An unsung hero in the Marlins’ bullpen keeps impressing and has earned Schumaker’s trust

Rich Storry/Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

For Miami Marlins manager Skip Schumaker, it started with the first bullpen session in spring training. He watched Andrew Nardi throw pitch after pitch and he and his coaching staff had the same thought.

“Who the hell is this guy?” Schumaker said.

This guy, it turns out, has become one of the Marlins’ more reliable relievers regardless of the situation he’s thrown into.

And that comes after Nardi struggled mightily in his rookie season with the Marlins just one year earlier — to the tune of a 9.82 ERA over 14 2/3 innings over 13 relief appearances.

This year? Nardi enters Tuesday having not allowed an earned run over his last 16 appearances dating back to May 2. His 30 relief appearances overall this season are tied with the Cleveland GuardiansEmmanuel Clase for the most MLB.

This included his key role in Monday’s 9-6 win over the Kansas City Royals that may have gone overlooked.

He entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning. Kansas City had the go-ahead run at the plate.

“My main focus,” Nardi said, “is just that one hitter. Just do everything I can to stay calm and attack the hitter.”

Five pitches later, Nardi got Royals center fielder Drew Waters to strike out swinging to strand the three inherited runners. Nardi then pitches a perfect seventh against the top of Kansas City’s lineup for another scoreless appearance.

This is nothing new for Nardi. Schumaker has used the 24-year-old left-handed pitcher in situations like this all season long.

And more often that not, Nardi has succeeded.

Of Nardi’s 30 appearances, 15 have come with runners on base. He has stranded 22 of the 25 runners he has inherited.

He’s mixing in both his fastball that averages 94.3 mph and his low 80s slider. He has more than doubled his groundball rate from his rookie year (22.2 percent in 2022, 47.8 percent so far this season) and cut his line-drive rate down from 24.4 percent to 19.4 percent. According to Statcast, Nardi is among the top qualified pitchers in average exit velocity allowed, hard-hit rate and expected ERA.

“You can see the calmness and the confidence,” Schumaker said. “... We feel confident with him in any role, any situation.”

Nardi has come a long way since that rocky rookie year, an experience that Nardi said helped immensely.

“I got my feet wet,” Nardi said. “I knew what I needed to work on in the offseason and I think that’s what helped me get to the point where I am today.”

To that point, has Nardi exceeded even his own expectations so far this season? Yes and no, he said.

“I think I’m a good pitcher,” Nardi said, “but definitely being put in high-leverage situations as much as I am this year, I wasn’t expecting that. I’m very happy that I can be trusted to be in that role.”

That trust stems from Nardi’s success, “just doing my job over and over,” Nardi said.

“He keeps putting me in these high-leverage situations, which allows me to keep building that trust as long as I keep succeeding,” Nardi said. “I’m just glad he trusts me as much as he does.”