The 116th installment of our offseason long series on every Marlins finds us shifting gears to two players per day.
Of the 630 players to have appeared for the Marlins for at least a part of one game, we’ve already taken a gander at 555 of them. The 75 players left all posted bWAR figures above replacement level. If you’ve been following along, you should have some idea of who’s coming next, at least in some rough sort of way. Today’s story includes a 12-fingered reliever and a starting pitcher who was working at a brewery just a few years ago.
Antonio Alfonseca was born with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, a condition that is known as polydactyly. “Alfonseca regards it with pride,” according to an article in the Dallas News, “as a kind of family emblem.”
Alfonseca is a native of La Romana, Dominican Republic, and began his professional career after signing with the Montreal Expos through free agency in 1989, at the age of 17. He didn’t get to the majors in four seasons with the north-of-the-border outfit, instead getting drafted in the post-1993-season “minor league draft” by the Florida Marlins.
Alfonseca relied on a four-seam fastball, a cutter, and a changeup, with a pretty good sinker as his “out” pitch. From 1994 through 1996, he plied his trade mostly as a starting pitcher, going 9-3 with a 3.64 ERA for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs in 1995. In 1997, he relieved in 46 games for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights while posting a 7-2 record with a 4.32 ERA. In June, he made his major league debut against the Detroit Tigers, pitching 2⁄3 of an inning, walking one batter, and earning a 3-2 victory.
When the Marlins got to the postseason, rookie Alfonseca did not appear in the NLDS or the NLCS, but pitched in three games of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. He allowed zero runs in 6 1⁄3 innings, striking out five batters.
Alfonseca saved a total of 102 games for the Marlins (second on the all-time leaderboard) from his acquisition through the 2001 season, including a major league-leading 45 in 2000. In 333 innings, he walked 125 and struck out 214, putting up a 1.483 WHIP. He stranded 55-of-86 inherited runners through his tenure.
Alfonseca remained with the Marlins through most of 2002 Spring Training, but before the start of the season was traded with Matt Clement to the Chicago Cubs for Jose Cueto, Ryan Jorgenson, Julian Tavárez, and Dontrelle Willis.
Alfonseca pitched two seasons with the Cubs and one with the Atlanta Braves after his exodus from Florida. In 2005, he returned to the Marlins through free agency. In 27 innings of work, he walked nearly as many (14) as he struck out (16), while putting up a 1.57 WHIP. He later pitched a season each with the Texas Rangers and with the Philadelphia Phillies. You can follow him on Twitter @alfonseca57.
74. Trevor Richards
Trevor Richards is a six-foot-two right-handed starting pitcher from Aviston, Illinois. After pitching for four seasons with Division II Drury University, he went undrafted, and eventually signed on with the Gateway Grizzlies in the independent Frontier League.
After two seasons in the Grizzlies rotation, Richards had a 9-9 record and 132 strikeouts in 138 2⁄3 innings. At least one major league team was paying attention, and the Marlins signed him through free agency in mid-2016.
Richards very quickly rose through the minors, rising through every non-rookie Marlins affiliate before making his major league debut in 2018 long before expected. He started the season as the Marlins number five rotation starter, and made 25 starts through the season. On April 25, Richards got no decision in an 8-6 Marlins win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, striking out 10 in just 4 2⁄3 one-hit innings.
Richards got to the majors despite owning all of three pitches in his arsenal, a four-seamer that topped out at 91, an occasional slider, and a knee-buckling changeup, which was clearly his best pitch (see GIF). In 2019, he introduced a curveball into his repertoire.
Eight of Richards’ starts through 2018 were of the “quality start” variety. He threw strikes 62 percent of the time, and kept the opposition to a .253/.332/.422 slash. Richards had his best start on September 23, striking out nine Reds in seven innings of a 6-0 Marlins victory. He finished the season with a 4-9 record, a 4.42 ERA, and a 1.39 WHIP. The Marlins had an unusual plethora of strikeout pitchers in the bullpen, as Richards 9.3 K/9 ranked fifth on the club after fellow starter Caleb Smith (10.2) and relievers Tayron Guerrero (10.6), Drew Steckenrider (10.3), and Kyle Barraclough (9.7).
In 2019, Richards was expected to make the Marlins rotation out of camp, and didn’t disappoint. He made his first start on March 29 as the number two starter, earning no-decision in a 6-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Richards was more effective than would normally be indicated by his 3-12 record. He posted a 4.50 ERA and held opponents to a .248/.334/.425 slash line, virtually the same as his first season. He got pitches in the strike zone on 63 percent of his offerings. Richards struck out 103 batters in 112 innings through the trade deadline, when the Marlins sent him with Nick Anderson to the Tampa Bay Rays for Jesus Sanchez and Ryne Stanek. The jury is still out on Sanchez, while Stanek has since been released and signed by the Houston Astros.
Richards meanwhile hit the ground running in Tampa Bay, and is 3-0 with a 4.23 ERA in 16 games since, including seven starts.