Teams like the Miami Marlins are usually looking for just young talent to develop. That talent comes in waves, and when it reaches maximum effectiveness before the players become arbitration and free-agent eligible, the team wins.
That's how the organization won the World Series in 1997 and 2003.
This wave of young players is led by ace Jose Fernandez. So when Fernandez was knocked out for the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, you would figure that the replacement would be a young pitcher like prospect Andrew Heaney.
If you thought that, you thought wrong.
While Heaney is ranked as the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game and the top Marlins prospect, he remains in Triple-A.
"I think the goal was always to just give him experience and give him more seasoning," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told MLB.com. "Obviously, he missed a little bit of the season last year and started off a little bit behind."
He had a lat injury last year but is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA for Triple-A New Orleans.
"We're just trying to give him experience, and he's handling each challenge very well," Hill said. "We'll continue to evaluate each start and see what's going on here at the Major League level."
Instead, the Marlins have been pitching 37-year-old left-hander Randy Wolf, who didn't even pitch in the majors last season. Wolf has never been a great pitcher, but he's had serviceable seasons.
He won 16 games in 2003 for the Phillies and has had five seasons with sub-4.00 ERAs.
On Monday, however, that didn't stop him from beating the Rays 3-1 with six innings of solid work, though he never threw a pitch more than 89 mph.
He struck out seven and allowed just three hits.
"Randy was great," Marlins manager Mike Redmond told the Miami Herald."You saw a veteran go out there and control the strike zone, change speeds, mix and match. He was able to throw all his pitches for strikes, keep them off balance."
But Wolf's success or lack of success will have little to do with Heaney, who will be promoted regardless what Wolf does, once it's the right time. It's simply a matter of whether Wolf is able to keep the Marlins feeling patient with their temporary fix, or whether Wolf can find another spot in the rotation before Heaney, the team's first-round pick in 2012 (No. 9 overall), gets the call.
"As far as last year to this year, he's got a lot more control of his offspeed pitches," J.T. Realmuto told MLB.com. "He's always had a plus-slider. His changeup has gotten tremendously better this year. He's been able to control it better. We almost went two or three starts without using his slider much. That's how good his changeup got."
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