven to be versatile throughout his career, pitching in both starting and relief roles, and as a result, manager Don Mattingly said he will use Phelps in an Andrew Miller-like role in 2017, according to Joel Sherman of The New York Post.
Though it’s unlikely Phelps is called upon to start a game this season, he could be used as a long reliever. Jose Urena and Jeff Locke are also candidates to pitch multiple innings at a time, but Mattingly might seek another option. That’s where Phelps comes into play.
Phelps will likely have one of the more obscure roles in what the Marlins are calling a “super bullpen.” He is a candidate to be used late in games, can pitch multiple innings at a time and could bridge the gap to the back-end relievers. As a result, he probably won’t have a defined role.
“I look at Phelps like Andrew Miller,” Mattingly said. “I can use him in multiple ways. I can pitch him a few innings or I can have him close a game. You can’t do it on a daily basis. He still needs his rest. You know in bigger situations in the fifth and sixth innings you can see him.”
Mattingly’s comments represent a shift with regard to how managers use relief pitchers. Now, the emphasis is not just on individual workload. Matchups have become increasingly important earlier in games.
Phelps had the best season of his career in 2016, pitching to a 2.28 ERA and 2.80 FIP over 86.2 innings. As the Miller-type reliever in Miami’s bullpen, he will play a big part in the development of the club’s relief core.