Sandy Alcantara won’t pitch this season, but the Miami Marlins will still feel his presence

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Sandy Alcantara was quick to admit that this first day of spring training felt different.

“I’m not going to be out there playing catch,” Alcantara said Thursday before the Miami Marlins took to the back fields at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex for their first official pitchers and catchers workout.

Alcantara’s contributions this season for a Miami Marlins team coming off a surprise playoff appearance in 2023 will have to come away from the field. The Marlins’ ace and 2022 National League Cy Young Award winner will not pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.

But that doesn’t mean his value to the club will be nonexistent. He’s still in the clubhouse, still interacting with teammates, still plans to be in the dugout during games and giving the sagely advice of a 28-year-old, seven-year MLB veteran as the rest of the Marlins’ young-but-talented starting pitchers collectively try to offset the lost production.

“Just be out there,” Alcantara said. “Everybody knows that I’m not gonna pitch this year, but I want to be supporting my teammates.

Added Marlins manager Skip Schumaker: “Sandy is one of the leaders — if not the leader — in that clubhouse. A few years ago, [the St. Louis Cardinals] lost Adam Wainwright in spring training and we missed him the whole year. He was our biggest cheerleader and still helped us a ton in that clubhouse. I anticipate Sandy being the same way. He was in the weight room early this morning. You saw him doing his agility work today. If you ask him, he’s gonna be ready for Opening Day probably, but I look forward to seeing him around as much as he wants to be around on the road and at home. He’s going to still be a huge part of what we’re trying to do and trying to be.”

Just how much of a workhorse has Alcantara been? Since 2020, the first of four consecutive seasons that Alcantara was Miami’s Opening Day starter, Alcantara is one of 19 pitchers to have started 100 games. Of those 19, he threw the most complete games (10) and the second-most innings (661) while holding the fourth-best ERA (3.13) and fifth-best walks and hits per inning pitched (1.088).

“It’s a big void to fill,” Marlins lefty Jesus Luzardo said. “He’s a Cy Young winner, and he’s just such a leader in the clubhouse. But he’s around and obviously he is here giving us his input and his advice all the time. It’s nice to still have him around.”

But...

“Guys are gonna need to pick up a lot of innings as a whole,” Luzardo said.

Miami Marlins catcher Christian Bethancourt (left) and left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo greet each other after a bullpen session during the Marlins’ first pitchers and catchers spring training workout at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Florida on Thursday, February 15, 2024.
Miami Marlins catcher Christian Bethancourt (left) and left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo greet each other after a bullpen session during the Marlins’ first pitchers and catchers spring training workout at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Florida on Thursday, February 15, 2024.

That group starts with Luzardo, who assumed the ace role over the final month of the season and for the playoffs after Alcantara’s injury in early September. Luzardo made all 32 of his scheduled starts and pitched to a 3.58 ERA while setting career-highs in innings pitched (178 2/3) and strikeouts (208).

From there, the Marlins will need to see continued strides from Braxton Garrett and Eury Perez. The former went from being a long-reliever to start the 2023 season to being one of the team’s more reliable starters down the stretch. The latter is the

Beyond them, Schumaker said there is competition for the final two rotation spots and that nothing is set in stone. The manager did say he is excited to see what left-handed pitcher Trevor Rogers brings to the table after only throwing 18 innings over four starts last year. Edward Cabrera, Ryan Weathers and A.J. Puk are other players who will be fighting for spots in the rotation.

“There’s nothing concrete,” Schumaker said. “I think it’s dangerous when you just set rotations or set lineups this early, especially in spring. Competition brings out the best in everybody.”

Alcantara will be there to push them, too, even though his role is decided. He has been a mentor over the past few years to the likes of Perez, Cabrera and Sixto Sanchez as they made their way into the big leagues.

“He’s a huge support for all of us,” Perez said. “He’s always there helping us, pushing us to be better. We want to do the same for him. We want to stay close to him and support him. He’s gonna go through a difficult situation right there. He’s not gonna be with us, but we’re going to help him go through the injury. For me, it’s amazing just to have him around. The relationship I have with him, he’s been with me for a few years and helping me and guiding me so it’s amazing just to have him around.”

That role will be magnified even more this season.

“Maybe this year I’m going to be a coach. I’m going to be talking too much,” Alcantara said with a laugh. “I’m going to be there having fun with my teammates and trying to support them in every way I can. I’m not going to be sitting in my house because I’d be going crazy.”