3/15/2014 4:39 P.M. ET
Marlins' spring play offers signs of encouragement
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
JUPITER, Fla. -- You can't read too much into Spring Training records, but you can get an indication of how a team is performing.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, for instance, downplays the fact the Marlins are the first team in the Grapefruit League to reach 10 wins. Only three teams in the Cactus League in Arizona -- Cleveland, Seattle and San Francisco -- are in double-digits in wins.
What stands out is Miami's pitching.
The Marlins entered Saturday with a Spring Training-best 2.78 ERA, and their 1.16 WHIP is second only to Detroit's 1.14. There are a lot of encouraging signs in camp, but putting the team together remains a process.
"I wouldn't look into the record side of it," Saltalamacchia said. "In Spring Training, it doesn't mean anything. You're in there for your two or three at-bats, and you're out of there.
"If anything, it shows how much depth we have in the Minor League system. What I'm looking at are the pitchers. They're starting to lengthen their innings out. They're starting to get to that 60-pitch count area. They're starting to look good."
After losing 100 games last year, the Marlins are looking to change the culture in the clubhouse and on the field. Coming over from a World Series championship with Boston last year, Saltalamacchia likes what he is seeing in the clubhouse. But he notes the regulars haven't spent much time together because of Spring Training travel.
It's been a busy travel week for the Marlins, having been to Port St. Lucie, Fort Myers and Lakeland. And this weekend, half the squad is in Panama to face the Yankees for two games.
"We haven't really been together," Saltalamacchia said. "It's kind of weird. The road trips, the Panama trip now. I'm seeing a lot of young guys who are feeling more comfortable, are eager to go. But it's going to be nice when we start getting to that 25-man roster, where we can actually start playing together.
"In the clubhouse-wise, we're getting along great. I think we're really starting to bond a little bit. But on the field, that's where it's got to click. We haven't had that much time to do that."
Fernandez faces adversity for first time this spring
JUPITER, Fla. -- At some point, it was inevitable Jose Fernandez would struggle in an outing and actually give up a run.
It happened in the third inning on Saturday afternoon in the Marlins' 2-1 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium.
The 21-year-old Marlins ace had a string of 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play snapped in the third inning. Washington got on the board on Ryan Zimmerman's sacrifice fly to left field.
More than letting an opponent cross the plate, Saturday was pretty much the first time this spring Fernandez had any adversity. Fernandez's command was off, especially in the first three innings. But he ended up throwing 4 1/3 innings, and got his pitch count up to 73 (41 strikes).
Through three innings, he was at 67 pitches, with 38 for strikes.
"Not my best," Fernandez said. "I was battling a little bit through it. I gave up one run and kept the damage small. Obviously not my best day. I'm not worried about it or anything.
"I had my moments. I felt good, then my next pitch, I wasn't consistent."
In terms of pure stuff, Fernandez was electric. He was also matched against another hard-thrower in Stephen Strasburg, who was clocked between 93-96 mph. Fernandez's fastball was between 93-97 mph.
The right-hander noted he was experimenting with some things, like to No. 9 hitter Will Rhymes in the third inning. Fernandez threw him six straight breaking balls and ended up walking the Washington third baseman. Rhymes scored the first run.
If it were in the regular season, Fernandez said he wouldn't throw that many offspeed pitches consecutively to a bottom-of-the-order hitter.
"The actual stuff was there," bench coach Rob Leary said. "He didn't command and control it like he normally does."
Fernandez allowed just two hits, but he walked four and struck out four. The balls and strikes breakdown was on the scoreboard, and Fernandez noted his struggles to pitching coach Chuck Hernandez.
"I was talking with Chuck about it, that was horrible," Fernandez said. "At the end of the day, I gave up one run. Sometimes you don't have your best stuff and you're not throwing strikes. But you've got to try to keep the damage small. I was trying to get outs, no matter how. I was just trying to get outs."
Furcal's return doesn't last long, lifted in third
JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins second baseman Rafael Furcal was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the third inning on Saturday afternoon against the Nationals after feeling some tightness in his left hamstring.
Furcal was in the lineup for the first time since Monday, when he strained his left hamstring at the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
"It's just the same," Furcal said. "It's nothing crazy."
The 36-year-old tested his legs on Saturday afternoon. He singled in his first at-bat, and he was moving around fine. In the third inning, he sprinted to first on a fielder's-choice ground ball. He was able to stay out of the double play. As a precaution, he was removed for a pinch-runner and walked off the field with trainer Sean Cunningham.
"He felt a little something in that hamstring, so we'll take a look at him," bench coach Rob Leary said. "The training staff and the doctors will look at him and see what's up. He ended up motioning that something wasn't quite right."
The Marlins are hopeful that injury won't linger. Furcal was not scheduled to go to Fort Myers on Sunday to face the Twins.
"When I did the sprint, I didn't want to make it worse," Furcal said.
If Furcal isn't ready, Derek Dietrich and Donovan Solano are candidates to play second base. Ed Lucas is in the mix for a utility spot, but he's treating a left hamstring strain.
Heaney savoring time in big league camp
JUPITER, Fla. -- Until he hears otherwise, Andrew Heaney reports to Marlins camp anticipating the next time his number is called.
Ranked by MLB.com as the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, Heaney is showing why it is a matter of when he will get his first big league opportunity.
It is expected to be during the season because of depth in front of him in the organization. For now, Heaney is going along for the ride, striving to do his part on the mound and let the front office and coaching staff decide his next step.
"I want to stay here as long as possible," Heaney said. "I want to get innings, and I understand once the innings run out, they've got to give it to the guys who are going to be there to start the season."
Heaney has been given 7 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League play, and he has a 2.35 ERA, with four strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.91.
On Thursday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., the lety threw three scoreless innings.
"I feel every time out I've gotten better," Heaney said. "I felt against the Tigers, it was the best my stuff has been this spring. My mechanics felt good. I was hitting spots."
Heaney, 22, will open the season at Double-A Jacksonville, where he finished 2013.
The Marlins have not historically started off their top pitching prospect at Triple-A, but their Double-A rotation is pretty deep with Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Jose Urena and Angel Sanchez expected to anchor four spots.
Every day Heaney is in camp, he feels more like he belongs. And facing great hitters like Detroit's Miguel Cabrera helps him gauge where he's at in his development.
"It's kind of a self-confidence thing to know, they're really good, they can hit, but I can pitch," Heaney said. "I can hold my own. To prove that to myself is good."
• Infielder Ed Lucas, who strained his left hamstring on Thursday, is making steady progress. He will likely miss at least a few more days, but his injury doesn't appear to be serious.