The Miami Marlins have announced that Sandy Alcantara will be the Opening Day starting pitcher against Philadelphia on July 24. The announcement came from Don Mattingly on the Marlins’ YouTube show “The Line Drive”.
Alcantara had been battling Caleb Smith throughout spring and summer camps, with both of them sharing the load in two intrasquad scrimmages this past week.
“A lot of the conversations we’ve had over the last couple years, he’s taken to heart,” Mattingly said on The Line Drive. “This guy’s work is way better. His attention to detail, every time he throws a bullpen he’s paying attention to every pitch and what it does. He’s in great shape and we feel like he’s earned this, the way he pitched late last year to all the work that he’s done. He’s backed up everything he says he wants to be.”
Veteran José Ureña was the Marlins’ Opening Day starter last year, but Alcantara filled his shoes at the top of the rotation when Ureña suffered a back injury and came back from the IL as a reliever. Alcantara’s 3.88 ERA led the team and earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster—he was the lone Marlins representative. Over his team-leading 197 ⅓ IP, he struck out 151 batters and walked 81.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced spring training to shut down back in mid-March, Alcantara was throwing about 5 innings in each start. Mattingly said he is one of many players who stayed in South Florida during the shutdown in order to stay loose. After throwing live batting practice over a week ago, Alcantara said he already felt ready for the regular season.
“I’m ready,” Alcantara said. “If the season was tomorrow, I’d be ready to go.”
Alcantara was the centerpiece of a trade that sent Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals in December 2017. Outfielder Magneuris Sierra and left-hander Daniel Castano arrived in the same prospect package and they’re both part of the 2020 Marlins player pool. Right-hander Zac Gallen was successful in his brief Marlins stint but was sent to Arizona at the July 31 trade deadline for Jazz Chisholm, whose now the consensus top shortstop prospect in Miami’s farm system.
Alcantara has shown over the past two seasons that he can be the ace pitcher that the Marlins have been looking since the passing of José Fernández. On top of his solid command of the strike zone, he is also a workhorse that eats up innings. In 2019, he was tied for most complete game shutouts in MLB with two. Although a lot of scouting reports had him slotted as a No. 2 pitcher upon his arrival to Miami, the Marlins think he has what it takes to be an ace for years to come.
“This guy’s just touched, and is still touching the surface of what he’s going to become,” Mattingly said.
In the Marlins’ most recent scrimmage on Tuesday, Alcantara allowed two runs on five hits over five innings. He also struck out three and walked one batter.
With an especially division-heavy schedule this year, Alcantara’s services will be of much use, considering how much he seems to enjoy pitching against division rivals. In 18 ⅔ innings last year, he had a 3.86 ERA against the Phillies. Newly acquired relief pitcher Nick Vincent, who previously played for Philadelphia, said Alcantara was their least favorite pitcher to face last season.