3/26/2014 4:47 P.M. ET
Flamethrower Eovaldi continues to refine other pitches
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As one of the hardest-throwing starters in the National League, Nathan Eovaldi relied heavily on his power fastball last year.
It's understandable because it's the Marlins right-hander's greatest weapon.
According to Fangraphs.com, Eovaldi threw fastballs 70.6 percent of the time in '13. Among starters with at least 100 innings, the website noted Eovaldi's 96.2 mph fastball average was tops in the Majors.
An objective for Eovaldi in Spring Training was to improve his secondary pitches. His slider is his second-best pitch, and he's refining his curveball. He worked a bit on his changeup, but that is a work in progress.
On Wednesday, Eovaldi made his final Grapefruit League start, and it was impressive until the game slipped away in the final few innings.
The Braves won 9-2, snapping a 2-2 tie with four runs in the seventh.
Eovaldi's line was four runs allowed on six hits in six-plus innings, with two scoring in the seventh. The right-hander struck out five and walked one, exiting after 85 pitches and yielding back-to-back hits in the seventh inning. He even received a mild scare when Braves Minor Leaguer Philip Gosselin ripped a comebacker that struck the back of Eovaldi's right cleat for an infield single.
To make sure he was fine, Eovaldi threw a warmup pitch, and he remained in the game. Ryan Doumit ripped an RBI double, and Eovaldi was replaced by Carlos Marmol.
A year ago, Eovaldi had a strong Spring Training, and he was scheduled to be the No. 2 starter. But in the last inning of his final Grapefruit League start, he experienced right shoulder soreness that landed him on the disabled list.
Bad thoughts crossed the minds of manager Mike Redmond and Co. on Wednesday.
"Of course," Redmond said. "Not again."
Eovaldi is lined up to pitch in the second game of the regular season against the Rockies at Marlins Park on Tuesday night.
Prior to the comeback single, Eovaldi had retired 11 straight. In the outing, he also struck out Freddie Freeman in the third inning on a full-count curveball, and he fanned Jason Heyward in the fifth inning with a slider.
In terms of mixing his pitches up, Eovaldi could wind up throwing close to 70 percent fastballs in 2014. If he does so, the key will be how many of the other 30 percent of his pitches are strikes.
"It's the 30 percent, how many of those are over? And in what counts can you throw them?" pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said. "That's where the difference lies. If the 30 percent we're throwing is getting over the plate at about 25, 30 percent, that's not good. You're going to get killed. But if the 30 percent is about 80 percent over the plate, he can work around that."
Marlins monitoring injuries to double-play duo
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Marlins' double-play combination is in a wait-and-see situation with Opening Day five days away.
Second baseman Rafael Furcal (strained left hamstring) played five innings in a Minor League game at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., on Wednesday. And shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is taking a few days to rest a tight groin.
Furcal hasn't played in a Grapefruit League game since March 15, and on Monday and Tuesday, he served as the designated hitter in Minor League games.
"We'll continue to see where he's at," manager Mike Redmond said. "This is the first time he's played defense. The last two days he's hit."
The Marlins open on Monday against the Rockies at Marlins Park, and the club is unclear if Furcal will be ready. Hechavarria, who left Monday's game early, is more hopeful of being ready.
On Wednesday against the Braves at Champion Stadium, Ed Lucas played shortstop and Jeff Baker was at second.
In Furcal's case, the team is seeing whether the 36-year-old will be ready or have to open the season on the disabled list. If he doesn't play in any of the final three Grapefruit League games, he would be eligible to open the season on the DL retroactive to March 21.
Should he be in the situation, he would be eligible to return as early as April 5, meaning he would miss just five games. Furcal has just 18 Grapefruit League at-bats, and he missed all of 2013 due to right elbow Tommy John surgery.
"We'll see how it goes and see how he feels," Redmond said. "He says he's feeling better, but at the end of the day, he just hasn't played that much."
Asked if there was any concern Hechavarria would not be ready for Opening Day, Redmond said: "Not right now."
Ozuna picking it up at plate with job on the line
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After an up and down Spring Training, Marcell Ozuna has once again put himself in position to win the Marlins' starting center-field job.
The overall Spring Training numbers may not reflect it, but Ozuna has had a better approach, and he has shown signs of why he is a touted young player.
Ozuna delivered the tie-breaking RBI double in a win over the Cardinals on Tuesday afternoon. He's also belted two home runs and five doubles while collecting six RBIs this spring.
However, he entered Wednesday batting .180 (9-for-50).
"Much better at-bats," manager Mike Redmond said. "Sometimes with young guys, Spring Training can be tough because you're working on stuff, too. Not only are guys competing and trying to win spots, they're also working on their games.
"They're trying to tighten up swings. Sometimes that takes a little bit to get going. But his at-bats are getting much better. You just want to continue to see him be aggressive at the plate. That's the biggest thing for me."
It is appearing likely that Jake Marisnick, who is refining his swing, will open the season at Triple-A New Orleans.
Marisnick is having a strong Spring Training, batting .442 (19-for-43) in 19 games.
On a team looking for power, Ozuna appears to add depth to the bottom of the order.
"I've been pleased with the progress he's made over the last week to 10 days," Redmond said. "This guy has the ability to drive in some runs and get some big hits. He's got a lot of power and he brings a lot of energy. We saw that last year, how much energy he brought to our lineup. We're going to need that."
Jose ready to go seven innings in opener
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As a rookie a year ago, Jose Fernandez was restricted by an innings limit that ended up being at 172 2/3.
When the 21-year-old takes the mound on Monday in the Marlins' season opener against the Rockies at Marlins Park, Fernandez projects to be built up enough to throw seven innings.
The Spring Training plan was to get all the starters ready to reach 100 pitches in their first starts.
"I think everyone is ready to pitch seven innings and throw 110 pitches if we need to," pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said.
Fernandez reached 98 pitches on Tuesday against the Cardinals in his final Grapefruit League start.
The way the schedule was laid out, Fernandez will get an extra day of rest before facing the Rockies on Monday.
"Pitching-wise, we've got them where we want it," Hernandez said. "Based on their youth and their arms, that's how I like to treat young ones. Older guys, I'd probably throw a little bit more. Everyone is going to get another day of rest, which I wanted."
• Redmond said the rotation may be announced after Thursday's game against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Thus far, only Fernandez has been announced as the Opening Day starter. The rest of the rotation has lined up with Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler. Brad Hand starts on Thursday, and he is another fifth-starter candidate. Alvarez will get his pitches up to about 85 in a Minor League game on Thursday.