With one out and nobody on base in a scoreless game, Jacob Stallings of the Miami Marlins widened his catcher’s stance as he awaited a 2-2 slider from Eury Perez. With left-handed Lars Nootbaar at the plate, the pitch started on the outside part of the plate, looking like it would ride into the right-handed batter’s box … until it didn’t.
As the pitch approach the plate, Stallings moved his glove under the ball getting ready to frame it, but he didn’t need to. Perez dotted a perfect backdoor 87 mile-per-hour slider on the outside part of the plate to strike out Nootbaar looking and register his seventh strikeout of the game and, for now, his last strikeout in Major League Baseball for the foreseeable future.
Miami Marlins make stunning decision with Eury Perez
After finishing his six-inning outing giving up one earned run with a career-high 93 pitches, Perez’s season ERA moved to 2.36 — the best among rookie starting pitchers with at least 50.0 innings pitched. Despite how well the 20-year-old rookie has pitched in his first 53.1 MLB innings, the Miami Marlins are sending him down to Double-A because they “feel it is not fair to the club to have him pitching limited innings every five days,” per Craig Mish of Miami Herald Sports. Instead of shutting Perez down, though, the Marlins will continue to have him throw in Double-A, per Mish.
For a team competing to make the playoffs for the first time in a full season since 2003, demoting Perez is malpractice. While the Marlins have a plethora of starting pitching, it’s clear Perez is among their best options and, even if they want to limit his innings, their bullpen that ranks 20th in MLB with a 4.12 ERA could surely use him.
The Marlins have reportedly wanted to shut down Perez “several” times over the last month per Mish, but with injuries piling up, they had no choice but to let him keep pitching. Now, Johnny Cueto is expected to return from the IL for the first time since the beginning of April, and the Marlins plan to insert him into the rotation with the vacancy that Perez left.
Over the offseason, the Marlins gave Cueto a one-year, $8.5 million after he pitched to a 3.35 ERA in 158.1 innings with the White Sox in 2022, but he’s looked horrible in all of his 2023 outings. In the World Baseball Classic pitching for the Dominican Republic against Puerto Rico, Cueto pitched 2.0+ innings and gave up three earned runs. In his Marlins debut, Cueto pitched 1.0+ innings surrendering four earned runs before leaving the game with an injury. Since then, Cueto has pitched 24.0 innings across six MiLB games where he’s given up 28 earned runs.
Despite his inability to keep runs off the board against minor leaguers, the Marlins elected not to designate the 37-year-old for assignment and instead cleared a spot for Cueto on the active roster by sending their 20-year-old phenom with a 2.36 ERA to Double-A.
The Marlins’ way of justifying bringing up Cueto is that they feared that it wouldn’t be fair to the bullpen that Perez would pitch limited innings every fifth day. In reality, the bullpen will likely be working more after Cueto gets shelled rather than if Perez pitched a few very good innings in some sort of fashion.
It is the right decision to limit a 20-year-old whose previous career high in innings pitched in a season is 78.0 innings by all means necessary, but if he’s going to keep throwing in the minors (even if it’s just sparingly), why not have him do it in the majors?
Considering Miami likely wanted to get him out of the rotation by all means necessary, there are many ways Perez could still be used effectively in the majors.
The first option could’ve been to use an opener for Perez. Earlier in the season, Matt Barnes was used as an opener earlier in the season in a game in which the bullpen pitched great until A.J. Puk blew the save in the ninth inning. If the Marlins opted for the opener strategy, Barnes, George Soriano (former starting pitcher) and JT Chargois (experience as an opener with Tampa Bay) could’ve all been options for Perez to piggyback off of.
Another option could’ve been to just use Perez out of the bullpen. If Miami’s front office is deeply concerned with how much Perez is going to pitch, putting him in the bullpen would’ve been an easy way for him to still be a valuable asset.
By having Perez pitch an inning or two every three(ish) games, it would give the Marlins’ bullpen a significant boost and a much better chance of closing out games. Perez’s fastball which has a 127 Stuff+ and -4 Run-Value mixed with his slider and curveball combination (which have both been virtually unhittable), would play really well in short spurts.
Instead, the Marlins will continue to have Perez throw, just not in games that matter. Currently leading the National League Wild Card race, the Marlins have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2023 MLB season. By sending down arguably their best pitcher this season to “limit his workload for a potential call-up later in the season,” (Mish) the Marlins could dwindle out of a playoff spot by the time the club deems Perez is good to rejoin the team.
“I’m just grateful that we’ve had him for as long as we had him,” manager Skip Shumaker told reporters. “I didn’t think we’d have him this soon, either. The run that he put us on, our team and our staff is grateful for. I knew he was good. I didn’t know he was going to be that good. We’re not in the position that we’re in without him. I think now was the perfect time for it, and hopefully we’ll see him later in the year.”
Baseball in Miami is near the peak of what it’s been over the last two decades. Now, in the dog days of summer in the middle of a postseason push, the Marlins’ dazzling rookie will continue throwing in the minor leagues, not the major leagues.