After the Cody Hall experiment went as poorly as everyone but the Miami Marlins predicted (3 IP, 4 ER, 4 H, 3 BB), the Marlins have optioned Hall and called up Brian Ellington. Ellington threw well for the Fish last season, posting a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings over 23 games in 2015. He did not make the team out of spring training this year, however, as manager Don Mattingly and the Marlins front office thought it would be more beneficial to give those Opening Day bullpen nods to Chris Narveson (8.64 ERA in 8.1 innings) and Craig Breslow (4.50 ERA in 14 innings plus allowing 86 percent of inherited runners to score).
Ellington did show that he needed a bit more seasoning, though, as he started his season in Triple-A New Orleans by seemingly walking every batter he faced. He was able to put together six consecutive no-walk outings before being called up, so he may have finally found something that worked. For the season as a New Orleans Zephyr, Ellington pitched 23.2 innings over 21 games, posting a 1-0 record and a 3.80 ERA. His 11.79 K/9 rate is eye-opening, but so is his 6.85 BB/9 rate, for the opposite reason. Ellington’s high strikeout-high walk game is similar to current Marlins reliever Kyle Barraclough but with slightly less upside.
Ellington’s numbers have been buoyed a bit by good luck in Triple-A. He’s allowed only a .174 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). The regression due there combined with his high walks lead to a not-nearly-as-impressive 4.74 FIP. Still, that counts his entire season of work, and he has been much improved over his past few appearances, as mentioned earlier.
Ellington is best suited to work in middle relief and mop up duty at this point, just to make sure he is able to continue his recent run of success before he is placed in a crucial inning. Given manager Mattingly’s bullpen usage so far, however, Ellington is likely to come into a tie or a one run deficit in the late innings.