3/8/2014 5:21 P.M. ET
Johnson's role could go beyond mentor for Marlins
By Joe Morgan / Special to MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Marlins non-roster invitee Reed Johnson knows a thing or two about mentoring young players. In parts of two seasons with the Braves, Johnson helped guide the young club to back-to-back postseason appearances.
On Saturday, when Miami and Atlanta played a Grapefruit League contest that ended tied at 6, he visited with Braves outfielders Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, just a couple of young guys with whom he shared a clubhouse.
"I played on a couple of the best teams I ever played on for the two years that I was there," Johnson said of his time with the Braves. "It's good to see those guys."
Johnson aims to make a similar impact on a Miami roster that had 11 players make their Major League debuts at some point last season. Marlins manager Mike Redmond has heard "nothing but good things" about Johnson's clubhouse presence.
"That's one of the reasons why we talked this winter about bringing him over, to influence some of our younger players," Redmond said. "It's great to have him. I know he's already made a big difference with a lot of guys."
But Johnson's role is not solely as a veteran presence. After an injury to his Achilles tendon limited Johnson's second-half availability last season, the Braves bought out the last year of the outfielder's two-year contract for $150,000 in November.
Johnson, who signed a Minor League contract with the Marlins on Jan. 31, is competing for a job as an extra outfielder off the bench. Although his roster spot is not guaranteed, he relishes the opportunity his current situation offers.
"The at-bats, from Day One, have seemed to be a little bit more important," Johnson said. "It's actually helped me concentrate a little bit more."
Johnson's added concentration is paying off. The veteran is batting .333 (4-for-12) with a double and four RBIs in four games.
"A lot of times you go out and you want to take two strikes and work on your two-strike approach and things like that," Johnson said. "But you don't really have that luxury when you're in a situation, especially an organization that doesn't know you.
"I mean, obviously, they've seen me play over the last 10 or so years, but I think it's good to come out and show them you can still throw out some hits and run down some balls and stuff like that, so hopefully I can showcase that early and then hopefully ride that into the season."
Johnson's hot start has only made him more appealing to Redmond. The second-year manager already valued Johnson's experience in a bench role.
"Guys that have been through the years and been through the battles, they understand the role, and I think that's very important," Redmond said. "It's always tough to have a young guy that hasn't had a lot of experience in the big leagues as a bench player. It's just hard. He's a guy who's been a role player most of his career. He understands coming off the bench."
Johnson could prove useful to the Marlins as a quality bat to face left-handed pitchers in both pinch-hitting situations and occasional starts.
The Marlins batted .233 (349-for-1,495) against southpaws in 2013, well below the MLB average of .252. Johnson owns a .311 career batting average against left-handed pitchers, including a .291 (16-for-55) clip with Atlanta last season.
Johnson also played all three positions in the outfield last season, opening him as an option to line up anywhere on the grass whenever Miami faces a left-handed starter.
"He hits lefties, and that's his value," Redmond said. "He can play a lot of different positions and gives you a good at-bat. That's why he's still playing."
Mechanics key for Marlins' Turner this spring
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Grapefruit League has not been kind to Jacob Turner in the past. With the Tigers in 2012 and the Marlins in '13, Turner recorded a 10.06 ERA and a 2.29 WHIP in seven combined starts over 17 innings.
Turner's struggles with Miami last spring resulted in the right-hander beginning the season with Triple-A New Orleans. One year later, he is determined to be in a Major League uniform when Opening Day comes on March 31.
After two tough spring starts, does Turner feel like he is in a better place in 2014? His answer was simple: "Yeah."
"I've just got my mechanics underneath me right now," Turner said. "My fastball command to this point has been good. Everything else kind of works on that, so hopefully the next start and the start after that, just start mixing in more breaking balls and get some hitters off-balance."
The 22-year old made his second start of Spring Training on Saturday afternoon in a 6-6 tie in nine innings against the Braves at Champion Stadium. Turner threw 54 pitches in 2 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk.
"I felt good," Turner said. "Obviously, I gave up a lot of hits. Results-wise, you don't want to see that, but I made a lot of good pitches that either found a hole or they put a good swing on."
Marlins manager Mike Redmond said before the game that he wanted to see Turner continue to build his arm strength and tap into his performance against the Astros last Monday, when he gave up only two hits and struck out two in two innings.
Redmond did not believe Turner was as sharp as he was during his previous outing, but he said that the length of the first three innings perhaps played a role. Miami put 12 men on base and plated six runs in the lineup's first three turns against Atlanta.
Five different Marlins drew walks in a third inning that catcher Rob Brantly capped with a three-run double off the wall in right-center field.
"It was one of those games where he sat down," Redmond said. "Those first couple of innings were slow. There wasn't a great rhythm out there really either side, so that could've affected him a little bit, but he got through it."
An errant pickoff attempt in the first inning also lengthened Turner's outing.
He tried to catch Braves outfielder Jason Heyward off first base, but his throw was low and Marlins first baseman Jeff Baker couldn't pick the ball out of the dirt. Heyward advanced to second on the play and scored on a Justin Upton double.
"The biggest thing was not picking Heyward off first," Turner said. "I think I just got too quick with the throw and made an error there."
Upton scored on a Ryan Doumit single in the first to increase Atlanta's lead to 2-0, but Turner managed to avoid any damage done from the runners he put on base in the second and third innings.
Turner stranded two Braves on base in the second, and he combined with left-hander Andrew Heaney to escape the third inning unscathed despite putting the first two batters on base.
"I felt like I made a lot of good pitches, but unfortunately, I gave up a lot of hits today," Turner said. "Definitely some stuff to build upon going into the next start."
Marlins opt to slate Fernandez for sim game
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Marlins think All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez has had enough of the Mets for now. The right-hander will throw a simulated game on Monday rather than face New York for the second time this spring.
Right-hander Brad Hand is slated to instead take the hill on Monday in the split-squad game in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Miami also sees the ability to control Fernandez's pitch count as an advantage to keeping the reigning National League Rookie of the Year in Jupiter.
Right-hander Kevin Slowey will pitch Miami's "B" game on Monday.
"There's really no reason for him to go and face the Mets again," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of Fernandez. "He'll get plenty of opportunities to do that during the season."
Fernandez has drawn the Mets many times during his short time in the Majors. He made his Major League debut against New York last April and faced them four times in his first 12 starts last season, including two straight outings in early June.
No other NL East opponent faced Fernandez more than twice in 2013.
The 21-year-old also pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts at Citi Field during the 2013 All-Star Game.
• Redmond said second baseman Rafael Furcal would return to the team on Sunday. Furcal has missed the past two days to be with his wife, who gave birth to a son on Friday morning. "My wife had a baby during Spring Training," said Redmond, laughing. "I know how that is. It's not a whole lot of sleep."
Joe Morgan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.