Addressing all the key topics involving Miami Marlins pitching

For the Miami Marlins, success and failure generally starts on the mound. The team prides itself on its pitching.

But so far this season, the Marlins’ pitching staff has left a lot to be desired.

Entering play Tuesday, Miami’s 5.06 ERA is the fourth-worst in baseball, ahead of only the Tampa Bay Rays (5.17), Houston Astros (5.35) and Colorado Rockies (5.93).

Injuries weakened the rotation from the start. The bullpen has been exhausted and unable to keep leads when needed. And the team’s need to balance innings limits has resulted in tough decisions already having to be made just three weeks into the season.

With all that said, let’s dive in a little deeper into what has happened with Marlins pitching so far in 2024 as Miami spiraled to a 3-14 start entering Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants.

Why the Marlins sent down Max Meyer

We will start with the bright spot-turned-tough decision that unfolded on Monday when the Marlins optioned right-handed pitcher Max Meyer to Triple A Jacksonville.

Meyer, Miami’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was the Marlins’ most consistent pitcher through the first three turns of the rotation. He gave up just three earned runs through 17 innings and had gone six innings in each of his final two starts.

So what was the rationale for the Marlins demoting him to Triple A?

“It was tough sending Max out,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “Obviously, one of our better pitchers if not the best pitcher so far in the early part of the season. We kind of let him know there was a chance this was going to happen, just to protect him.”

That protection has to do with the innings limit Meyer is on this season. Remember, he did not pitch at all last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and wasn’t even supposed to make the Opening Day roster but got bumped up to the No. 5 spot in the rotation due to a slew of starting pitcher injuries in spring. The Marlins were always going to be cautious with Meyer. The fact that he excelled so much so early put the organization in a bind when making the decision.

“The workload in innings that he’s had the last couple years, there’s not too many innings on his arm,” Schumaker said, “so [president of baseball operations] Peter [Bendix] laid out a game plan on what that looks like moving forward.”

That plan, at least for now, is to have Meyer pitch once a week in Triple A, most likely in shorter spurts.

“We told him in spring training that when he made the Opening Day roster that it won’t be for the entire season,” Schumaker said. “There will be, I don’t want to say shutdown period but he will pitch maybe once a week down there, three-inning stints, to kind of manage his innings down there so he’ll be available in the second half up here.”

Miami Marlins starting pitcher <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jesus Luzardo;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jesus Luzardo</a> (44) pitches during the first inning of a baseball game on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at loanDepot Park in Miami. Alie Skowronski/

Missing players and poor performance

The Marlins always knew they were going to be without ace Sandy Alcantara this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

But then came all the other setbacks to pitchers expected to be key contributors.

Eury Perez underwent Tommy John surgery last week and is out for the season. Braxton Garrett was trending toward a return as early as this week until he experienced “dead arm” after his bullpen session in Jacksonville on Monday.

And then even the pitchers who are in the rotation have struggled.

Jesus Luzardo, who has assumed the ace role in Alcantara’s absence, has a 7.65 ERA that ranks as the second worst in baseball among 73 qualified pitchers.

A.J. Puk, who is starting for the first time in the big leagues after spending his entire MLB career as a reliever, has a 5.91 ERA and has yet to complete five innings in a start mostly due to poor pitch management in the first inning.

Ryan Weathers and Trevor Rogers have shown strides as of late and Edward Cabrera dazzled in his season debut on Monday (one run in six innings with 10 strikeouts) after missing the start of the season with a shoulder impingement, but the Marlins will need more consistency from its rotation overall moving forward.

And then there’s the bullpen

While Miami’s starting pitching needs to stabilize, the Marlins also need to see improvement from their bullpen after a rocky first two-and-a-half weeks.

The team’s relief pitcher corps has blown six leads so far this season and has a 6.01 ERA that is better than only the Rays (6.92) so far this year.

The group as a whole and pitchers individually have been inconsistent from day to day and Schumaker has yet to have the chance to get his relievers into set roles because starting pitchers aren’t getting deep into games.