September grind a new frontier for many Marlins
Manager Redmond hopes final month serves as learning experience for young guys
MIAMI -- Through all the slumps and struggles, Marlins manager Mike Redmond has been a voice of reason.
Upbeat by nature, Redmond is skilled at offering advice and optimism to his youthful squad. But when it comes to preparing his team for the rigors of getting through the month of September in the big leagues, even Redmond is at a loss for words.
"There is no way I can tell them what to expect," the first-year manager said. "You've got to go through it. You've got to fight through it. That's how you learn in this game, to get into the fire and finish. You've got to finish the season. Then you'll know next year what you've got to do to prepare for that extra month."
Finishing strong, obviously, is the objective of all clubs. It's easier said than done. The daily grind of 162 games is taxing, mentally and physically. There are battles of fatigue, and finding ways to hold up when your body is in need of a breather is a constant challenge.
"I've actually never really played in September," rookie left fielder Christian Yelich said. "I played a little bit in September with playoffs in the Minor Leagues. But I think you just go about it the same way you've gone about every other game so far this year. You prepare the same way. You have the same mindset and take it one game at a time, one pitch at a time."
Successful players and teams are able to actually execute and perform down the stretch.
A year ago at this time, Yelich was in the Class A Florida State League playoffs, with his season stretching close to mid-September. Now, the 21-year-old is playing every day in the big leagues, and his season has three weeks remaining.
Right now, the organization is figuring out ways to either shut players down completely or scale back their workload.
Rookie sensation Jose Fernandez knows he is the first core player to have his season on the clock. The 21-year-old right-hander is slated to make just two more starts, and those starts will not exceed 12 total innings.
Fernandez is at 158 2/3 innings, and he is on a strict limit of 170. The All-Star will start on Friday in the series opener against the Nationals at Marlins Park. Don't look for him to go deeper than six innings. Barring any unforeseen changes, Fernandez's final outing will be Sept. 11 against the Braves in Miami.
A National League Rookie of the Year Award front-runner, Fernandez is being handled with care because of his age and total professional experience. The club's first-round pick in 2011, Fernandez made a remarkable rise through the ranks.
Last year at this time, Fernandez was at Class A Jupiter, where he logged 134 innings in the regular season, plus another 10 in the playoffs. The organization's plan is to increase his innings by roughly 30 this season, putting him in position to reach about 200 in 2014. But Fernandez isn't the only young right-hander being closely monitored in these final few weeks.
Jacob Turner is at 103 2/3 innings in the big leagues, and 157 total, counting his 10 starts at Triple-A New Orleans. Redmond has already discussed with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez ways to give Turner some additional rest. And still, there is a chance he will be shut down in the last week or so.
"We're trying to figure out how to give him extra days of rest for his last few starts," Redmond said. "We'll see if that keeps him fresh.
"Late in the season, sometimes if we give some guys an extra day of rest, it helps. Maybe with older guys, it's not as effective, because they're used to pitching every five days. But younger guys, we'll see."
At 22, Turner is the second-youngest starter in Miami's rotation. But because he threw 77 2/3 innings -- 55 with the Marlins -- last year, he is not technically a rookie. Still, he isn't highly experienced either, and he is also figuring out how to make it through an entire season.
"Obviously, every player that's here in the big leagues is going through it, so it's just about putting your work in, in between starts and staying consistent with everything," Turner said. "A lot of times that breeds success when you're out there."
One of the youngest teams in the Majors, the Marlins used 20 rookies before the Sept. 1 callup date. The list includes 12 position players: Rob Brantly, Jordan Brown, Derek Dietrich, Adeiny Hechavarria, Ed Lucas, Joe Mahoney, Jake Marisnick, Marcell Ozuna, Kyle Skipworth, Chris Valaika, Gil Velazquez and Yelich.
Fernandez is among eight rookie pitchers who took the mound before the callup date. The others are Steven Ames, Arquimedes Caminero, Sam Dyson, Dan Jennings, Tom Koehler, Edgar Olmos and A.J. Ramos.
Another rookie made his MLB debut on Wednesday, lefty Brian Flynn, who had a no-decision in Miami's 9-7 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
In 1998, Redmond was in a similar situation to many of his young players. Then a rookie catcher, Redmond was on a team loaded with rookies.
"We got to September, and everybody was like, 'Man, I'm exhausted.' And you've still got 29, 30 days left," Redmond said. "It will be a challenge for those guys. We'll try to keep them as fresh as we can, as far as moving guys in and out of there.
"In the Minor Leagues, in your mind, a lot of times, you've already started gearing it down the last two or three weeks into August. I think the biggest thing is to finish the season strong. That's going to be a lot of work for a lot of guys, because, really, this is uncharted territory for a lot of our guys."