3/23/2014 6:31 P.M. ET
Turner impresses against former club
By Jim Hawkins / Special to MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jacob Turner, who has not been particularly impressive in Spring Training in recent years, strengthened his grip on a spot in the Marlins' regular season starting rotation Sunday with his best performance yet this year.
"He pitched great," said Marlins' manager Mike Redmond after Turner turned in a convincing six-inning, three-hit, five-strikeout effort en route to an eventual 8-4 victory over the Tigers. "He was ahead in the count to almost every hitter. That's what I want to see. And he finished great."
"I feel like I'm ready," declared Turner, who was backed by home runs from Jeff Mathis and Giancarlo Stanton -- the latter a giant two-run blast to straightaway center field.
"I feel like I could definitely go out there and go six or seven innings. This was something to build on."
Turner, making his fifth start of the spring, retired the first 11 Tigers he faced, striking out three, before walking slugger Miguel Cabrera with two gone in the fourth.
The Tigers got their first hits off Turner in the bottom of the fifth on back-to-back singles by Austin Jackson and Alex Avila and scored their first run on an error by third baseman Casey McGehee.
"I got into a little rut in the fifth inning," Turner admitted. "I would have liked things to have gone a little smoother there."
Returning to the Tigers' Joker Marchant Stadium, where the 6-foot-5 right-hander was once viewed as a rising young star, Turner admitted he felt some added motivation.
"I don't know if it was because I was here, so much as the fact that they've got such a good lineup," he said. "Top to bottom, they're one of the best three or four lineups in baseball.
"As a competitor, that makes you want to pitch against them. That gives you a little more motivation. You've got to bring your A-game."
Turner who is projected to be the Marlins' No. 4 starter, is out of options and the Marlins risk losing him if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster. The 22-year-old right-hander has been the subject of trade talk this spring. However, the Marlins have denied they are shopping Turner, or anyone else, despite their surplus of pitchers.
Turner was the Tigers' first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He was traded to Miami in 2012 for second baseman Omar Infante and pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Turner has a 2-1 record and a 2.79 ERA over 19 1/3 innings this spring. That is far better than the 0-3 record and 9.69 ERA he posted a year ago before being sent down to Triple-A New Orleans.
Last season, Turner went 3-8 with a 3.74 ERA with the Marlins. He struck out 77 batters in 20 starts, and walked 55.
"When we brought him up last year he had some really good starts and some OK starts," Redmond said.
"I learned a lot about myself last year as a pitcher," Turner said. "Sometimes you need to be terrible a little bit to really learn what you need to do to be successful."
Lucas, Solano continue to compete for utility spot
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ed Lucas was in the starting lineup at first base on Sunday. Donovan Solano started at second as the two men continued their battle for the job of utility infielder.
For Lucas, Sunday marked his first Grapefruit League game back since he strained his left hamstring on March 13 in a game against the Tigers in Lakeland.
Now the question is, is there enough time left for him to win a place on the Marlins' Opening Day roster?
"I think so," said Lucas, who went 1-for-4 against the Tigers in Sunday's 8-4 win. "It's enough time. I was feeling good before I got hurt. I'm going to be sitting on the bench a lot when the season starts, anyway.
"My timing is there. I felt good today. My swing is not too complicated as it is. I like to keep things simple."
Depending on how quickly Rafael Furcal is able to recover from his strained hamstring, Redmond said Sunday both Lucas and Solano could be on the Opening Day roster.
"The decision could be based on Furcal -- that could affect the decision," the manager admitted.
Furcal did not make the trip to Lakeland. He has resumed running and Redmond said, "Hopefully, he'll play in a Minor League game Monday."
Although Solano has appeared in more spring games (17 to Lucas' 11) and has more at-bats (46 to 26), both players are hitting well. Solano is batting .326 and Lucas is hitting .308.
"Both guys have done a nice job this spring," Redmond said. "That's another tough decision.
"For me, it comes down to who can be the most versatile. That really is a tough decision.
"Luke has so much versatility, he's very valuable to us," Redmond continued. "He can play all the positions.
"We want to get him out there and continue to play him when we can."
The problem is, Opening Day is next Monday and Redmond has to get his regulars ready to go.
While competing for roster spot, Ozuna sustains cramp
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Marcell Ozuna, who is battling Jake Marisnick for the Marlins' center field job this spring, left Sunday's 8-4 win over the Tigers in the fifth inning because of a cramp in his left leg.
After the game, manager Mike Redmond preferred to take a wait-and-see attitude. "We'll see how he feels in the morning," Redmond said.
But Ozuna insisted, "I'm fine. No problem. I'm good. It was just a little cramp. I'll be back in the lineup Monday."
"I'm anticipating him to be OK," Redmond agreed.
Ozuna, who had walked, was 0-for-2 Sunday, dropping his spring average to .174. Marisnick, who did not play Sunday, is currently hitting a team-leading .436 in 17 games.
"We've got to decide what to do -- both guys are doing a nice job, both bring excitement to the lineup," Redmond said. "You don't always take Spring Training numbers into consideration -- it comes down to consistency.
"You try to figure out who is the most prepared to play in the big leagues, who is best going to help us win ballgames."
"Spring Training is about at-bats -- it's not about numbers," Marisnick said.
The Marlins are looking at both Ozuna and Marisnick in left field as well as center. And Redmond said Sunday, there's a chance both might make the team.
"We need to push each other to get better," Marisnick said. "Whatever they decide, it's about development right now. I just need to keep competing."
The 23-year-old Ozuna, who began Spring Training as the front-runner in the battle for the center-field job, has been working with hitting coach Frank Menechino to straighten out his swing.
Redmond has said, "I expect him to be out there on Opening Day."
Ozuna began last season at Double-A Jacksonville, and was a surprise callup when right fielder Giancarlo Stanton went on the DL in late April with a strained hamstring.
Ozuna showed flashes in 2013, batting .265 with three home runs and 32 RBIs in 70 big league games as a rookie before his season was cut short due to a left thumb injury sustained in late July, which required surgery.
• Instant replay was employed twice in the bottom of the fifth inning Sunday. Redmond asked the umpires to take another look at Austin Jackson's steal of second base and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus challenged the forceout on the inning-ending double play.
In both instances, the plays stood as called.
"We went into today wanting to get a chance to replay something," Redmond said. "We really haven't had any close plays the last couple of games."
• Stanton left the game after being hit on the left forearm by a pitch in the ninth inning. But Redmond later said, "He's fine. He was coming out of the game after that at-bat anyway."
• Of Stanton's towering two-run homer in the fifth, Redmond said, "I think every one I've seen him hit has gone that far."
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.