02/25/2013 5:15 PM ET
Competition for rotation spot doesn't faze LeBlanc
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If there was a Cy Young Award for Spring Training, former Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said a year ago, it would have gone to Wade LeBlanc. The left-hander had a 1.31 Grapefruit League ERA, allowing just 10 hits and striking out 19 in 20 2/3 innings.
LeBlanc was at it again on Monday, starting against the Braves and throwing two perfect innings in the Marlins' 7-6 loss at Champion Stadium. He was happy with his outing, but kept it in perspective.
"Where'd that get me last year? It got me three months in [Triple-A] New Orleans, that's what it got me. We'll see how it works this year," LeBlanc said with a laugh.
When LeBlanc was eventually called up, he bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen and went 2-5 with a 3.67 ERA.
This spring he's competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, and that's fine with him.
"I think I'm always going to have to earn what I get, and that's how I want it," he said. "I feel like the minute somebody gives something to me, I'm not going to appreciate it once I get it. So if I were to perform this spring and end up in that fifth slot, I'd appreciate it, because I'd know that I earned it. That's the big thing for me. I don't want anything given to me."
This time around he has a couple of things going for him -- the first four starters who are penciled in are right-handed, and he's out of options. Still, he knows he doesn't have the luxury of just going out and working on things. He has to show results.
"If he pitches like he did today over the course of Spring Training, that will put a lot of pressure on us to keep him on the team," said manager Mike Redmond. "We've been talking about guys being aggressive and pounding the strike zone. That's exactly what we were looking for. That was pretty much [the Braves'] 'A' lineup, so it was a good test for him."
Said LeBlanc: "I think the last two or three years, I've figured out how to approach every game like it's a regular-season situation while still improving on things and building toward [Opening Day]. That's the goal, and I think that's a product of me having to compete every year for the last six Spring Trainings. So I think you reach a point where you know what you need to do to get ready for the season while at the same time competing and trying to earn a spot."
And as long as he has a spot in the Major Leagues, he doesn't care what his role is.
"If anybody tells you they like bouncing around, they're lying to you," he said, "but I think the personality that I have allows me to be able to do whatever they need me to do moreso than some guys. I'm not the kind of guy who needs a full day to focus on getting into game mode like some guys do. Everybody's different."
Skipworth hoping to answer opportunity's knock
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While the Marlins continue to look for catching help after losing Jeff Mathis for at least six weeks with a fractured right collarbone, they also have the opportunity to take a good look at their No. 1 Draft choice of 2008, Kyle Skipworth.
The 22-year-old made his first Grapefruit League start in Monday's 7-6 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium.
Skipworth went hitless in two at-bats, but manager Mike Redmond liked what he saw.
"I thought Skippy did a nice job behind the plate," Redmond said. "He looked great."
Redmond had planned to split catching duties between Mathis and Rob Brantly, and now Skipworth is in the mix.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for him," said Redmond. "I've only gotten to see him play a couple of times, but he's a strong, physical catcher. He's got a good arm. And from what I've seen, he's got some pop in his bat as well. Saying all that, we'll see how he does in the games.
"I'm sure there's a comfort level that could take a little while, but hey, that's the situation we're in. It's an opportunity for him, and hopefully he'll take advantage of it."
Redmond reunited with his former skippers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When rookie manager Mike Redmond looked across the field at Champion Stadium during Monday's 7-6 loss to the Braves, he was staring at a couple of the reasons he even got this opportunity: Atlanta's manager, Fredi Gonzalez, and bench coach, Carlos Tosca.
Tosca was Redmond's first professional manager, at Class A Kane County in 1993 and again at Double-A Portland in 1995. Gonzalez was his manager at Class A Advanced Brevard in 1994 and at Triple-A Charlotte in 1998. In fact, it was Gonzalez who told Redmond when he was called up to the Majors for the first time, in 1998. And he played for both during his time with the Marlins.
"One of the coolest things is, these guys have known me since I was 21 years old," Redmond said. "They've known me since I came out of Gonzaga. That's pretty neat. I definitely owe a lot to those guys as far as my development as a player.
"It is a little bit weird [to be on the other side of the field], but at the same time, it's neat. It's great. I'm not here today without those guys and the help they gave me as coaches in my development process as a player. ... Those guys broke the game down for me. Carlos was like a father to me. He was hard on me when I was a young catcher but really taught me to be accountable and responsible as a catcher. He was really tough on me. Old school. But you know what? It made me a better player and made me learn the game. I'm definitely not here without their help."
• Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton threw out Atlanta's Jordan Schafer trying to score from second on a single in the fifth inning of Monday's game.
• Non-roster invitee Jose Fernandez threw batting practice on Monday, and he could make his Grapefruit League debut in a "B" game on Thursday. Fernandez has been held back because of a tight hamstring, not because he hit Stanton in the head with a pitch during batting practice.
Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said that he didn't need to talk to the right-hander about that incident, saying, "He's fine. It's part of the game. It may not be the last time it ever happens. It's part of what we do."
• First baseman Casey Kotchman took batting practice on Monday, one day after taking part in a simulated game. Kotchman hasn't played in a week after getting four stitches in his left ring finger.
"We'll just see. It's going to kind of be up to him. As soon as he's ready to go, we're going to put him out there," manager Mike Redmond said.
• Outfielder Juan Pierre and third baseman Placido Polanco will start on Tuesday against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium, but Redmond plans to bring the two veterans along slowly.
"Those guys are probably the least of my worries," he said. "Those guys are going to get their at-bats. They're veteran guys and I want to take care of them, especially Polanco after having some back problems over the last couple years. I want to make sure he eases into it. We need those guys for the long haul. We don't have a lot of depth, and we definitely need them to be healthy."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.