Miami Marlins: Finally There Is Sanity in the Bullpen

Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer IJuly 17, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JULY 15: Mike Dunn #40 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on July 15, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Chances are most baseball fans are not familiar with Miami Marlins left-handed reliever Mike Dunn. This is his fourth year in the big leagues and second with the Marlins. He had cups of coffee with the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves earlier in his career.

He has good strikeout totals for his limited innings and does not let up many homers, making him a commodity in the bullpen, especially among lefties.

He has one career save. But that one save was significant. It might have illustrated a shift in thinking for the underachieving Marlins.

Last night, the Marlins played the first place Washington Nationals. A loss would have put them twelve games back in the loss column, and put the Fish in a terrible position.

The Marlins led behind pitcher Carlos Zambrano and manager Ozzie Guillen, who began to mix and match his pitchers. Wade LeBlanc, Ryan Webb and Randy Choate got the team through the seventh. Then embattled closer Heath Bell came in to pitch the eighth. No doubt, Marlins fans gulped at the concept of a six-out save from Bell when he has a hard enough time recording three outs.

Bell let up a leadoff single but miraculously did not let him score. Then the event happened.

Mike Dunn was called into the game to pitch the ninth. He was shaky, letting up a single to Bryce Harper and a walk to Ryan Zimmerman. But he struck out Adam LaRoche to end the game and earn his one career save.

And with that move, the Marlins have hope. This author has been urging Ozzie Guillen to not only remove Heath Bell from the closer role, forgetting how much Bell is paid, but also to mix and match in his bullpen like he did with the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox.

Last nigh,t he did both. Bell was out of the ninth, and a pitcher got the save because he was the right pitcher for the situation. That may be a novel concept, using the best matchups instead of the highest paid reliever to get the most critical three outs.

If the Marlins are no longer going to give away close ballgames, maybe their underachieving squad could make a run at the overachieving Nationals.

And maybe Mike Dunn will get a few more saves along the way, provided the situation calls for him.