Nathan Eovaldi's fastball averaged 96.2 mph last season and topped out at 100, the fastest among Miami Marlins pitchers. He threw it more than 70 percent of the time, but the Marlins say the time has come for him to develop another pitch or two to maximize his fastball.
"It's all about getting later in the game," manager Mike Redmond said. "The better quality of breaking stuff you have later, the longer in games you can go. You have another weapon to use as you get into that third and fourth time through the order."
Eovaldi, who is slated at No. 2 in the Miami rotation, said he hopes to throws his slider, curveball and changeup more often this year.
"I have four pitches, and I barely threw my changeup last year," Eovaldi said. "I want to get that more in the mix. Not just fastball-slider. I want to throw my curveball more this year. I felt like that second half was a lot better when I threw my curveball more."
Redmond said Eovaldi looked sharpest last year when he used his off-speed pitches more than not.
"The days he had a nice secondary mix he was really good," Redmond said. "I think that will only improve as he continues to get more comfortable and get more innings on the mound."
Eovaldi was the centerpiece of the July 2012 trade that sent shortstop Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers. The right-hander started 22 games that season between the two teams and entered last spring with high hopes.
A shoulder injury late in spring training derailed his season, causing him to miss the first 2 1/2 months. He finished 4-6 with a 3.39 ERA in 18 starts.
"This is a big year for him to go out there and stay healthy and pitch and be able to go through a full season," Redmond said.
--RHP Henderson Alvarez was penciled in to make his Grapefruit League debut March 7. He was originally scheduled to start March 2, but he was scratched after he suffered a right shin infection. Alvarez, who tossed a no-hitter in the last game of the 2013 season, does not think the infection will delay his preparation for the 2014 season.
--RHP Jose Fernandez, 21, will become the youngest Opening Day starting pitcher in Marlins history. "It's not like it's big news," manager Mike Redmond said when making the announcement, "but I know he's excited about it. It'll be great to see him out there on Opening Day, and I look forward to it."
When Fernandez faces the Rockies on March 31, he will be the youngest Opening Day starting pitcher since Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who was 20 in 2007. The Marlins' previous youngest season-opening starter was Josh Beckett, 22 in 2003.
--RHP Kevin Slowey made his first start since July, tossing two scoreless innings March 1 against the Mets. He went on the disabled list July 27 with tightness in his right forearm.
--LHP Brad Hand had a solid debut March 2 in an important spring, tossing two scoreless innings. He is out of options, so he must make the Opening Day roster or risk being lost by the organization.
--RHP Carlos Marmol, who still hadn't pitched in a Grapefruit League game for Miami as of March 4, was forced to return home to the Dominican Republic on March 1 to resolve a visa issue. He was expected to return to camp March 6. Meanwhile, RHP Henry Rodriguez, a non-roster invitee, finally arrived March 2 after resolving a visa issue in Venezuela.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's definitely a very talented player who is going to hit at this level." -- Veteran UT Ty Wigginton, on 3B Colin Moran, Miami's top draft pick in 2013.
RHP Jose Fernandez
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
RHP Henderson Alvarez
RHP Jacob Turner
RHP Tom Koehler
Two rotation spots are up for grabs. At age 21, Fernandez, the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, is the ace on a rotation lacking in depth. Alvarez (5-6, 3.99 in 2013) ended the season with a no-hitter, but he and Eovaldi (4-6, 3.99) need to make strides after inconsistent seasons. All three are locks. After that, Koehler and Turner are the leading candidates for the final spots. Koehler, though, could open the season as a long reliever.
LHPs Brian Flynn and Brad Hand are options, along with veteran RHP Kevin Slowey, a non-roster invitee, to plug gaps if Turner and Koehler struggle this spring.
RHP Steve Cishek (closer)
RHP A.J. Ramos
LHP Mike Dunn
RHP Carlos Marmol
RHP Carter Capps
RHP Arquimedes Caminero or RHP Kevin Slowey
LHP Dan Jennings
Cishek (34-for-36 in save chances last year) is firmly in place as the closer, with Ramos and Dunn setting up. Marmol, who threw 96 mph in the Caribbean Series, will compete for the setup role, but he needs to prove his control issues are behind him. Capps is the fourth lock. Two spots are up for grabs, with candidates including Slowey in a long-relief role, Jennings amd Caminero.
1. 2B Rafael Furcal
2. LF Christian Yelich
3. RF Giancarlo Stanton
4. 1B Garrett Jones
5. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
6. 3B Casey McGehee
7. CF Marcell Ozuna
8. SS Adeiny Hechavarria
The Marlins are gambling that new faces will help offer protection to Stanton, who is coming off a subpar year. Jones hit 15 home runs last year in a platoon role for Pittsburgh, and Saltalamacchia hit 14 homers for Boston. McGehee is a bigger gamble; he hit 28 home runs in 2013 -- in Japan. Furcal missed all of last season recovering from elbow surgery.
TOP ROOKIES: LHP Andrew Heaney, the organization's top prospect, should open the year at Double-A Jacksonville, but a call-up in 2014 isn't out of the question. Heaney, 22, went a combined 9-3 with a 1.60 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) in Class A and Double-A last year.
LHP Justin Nicolino, who could join Heaney in the majors this year, might open the year at Triple-A New Orleans. Nicolino, 22, finished 8-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 27 starts in Class A and Double-A in 2013.
3B Colin Moran, the Marlins' top draft pick last year, will open the season at Class A level but will start the year in major league camp. He is at least a year away.
--RHP Henderson Alvarez (right shin infection) missed his scheduled March 2 start, but he was penciled in to make his Grapefruit League debut March 7. He did not think the infection would delay his preparation for the 2014 season.
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