Marlins pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara to debut vs. Mets

The Miami Marlins will kick off the battle for fourth place against the New York Mets on Friday by sending top pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara on the mound.

Alcantara, 22, was the key piece in an offseason trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for two-time All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna.¬†Alcantara is ranked as the Marlins’ No. 2 prospect by MLB.com and 93rd¬†in baseball overall.

He has made 14 starts at Triple-A New Orleans this year, going 5-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 85 innings pitched. He also has 64 strikeouts and 34 walks and opponents are hitting .238 against him.

With all that said, Marlins manager Don Mattingly warns against going into his first start with high hopes.

“The one thing to keep in mind when it comes to Sandy is to temper expectations,” Mattingly said. “There’s still room for growth, still areas where he can improve on.”

Tempering expectations might be a difficult task for a fan base thirsting for some return to come from the winter trades that sunk the Marlins back into another rebuilding period. Even when against Mets ace and Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom, it will be hard for them not to come and expect a dominating performance, even if it’s wishful thinking.

“Maybe he does (dominate),” Mattingly said, “but I think they should expect some bumps on the road from him.”

The good news is that there will be no innings restrictions on Alcantara.

“I think at this point of the season, he’s ready,” Mattingly said.

Alcantara pitched in eight games out of the bullpen for the Cardinals last season, compiling a 4.32 ERA with 10 strikeouts and six walks. Mattingly points to that as valuable experience going into his first big league start.

“He’s been in the big leagues,” Mattingly said, “so he knows what it’s like.”

Alcantara’s Marlins debut comes in the wake of fellow rookie Caleb Smith suffering a grade 3 lat strain in his left shoulder that will likely sideline him for the remainder of the season. Jose Urena is also going on the disabled list with a right shoulder impingement.

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