03/03/2013 5:48 PM ET
Marlins hope to improve late-inning pitching
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
JUPITER, Fla. -- It may be early in Spring Training, but a mildly concerning pattern has developed in recent games for the Marlins.
The pitching has broken down in the middle to late innings.
In Saturday's 8-8 tie with the Mets, Miami held a 7-2 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie. The Mets were actually without a hit through four innings, but ran off eight total runs from the fifth to eighth innings.
On Friday, in an 8-7 loss to the Twins, the Marlins led 5-3 through five innings. Minnesota responded with five runs in the late innings.
"Any time our guys are swinging the bats and we've got a nice cushion, you want to shut it down," manager Mike Redmond said.
The Marlins' bullpen held off the Mets on Sunday afternoon in a 6-4 comeback win.
Without a lineup loaded with power, the Marlins will be looking to manufacture runs. When they get them, they will be banking on the relievers to do their part.
Obviously, it is Spring Training, and the players' mental clock is for Opening Day. But the young team is striving to gain some confidence and continuity now. The hope is spring success could lead into building a winning culture for the regular season.
"Shutdown innings are important," Redmond said. "After we score, we've got to put a zero up. We did that early. … We've got to do a better job of focusing on that, and executing our pitches."
Eovaldi sharp early, but finds trouble in third
JUPITER, Fla. -- The arm strength and command are there for Nathan Eovaldi. Next for the Marlins' right-hander is eliminating mistakes.
For 2 1/3 innings on Sunday, Eovaldi was dominant, retiring seven straight with four strikeouts.
But he wasn't able to complete the third inning, and he gave up a home run to Brandon Hicks on an 0-2 pitch he thought was a bit off the plate. So rather than having an impressive overall outing, Eovaldi's line was somewhat misleading -- three runs on two hits with one walk and four strikeouts.
The Marlins rallied to a 6-4 win over the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium.
Eovaldi had the misfortune of having two of his earned runs score on John Buck's three-run homer off Tom Koehler.
"I thought Eovaldi pitched well," manager Mike Redmond said. "He gave up an 0-2 home run, but his stuff is good. He's got good stuff. Obviously, you try not to get too caught up in the results this time in Spring Training.
"I would love to see us execute our pitches better ahead in the count. We're giving up too many 0-2, 1-2 hits. Obviously, I understand that is going to come the later we get into Spring Training."
The positive is: Eovaldi is progressing. His pure stuff has so far been the best of any starter in Miami's camp.
"The first two innings, I felt like I pitched it in and out real well," Eovaldi said. "I didn't just throw to one side. The third inning, I was just staying away from everybody. I wasn't getting the ball in as much."
Polanco out due to mild back tightness
JUPITER, Fla. -- Until the cold weather reached South Florida the past few days, Placido Polanco was one of the Marlins' hottest hitters.
The 37-year-old, signed as a free agent to secure third base, is batting .400 (4-for-10) this spring. But chilly conditions swept through the area this weekend, and Polanco experienced mild back tightness.
Rather than take any chances, the Marlins are giving Polanco a couple of days to rest.
"Just a back spasm," the veteran infielder said. "It's not bad. I'm feeling good right now."
With the Marlins off on Monday, Polanco is hopeful that the two days off will be enough for him to be back on Tuesday night to face Team Venezuela at Roger Dean Stadium. He conceded the chilly conditions could have been a factor.
"Maybe," he said. "I felt it right after practice yesterday."
On Saturday, the Marlins faced the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Polanco didn't make the trip, as instead he stayed back to work out in Jupiter.
Health is an issue with Polanco, who spent time on the disabled list last year with lower back inflammation. He was limited to 90 games with the Phillies in 2012.
"It has nothing to do with what I've had before," Polanco said.
"We're definitely going to have to monitor him," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He and I have talked several times about letting me know how he's feeling, and how his body is. I feel like we are on the same page. We have a good program for him."
Chris Valaika started at third base on Sunday against the Mets.
Also on Sunday, the Marlins assigned left-handed pitching prospect Andrew Heaney to rehab due to a lat strain. Heaney, Miami's first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, did not pitch in any spring games. He is expected start the season at Class A Jupiter.
• The Marlins are off on Monday, and on Tuesday they will play a "B" game at 11 a.m. ET on a back field. Jacob Turner will start that game. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Miami will face Team Venezuela in an exhibition game at Roger Dean Stadium. Wade LeBlanc is starting, and top prospect Jose Fernandez is scheduled to throw an inning of relief.
• Casey Kotchman went 3-for-4 on Sunday, and he's batting .636 in Spring Training. "He's had some great at-bats," manager Mike Redmond said. "For a guy who has missed a little time, he's come on strong."
Kotchman missed about a week in camp because he sustained four stitches in his left ring finger. Kotchman and Joe Mahoney are competing for the first-base job.
• Gorkys Hernandez had been hitless in Grapefruit League play, but the speedy center fielder had an RBI double on Sunday. He is now 1-for-13.