July 17, 2014

MIAMI -- David Phelps, finally converted to a full-time reliever, was having the best season of his career.

Since the 29-year-old Phelps broke into the big leagues in 2012 with the New York Yankees, he has been yanked between the starting rotation (60 times) and relief work (101).

Once again, Phelps is back in a starting role and will take the ball in Wednesday's series finale against the San Francisco Giants.

This year, though, had appeared to be different. Phelps was re-cast -- for the first time in his career -- as an eighth-inning set-up reliever. And after three straight years of ERAs well over 4.00, Phelps had a 1.20 ERA in April, 2.57 in May, 3.46 in June and 3.65 in July.

True, Phelps' ERA was trending up, but he was still effective overall this season, and he was dominant at times. For example, he had 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings in May and a 14.6 ratio in July.

But instead of leaving him in that eighth-inning role, the Marlins tempted fate. First, they traded for San Diego Padres closer Fernando Rodney on June 30, putting him in Phelps' spot in the eighth inning. That pushed Phelps back to the seventh.

Next, the Marlins -- short of starting pitchers -- switched Phelps back to the rotation last week. Phelps made his 2016 starting debut last week, pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing four hits and one walk.

Phelps needs to go longer, of course, especially since the Marlins bullpen has been ineffective of late.

The Marlins bullpen blew a 5-1 lead in their first inning of work in Monday's seventh inning. Moving Phelps to the rotation appears to have weakened the bullpen without fully fixing the problem with the starters. That's a lose-lose for Miami.

Phelps, who has a 1.20 ERA in two appearances totaling seven innings in his career against the Giants, will face San Francisco right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who is 9-8 this season with a 4.40 ERA.

Samardzija, a 2014 NL All-Star, has struggled lately -- he has lost his past three starts.

Perhaps the Marlins will bring out the best in Samardzija. He is 4-1 with a 3.81 ERA in 16 career appearances, including seven starts, against the Marlins.

Samardzija hasn't pitched in Marlins Park since June 17, 2014, when he went six innings and allowed three runs, all unearned.

Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a broken-bat RBI double that one-hopped the wall in left field on Tuesday, will be rested on Wednesday. Stanton has a sore leg, according to Marlins manager Don Mattingly.

The Marlins will instead start Ichiro Suzuki.

"I think (Stanton is) alright," Mattingly said. "He had some soreness in the hip area today before the game. He jammed his leg pretty good on that catch he made (Monday). We were going to rest him (Wednesday) anyway."

Giants catcher Buster Posey, who caught 14 innings on Monday and rested on Tuesday, is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday. He is also battling a finger injury that he sustained while sliding into a base on Monday.

The Giants are locked in a tight battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West.

"There's a lot of season left," Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "If the division is tied, it's not going to ruin our season. We are just going to keep getting after it."

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