Nick Wittgren carved out a nice role for himself in the Marlins' pen last season after being called up from Triple-A New Orleans in late May. He finished the season with a strong 3.14 ERA. The right hander succeeded in large part due to his marginal walk rate of just 1.74 BB/9, which negated his rather low 7.32 K/9 strikeout rate. He has the track record to back up his 2016 performance as well, with his walk rate never topping 2.00 BB/9 prior to 2016. Barring an injury or significant regression, Wittgren will begin the 2017 season in Miami, where he could see more high leverage situations if he starts off strong. He had six holds and two blown saves with the Marlins in 2016. He has closed out games in the past, with seasons of 25, 20 and 19 saves in the three seasons prior to 2016.
Wittgren will compete for a bullpen role with the Marlins in spring training. He put together a strong major league debut in 2016 thanks to his strong control, but Miami brought in Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa in the offseason to bolster their bullpen, and Wittgren's somewhat pedestrian raw stuff leave him with no guarantees that he'll break camp with a spot on the 25-man roster. He does have plenty of experience as a minor league closer, but Wittgren's role with the Marlins would be in much lower leverage situations if he does hang onto a job.
Wittgren allowed just two runs over 13.2 innings during July. The rookie had his scoreless appearance streak snapped at 11 after his last outing on July 29 when he gave up a two-run bomb to the Cardinals Tommy Pham. He's been very effective in middle relief, owning a 2.62 ERA and 8.1 K/9, but hasn't received a save opportunity and has just two hold opportunities this season.
Wittgren (2-1) picked up the win in Friday's victory over the rockies after tossing just five pitches to record the final out in the sixth inning. Wittgren was simply in the right place at the right time. He entered with the bases loaded and two outs after starter Adam Conley allowed the game's first run buy hitting Ryan Raburn. Wittgren retired Mark Reynolds and ended up on the positive side of the ledger when the Marlins took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the frame. Wittgren has posted a steady 2.76 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 16.1 innings pitched while registering 17 strikeouts against just four walks in his rookie campaign. The 25-year-old continue to contribute in middle relief for the Marlins, but it wouldn't be a shock to see him work in some more high-leverage situations if his success continues.
Wittgren (1-0) was credited with the win against the Pirates on Thursday after tossing three perfect innings in which he fanned three. Wittgren lowered his ERA to 1.59 on the season, and the 25-year-old had easily his best outing of the year. He's seen limited time in the majors, but he's been quite effective thus far. He hasn't allowed runs in 5.2 innings over his last three outings.
Wittgren was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans Thursday, Craig Davis of the Sun Sentinel reports. Wittgren will replace reliever Bryan Morris in the bullpen while he is on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his lower back. Wittgren posted a 3.18 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 5.2 innings during his two stints in the majors this season.